Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

Teachers seek changes to fourth grade

Instructors would teach one subject instead of many
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jun 29, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Pence Elementary School fourth-grade teachers, from left, Carleigh Roberts, Rachel Dorman and Suzy Nelson pitch their idea to the school board June 18 to “departmentalize” fourth grade, meaning each teacher would teach one subject.

Fourth-grade teachers at Pence Elementary School are asking the district to “departmentalize” their grade.

Teachers would teach one subject throughout the day, just as their counterparts at the middle and high school. Under the current setup, fourth-grade students are assigned a specific home room teacher, and that teacher instructs them in multiple subjects.

Fourth-grade teachers Rachel Dorman, Suzy Nelson and Carleigh Roberts pitched the idea to the Fairfield Community School District Board of Directors at its meeting June 18. They said the proposal enjoys unanimous support from the fourth-grade teachers at Pence.

The teachers see several advantages in switching to the departmentalized format:

• Being able to dive deeper into the curriculum, since each teacher would focus on one subject;

• Allowing the teachers to meet all fourth-graders in the district, giving the students more points of contact with trusted adults;

• Getting better use of iPads by putting them all in the science room. The teachers said their science curriculum requires them to use certain apps, so putting all the iPads in the science room will eliminate the need to print the material for students who don’t have iPads.

The teachers said Principal Chuck Benge supported the idea to departmentalize, and that they had already begun working with curriculum director Marci Dunlap and superintendent Laurie Noll on the proposal before coming to the board June 18.

At that meeting, the board appointed Benge to be the new curriculum director after learning that Dunlap would resign her post to take a position in the Ottumwa school district. The district is searching for Benge’s replacement.

The three teachers told the board that they would revert to the old system if departmentalization hurt students. Board member Kelly Scott asked how they would measure success. Dorman said the teachers would use their best judgment to assess how the students coped with multiple teachers in a day and more transitions between classrooms. The teachers said they’d also look at the effect of the changes on the students’ test scores.

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