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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
October 13, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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October 13, 2010

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2A Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010 Feather River Bulletin Computers just one tool in charter school&apos;s tool box Linda Satchwell Staff Writer Plumas Charter School, the largest charter in Plumas Uni- fied School District (PUSD), has been in existence since 1998. Operating for two years as part of PUSD, it became an in- dependent, direct-funded char- ter school in 2000. The charter originally served local at- home students, but it has grown to serve a wide spec- trum of young people. PCS is now a personalized learning school, which empha- sizes the uniqueness of each student. Pacing, curriculum and instruction are tailored to meet each student's personal and academic strengths and weaknesses. Plumas Charter, like other public school options, is tu- ition free. While the school utilizes on- line options for education, it emphasizes the importance of teacher-guided learning, based on online assessments of a particular student's needs, rather than "replacing teachers with computers." According to Janet Wolcott, PCS executive director, "Com- puters are tools to put in the hands of dedicated, talented teachers." PLATO Learning, the school's computer system, is good at assessing a student's level in a particular subject area, and at pointing to partic- ular sub-areas (for example, fractions in math)where a student needs extra work. The program asks a series of questions, and as the stu- dent responds, it adjusts the level of questions asked. "Computers are best at sim- ple chores repeated again and again, quickly," said Wolcott. Teachers use this information as a tool to base their deci- sions about appropriate as- signments on more accurate, specific information. PLATO allows a teacher to go online and check her stu- dent's progress. She can see how much time a student is spending on a lesson. She can note, for example, if the stu- dent spent only a short time reviewing a lesson. If that same student does poorly on testing at the end of the lesson, the teacher can point out that he may be spending time working, but not enough time on the tutori- al. "Teachers know tools have limits," said Wolcott. "We think of teaching as an art." When a teacher works with her student, she can gauge the effect of what she is saying on the student. A recent study in Scientific Rotarians spruce up As one of their community service projects, Jim Boland, Herschal Beail, Steve King and sev- eral other members from the Quincy Rotary Club spent last Tuesday afternoon removing the weeds and litter around the vacant Stoney's Country Burger building. Rotary decided to take on this project since the property's highly visible location on Highway 70 was be- coming a bit of an eyesore. Members contacted the property owner, now living in the Midwest, for permission. Photo by Mike Taborski THE SACRAMENTO BEE Home Delivery Call (530) 927-7030 or Email: Check Out Our American Mind, said Wolcott, showed gesture is as signifi- cant to learning as speech. There are teachers at PCS with 35 years of experience, who naturally incorporate both speech and gesture into their teaching. Some students are more amenable to learn- ing from gestures than words. Still, the computer offers harmony between detailed, if somewhat simplistic, assess- ment and what a teacher can do creatively with that infor- mation to help her student to learn. Academic Director Taletha Washburn said this is the first year the school has used this computer program. Like everything at the school, teachers are utilizing it in a way that suits each individual student's needs. Each teacher and student discuss the possibility of us- ing computer courses. Some students wanted to use it, oth- ers didn't. Some take one course with the online compo- nent; others take a section of a course, while still others take multiple courses utilizing PLATO. Another computer program PCS is using, though a minor one according to Wolcott, is Write To Learn. While she continues to be "skeptical" about a computer program's ability to teach writing, Wolcott feels it helps teach basic mechanical skills, such as writing in complete sentences, staying on topic, summarizing and proper grammar. The program highlights mistakes and lets the student make appropriate changes. It's akin to doing a rough draft and several follow-up drafts before submitting a final said Washburn. In addition, the feedback is instantaneous; the student can rework her essay while she's still engaged with the topic. Wolcott emphasized again that it's only a tool. In the hands of quality teachers, it can help students get up to speed on the basics and let the teacher focus for improve- ment. In a larger sense, Plumas Charter School uses comput- ers in the same way it utilizes everything at the school. "One of the best things at Plumas Charter," said Washburn, "is that we can respond quickly to student needs." If a teacher isn't perform- ing to standard, for instance, that teacher can be replaced. Teachers are on a "pay for performance" scale at the school. There are no automat- ic step increases said Wolcott. Wolcott and Washburn de- veloped a detailed rubric to evaluate teacher performance. It tracks teaching quality, ex- perience, professional devel- opment, subject matter knowl- edge and an evaluation of how well instructors teach to the individual student's needs. In discussing the perfor- mance-based standards, Wol- cott said property taxes pay for the school so "we feel a sense of obligation to the pub- lic and the students -- we owe it to them." Speaking about state and federal governments' empha- sis on test scores, Wolcott said, "We're working hard to build a high quality program. We can't be judged on one year of API (Academic Perfor- mance Index) scores." Sixty-eight PCS students participated in the last round of testing, which is below the 100 cut-off for statistical relia- bility. Further, PCS sees a 60 per- cent turnover in its student population from one year to the next. They are, in effect, "testing a different group of people" each year. Moreover, many students choose the charter because they have difficulty in a tradi- tional student environment. The school utilizes testing to evaluate students in basic skills and math when they ar- rive, and again at the end of the year. If, for example, an eighth- grader comes in performing at the fourth-grade level, and he tests at the sixth-grade level by the end of the year, he'll still get a poor API score be- cause he's below eighth-grade level. It's clear Wolcott and Wash- burn are interested in much more than test scores and computer programs. PCS em- phasizes a hands-on, caring approach that celebrates each individual. One of the ways it does this is through a mentoring pro- gram -- older students tutor younger ones. Currently, with implemen- tation of the new Indian Val- ley Academy program in Greenville, PCS mentors are helping IVA students in math. Older students receive voca- tional education credit, and younger students get extra math help. IVA's Sue Weber helps men- tors develop serf-awareness as a helper. Mentors learn to take themselves more serious- ly said Wolcott, understand- ing their attitude in the men- toring relationship will have an affect on the younger stu- dents. They learn to take them- selves more seriously. "Help- ing others contributes to a positive sense of self for the mentor," Wolcott added. In this way, the older stu- dents see what kind of teach- ing the school values. When they take an active role in this process, "it helps them take ownership of the school." The school's philosophy is based on "value and respect," modeled by staff. "A student in our school learns as much from how you behave in run- ning the school as he does from books." It's important to "do it right from the ground up," Wolcott said. Toy Run set to roll Satfffday Celebrating its eighth year, the Feather River Toy Run invites everyone to a fun time Oct. 16 at'the Plumas County fairgrounds. Doors open at 4 p.m. with food serv- ing 5-7 p.m. Drawing starts at 5 p.m. with music beginning 6 p.m. starring The Rock Bot- tom Band. General admission is a new unwrapped toy that you are happy to give and $5. This entitles you to a huge giveaway sponsored by local merchants. Access to beer, wine and shot bar is limited to those 21 and older and Id's will be checked at the door. Buy a chance to win the grand prize, 42-inch flat screen T.V., home theater system and Wii gaming con- sole. Tickets available at $5 each. A great meal, barbecue chicken, pork ribs with all the fixin's will be available for $15 per person. There will be a free shuttle bus service. RSVP meals to Helen at 283-4656, for more informa- tion call Russ at 283-2912. "JINGLE BELl Sat., Nov. 2fit] Memo / 3RD NUAL C FAIR" Uam to 5pm / T-Shirts: Fudge by Chilcoot Meat Rubs * Candles Thanksgiving Gifts & Decor Stamp Cards Heating Pads Red Hat Items High Sierra Coffee & Cookies * Painted Saws by Jane Jewelry Rocks Birdhouses * Cookie Lee Painted Railroad Pictures * Christmas Memorial Hall, Portola Call 832-4730 or 836-0846 JOHN BERGSTRAND, DC Chiropractor NOW 0 N 573 Jackson St., Quincy Call 283-9350 for an appointment CORRECTION Our apologies to giant- gourd-grower Guy Hinrichs for spelling his last name incorrectly in last week's paper. : : : , No Job Too Big 0rToo Small .... ...... 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