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April 24, 2014

Reading into the writing: State superintendent visits Clarksville's Parkwood Elementary

Glenda Ritz on search for schools' strengths

CLARKSVILLE — Reading to a preschool class at Parkwood Elementary, Glenda Ritz saw a reflection of some of the changes in school systems across the state — higher populations of free and reduced lunch students, English language learners and students in balanced calendar school systems.

Ritz, state superintendent for public instruction, visited Parkwood and Parkview Middle School on Thursday. She said as she continues her tour of schools across the state, she hopes to get an idea of their strengths and find ways to share those ideas across the state.

“I think what’s in place here at Parkwood is they’ve got a systematic approach to make sure they’ve got enough caring adults to give support to individual students,” Ritz said. “I think that’s what you need to see in a great school that excels.”

Parkwood’s free and reduced population is about 89 percent. About half of its students are learning to speak and read English for the first time and it leads Greater Clark in both of those demographics.

But it’s making high marks on state assessments — in 2012, the school received an A on the state’s A through F grades. Last year, it was a B.

Janice Korfhage, principal, said with so many students who are trying to learn English, they’re doing everything they can to help them along the way.

“You have to have a  very dedicated staff, but you have to be flexible in your approach when you’re dealing with a wide range of abilities in every classroom,” Korfhage said. “That’s why planning is so important for our teachers.”

Ritz said as she walked around the school, the work of teachers and students was evident. Walls in hallways and classrooms had examples of student writing. She said that kind of immersion helps them absorb the information better.

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