Sometimes, teaching can be pretty daunting when the weather is extremely cold and the winds are too strong. The simple process of walking to school can be too much for children. Last year, test scores were particularly challenging for Hooper Bay School because in reading, 44% were far below proficiency levels and 34% were below proficiency. In math 65% were far below proficiency and 17% were below. Grades in Science were worse with 80% far below proficiency and 10% below proficient.
According to Hooper Bay School principal, there was nothing wrong with the kids but expectations are too high. The kids of Hooper Bay are similar to those in Lower Yukon School District where school administrators are trying to improve their performance in standardized tests through research-tested tools. A national model that is called Response to Intervention is used as a framework to monitor school children academically and behaviorally every week.
Hooper Bay School is embracing this approach and for students who are struggling, teachers are targeting the possibility of one-on-one tutoring. Private tutoring is an approach offered by Bee Academic Tutoring in Long Beach that has prepared students for educational success.
The teachers of Hooper Bay School are also trying a different psychological approach in managing the children as an option to the old discipline model. Instead of punishing children for misconduct, teachers are urged to praise students when they behave well. This is not a lenient approach but counter-intuitive and based on the national model called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. If the child does not do well in school, there must be something wrong that has upset him. Teachers must always stay calm and speak in a soft voice.
The approach netted good results because in the first 60 days, the number of students who were in serious trouble dropped dramatically and referrals to the principal’s office were down. However, another challenge that teachers have to overcome is language barrier. Many children in Hooper Bay speak Yup’ik as their first language and they have difficulty learning English. However, through the perseverance of teachers like Whipple the students are starting to pick up in reading English.