Deer River is located in north central Minnesota next to the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and the Chippewa National Forest. King Elementary serves approximately 500 students in grades preschool through grade 5. Close to 40% of students at King Elementary are of American Indian descent. These numbers constantly change because of the mobility of students within our area. Approximately 70% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, which reflects the level of poverty in the surrounding community. Due to this poverty level in Deer River, King Elementary qualifies for School-wide Title I assistance.
King Elementary participated in the Reading First grant from 2002-2006 and has built a strong foundation for literacy instruction among staff. A significant component to the Reading First grant was to train school teams on how to conduct effective professional development in an effort to improve instruction, the end result has been an increase in student achievement. The staff at King Elementary has worked hard to maintain professional growth efforts through professional study groups which keep them abreast of the latest research and best practices in literacy. Study groups meet twice monthly throughout the school year. As part of the study group process, staff review professional literature by leading researchers in education. Additionally, staff examine student work and work with their colleagues to discuss strategies to improve instruction in an effort to meet the needs of all learners in their classroom.
King Elementary teachers have received much support and training in recent years from math specialists as well as Deer River High School math teachers in order to best align curriculum and instruction to current math standards. Additionally, King Elementary has initiated the school-wide implementation of Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) math strategies in an effort to improve math instruction across all grade levels. This approach increases teachers’ understanding of the knowledge that students bring to the math learning process and how they connect that knowledge with formal concepts and operations.
Data driven decision making is frequent and on going throughout the year at King School. Staff and administration meet regularly in grade level meetings to review student data, differentiate instruction for students, and monitor student progress. Grade level teams meet to review formal assessment data such as Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments-II (MCA-II), Northwest Evaluation Association/Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA/MAP), and AIMSweb scores as well as informal curriculum based measures. Initially, at the start of each school year, grade level teams use this information to determine most appropriate programming, such as Reading Recovery or Title 1 supports. Throughout the school year grade level teams continue to focus more on data to monitor progress of individual students. Teams adjust programming and individual interventions if individual students are not making progress based on those conversations. An important focus in these discussions has also been to ensure that we are not only supporting students below targets but also challenging our higher achieving students. At each meeting teams address how they can best differentiate for all learners through enrichment and activities that foster higher-level thinking.
King Elementary places strong emphasis on social emotional development. Responsive Classroom is implemented school-wide. Teachers at King Elementary have received extensive training in the Responsive Classroom approach which helps teachers create classrooms of respect and responsibility. King Elementary maintains a full time school counselor who works with students experiencing social, emotional and behavioral difficulties. Additionally, King Elementary recently received a grant and coaching support from the Minnesota Department of Education for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years for implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS). This initiative has begun to streamline the efforts with social skills groups, peer mediation programs, and facilitates school-wide programs such as anti-bullying initiatives.
In addition to a focus on research-based, high quality instruction during the school day, Deer River Schools have made it a priority to provide quality extended school day programming options to the students. After school and summer school programs focus on building reading and math skills as well as providing students with opportunities to learn through hands-on experiences. King Elementary works closely with the district after school program coordinator to coordinate after school programs for students which include Targeted Services, Boys & Girls Club, etc. The program coordinator communicates with King staff to ensure that the support provided after school is consistent with individual plans developed by grade level teams.
Lastly, research has shown the significance of providing early intervention and preschool programming as part of efforts towards closing the achievement gaps for students of poverty. King Elementary houses three preschool classrooms. There are also several preschool programs in the Deer River community which collaborate directly with King Elementary School. Over 90% of students starting kindergarten at King Elementary attend these preschool programs. Evidence has shown how important the role of preschool is in early intervention for students as they begin their educational career in kindergarten with more equitable literacy and language experiences. As part of the preschool program, parents are asked to take part in a family education classes that emphasis the importance of activities that can be done within the home setting to expose students to more literature and language prior to starting kindergarten.
Ultimately, King Elementary School has a strong reputation for high quality programs and fulfilling the mission of developing life-long learners in an ever-changing world. The staff at King Elementary are dedicated to high student achievement, creating positive school culture, and active community engagement in order to enhance the educational experience for all students.