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Wheeling Middle School Uses ‘Connection’ to Raise Test Scores

December 24, 2012
By SARAH HARMON Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - An adviser program at Wheeling Middle School has resulted in higher test scores and a higher number of children involved in sports and extracurricular activities than ever before.

The program, "Wildcat Connection," is in its second year at Wheeling Middle, and uses a personalized method of determining a student's strengths and weakness and "tailoring" their school experience to improve their overall success in school.

Since the program's beginning, students who reached "at or above proficiency" on the WESTEST2 in math increased by 5 percent from 41 percent in 2011 to 46 percent in 2012.

Article Photos

Photo by Sarah Harmon
Wheeling Middle School students Allee McCardle, front right, and Kelly McCardle, center, review their eight “Wildcat Connection” goals. Also pictured is parent Jenny McCardle, seated at left. In back from left are parent Richard McCardle and Wheeling Middle School counselors Gladys Goff and Denise Freeland.

In reading, student proficiency increased 6 percent from 51 percent in 2011 to 57 percent in 2012. Performance among the economically disadvantaged group increased 11 percent from 39 percent in 2011 to 50 percent in 2012.

Wheeling Middle School Principal Rick Jones also said more students are joining sports teams and participating in after school activities than ever before. He believes this is a direct result of the program's effectiveness in getting students involved.

"A lot of kids want to be involved in things, but they might be a little scared. Our numbers in band, chorus, strings, plays and athletics are high as they've ever been in everything because we're pushing kids to get involved in things. Our goal is to have every single student in the building in an activity that's outside of the classroom," Jones said.

Each student sets eight goals for the school year, including two report card goals, two WESTEST2 goals, two non-academic goals and two character goals such as using more manners. Every staff member in the building has a group of eight to 10 students of mixed grades they advise. Before school starts for the year, every teacher sets an appointment with the students and their parents to explain the program and determine what course of action would be best for the individual students to improve for the year. Advisers will then follow up with students twice during a nine-week period to ensure students are making progress on their goals.

"It becomes very concrete for the children to write down a goal," counselor Gladys Goff said. "We help them set goals that are achievable and encourage them to try things they wouldn't normally try. They become very aware of their grades and their scores, and become more accountable for their success in school."

Jones said by encouraging students, the program is excellent for preparing students for the demands of high school.

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