Regional schools make big strides

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Regional schools make big strides

Teacher enthusiasm and innovative programs resulted in better scores for students at struggling schools who took the Nationwide Scholastic Achievement Assessment Test in July, according to test results released yesterday by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

The ministry announced yesterday that some schools struggling with old facilities, limited space and minimal support from the local government had succeeded in helping their students do well on the national test.

The test, administered by the Education Ministry and the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, evaluates elementary, middle and high school students in five subject areas: Korean, English, math, social studies and science.

Based on their scores, students are grouped into four levels - excellent, average, basic and below average.

The ministry reported that schools with students ranked below average the previous year had succeeded in raising student scores this year.

The ministry said 506 schools no longer have students in the below average level. These schools were urged to boost their students’ scores and, after this year’s test, the number of students ranked as below average in these schools dropped to zero, according to the Education Ministry.

They did it through a combination of hard work and creative programs that emphasized students’ needs.

Last year, 5.8 percent of the sixth grade students at Sanjeong Elementary School in Mokpo, South Jeolla, were ranked as below average.

But they got a new principal in September 2009 and he helped turn the school around.

“We have a long winter vacation, about 45 days, and our teachers did not take a day off during that period, not even for a day, so they could spend time teaching,” said Park Gwang-deok, the new principal.

When he arrived at the school, Park learned that 30 percent of Sanjeong students are from single-parent families and were often left to study on their own. So he hired a counselor for the students and urged the teachers to focus more attention on these students.

“On this year’s test, we didn’t have any students who scored below average, which is a great achievement for both our teachers and students,” Park said.

“Our teachers played the role of the students’ parents and helped them achieve more in their studies.”

To help his students, Kim Tae-ho, the principal of Sinsun Elementary School in Busan, created a program to help students achieve more academically by assessing their skills with a broad survey of criteria that includes more than just their grades.

“We believe that nonacademic areas such as personality, family background and emotional status also have an impact on a student’s ability to study,” Kim said. “It’s like a doctor who considers all factors when diagnosing patients.”

After creating six categories that affect a students’ ability to study, Kim and his teachers made individual profiles of each student.

And it worked.

“After the March 2009 test, 28.9 percent of students in six grades were ranked below average, but the rate has now dropped to zero,” Kim said.

By Kim Hee-jin []
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