, Muskogee, OK

December 30, 2012

Kids write to Santa, but Harris-Jobe gets the gift

School uses tradition to teach literacy, resulting in high ranking

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Letters to Santa Claus proved to be a learning opportunity for Harris-Jobe Elementary kindergartners and sixth-graders.

Harris-Jobe Principal Justin Walker said the kindergartners learned about communicating as they expressed their desires to the older kids. The sixth-graders in turn, developed their writing skills by putting the youngsters’ wishes into the letters, he said. Such interaction is one example of how the school teaches literacy skills, Walker said.

Teaching such literacy skills helped Harris-Jobe earn a designation of High Progress Reward School from the Oklahoma Department of Education. Other area schools making that list were Muskogee’s Whittier Elementary School, Hulbert Junior and Senior High schools and William R. Teague Elementary School of Wagoner.

A High Progress designation means a school ranks among the top 10 percent of schools showing improvement in math and reading from the three previous years. The designations, released this month, were based on state test scores and graduation rates from the 2012 school year.

Walker, who is in his first year as Harris-Jobe’s principal, said programs such as Literacy First and Everyday Math helped students improve. The school also conducted three practice tests in math and reading and tracked performance.

Teachers sought ways to make math more applicable to student lives, he said. For example, second-graders wrapped rubber bands around pegs to learn about parallel lines.

Walker said previous Principal Kim Fleak focused on student performance and compiling data.

Whittier Elementary Principal Ed Wallace said the school worked hard to improve.

“We did a lot of looking over data for areas where we felt students needed to grow,” Wallace said. “We’re putting our resources where we felt it was important. We looked at literacy, looked at math, looked at how we could bring students up in that lower quartile.”

Hulbert Superintendent Marilyn DeWoody said the middle school “drastically improved” its performance over the previous years.

Wagoner Superintendent Monte Thompson attributed Teague’s success to “a whole collection of parents and teachers working together.”

The Oklahoma Department of Education listed Hilldale High School as a High Performance Reward School – those that received an A on the state’s A-F report card system and did not miss more than two annual measurable objectives from the state.  

The state report cards were released in October.

Hilldale Principal Deborah Tennison said the school’s high test scores helped it receive its designation. The school’s remediation program helped low-performing students do better, she said.

A quartile is 25 percent to 33 percent of the students, she said.

“The teachers are doing a lot of work,” she said. “They deserve a lot of the credit.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or