Heritage Elementary tailors education to its unique population

Aug 28 2011 - 9:53am

Images

(Standard-Examiner file photo) Parents and students arrive at the grand opening of Heritage Elementary School in Ogden in August 2008.
(Standard-Examiner file photo) Girls who are preparing to enter kindergarten in August 2008 play on beanbag chairs in a reading area during the grand opening of Heritage Elementary School in Ogden.
(Standard-Examiner file photo) From left, Susan Hunter, who taught fifth grade in 2008, talks with parent Mike Bell, his daughter Mary Tooker, 10, and his wife, Laura Bell, about the upcoming school year.
(Standard-Examiner file photo) Parents and students arrive at the grand opening of Heritage Elementary School in Ogden in August 2008.
(Standard-Examiner file photo) Girls who are preparing to enter kindergarten in August 2008 play on beanbag chairs in a reading area during the grand opening of Heritage Elementary School in Ogden.
(Standard-Examiner file photo) From left, Susan Hunter, who taught fifth grade in 2008, talks with parent Mike Bell, his daughter Mary Tooker, 10, and his wife, Laura Bell, about the upcoming school year.

OGDEN -- Giving students the specific skills they need to succeed is the focus of Heritage Elementary School.

The four-year-old school has a majority Hispanic student population, giving it a unique set of challenges on the road to success. They are challenges the staff wants to face head-on.

"We are unique in our population and in the circumstances we have," said Principal Vincent Ardizzone.

"We don't know that we can really compare to other schools," he said of test scores. "My goal is to get the best for what we have here, for sure."

Tailoring the school for its population is his prime goal, Ardizzone said.

"I believe we are making a lot of progress in knowing what the students need and giving it to them."

Of the 36.5 staff positions, four are instructional coaches and five are interventionists.

"We want to provide remediation support for every level they are at," Ardizzone said of students.

"Students meet in small groups and are provided instruction in reading and math. The earlier we can catch problems, the better off we will be."

Parent Kathleen Gerke said she has seen the plan in action in her daughter's classes.

"They have a half-hour a day to spend with the children who are not advanced so they can be pushed higher," she said.

"They have rotation organized so the children go to another class for the half an hour. Advanced children do more advanced things."

Diagnosing problems individual students are facing has become a focal point for Ardizzone. He has taken it upon himself to get to the bottom of student math issues in a skillful way.

This year, the school will pilot a new program Ardizzone has written to pinpoint where each individual student struggles.

Based on a national program called Monitoring Basic Skills Progress, Ardizzone has written a spreadsheet program where teachers enter a mark on a grid for every question a student gets right on assessment tests each week.

The spreadsheet then computes for the teacher a list of the specific skills the student did not master on that particular test.

"We won't have to wait for six weeks to see it," Ardizzone said. "We will find out immediately if the student is keeping or losing the skills throughout the year."

But it's not just in reading and math that Ardizzone would like to see students succeed. He's also working on a partnership with The Off Broadway Theatre in Salt Lake City to bring an after-school theater club to the school.

"We are in the process right now to bring the arts back."

The school has an after-school choir and a Girl Scout program. Partnerships with Pizza Hut, Papa John's, and Harmons also bring in volunteer instructors from these organizations to teach specific skills and also help the school raise money for special programs.

New this year is a program through utahtaxhelp.org that offers parents help with their taxes.

Ardizzone said he has seen how the program can help families discover tax refunds owed to them in amounts that can make a big difference in their ability to address their circumstances.

Heritage Elementary School

*  LOCATION: 373 S. 150 West, Ogden
*  COST: $12.35 million
*  HISTORY: Built in 2008
*  SIZE: 73,730 square feet
*  STUDENT BODY: 736
*  STAFF: 36.5
*  TIDBIT: Heritage Elementary School has a majority population of Hispanic students.

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