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TEXARKANA, Arkansas — Three families gathered in the College Hill Sixth Grade Academy library Tuesday to learn about how the school is using federal Title 1 funding to help students reach achievement goals.

Principal Leah Sams said Tuesday was the first time in three years that parents had attended the annual meeting, which is federally required for schools receiving Title 1 money.

"We're so happy the families came out to find out more about what we are doing to teach their children and help to reach their achievement goals and beyond," she said.

Although the school received a D from the Arkansas Department of Education for 2019 ACT Aspire test scores, the school was also named No. 1 in southwest Arkansas for ACT Aspire growth in math by the University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy.

Sams said they use several programs to chart and evaluate student progress, including the monthly STAR test to assess reading level, The Leader in Me program and a new program named Edmentum — all paid for through Title 1 funding.

"That way kids, students, teachers, parents know where they are on their reading levels," she said.

They are also working on their data notebooks and work in small groups with staff to track where students are academically.

"We know where students are, but often the students themselves don't know where they are and what they need — and we do that weekly, so they can get those tools to help them grow," Sams said.

The Sixth Grade Academy also uses Project-Based Learning and has a 90-minute instruction block schedule, she said, for students to learn English language arts, math, social studies and science. Once a week, students go to the design, coding and robotics lab.

"We also have a couple of robotics after-school clubs they can be a part of and a lot of that is being able to explore. You don't know if you like coding and you don't know if it's something you'd be interested in until you're exposed. We are making sure every kid is exposed at a high level."

She, along with Instructional Facilitator Denise Howorth, encouraged parents to use Edmentum and have their students show them their unique learning path the program has designed for them by using data from the STAR test.

"Let them show you what they are doing," Sams said. "Do it with them because it encourages them. They want to see you're interested."

Sams also encouraged parents to become more involved in the school by volunteering in the school, reading to students in the library, attending field day and planning to attend Parent Night on Jan. 28, 2020,

Parents can also get involved with weekly Positive Behavior Intervention Supports events like a flag -ootball game, a nail salon and even making slime.

"We reward students for their positive behavior instead of looking always for the negative behavior," Sams said. "We are really focusing and concentrating on the positive. Once students have earned enough points, they can then cash them in and receive monthly rewards."

She urged parents to take advantage of the school's open-door policy and ask questions about what and how their children are learning.

"We like to celebrate our students and we ask that parents celebrate our students with us," she said. "We will do anything we can to help your student succeed."

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