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Transfer students are elementary in Central Kitsap
"When Lindsay Steiner's mother and grandmother brought her to Jackson Park Elementary Jan. 29 for registration, they were met with a host of kind faces and a well-oiled system for helping kids make the transition to a new school.She was taken on a tour of the school and Diane Yetter, the office manager, showed her a photograph of her new teacher, Sue Robinson.I can't wait to meet her! said Steiner, a first grader, dancing around in a circle. I can't wait to go to school!Central Kitsap schools like Jackson Park and Clear Creek elementaries face a unique challenge: a high percentage of students in those schools transfer in or out of the district each year, many of whom are from Navy families. Jackson Park has a mobility rate - a school district term to describe transfer rates - of about 55 percent, while Clear Creek has a mobility rate of about 60 percent.DIFFERENT SCHOOLS, DIFFERENT SYSTEMSEach school has developed a comprehensive system for helping students adjust, and helping teachers determine the transfers' math and reading levels.Clear Creek has a program called the Welcome Wagon. Two students from each class are selected as greeters, whose job it is to help new kids get acquainted. New students are given a coupon book listing school employees with whom they will have contact. When greeters have time, they take the new student to meet the people listed in the book.When the kids come in to see me, I give them a piece of candy, said Jeanne Beckon, Clear Creek principal. When they go in to see the P.E. teacher they get a football eraser. When they go in to meet the nurse she gives them a cool Band-Aid. It's a way for us to connect with the child.A photograph of the new student also is posted on a bulletin board in the hall with the other new faces.At Jackson Park, new students are introduced to Keslo's Choices, a behavioral management program. Students are given a list of nine responses to problems they might experience and are told to use two of them. If the student is bothered by classmate, for instance, choices might include telling the person to stop, walking away, making a deal or waiting and cooling off.MEETING THE TEACHERTeachers also play a large part in helping students feel at home in their new schools. Daryll Brady, a third-grade teacher at Jackson Park Elementary, likes the office to tell him ahead of time if a new student in coming into his class so he can make special preparations.I set up the student's name on the desk and put out all of the supplies they are going to need, he said. I also put their name on the bulletin board with all the kids' names. The kids love to see their names on the wall.Brady says all students adjust to new school at their own pace. I usually ask them a few questions, like where they are from, he said. Some kids don't talk for a week and others act like they've been there all year.Brady and fellow Jackson Park third-grade teacher Carla Vogt both said they make a point of pairing the student with a buddy who can help them with classroom and lunchtime procedures.When students leave the school, Vogt makes them a booklet - each student in the class writes something nice on a page about the student who is leaving.That way, Vogt said, they have something to remember us (by). It's hard, but our kids are used to it. The Navy offers its own support services to schools with large populations of Navy-dependent families. We have a couple of counselors at Clear Creek, Cougar Valley and one that visits Jackson Park, said Kathy Towell, a Navy relocation specialist. They do a group session with new kids - with kids that might be acting out because they are in a new situation.Navy families are provided with relocation packets, according to Towell. For families with children, the packets contain coloring books and a book called The House That Waited, geared toward helping young kids adjust to a move. Also included is a checklist for parents with tips for moving with kids. The checklist recommends finding out about things in the new location that may interest kids, like zoos or museums, and making sure kids pack up some of their own belongings.THE WASL AND OTHER TESTSLearning assessments, administered by teachers or learning specialists, are important for placing new students. Assessments for kindergarten through second grade students are standardized in Kitsap County. A reading folder is used to test reading comprehension, ability to recognize rhyme and the ability to blend sounds. Schools establish their own skills tests for older students, and results are used to alert educators to learning difficulties or special needs. We look for red flags - signs we need to get kids help outside of what's offered in the classroom, said Kim Backlund, a learning specialist at Jackson Park.Getting new kids up to speed for the high-stakes Washington Assessment of Student Learning also poses a challenge for schools with high mobility. Jackson Park uses the school-wide Math Magicians program to prepare all students for the math portion of the test. Once a month they are assigned to solve a WASL-style multi-step problem, according to Backlund. Students grade their own papers with a rubric, or scoring guide. New students learn from watching the other students, Backlund said. It prepares them for writing responses and describing how they solve problems.Vogt says not all new kids enter the school unprepared for the WASL.Some kids are familiar with WASL-style exams, she said. Many states are doing it now - it just depends individually.DEPLOYMENTS IMPACT FUNDINGPer-student funding also can prove tricky when children are constantly moving in and out of a school district. Schools conduct an annual head count and report the data to receive federal money. Some years we have had to move back the survey date when we knew a ship was coming in, said Gary Powell, Central Kitsap School District assistant superintendent for business and operations. We also put additional funds into schools with high turnover - for staffing. We allocate for additional hours. ... There is some compensation.According to principals at Jackson Park and Clear Creek, high mobility also does a lot for the character of a school. It forces school employees to be more friendly, accepting and flexible.This is one of the warmest buildings I have ever been in, Beckon said. It's because the teachers here are so used to building new relationships. They are always telling kids 'You know what it's like to be the new kid.' "