Section 8: Learning Environment The overall learning environment at XHS is warm and welcoming. For the most part, the staff’s morale is positive. At the beginning of the school year, the technology department replaced all of the staff’s desktop computers with MacBook laptop computers, so there were some adjustment issues with that change. Also several teachers lost several of their files on the district server, but the issue seems to be resolved at this point.
The two administrators and three supervisors are highly visible throughout the day and they have an open-door policy to staff members and students. They certainly do their best to motivate their employees and recognize their performance. The principal has a vision of creating teamwork in the workplace, is approachable, and is interested in the daily operations in the school.
Approximately ten years ago, the school added a wing onto the high school, but due to the size of the growing school population, there still is not enough room at XHS. Many of the teachers share classrooms and many travel from room to room each day. However, both the teachers and students have adjusted to the school schedule and environment. If you walk into any classroom, you will observe the enthusiasm of the teachers and student engagement occurring.
Since the overall effectiveness of the learning environment can be affected by the amount of state and local funding, the XHS school district has been fortunate. The community seems to be committed to providing quality education to the students in town, and other than a few exceptions, the residents have a history of supporting the school budget. As enrollment has increased over the years, so have class sizes. It appears as though the teachers at XHS have overcome this challenge and made adjustments as far as teaching methods, classroom layouts, and supplies are concerned.
With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and upcoming PARCC testing, teachers have been preparing their students by administering online PARCC-like practice quizzes and assessments.
In addition, the teachers keep parents up to date and informed about their child’s progress through the XHS District website and through email communications. Teachers also utilize social media sites like Twitter, because it makes parents aware of what is happening in the learning environment.
Parents also play a part in creating a positive learning environment, and they have formed a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). The PTO works throughout the school year raising funds. Whether they are having a spring plant sale or XHS clothing, the PTO works to raise funds to give back to the students of XHS. Their biggest tradition throughout the years has been to raise money for all graduating seniors called ‘Project Graduation.’ On graduation night, the seniors are all bused to the Sony Werblin Recreation Center at Rutgers University where they can celebrate the evening in an alcohol and drug free environment (XHS Official Website, 2014).
Additionally, there is a lot of school spirit at XHS and the students that attend athletic events have formed what they call the “Pioneer Pack,” and they all wear matching “Pack” T-shirts to all athletic events. The school hallways and homeroom doors are often decorated for each upcoming holiday and students have painted murals in certain hallways promoting a positive message about XHS.
Section 9: School’s Online Presence/Branding In the past three years, the school’s online presence has been evident. The school district updated its current website which is welcoming and informative. The website displays a profile of the XHS that provides demographic information about the high school, the school district, and the local community. It also includes particulars in regard to curricular offers, the professional staff, specific departments in the school, and statistical data regarding SAT and AP student performance for the school. Through the school website, parents can access the their child’s grades and attendance records through the PowerSchool portal (XHS Official Website, 2014).
The Superintendent has added a professional blog to the district website with feeds and links the social media site, Twitter. The XHS principal also has a Twitter account that enables him to have an online presence throughout the school day. He is able to relay important school information, current events, and connect with other professionals in the field. In addition, many of the teachers are also using Twitter as a social media tool, because it enables them to reach students and parents.
Recently, the district added a school “App” to their website so that students, parents, and community members can download on their iOS or Android to keep up with the latest news, events, and posts from the school district.
The XHS library website is easy to access and includes links as follows: online catalogs, electronic resources, the summer reading list, recommended websites for teachers and parents, a school calendar of upcoming college visits, and citation generator page. The pages are colorful, have animation, and have links to many resources for students and parents to use.
This year, the XHS was granted the opportunity to pioneer a television station which is located in the library. In the last few months, the television crew has been directing, producing, and presenting daily episodes to the school community. It is their first forum where the students of X can have a positive and constructive voice ‘online’ in the community.
Section 10: Any Other Data or Information – Media Center The media center is staffed by a full-time librarian and one instructional assistant. Although there are no parent volunteers, the media center does have one student office aide at
the end of the day to assist the librarian as needed.
The media center schedule operates on a fixed schedule, and up to two classroom teachers may reserve the library during a period. Depending upon the schedule, the librarian may allow up to twenty study hall students to utilize the library computers or desks. There are nine periods during the school day that last 40 minutes (Table 26).
Table 26: Media Center Schedule
Media Center Schedule
(XHS Official Website, 2014)
Five years ago, the media center was completely renovated with new furniture, book shelves, carpeting, and desktop computers. The newer facility is spacious, bright, and welcoming to students. There is plenty of seating and seven cubicles for students use for a secluded study area. There is a mobile magazine cart that is very popular with the students and staff.
The XHS media center has 28 desktop computers and two wireless carts that each contain 20 MacBook computers. The media center also has a SmartBoard installed near the computer which is helpful for class instruction as needed.
According to the librarian, the current collection contains approximately 13,000 books, videos, and DVDs, and the average age in the collection is 1979. Recently, the librarian performed a collection analysis, and results below indicate that the collection is in need of being updated and weeded (Figure 7) (PBLA, personal communication, February 19, 2014).
Figure 7: Weeding Analysis
(PBLA, personal communication, February 17, 2014) The annual budget for this library is as follows: $500 for books, $250 for supplies, $900 for magazines, and $9,000 for online databases. According to the library assistant, the XHS library currently subscribes to the following online databases: Contemporary Literary Criticism (Gale), Discovery Education Streaming, Facts on File, Opposing Viewpoints (Gale), Pop Culture Universe, ProQuest eLibrary and Sirs Knowledge Source (PBLA, personal communication, February 10, 2014).
More details regarding the XHS library will be further analyzed and explored in the upcoming Needs Assessment and Action Plan.
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