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Covington Schools Tackling Some Issues with Unique Approach

Covington Independent Public Schools is working to improve its achievement rates.

A presentation by Director of Communication and Family Engagement Stacie Strotman and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Janice Wilkerson was the result of a collaboration with Covington Partners, Strive Partnership, and the United Way to implement a research-based approach to improving outcomes.

Strotman said she attended a seminar at Children's Hospital where she was the only non-medical employee present. She was seated between two heart surgeons and said they were trying to use a system to troubleshoot open-heart surgery for infants, in an effort to reduce recovery time for the infant.

Strotman thought if the model of asking three fundamental questions - what is trying to be accomplished? how will we know that a change is an improvement? what changes can we make that will result in improvement? - could be applied to heart surgery, it could work for a school, too.

Six teams were assigned to look at problems and to answer those questions.

Three teams presented at the most recent Covington Board of Education meeting.

The first problem was a lack of mentors for children in the district, with eighty mentors serving Covington students. Strotman said Covington Partners and the school district had tried to increase the numbers but haven't achieved the results they wanted.

Applying the questions learned from the surgeons, the team discovered that the mentoring effort was taking four to six months for someone to become qualified. The system of finding potential matches for mentors and mentees was bogged down at the screening process.

The team was able to find a way to screen more efficiently and cut the matching time down to two to five weeks, and were able to find 260 matches.

The result of more mentors increased students' grades by about 50 percent in math and reading, the team said.

One other issue explored was noise in the cafeteria during lunch time.

The team is working to rearrange lunch times in order to lower the decibel level.

The third area explored by the team was the number of visits to the health office. 

The team made a run chart of how many visits students would make to the health office, noted a day with an unusually high number of visits and a day with zero visits, and analyzed what was going on at school that day. 

With the information learned, the team was able to reduce visits from 35 to 10 percent.

Superintendent Alvin Garrison said all the schools in the district are conducting these exercises.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor