May 20, 2000

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


Last week I revealed the dark side of our school district. This week I would like to discuss some of the good things that happen at the school district inspite of incompetance at the top. You see we are lucky that we have a long tradition in Ely of working towards goals and not just to the end of our shift. We have a tradition of teachers that freely give their time after school to help a student. We have a tradition of teachers who spend their own money to make sure their classrooms have what they feel is necessary and important for their students.

One very bright spot in the school district is the High School and Elementary Media Center. To us old folks over forty that is what we called the school library. In the last two years Mrs. Judy Klun has worked hard to improve the assets of the two Media Centers. The most visable change is on the high school side. Gone are the drapes and carpet from the 1970ís. Gone are the many out dated science books. In their place has come new books with up to date information. In their place has come programs like Accelerated Reader.

As someone who was privledged to work in the two Media Centers, I saw the impact of Accelerated Reader. Studies have shown that from third grade on the number of minutes a student reads for fun continues to decline. By 12th grade it is down to no more than 3 minutes a day. There are so many good books in literature and non-fiction that it is a shame to see them just sit there collecting dust. Accerlerated Reader does a good job at trying to negate the national trend of ignoring books for other forms of entertainment.

How the Accelerated Reader Program works is that teachers can assign books that compliment their curicula or offer students extra credit for books read. After the student reads the book, they come down to the Media Center and take a short multiple choice test that measures their comprehension. After the student is done with the test the computer corrects it. Reports can be generated showing the strenghts and weaknesses in the studentís reading skills. Currently there are about 250 books that students can take tests on. Mrs. Klun has been working with teachers to pick out books that cover all the subject areas that are taught in school.

Since introduction of the Accelerated Program, the number of books checked out has increased by a factor of two. Students who barely knew where the Media Center was are now coming down. This success is as much the teachersí efforts as it is Mrs. Klunís.

Students are regularly checking out authors like Gary Paulsen, Tolkein, Tolstoy, and Creighton.

Another improvement has been the use of computers in the Media Center. It has gone from three student computers to over thirthy. Entire classes can come down and research, write or create multimedia presentations. Data bases like Electric Library and Proquest can give students access to millions of pages. Full color printouts are available on some computers. Students can even have transparencies made to add to their oral reports. There are video cameras for students to use.

On the elementary side things have just begun. With the help of the Industrial Arts students there is a cute reading corner taking shape. Many frayed and worn out books are being replaced with help from the Jaycees and the PTO. The Target fundraiser has helped both the Elementary and High School Media Centers. This year saw the start of a video collection for the elementary school. It was started by the generous donations of Mrs. Lekatz when she donated her classroom collection at the time of her retirement. She has donated several books as well, including many Harry Potter books. The collection has grown to over one hundred videos and should reach the 500s by next year.

The big transformation for the Elementary Media Center will be the new carpet and drapes that will show up this summer. The current drapes date back to the 1960s and the carpet is not much younger. It has stains, rips, and unmatching patches.


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