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At Putnam BOE meeting, Phares says he wants other schools to take advantage of project-based learning

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- After listening to a presentation from Buffalo High School teachers and students Monday night, the state superintendent of schools said he plans to encourage other schools around the state to take advantage of project-based learning and innovation zone grants.

Officials from Buffalo High, which opened as a "new tech" school last fall, touted the program's success to state Superintendent Jim Phares and Putnam County school board members.

Schools that the state Department of Education approve as innovation zones receive waivers to state policy, which lets them try out new, research-based strategies in an effort to improve student learning.

"It's remarkable," Phares said of Buffalo's hands-on approach to learning.

Classes paired together like anatomy and physiology, physics and trigonometry called "Trysics," digital communications, and senior English coupled with art history allow teachers to cover more content, according to Phares.

Buffalo Assistant Principal Bradley Knell reported that since the program began, disciplinary problems at the school have "decreased tremendously."

"It has brought them to life," Knell said, referring to how the courses have engaged students.

School guidance counselor Michelle Johnson said students' grades have improved.

"There are fewer D's and F's," she said.

Phares, who was named superintendent in December last year while the state board conducts a national search for a more long-term candidate, said he's been attending board meetings around the state to hear concerns from county officials.

Putnam Superintendent Chuck Hatfield said he appreciated Phares' understanding that Putnam school officials "believe we know what Putnam County needs better than anyone else." Hatfield prefers more local control of schools. 

Other Putnam board members mentioned to Phares problems with the flexibility of the school calendar and developing programs to help students become more career-ready, among other things.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.

 


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