LFL principal ready and excited for second semester
“It’s being able to take on hard things, and convincing yourself that you can do those hard things.”
By Rhett Breedlove
LINGLE – With days slowly getting longer and with January already in the rearview mirror, Lingle-Fort Laramie K-12 Principal Cory Gilchriest is ready, excited and ambitious for all good things the spring semester will have to offer.
“We are getting close to testing season which has become the new focus, and then graduation will be here,” Gilchriest laughed. “It’s flying, and I just can’t believe this is already the last day of January.”
Once again with the spring semester already well underway and moving quickly forward, Gilchriest made it a noteworthy point to discuss the importance of the upcoming WY-TOPP and ACT testing for students.
According to Gilchriest, this time of year is an extremely crucial component for both students and staff to reveal an entire years worth of hard academic work and dedication.
“There are a couple of things going on at the high school and elementary where we have changed a few things,” Gilchriest began. “We have been doing a deep dive into the data, and we have shown significant growth. It’s been very successful, and we will keep rolling out until the end of the year. We are getting into testing season, so it can be hard to focus on teaching when you are focused on that but we have to.”
As any student, educator or parent knows full well, required testing season within any school district can be a stressful time. The procedures of course take a significant amount of time, planning and energy from both students and teachers while illuminating the ongoing academic progress which state, and federal education officials must see.
Needless to say, a little bit of pressure can be felt by all involved during the time.
Gilchriest, and his staff however, have borrowed a meaningful, well thought out plan to help prepare all students for testing season.
“We’ve got some new incentives at the secondary level,” Gilchriest said. “Burlington started this several years ago, and their data and improvement with ACT’s and WY-TOPP scores have been very impressive. If we are half as successful as them, we can consider ourselves very successful. We are building a 25-minute block on Wednesdays where our students 6-12 will take roughly ten practice ACT questions. Whether it’s math, science, English/language arts or writing they have to take it on.”
As Gilchriest explained the concept in depth, the primary purpose of presenting 10 authentic ACT questions to all students from grades 6-12 is a proven one-way path to higher testing scores.
The way Gilchriest sees it, exposing middle schoolers to high school material a little early cannot be a negative approach at all.
“It’s a kind of growth mindset, as well as an emotional learning curriculum,” Gilchriest said. “It’s about self-efficacy, grit and taking on challenges. Our leadership group identified that it’s being able to take on hard things, and convincing yourself that you can do those hard things. We started this semester with an initiative for ACT prep and WY-TOPP prep. We get the data back basically showing how many they got correct, and then we track that exact data and expect improvement going forward. When we see lower scores we take those kids, identify their needs, and intervene on that. Burlington has been very successful, so why not borrow their idea?
“Educated guessing is a real a thing,” Gilchriest continued. “Pre-active test taking allows for an increase in scores, and that’s a legitimate deal. We found studies on the ACT’s just showing how to take the tests and breaking down the questions. We need everything we can get. We’ve got sixth graders seeing things five years over their head, which is dang near impossible to them at first. But they are seeing it now and are starting to ask questions. It’s way above where they are being instructed currently, but it’s starting to make those connections in their brain. They are trying to answer the best they can now, with the knowledge they already possess. It’s all these little things that we can do to build up our kids.”
With both ACT and WY-TOPP testing a high priority for Lingle-Fort Laramie schools, Gilchriest also did not fail to mention the vast majority of other current and future happenings the public should be aware of.
In particular, the Lingle-Fort Laramie Principal was very encouraging of community members to continue to support and engage in extracurricular activities.
“There’s been a lot going on,” Gilchriest added. “Our basketball and wrestling programs have been very successful. Those extracurricular activities tend to drive the culture, and atmosphere of our buildings. It’s been very good positive vibes in the hallways with lots of enthusiasm. We will take it where we can get it. We are going to have several Title One nights, Bingo for Books at the elementary and coming up we will have a math night that we are currently planning. Parent-teacher conferences will be at the end of February and another one in March, so everyone be looking for those parent-teacher conference dates. It’s always a good thing when the extracurriculars and academics are matching. It makes for much better vibes in the hallways.”
Just minutes before heading out to a mandatory meeting, Gilchriest made it a point to speak once again of the overwhelming sense of unison between each and every school within the district.
Gilchriest also mentioned and pressed should community member have any questions, concerns, or comments regarding current events at the Lingle-Fort Laramie schools, they are always more than welcome to come and talk.
“It’s always good to be engaged, even looking at social media to see what we’ve got going on and getting out to the athletic events. Being a unified district is great because it creates better opportunities. If anyone has any questions regarding any information, they can always get ahold of me. I have an open door and phone policy. Just get ahold of me. I am always happy to have a conversation about anything going on here. We have great teachers, great students, and most of it goes on behind the scenes. Just know that we have an incredible bundle of talented educators working with these kids, and we are always trying to do the right things, always trying to improve and they are working their tails off. We truly do have a great staff here.”