Wakonda competes well in academics, too

Wakonda competes well in academics, too by Stacy Huber If you ask a stranger anywhere in South Dakota where Wakonda is, many will say, "Where?" "What town?" But a few may say, "Oh, that sports town." Well, yes Wakonda's residents are proud of their athletic tradition; however, Wakonda has set high expectations for academic achievement as well.

Wakonda provides a quality education with an ideal average class size of 14 students. Eighty percent of their graduating seniors, on the average, pursue a post-secondary education, with 60 percent entering four-year colleges and 20 percent entering two-year institutions. Wakonda was also among the 21 of 171 school districts in South Dakota to escape the "alert status" of the new No Child Left Behind legislative report card. Wakonda, for this year, has no need of improvement in tested areas.

In fact, in that Dakota Test, Wakonda scored higher than the state average in all areas except for three subtests in fourth grade. This year's freshmen class had one of the top writing assessment scores in the state, scoring perfect 100 percent proficiency in three of the six subgroups of the test.

With the new No Child Left Behind legislation, academic progress has been tested over and over and results have been recorded and compared. Wakonda has done well in those tests and has set high standards for its students to reach.

This year's freshmen tested to be one of the best in the state in writing skills. With South Dakota's 171 school districts taking the Dakota Step assessment, only 21 districts were not on alert. Wakonda was one of those 21 districts. In all areas, Wakonda scored higher than the state average, except for three areas in fourth grade.

Many teachers and students have attributed this success to small class size that allows for individual attention and to progressive attitudes.

"Our math and reading testing scores are high because we try new methods and stick to the basics," said special education director, Stephanie Light. She says, "I think it is the small class sizes that attribute to the high test scores and that the teachers, parents and the community have high expectations of the kids."

Wakonda elementary has adopted the Saxon Math Program. This math program allows the students to master their math skills with tons of repetition and practice. The teachers give them a worksheet. On one side the class learns new skills together and on the back is homework. This is an everyday assignment.

In the earlier grades, parent involvement is highly encouraged and most times mandatory. Parents are asked to correct, time, and sign off on many papers. Grades 1-6 also have a math meeting every day, which teaches repetition to master their skills every day.

The elementary's attention to reading has paid off as well as adopting a new program, Guided Reading, to help boost reading scores. Teachers of first, second, and third grades; and special education teachers of K-6 have completed training from South Dakota Reads. In this program students are able to move at their own individual rate mastering skills yet not held back due to ability grouping. Other programs and activities done at the elementary level are the following:

* Advanced Reading Enhancement Approach Program

* Young Authors Contest

* Reading Challenge Program

* Declam Contest

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* Young Illustrators Contest

* Iditarod Race Unit

* Computer Classes

* Accelerated Reader Program

* Title 1 Summer Program

The high testing scores continue in junior high and high school as well. Having a small high school staff allows them to know where students have left off and where they need to go.

"Kids don't fall through the cracks here. We know kids by name, family, church, and we often have them three or four times per day. We really get to know the students," says English teacher Stacy Huber. With a professional staff to student ratio of 1:8, students get individual attention. Also, with a student to computer ratio of 2:1, technology is part of their curriculum. Other contributing factors of Wakonda's success at their secondary level are:

* 95 percent of Wakonda's secondary students are involved in extra-curricular activities

* Peer Tutoring Program

* Career Shadow Program (Grades 11 and 12)

* Distance Learning

* The following classes have been offered: Physiology, Calculus, Math/Science TI83, Spanish I & II, College Level Math and English Classes over the Southeast South Dakota Interactive Long Distance Learning in our distance learning classroom which has been in use in Wakonda School for the last five years.

* Industrial Arts

* Advanced Placement Internet Classes:

* Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, U.S. Government & Politics, Calculus AB, Biology, Chemistry, English Literature, English Language, Physics B, Statistics, U.S. History, French, Spanish, and Psychology.

* French 2 class w. N.S.U.'s E-Learning Center over the V-TEL system.

So, yes, Wakonda may be known as an athletic town that has high expectations of their sports teams. But this same attitude has carried over into their academic goals as well. Expecting good performance is just that � you do your best in everything, this is the "Wakonda Way:" Attempt and Achieve.

For more information about Wakonda's No Child Left Behind Report Card, one can access the Department of Education Web site at http://www.state.sd.us/deca/release/reportcardrelease.htm. Or get on Wakonda School Web site at http://wakonda.k12.sd.us. If you want your child's individual results, you can contact your school.

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