Hulan L. Whitson Elementary School

When you walk into Whitson Elementary it is clear the focus is on children. From students’ matted and framed art in the halls, the student murals throughout the building, and the welcoming smiles in each room, children are a priority.

 As a former Gates Foundation grant school, Whitson has adopted the seven Attributes of High Achieving Schools. These are: Common Focus, High Expectations, Personalized, Respect and Responsibility, Time to Collaborate, Performance Based and Technology as a Tool. These attributes are embedded in everything and tie in to the School Improvement Planning process.

 The common focus for Whitson has always centered on reading literacy. There is a consistent research-based instructional approach that encompasses shared beliefs about teaching and how students learn. Whitson’s schedule reflects this literacy commitment with students receiving a 120-minute reading block each day. Whitson Elementary is the recipient of a three-year federal Reading First grant. The grant funds a full-time reading coach, a comprehensive core reading curriculum (Trophies), supplemental and intervention reading materials and professional development for all staff. The core reading program focuses on the five essential components of effective reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

 In Science, FOSS (Full Option Science System) kits provide a fresh approach to science instruction and assessment for students. It is a carefully planned and coordinated science curriculum in three strands: Life Science, Physical Science and Earth Science. FOSS contributes to the attainment of scientific literacy by providing active learning experiences designed to establish appropriate steps of literacy.

 Whitson uses the Investigations in Mathematics, Scott Foresman and Origo materials in mathematics. Units of study are presented through investigations that involve students in the exploration of major mathematical ideas. This helps students develop flexibility and confidence in approaching problems, fluency in using mathematical skills and tools to solve problems and proficiency in evaluation solutions.

 With strong parent partnerships, and the recognition that parents are their child’s first teacher, Whitson parents are involved in instructional decisions. Volunteer programs log about 3,000 hours from parents, community members and students. Businesses in the area support schools through the Partnership in Education program by adopting a classroom.

 The PTO provides cultural assemblies, field trips, in-house grants to support classrooms or programs, classroom incentives for students, visiting artist/author and Family Nights.  The Whitson “family” is a “learning community” of adults and students alike.

 With a full-time music and full-time PE teacher, Whitson students have a well-rounded educational experience. Beginning with the 2006/07 school year the district funds a full-time kindergarten program, giving students more time to get a good head start on their academic career. A full-time librarian, a recipient of the KCTS 2006/07 Golden Apple Award, provides an enriching and stimulating setting for students to explore books and other forms of literature that strengthens our literacy goal. She also hosts art activities for students and a popular American Girls Book Club for 4th grade girls.

 Afterschool tutoring and summer programs provide assistance for students who need extra help or encouragement. An afterschool enrichment program offers classes in a variety of art medium, games, Spanish, sewing, book groups and science.  Professionals and volunteers lead these classes, for a minimal fee or for free.  A grant award from the Rural Health Foundation increases the physical activity level and improves the nutrition of students grades K-4, and to develop on-going community support for the effort. This effort is carried out through the Whitson Afterschool Physical Activity Program.

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