Esko, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Don't judge a school by its funding...Esko public schools rank second to last in per–pupil spending for the state of Minnesota.
But that has no reflection on the students attending Winterquist Elementary School...they rank in the top seventh percentile for math.
Crunching numbers for students in the sixth grade at Winterquist Elementary in Esko is gaining them statewide attention.
Esko Public Schools are one of the lowest funded school districts in the state.
Despite the challenge, students are beating the odds.
These sixth graders have placed in the top seventh percentile of schools for math.
"I think in the sixth grade, we really get our students engaged in their learning," Brian Wickenheiser, a Wintercrest Elementary Teacher, said.
...But not in the traditional sense.
Through internal school grants and outside funding sources, teachers are using technology to help students stay engaged.
"I can put a question up on the board, students answer right away. Click in. We can see the results right away. And that helps me determine how far I want to go with whatever I am teaching—if I want to back up, re–teach something. Sometimes I find that my students already know exactly what I wanted to teach and I can just bag it and move right on," Andy Nielsen, a Wintercrest Elementary Teacher, said.
Along with Turning Technologies' TurningPoint software, students learn independently of the teacher, sometimes in groups.
When its time to turn in their homework, take a quiz, or even an exam, students are able to get their results in real time...allowing the kids to actually see their growth.
"As a teacher I can adjust the lesson plans within the lesson itself. I can see how they are doing based on each question,"
Keeping students occupied in their learning by continually communicating their progress is what these teachers all calling "responsive engagement," Wickenheiser said.
"They like seeing their results right away. So, you know, before you might have to use a technique like using a little white board or a chalk board or a piece of paper, or whatever it is to see what people are doing and then you king of have to go around and check. This way you don't really have to cruise the room as much you can just look at the screen and see right away where people are at," Nielsen said.
"The students enjoy it. The students see their success. When they are working hard and they are engaged with their materials they see the improvement and that gives them a lot of motivation to be better," Wickenheiser said.
Teachers say the software that costs $50 per student is a cost effective way for students to learn. It's also used in other classes such as social studies and science.
Justin Reis, NNC.