1. SET THE STANDARD
What exactly do you expect from students? What is "proficient performance" defined in absolutely clear and unambiguous terms. This step is done when students can explain to you and one another exactly what your expectations are. This is NOT a re-statement of an academic content standard from a state or district frame work; it is the overarching expectation for student achievement you are building.
Spend faculty meetings, department meetings, and staff development time focusing on actual student work. All outside in-service and training should be tied directly to your student achievement goals. Standards are meaningless until teachers reach consensus on what proficient performance means. This does NOT happen with memos and lectures. It only occurs when teachers sit down together with the same rubric, or scoring guide, and look over several pieces of student work to gain a consensus on whether or not the examples are proficient. Teachers must spend high quality time together aligning instructional practices and timelines as well as assessment for student achievement to improve.
3. COLLECT DATA
Create a chart to show the percentage of students in a class or grade level who are proficient or better on a few key standards. Update the chart frequently – at least monthly. Increase the use of benchmark assessments to determine mastery prior to end of course exams. Frequent assessment, feedback, and revised work will lead to higher percentages of students achieving proficiency. This also sends the clear message that a student is NOT last year’s test results, and that results require continuous improvement.
4. USE ASSESSMENT DATA TO MODIFY CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION
If a substantial portion of students is not proficient on a key standard, what will you do? How can you change curriculum, improve assessments, and modify instruction to meet your goals? If students are not proficient in measurement, could you enlist the help of physical education and art for a greater emphasis on measurement during their time with students? If students are not proficient in charts and graphs (textual reading), could we use social science time to reinforce the concept? If students are not proficient in writing, could you create prompts and scoring rubrics that could be used in different classes and academic discipline? The key is to improve student achievement as a team within the school as a whole, and not in an individual department.
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