Published on Real Clear Education, December 15, 2015, by Multi-Classroom Leader Amy Sparks
When I was asked to be on my school’s design team for a new initiative, I had no idea what I was getting into. I heard it would help build relationships with students and the community, and improve learning, so I thought, “Cool. I’m in. That is right up my alley.” But this wasn’t any new initiative: Our school was about to be part of something huge that would affect not only the community and the students, but also the teachers.
Many schools experimenting with this “Opportunity Culture” concept of extending the reach of great teachers using new teaching models had exhausted multiple strategies to increase student achievement with their high-need populations. But our school, Francis Bradley Middle School in Huntersville, N.C., is not a high-need, Title I school. We have only about a 35 percent free and reduced-price lunch population. Our state data ranks us as meeting or exceeding growth expectations. So why did we need to change? Simple: We can always be better.
And after several rounds of data analysis, Bradley’s design team realized that while our school was perceived as doing fine—OK, at least—it was losing ground with the students in the top 20 percent. Our 2012–13 state test data showed negative growth in reading for our highest-level eighth-graders, compared with pretty good growth for our middle-level students. Clearly something was amiss. [Read more…]