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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

First step to improving achievement at a low performing school

First steps in improving achievement at a low performing school, so that it becomes a 90/90/90 school is not to fire everybody all at once then create chaos when re-calling them back. Stirring up anger among teachers is definitely not the right way to start a school district on a path to success, that's the path to bitterness and resentment and who suffers the butt of this resentment...the kids of course.

The first step to improving academic achievement in low performing schools should be to put in place a teacher evaluation system that is fair, unbiased and accurate. Evaluation of teachers should be based on rather or not their students are improving on interim/benchmark assessments or getting worse. After all, the students are the number one reason why teachers are there. According to DPS assessment data, academic achievement has stayed the same or in many cases gotten worse. DPS has had the lowest test scores in the nation in recent years and it does not seem to be getting better, but I am hopeful that it will get better soon with the new leadership coming in.

In order to have a fair and accurate system of evaluating teachers based on student performance, students should be assessed weekly district wide using computer adaptive testing applications from company's such as Renaissance Learning and Plato Learning. These are two of the best that I have found. This will enable Principals to better monitor and get a clearer sense of rather or not students are improving and ultimately show teacher effectiveness. I know a lot of teachers (and students) complain about too much testing, but if you put a fun little spin to the testing then it's not as stressful for the kids or the teacher. First of all, don't call it a test, call it something like, Super Star Showtime! A time for students to show what they've learned and give them a star for completing the test, regardless of rather or not they got a high score. Maybe give gold stars only to those that have shown improvement and silver to all other students. You have to be creative. I don't like tests myself, so I feel their pain. But it is undeniable that consistent and organized assessing helps to monitor student progress. No matter what kind of goal you are trying to reach you have to stop an check yourself along the way just to make sure you're still on the right track and the same is true for our kids.

You'll notice that in every blog I post I usually refer back to the Common Core Lesson Plan Templates and it's more than simply to sell. I can not stress enough how helpful these are in keeping teachers on track as they prepare their students for the CCSS assessments coming in the 2013-2014 school year. Each lesson plan has the standards within drop down menus for a different strand and domain. The lesson plans a set up so that if your students are performing at only a 3rd grade level, but are actually in the 5th grade, then you would start by using a lesson plan that has the 3rd grade CCSS in the drop down menus and work your way up until students are ready to use the 5th grade CCSS lesson plans. The main objective is for teachers to raise the % of Students At or Above Grade Level with each lesson plan. The performance data would come from the weekly assessments. I would recommend that the lesson plan be handed in each week and attached to a printed classroom data analysis report generated by the chosen assessment program (i.e. Renaissance Learning or Plato Learning).


  1. I was recently asked if I had suggestions for ELA CCSS activities for teachers to use. There are a host of activities posted to the internet everyday that are free. I have a pinterest board where I search the web and collect all of these free CCSS resources and activities. Here is the link to the board where I post them:

  2. Hi Quisha,

    Thanks for doing the research and providing this link. The posts will help to answer some FAQ's that Teachers may have for ELA CCSS classroom activities. Keep up the good work!