Our little charter school is rolling along. Our state test scores arrived and we were surprised and excited. I have led the ELA and social studies clusters this year and for those of you who know me, I am such a math person! ELA and SS were not in my comfort zone. I have studied and questioned Monique Wild and Susan Couch until I am sure both would love to strangle me.
Anyway, due to my ineptness we kept our strategies very simple and guess what...it worked! One of the sweetest teachers on the planet, Ms. Brenckle, saw students really rise to the challenge. She is a first year teacher. Last year's 6th graders were 16% proficient in 6th grade world history. This year, Ms. Brenckle's students were 67% proficient with only 3 students scoring unsatisfactory. Ms. Mobley, a second year teacher, had 51% of her initial test takers pass the 8th grade high-stakes ELA exam. Other teachers in ELA and SS had between 45%-47% proficiency. These are still below where we want, but much higher than were these students performed last year.
I have pondered the whys of the success and I find a few interesting ideas. First, these teachers all worked together. The social studies teacher and the ELA teacher in all grades attacked the same strategy and monitored student work with diligence. The teachers are all young and have less than 5 years experience with one exception, he has 6. Secondly, these teachers never said, "These kids are....." or "These kids can't do...." Rather they embraced the idea they are the teacher and everything is their responsibility. They constantly told the students things like "You are so smart!" "You can be a great reader!" "I believe in you." Finally, these teachers not only said these things, but demonstrated these beliefs by giving students difficult texts, rigorous instruction, and strategies that met the needs of the individuals. They did not read to the kids, but taught them strategies to help them read independently. They did not give them matching questions or memorized fill in the blank tests, but rather cold passages and multi-leveled questions. The students rose to the occasion. I am so proud to be a little part of this team and I can't wait to see what we can do next year. Our goal is to demonstrate inner-city students can and will succeed when teachers see past "these students" and communicate the same expectations they would for any other student.
Our forefathers died and our fellow men and women in the military are putting their lives on the line today for the freedom for all to be all they can be. This Memorial Day let us remember "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all meen are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."