The following comments should be of value to those of Georgia’s Legislature, especially to the members of Georgia’s House and Senate Educational Committees, as to how to insure that all students in public schools throughout Georgia meet with success. The comments were posted on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s educational blog of educational columnist Maureen Downey (see link: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/01/30/new-georgia-school-chief-visits-two-failing-schools-state-grades-dont-tell-the-full-story/) on January 31 and February 1, 2014:
How long, Oh Lord, how long? When are the people who read this blog going to realize that there is a wise instructional option to social promotion and that is teaching each student where he is functioning on every curriculum continuum, regardless of his grade level. Students who are misplaced for instruction will often refuse to do the work as a mask for being misplaced and thereby not grasping the material.
More diagnostic data is needed for each student (in a student’s developmental history on computers) to determine the truthful facts about each student’s progress or lack thereof. We must stop making assumptions about why students fail and, instead, turn to diagnosis with test data to know for certain why given students fail, as the medical profession does with sick patients.
Mary Elizabeth, I agree with you. But there is NO WAY this course of action will EVER be funded in Georgia, nor supported in any way.
Never say never, Wascatlady. My last high school before I retired received a grant from the state of Georgia for $25,000. in 2000 to implement a form of this plan which I designed to be implemented in that high school just before I retired.
We are doing our level best to meet the individual needs of our students, but as I am sure you know from experience, that gets very difficult when you have a class where some are reading at a 5th grade level and some are at a K-1 level. We make use of parent volunteers, Title and EIP instructors, flexible groups, small group instruction, para pros etc. to do all we can to differentiate instruction, but now, thanks to the new “accountability” rules put into place to make us do a “better” job, we are actually having MORE trouble reaching all our students since our students are now “locked in” to certain classes with particular teachers for a particular percentage of the year – so our ability to flexible groups has been curtailed. So, once again, the bureaucracy designed to “improve” education is actually making things worse. I am so utterly sick of it! If a school does their job well, and is succeeding, then the big wigs need to leave them the heck alone and let them do what they do best! Or even better, go into the succeeding schools and find out what they do well rather than spending all the energy with the same “one size fits all” approach to educational improvement that they push us to apply to student learning. If a school is succeeding, then they do not need to be hammered with all these “reform” measures that do nothing but make my job even more difficult!
In many ways, I agree with your points, Quid. I especially agree with this sentence you wrote: “Or even better, go into the succeeding schools and find out what they do well rather than spending all the energy with the same ‘one size fits all’ approach to educational improvement that they push us to apply to student learning.”
Your post actually reaffirms what I have continuously stated: There will always be students functioning on different grade level curriculum in the same grade level because all students do not learn at the same rate to mastery.
When I post, the audience I am trying to reach are those in administration at the county office level and at the school level. I want those in administration first to start believing that what I am writing is true and that the ONLY way they are ever going to help every student meet with success is to design schools that can have flexible scheduling with teachers having much more input about the continuous placement of students in the groupings throughout the school, or at least throughout the department.
Thank you for what you do daily to teach students. I know what obstacles teachers must overcome and one of the most blatant which I read about on this blog are adults who have spent a professional lifetime in other careers telling teachers how to teach. Their arrogance is incredible. Don’t let any of this deter you. Keep your eye on the prize, and that is each student. Why not get a group of teachers together to talk with your administrator about letting teachers have time blocks together (without students) so that they can plan instructional delivery for, say, 150 students, together)
In the meantime, I hope this will give you some additional techniques for dealing with students who have multi-level instructional needs in the same grade level:
Diagnostic, data-driven instruction is what is used in Massachusetts. It began when the MCAS assessment system was implemented after the state curriculum frameworks were drafted. The drafting/review team included many teachers. I was one of the MCAS readers for ELA exams while I was a classroom teacher.
With statewide data warehousing, it is possible for teachers to review student performance data in ELA and math going back for several years and pinpoint within a specific classroom, down to the student and standard levels, exactly where students have excelled and where they have struggled.
The Student Longitudinal Data System here in Georgia provides a similar level of detailed analysis over time. The key is ensuring that teachers have access to the SLDS and are trained to use it. Although GA teachers are not given access to released testing items in sufficient time to use them for purposes of instructional adjustment, the way that Massachusetts teachers always have been, they do have the Online Assessment System item bank to be able to generate their own diagnostic assessments using items developed in Georgia by fellow teachers and the State.
@ the other poster
Thank you for this current information regarding teacher use of testing items on computers. I can envision personnel hired within a school to generate such updated testing instructional items on computers for teachers, so that the teachers themselves do not have to spend hours of their own time plugging this info into the computers. After the computer resource person for the school updates the instructional testing data for each student, teachers would be able to pull this diagnostic information up for a whole class in a matter of seconds. Likewise, if teachers were allowed to plan together in a team approach for a group of 150 students in several teachers classes (while the students are outside in P. E. activities), the developed computer program would allow the teachers to team- generate instructional groupings that are homogeneous in instructional need, across several classes and even across several grades. As the teachers move students in their section of the building to other teachers’ classes for instructional pinpointed groupings, teachers overall would have much less differentiation to cover within their individual classes. (Five heads are better than one.) Teachers need the administrative flexibility to be able to structure this grouping design within the school, using the computer data as the intial genesis of the groupings with verbal input added. One last point: Confidential I Q scores should also be a part of this mix of data on the computer programs because students with lower IQs will, in general, not be able to move through concepts to mastery level as quickly as those students whose IQs are much higher. Because IQ can vary from year to year to some extent, these scores likewise should be confidentially updated.
I hired a Director of Data Operations to oversee these processes and free teachers up to use the information to refine their teaching. Our student information systems vendor has been engaged to do the data entry legwork so teachers don’t have to. The Director will train instructional staff on how to generate the types of reports teachers need to be able to identify specific students in need of specific remediation so that teachers are able to group students accordingly. The Director also will produce reports so that instructional leadership administrators are able to analyze data and see trends to share with the teaching staff.