Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hess Alert Meeting

Each year the director of testing and assessment presents information to the schools about how they will not make AYP if they continue on the same level of improvement. This is nothing new. However, this year when the "Hess Alert Meeting" was scheduled, it was handled differently.

Normally, the leadership team will pack into a few cars and head down the road to the Church Street offices for a PowerPoint presentation of our MSA scores. This time, the central office staff, including the superintendent and assistant superintendent, came to our school. Instead of showing us our scores, which we already had, the discussion centered around what it is we are doing to actively meet the needs of our Special Education population, who did not make AYP.

The administration discussed our intervention programs such as Read 180, LARI, and the Math and Reading Intervention teachers. They also detailed our after school "clubs" which are geared toward the students who are "at risk" of not passing MSA. They include the homework club, organization club, girls and boys club, and the technology club.

The intervention classes are what students take instead of an elective if they don't pass the MSA Reading or Math. They get an extra reading class or extra help in math. We have a couple different reading programs which students take. We don't have extra math courses yet but the math intervention teachers pull small groups or co-teach with math teachers to help needy students.

One of the things I have always wondered is if we are spreading our talents too thin. The school day interventions are a success because they have shown to help students - even though it wasn't enough for our special education students. But what about the after school programs? The biggest problem is there is no accountability. How do we know if we are helping students? I know that my club is more of an enrichment club. I have created an assessment tool using the Maryland State Student Technology Standards. I will fill one out at the end of each semester to indicate which of the technology stadard we have addressed and how well I believe the student has mastered them. Of course, since we operate as a club, there are no formal assessments. It is all project based and not always "evaluated" in the sense that I evaluate a Tech Ed project for my sixth graders. This is something I need to get a handle on since students will be assessed on the technology standards at some point.

One Idea I have is to use technology to track students who attend the after school club and then see if their is improvement in their grades. I could create a database into which teachers would enter student information. It would give us a record of attendance (which we take by hand) that would be easily sorted and formated for reporting. The way we track student attendance by putting it in a word processing document doesn't allow for data analysis without a lot of work. This is something I'd probably do if my first school as an administrator has after school programs.

I find it somewhat ironic that the major tools used to improve reading and math are software tools. We use Read 180 for reading instruction and Moving with Math for assessment of students' math abilities. Read 180 is a comprehensive reading instruction program which the teachers have the students work on at least 30 minutes per class. The math intervention teacher tests each student using the Moving with Math program to determine where skill gaps exist and plan for intervention. Once again, it is the use of technology and the analysis of data that drives our instruction.

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