On Their Way to 100% AYP
For Shohola Elementary School, Delaware Valley School District, a 100% AYP is not an elusive dream, rather it is close to reality with a combined score of 90% proficiency for reading and 93% for math for grades 3 to 6. In addition, Shohola received top scores on PVAAS for both Growth and Achievement for 4th grade reading and math and 6th grade reading and math. Meaning their students are not entering school with exceptional abilities, rather specific curricular and instructional practices are contributing to student success. I sat down with James Purcell, Director of Elementary Education, to learn the secrets of their success.
Their story begins with dissatisfaction with their Title I reading program. Their data indicated they were not moving their students. As Mr. Purcell said, "if you can't move the bottom group of students, you can't move your scores." They met with their numerous stakeholders, but it was the Title I reading specialists themselves that suggested they needed more instructional time and a different delivery model. In a meeting with the Superintendent Dr. Candis Finan, she suggested changing from a pull out program to a push in program. The result was each classroom had a reading specialist push into all 1st and 2nd grade rooms for one hour each day. Third and 5th grade also receives support from a reading specialist but the amount of time varies based on resources and need. The district did not add additional staff, rather they reallocated the staff they had.
The teachers and administrators persevered during the first year of implementation. Some classroom teachers simply did not want other teachers coming into their classrooms. Role clarification was needed. Improvement was noted during the first year of implementation, but the second year scores soared. Teachers complained even more instructional time was needed to obtain the results they wanted. Reading curriculum was revised to include more science and social studies content. Integration of curriculum resulted in more instructional minutes allocated to reading.
The district then partnered with the IU to initiate grade-level data meetings. As a result teachers were able to set ambitious goals e.g. with 60% of 1st grade students at benchmark for oral reading fluency, teachers set a goal of 90% by spring assessment. Data and dialogue also allowed the teachers to identify key areas for professional development. With the knowledge that more staff was not an option to address student needs, teachers lobbied to create opportunities within the core curriculum. Teachers targeted student needs within the regular education classroom through direct instruction, centers, and flexible grouping.
Interestingly, the bulk of special education students receive the core reading curriculum, targeted support within the classroom, title I interventions, as well as intervention from the special education teacher. The most struggling students in the district can receive, depending on the need, up to 700 instructional minutes in literacy per week. Their interventions are driven by constant progress monitoring and data analysis to identify and prioritize areas of strength and concern.
Success in reading lead to a parallel program for elementary mathematics. However, additional staff was necessary. The district used grant money to add math specialists utilizing a push-in model. They require elementary and middle level math certification for the math specialist position.
Today students are thriving at Shohola and the other elementary schools within the district. Grade-level data meetings are institutionalized with principals facilitating the meetings. Staff members are more comfortable using data tools such as Performance Tracker and DIBELS Reports. They constantly ask the question, "why are students not achieving?" The results speak for themselves with proficiency results into the 90th percentile and the IEP subgroup meeting AYP outright in two of the three elementaries and coming very close in the third.