Monday, November 21, 2016

Principal Thoughts: 2 Ways to Increase Student Achievement

2 Ways to Increase Student Achievement
Student achievement is the indicator by which educators and schools are evaluated.  If is often frustrating to teachers and school leaders when we know our students are learning and improving, only to see that achievement results have missed the "target" as defined by the district or state. It begs the question, is what we are doing working to increase student achievement?  What are teachers doing and what practices have the greatest impact?  Are we maximizing student relationships to assist in learning?

Meeting Students 1:1, Personally not Technology
While technology resources are increasing at an exponential rate, the best of technology can never replace the necessity and importance of a great teacher. Teachers affect student lives, everyday, and have the potential to impact them in a positive way. When teachers and educators take time to get to know their students on a personal level, they have a greater impact on the students' lives. They begin to truly 'see' their students. They know them, their likes, dislikes, emotional triggers, strengths, weaknesses, and family life. They better understand what baggage students bring to school that might affect their day, like did they sleep well, have adequate clothing, or even have breakfast?  Many of these issues may be relevant only to low socio-economic groups of students.  However, despite socio-economic status, all students want to know that the adults in their life care about them. Students who do not feel that their teachers are invested in them, especially children who struggle, will lack initiative to challenge and achieve.

In our 1:1 device school (TK-5), students are directed to spend time on their Chromebooks for a variety of tasks including Google Classroom assignments, Accelerated Reading and Accelerated Math, SpellingCity, Discovery Learning, Lexia Core5, just to name a few. When teachers review their dashboard data on these programs, they can dig into where students are achieving and where they might need additional intervention on a skill or concept. Having a student-teacher conference, a 1:1 personal conversation, allows the teacher a unique opportunity to connect with a student, with every student. The intent would not be to scold or criticize but to seek to understand. "I see that you did great on this skill-nicely done! Let's look at this area and see how we can help you." Taking the time to speak with students individually creates a culture of trust as well as builds a greater understanding for specific student needs.  The personal connection becomes stronger, and both student and educator are encouraged.

Use Data to Build Skill-Based Intervention
During regular Professional Learning Community Meetings (PLC's), i.e. Grade Level Meetings, teachers and administrators regularly review student data and learning goals. The idea is that if educators can identify strengths and weaknesses in learning, they can better design and mold the curriculum to meet the needs of their students.  Educators begin to develop a greater growth-mind set that leads to innovative ways to meet student needs and build student achievement.

In a typical lesson, often teachers provide instruction, check for understanding, and then pull back students that may have questions.  Some students do not prefer to make public their lack of understand and will not seek additional help. By using the 1:1 conference model and reviewing student skill data, teachers can strategically create skill-based interventions that work to scaffold the learning for small groups of students. Once students have foundational understanding and competency in the area of their skill-deficit, they begin to better understand then core learning objectives. Teachers have tremendous impact when they break down data of student achievement student-by-student, skill-by-skill, and then create small group mini-lessons, or interventions, to help students better understand the concept. Reviewing this data openly at grade-level PLC's allows the educators to share best teaching strategies to design specific instruction based on student need. While sharing class data can be intimidating for many, when approached with a growth-mindset, educators can rest assured their input contributes to improving the learning of their students.

When educators, teachers and administrators, take the time to use the data they have acquired to thoughtfully create lessons and a learning environment that fosters positive contact and feedback, students WILL achieve.
I am currently a principal in a TK-5 school in the central valley of California. Our student population is 97% low socio-economic. With 10 years of administration experience and 19 years in education, my thoughts here share two ways educators can increase student achievement, through data review and personal, positive student contact.  I have witnessed these two strategies have a huge impact on increasing student achievement.

If you would like to share your thoughts or connect,  I can be reached through Twitter @susandenton27, or 

No comments:

March 1st - Memories and Beginnings

Today was the day I remember my mom. Four years ago on this day, she passed. Life hasn’t been the same. It’s more melancholy on some days. B...