In Public Schools

from the "outside" looking "in"

Schools That Work

Posted by Admin On April - 9 - 2010


STWapril12Schools now find themselves behind the eight ball as lower test scores reflect American schools losing the world wide educational race. There are, however, some bright stars among the newer programs instituted in the schools. These programs often function outside the box normally used in most schools.

Some of the schools use parents in the classroom more effectively. Often the use of parents prior to the implementation of the program was to delegate the role of cookie and juice provider for special days of the year. Now, teachers find the extra hands of the parents, supply much needed help and free teachers to focus on necessary educational processes. Some teachers simply use the parents to do jobs such as mimeographing papers, scoring spelling tests and other routine work. Others expand the roles of the parents to interact with children, administer tests missed because of absenteeism and help with tutorial processes. The results are amazing. All students benefit because of the increased adult attention, parents feel like they have a role in their child’s education and the focus of the families in corporations that use parent assistants becomes more directed to the educational process.

One of the most important changes corporations can make is to hold students to higher standards and make them accountable for their performance in the classroom.  Recent studies of schools show that this is by far the most important factor for schools to attain higher achieving students. A study of 26 Texas high-poverty schools that had high records of achievement showed that all of them refused excuses for poor performance, used experimental strategies, involved both community and parents in the academic process and had a passion for not only ensuring academic success but also continuing to improve on the process.

Other school corporations found that focusing on lower performing students to help them catch up improved their overall performance and lowered the drop out rate. Often students that repeat grades seldom catch up to their counterparts. In the past, students either were promoted without proficiency or retained. Neither of these worked to improve the student performance.

In an effort to change this, schools in Newark, New Jersey use Project ACCEL, Accelerating the Learning of At-Risk Students, to improve their scores and help them make gains. They focused on children in the sixth and seventh grades in five of the schools and used specifically trained teachers, computers, parents and outside organizations to aid the students in learning. The results showed that the effort paid off with higher gains in proficiency than other students not in the same type of program.

Other schools focused on additional tutorial programs beyond the school day or in an extended school year. In Long Beach, California schools, students in the third grade had to attend a five-week program if they didn’t attain the reading proficiency level required.

Other schools that implemented programs outside the box were in North Carolina where honor students in high school received pay for tutoring struggling students. The same district also used the services of retired school teachers for the same purpose.

The changing landscape of the family unit prompted the Murfreesboro, Tennessee school corporation to extend their school day. Often students find an empty home when the school day ends. Ten years ago, the corporation decided to keep the schools open twelve hours a day all year long. Students not only remain safe at the school, over half of the students in the district receive additional tutoring at their school in the extended hours.

Regardless of the technique or techniques used in the improvement of the districts educational process, those that support improvement, regardless of how much the method deviates from the status quo of present educational processes, find that their students benefit because of their dedication to excellence.

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