Thursday, March 31, 2011

And Now, The Rest of Story...

It's been quite some time since I last updated my lion chasing journey, so as I resist the temptation to visit the black hole of Facebook, I am going to attempt to focus long enough to hit the highlights of the past few weeks.  Funny how the longer I wait to write, the harder it is to share the moments with detail and focus.

Spring Break, '11 was uneventful with the highlight being our hike to the Chimneys with Jackie and Livy.  The weather's been wild and wooly - Springtime in Tennessee to be sure!  One day in the 60s the next day in the 40s.  Tonight, the last day of March (Lamb?  Lamb?  Where are you?) it's supposed to dip down to freezing!  Brrrrrr!  Winter, must you continue to torment me?!  Get lost!

Our OBIYTC project has been working well!  Melody and I have been working out our minor glitches together and the kids can't help but learn!  I'm actually excited about TCAP testing to see the return our investment. 

I'm loving our small group more and more each week as we tear down walls, remove our masks and get real with each other. 

My "adult" children are a continual source of pride to their daddy and me.  I'm overwhelmed with gratitude to God for pouring out His blessings in my life!  Watching Addie and Sam at their soccer practices tonight filled me with emotion.  Healthy children.  Athletic.  Smart.  Loving.  Funny.  All of them.  Wow.

Yesterday's road trip was the highlight of the month for me.  I had the tremendous opportunity to visit the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, and boy, oh boy, was I blown away!  Most impressive of all were the students.  Never have I seen such poised, confident, articulate, and intelligent 5th graders!  Classy kids to be sure!  The school was bright, warm, intimate, student focused, and stimulating...the math lesson taught by Ron Clark was awe-inspiring!  His "student" teacher was remarkable although she only received a C+ for her efforts.  The slide was quick, slick, and effective...I was blown away!

Pardon my disconnected ramblings today.  I just want to "get it down" before my 40-something mind gives it up to oblivion.  I've read 2 books since Spring Break.  Cutting for Stone by Abraham "Somebody" was fantastic!  The Road by Cormac McCarthy was spooky, disturbing, and thought provoking.  The Watsons Go to Birmingham was a class favorite to be sure!  Bud, Not Buddy is also proving to be an attention-getter.

Reach Them has our date set - November 1, 2011 or 11-1-11 (LOVE this!), and our speaker is confirmed as well - Manuel Scott!  I can't wait to meet him!  I've spoken with his wife, Alice and she is impressive and delightful!  Looking for and praying for a sponsor for our food.  It won't be Chick-fil-A as I had hoped, but that just means we're in for an unexpected surprise!  

I'll make an effort to blog better in the days ahead.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

O.B.I.Y.T.C. - Our Best Is Yet To Come!- The Plan

Our Best Is Yet To Come!

2011 Strategic Plan for 4th Grade Student Achievement

The Problem
Our school did not make AYP on the 2010 TCAP.  Our students must improve their performance on the 2011 TCAP in order to make “Safe Harbor” next year. 

The Proposal

Crawford and Smith would like to propose a team-teaching strategy that sets high academic goals, provides immediate feedback, involves parents, school support staff, and the community in order to ensure our students’ success.

The Plan
Given a timeframe of  24 “instructional days,” we will implement a no-holds-barred intervention that will specifically target deficient skills as determined by Think Link test data in order to provide remediation, instruction, and enrichment opportunities for each student based on his/her instructional needs.  Parent meetings will be held four times during this intervention for the purpose of informing parents of the strategic plan and enlist their support and commitment to help at home.

The Process
Beginning on Tuesday, March 1 and continuing through Friday, April 8, Smith and Crawford’s classes will meet together in one classroom with the option of pulling out students for small group instruction.  We will commit to planning together and modifying
plans according to student needs as necessary.  Plans, goals, and strategies will be shared with grade level colleagues, Literacy Coaches, and administrators as well as parents.  Content will also be shared on our school website.

The Proof (Assessment)
Feedback on student progress toward goals is essential for this intervention’s success.  For this reason, we have planned the use of formative as well as summative assessments in a variety of formats.  Our primary formative assessment data is the Think Link Test C.  The results from this test have been used to diagnose areas of weakness for students in general and individually.  Additionally, we will provide formal and informal assessments in class.  Teacher observation, anecdotal notes, student journals, tickets out the door, class participation, homework, quizzes, in-class assignments, and formal tests will provide daily and weekly feedback to all stakeholders. 
Students will be assessed DAILY and will be provided with immediate feedback.  Daily assessments may include Tickets of the door, in-class assignments, games and contests, teacher notes, quizzes and in-class questioning and note taking.

Students will be given a WEEKLY Think Link probe that specifically targets his/her areas of weakness.  Results will be shared with the students in a Student-Teacher conference.  If necessary, goals will be modified and progress toward goals will be documented. 

Midway through the program, students will be given a summative assessment of his/her progress toward goals.  This assessment will not be taken on the computer but rather on paper in a format similar to the TCAP.

At the conclusion of the intervention, all students will be given a summative probe that addresses areas of weakness as well as other skills deemed essential for success on the TCAP.

Additionally, students will be provided with purposeful homework 3-5 times per week.  The goal of homework assignments being to provide additional practice working on a skill prior to being formally assessed.  Homework will be graded and returned to the student for corrections as needed.

Enrichment opportunities will be incorporated through technology via skill-focused websites, modified assignments, research opportunities, listening stations, and through the use of apps via iTouch and smart phone technology.

The Payoff (Rewards, Incentives, etc.)
Highly engaging lessons and presentations will serve to keep the students fully engaged in the content.  Special time with “team” groups will be used such as breakfast clubs, lunch bunch, and after-school book clubs.  Students will be provided with incentives such as stickers, awards, peer recognition, teacher recognition, bonus points, special privileges, phone calls and notes home, extra recess time, etc.

Of course, the biggest payoff will come in the form of student achievement as measured by the TCAP, but the gratification for that accomplishment will be delayed.

The Parents (Family Engagement Plan)
Because the success of our students is contingent upon the support of their families, we intend to bring the parents on board by providing four opportunities for them to learn ideas, strategies, and resources that may be used at home to support their student.

We will also post resources on our website and send home printed newsletters with additional ideas.  Students will be rewarded with special prizes for involving their parents in their progress toward meeting their goals.  Parents will also be rewarded with small door prizes and refreshments for their attendance.

The People (Community Engagement Plan)

Community resources will be implemented in this intervention as well.  Education students from the University of Tennessee will be used as small group leaders and tutors.  Community leaders will be brought in to share the importance of academic success.  Parents, family members and other adults will serve as support staff in working with students and preparing materials for use in class.  Administrators and other SMG teachers are also welcome to lend a hand in our efforts to make huge strides toward academic success.

The Pupils (Student Expectations)
Participation in this special project is a privilege.  Student participation is not mandatory,  Disrespectful, threatening, or violent behavior will not be tolerated.  Should a student act in such as way as to prevent other students from learning, he/she will be placed on probation.  Additional offenses will result in the use of Teacher Exchange, PAC, office referral, detention, and the offending student’s parents will be notified.

Students are expected to come to school prepared to learn.  Mentally, students understand that for 24 days their focus must be on the challenge ahead of them.  They are expected to come to school ready to fully participate in class.  Physically, students need to be rested and fed prior to coming to school.  If a student has not had breakfast, a light breakfast will be provided for him.

Students are expected to be prepared with a sharpened pencil and wide-ruled notebook paper.  All other supplies will be provided.

The Purpose
The purpose of this intervention is to ensure student success on the TCAP and to bring our school off the targeted list for AYP.  Ultimately, our goal is to increase student confidence, ability, and academic achievement, as well as inspire an unquenchable thirst for learning that will last far beyond the test.

The Paperwork
See Attachments for Calendar, student goals, targeted skills, and list of “bubble” students

The Pictures
We will document our journey through a student created “playbook” complete with pictures and journal entries

The Potential (Goals)
Our goals is to bring a minimum of 10 students from Basic to Proficient as determined by a summative think link probe and ultimately by the 2011 TCAP test.

O.B.I.Y.T.C. - Our Best Is Yet To Come!

...Let's hope so anyway.  My BFF SMG Teacher and I have come up with a radical, outside the box idea for increasing student achievement at our school.  Given that our school scored straight F's on the State Report Card, we've got nowhere to go but up, right?

O.B.I.Y.T.C. is the name of our intervention plan and it basically consists of targeting specific skills and matching them with student deficiencies in the hope of making a positive impact on their achievement.  Call it what you will, it's really all about the test, although my prayer is that we'll be sensitive to the plethora of other needs (and often MORE important needs) in the lives of our students.

If today is any indication, I think it will help both of us be more aware of students who are struggling.  With one teacher teaching  while the other monitors, we have noticed student behaviors and indicators that have enabled us to address issues more efficiently.

Here's how our "big idea" got started...First, we drafted a strategic plan of action.  (I'll post it for any school nerds who may be interested the "gory" details).  Then we sought approval from the administrators by first garnering the support and endorsement of our Curriculum Facilitator.  With her thumbs-up, it was an easy sell. 

Our namesake, Sarah Moore Greene, celebrates her 101st birthday!

She's still got connections with the movers and shakers in TN education!

This is a picture of the weather on our "moving day!"

We were told to evacuate our Locker Room immediately!

This is the pathway into the building.

Here's where we like to fish after school...

Todd Howell is telling us that this would not be a good day to move 14 student desks into the building from the portable, but we did it anyway.

We had our ups and downs with the desks, but Mr. P. helped us out.

All moved in and Day 1 is underway!
Admittedly, both of us were nervous going into this. There were a lot of "what ifs" in the back of my mind, not the least of which was what if this alienates my partner from our grade level.  She's put a lot on the line for me and I don't want to leave her vulnerable to being hurt.

Our sweet, godly assistant, Ms. Sutton, shared her son's morning devotion with me.  "Cast they burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee.  He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved."  Psalm 55:22  Each of us carried burdens.  God says to cast these burdens on Him so He can carry them for us.  In so doing, we avoid their adverse effects on us.  Ms. Solomon told me that she prayed for every negative remark to be cast down and stomped on under our feet and sent back down to hell where it came from!  What better source of encouragement can I get?!  These ladies ROCK my world!

Day 1 went relatively smoothly in spite of a mid-morning "Opera" assembly.  We had our usual interruptions...pull-outs, phone calls, early dismissals, and volunteers coming by to lend a hand.  Miss J, Megan, and Logan came to help and the kids.  We opted to revamp our Grade Level Interventions and go to one day per week.

My frustrations are minor.  I don't know where stuff is.  I feel like a guest in someone else's house although my BFF has done everything possible to make me feel welcome and comfortable.  It's just a matter of time before I catch on.  Our kids seem to be adjusting well.  We had no fights or major disruptions.  Just a little whining and negative attitudes.  Nothing major.  

As for our ambitious plans to hit SPIs in large group and drill him down in small groups? Well, we managed to hit context clues pretty well, but we didn't even TOUCH main idea.  We introduced Attributes in Math, and got in a little writing by having the kids assess the day from their perspective in their journals.  We'll see if we can make tomorrow even better than today!