Going the Extra Mile to Help
In recent years, closing the achievement gaps between higher- and lower-achieving groups of students has become the focus of many schools. While there are decades of research about classroom-level practices associated with increased student performance, few studies have examined the school-level policies and strategies that help close the achievement gaps.
In order to identify effective school-level policies and strategies, Straits International School use data and tracking to access how students are progressing and more importantly, identify the areas in which the students are not achieving to their fullest potential.
The management at SIS understand that steps need to be employed so teaching staff can ‘spot the gap’ and then ‘close the gap’ in students’ learning.
As a school we continually;
- Use data to understand skill gaps of low-achieving students.
- Administer frequent assessments of students.
- Receive professional development on analysing low-performing student data.
- Have leaders that encourage or lead systematic inquiry into the gaps.
- Discuss low-performing student achievement data with colleagues.
- Visit each other’s classrooms to observe instructional strategies frequently.
Our Senior Management Team (SMT) are;
- Leaders for whom closing the gaps is a primary goal.
- Leaders who set measurable goals for closing the gaps.
- Focus on inside-school factors versus outside-school factors affecting achievement.
- Provide teachers with frequent professional development.
The cycle begins with the teacher taking an assessment, which can take many forms. The teacher evaluates the class, looking for the strengths of the students and what they need to know next. The evaluation is formative, done for the purpose of identifying the teaching that is needed to help each student move forward.
Effective planning leads to focused teaching. Using the assessment analysis, the teacher is informed about the strengths and weaknesses of the cohort and plans for the closing the gap session. The teacher’s understanding of the assessment specific objectives are a guide in selecting an appropriate teaching approach.
Feedback and further instruction can be whole group, small group, or individual. A teacher will often group students with similar needs. A resource is selected that will help in achieving the objectives gained form the assessment. This will determine the approach teachers take based on the amount of support needed by the students.
The revision of teacher’s planning provides an opportunity for the teacher to reflect on past lessons and enable students to progress further in their learning. Built within this process is a new assessment opportunity for the teacher to evaluate.
At Straits, subject and class teachers have the opportunity to collate frequent, reliable feedback on progress. We go beyond the regular testing to use diagnostic assessments that provide teachers with a clear portrait of individual students’ strengths and weaknesses and, in turn, feedback on the effectiveness of instructional strategies.
To provide our teachers with the strategies needed to enhance teaching & learning through data, management offer structured opportunities to reflect, discuss, collaborate, and learn new instructional strategies. We also provide professional development, particularly classroom-based coaching, on how to tailor instruction to student needs. We are currently engaging in collaborative time which enables teachers to help one another with challenges, share successes, and mutually provide the practical support needed to change practice.
We aim to use data to determine what matters most and focus our efforts accordingly. Since strong reading/literacy skills are the foundation of learning, we have made literacy across the school a foremost priority in our Development Plan. As a whole school, we understand the need to focus on what can be done inside school to close learning gaps. All SIS staff understand the necessity to run extra classes (on week days and weekends) for the advancement of our students. This is not a requirement of the school but our staff are devoted and dedicated employees who are committed to improving students’ chances of achieving in all the areas of their academics.