Recently I was meeting with an Assistant Superintendent in a large urban district, who has been a long time acquaintance. The issue we were discussing was academic solutions for over age elementary students, specifically – did I have any?
The off the cuff answer was “no”. I was not aware of an off the shelf program that could correct this situation in a rapid fashion. However, this is not my area of expertise, so the “no” is not definitive. But there are some general practices that I have observed that will correct the situation over a relatively short period of time. This was the list we discussed:
1) Create vertical teams that have internal accountability. This means that each grade has standards that have to be met and students progress in grades level within the team. That way the receiving teacher knows exactly who taught her students. This internal accountability also lends itself to better collaboration.
2) Ensure that teachers are executing the scope and sequence at full speed and at complete fidelity.
3) Use short-term common assessments.
4) Use data to adapt instruction.
5) Hyper-monitor instruction.
6) Provide on-going, relevant training.
7) Hold teachers accountable for changing their instructional practices.
8) Hold leaders accountable for the performance of academically fragile students on their campuses.
Does this work? As a package, absolutely. In isolation, less so.
Here’s a working example. I provide some consulting support to a large (900+ students) and poor (70%+ economically disadvantaged) elementary school. By implementing the practices listed above, this campus has dramatically improved student performance, reduced retention rates and has dramatically reduced the number of students who require special education services. This campus, as a whole, works smarter and harder than does its peers. As a result, its students are better off and the staff is more enthused.