Implementing programs specifically tailored to the Common Core to boost achievement
At the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, Principal James Lee was concerned when he compared P.S. 20 Anna Silver’s math and ELA scores to their science scores. “There was a huge discrepancy,” says Lee. “Students scoring 4s on the science test were scoring as low as a 1 in other subject areas. We knew we were teaching the right thinking skills, but needed our curriculum to match.”
A major contributing factor to this discrepancy was that there had not been a change in their curriculum to address some key shifts brought by the Common Core. “We didn’t understand the level of thinking that was required in the performance tasks, nor did we incorporate performance tasks in general into our school-wide practices,” says Lee. “I knew I needed to find curricular resources that would both help my teachers master the standards and elevate the curriculum to a level that would set our students up for success on the New York Common Core assessments in the spring.”
To assist him in finding the right curriculum, Lee consulted the principal network that he meets with regularly to see which programs were being used the most. “A number of principals recommended Ready. It really was a no-brainer once I was able to take a look at the program. The questions were speaking directly to the standards,” he says.
Ready is a rigorous program that truly works in preparing students for the Common Core. The math and reading programs use a gradual release model to build confidence and mastery.
Once the Ready books were delivered to P.S. 20, Lee and a team of instructional leads from each grade level met weekly to dive into Ready. During these weekly meetings, the team studied the ways that Ready addressed the Common Core reading and math standards. “We used Ready as a guide to go through specific standards and strands. We then cataloged the different types of questions being asked for different standards.”
The Ready program is used in a variety of ways across the school. P.S. 20 has a diverse population of ELL and special needs students, which necessitates the tailoring of any curricular resource. “Every teacher has their own personality and a different way of personalizing lessons; some worked closely from Ready and others transformed things more. That’s the personality of our school,” says Lee.
In addition, staff worked in grade level teams to prioritize instructional focus using Ready. For Grade 3, the focus was on creating and teaching students about performance tasks because they knew third graders would be asked to do more complex tasks on that year’s test.
“It definitely did wonders for our school. I can’t even tell you how much the teachers relaxed when they could see the connections between the standards and what Ready rolled out for us,” says Lee. “It speaks volumes to the quality of the program that we were able to use it in different ways and yet the strength and reliability held up.”
In a year when most schools saw dramatic plunges in percentile rankings, each grade at P.S. 20 saw their ranking more than double in at least one subject area. Across all grades and subjects, P.S. 20’s ranking saw double-digit increases compared to similar schools. Grade 4 improved their ranking by 30 points in ELA and 31 points in Math.
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