Schools are once again filled with students, which is an exciting time for those of us called to education. There’s an anxiousness of what the year will bring and the journey our staff, students and families will take together.
There will no doubt be challenges but many more special times filled with educational growth prompted by the use of best practices and hard work and effort by all stakeholders.
This time also reminds me of how the education profession has changed since our current students' parents attended school. As research provides our profession with better ways to teach our students, it is our responsibility to change accordingly. Some of those changes are my focus.
During class, teachers are constantly assessing students for understanding. As new concepts are taught, any misconceptions are cleared up immediately. When students practice and learn a concept wrong, it takes seven times the effort to correct. Ten minutes of bad practice translates into 70 minutes of reteaching. It is imperative new learning take place in the classroom with the guidance of the teacher.
After assessing a class for understanding, teachers differentiate instruction to meet the academic needs of all students. Within the same class, students are separated into those that understand the current topic and those that need instruction.
Those that understand are given enrichment activities to broaden the understanding of the concept. Those who don't understand are pulled together for remediation. The teacher works with a small group of students providing additional explanation coupled with guided practice. It is essential that students understand concepts before moving on to new learning.
Once a teacher is confident students understand an expected set of skills and concepts, they are tested using an assessment. Students are expected to pass these assessments with a minimum of 80 percent. If a student falls below this expectation, they are required to seek remediation to improve understanding in the form of help from a teacher and then schedule a retest.
This ensures that all students will gain the required knowledge allowing them to succeed as the year progresses. With these procedures in place, mastery is required to move forward, ensuring students the opportunity for future success. The same assessments are used in each grade level no matter what school the student attends, ensuring all students are taking the knowledge they’ve learned from one grade level to the next throughout our district.
As the philosophy of instruction has improved, the use of homework has changed. It is still a vital part of our practice; just used in a different way. Homework is used to practice and maintain familiar and mastered skills. With repetition and practice, concepts are moved from short-term to long-term memory. Students gain understanding for academic and personal growth, not just to pass a test. Students use the skills they acquire often to retain the concepts.
These are just a few of the practices that are ingrained in our school culture, adopted because of research and based on best practice. So as you look at each school building, know that there is a new and exciting world inside where teachers and students are working together to learn and ensure a quality life.