Are these all remedial programs?
No. Reading Mastery, Signature Edition, SRA FLEX Literacy, Connecting Math Concepts, and Essentials for Algebra are all programs that are used across all three tiers in a Response to Instruction (Intervention) model. They are designed to place students at the student’s instructional level and let them achieve at the highest level possible regardless of the students age and/or grade. May students who begin Reading Mastery, Signature Edition as kindergartners, actually complete the 5th grade instruction (and thus 5th grade Common Core State Standards) while still in the 4th grade. SRA FLEX Literacy is a digital-first adaptive program that provides instruction at each students level through grade 8 CCSS for English Language Arts.
Connecting Math Concepts allows for students to progress through K – 5 CCSS in mathematics at the fastest rate appropriate for each child. Students who complete Connecting Math Concepts Level F in 5th grade are ready for Algebra 1 in 6th grade. Sixth grade students who use Essentials for Algebra as 6th and 7th graders, allows for students to complete a “compacted” version of the Traditional CCSS pathway. In this model, students would complete the content of 7th grade, 8th grade, and the High School Algebra I course in grades 7 and 8, which will enable them to reach Calculus or other college level courses by their senior year.
Only two programs in the implementation are wholly remedial: Corrective Reading and Corrective Mathematics. Those two programs are bring used where significant intensity is required for students at the middle and high school. Corrective Reading is being used for high school students whose reading placement indicates they are at or below the 2nd grade level in reading. Corrective Mathematics is being used at the middle and high school for students who do not have command of basic mathematics operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). In both instances, these programs are being implemented in a manner that allows for the fastest possible acceleration so that students may be back on course for grade-level instruction within 1 – 2 years.
The big picture is one where every student in CMSD will be at or above grade level by the 2016-17 school year. The PARCC assessment will indicate adequate progress in 2015-16 based on the 2014-2015 (current year) baseline. More students will be college and career ready, able to take higher math and AP English, History, and Science courses in high school and not require remedial coursework in their freshman year of college.
Why does the placement test indicate my child is below grade level when they passed the last state assessment?
There are a number of reasons that student placement appears to be much lower than the state test results indicate. One, the testing and placement assignments are more closely aligned to the new Common Core State Standards. Those standards reflect a national norm, rather than only students in Mississippi. This means your child is competing against the abilities of the most advanced students in the nation at their same age. This larger pool of individuals means increased competition. Secondly, the tests were not only performance-based, but also had time limits.
Why use a performance-based assessment?
The best way to determine if someone truly knows how to perform a task is to have them perform it. Much like the test to get a driver’s license requires you drive, performance-based assessments require the student to “show how they know” information. The PARCC assessment will require students to perform tasks, not select from a list of possible answers. Assessments that allow students to choose an answer from a list allow for guessing. The student who has no idea still has a 25% chance of guessing a correct answer. This does not inform instruction. Teachers are not able to effectively address the needs of their students without truly knowing what the child is able to do, what they truly understand, and exactly where in a process the student needs instruction.
Why is the test timed?
Much like the performance-based logic, timed tests inform instruction as well. The timing of assessment tasks provide greater information about the level of fluency, or command, the student has of a task. For example, given an unlimited amount of time to run a mile, we would all finish. The talented athlete will finish in six minutes or less, while others may not finish for 59 minutes. Comparisons between those two runners seem quite obvious. Each needs different instruction to improve their time. Time requirements in academics are very similar. The student with high reading fluency (rate, accuracy, and prosody) needs very different instruction from the students who reads painfully slow to avoid making mistakes or has to reread information multiple times in order to comprehend. The student with a strong command of mathematics facts (rate and accuracy) is ready for a higher level of math than is the student who is counting on their fingers or lacks command of basic operations.
Why whole-school differentiation?
The best way to improve instruction for all students is to provide very targeted instruction at each child’s skill level, providing appropriate pacing for each child in both the English language arts and mathematics. The model allows children to be grouped for instruction with others that are much like them in learning level and rate so that each child gets the attention they need and can grow at the best rate possible for every child. At the middle and highs school levels, students will not only pass Algebra 1 the first time they take it, but will be highly competitive on the PARCC Algebra assessment: a timed, performance-based assessment
What is the advantage for a child that is gifted?
The gifted child in this model of instruction is never given “busy work” to occupy their time while the teacher works with a lower-performing group. The 4th grader who accelerates in reading may be receiving reading instruction as high as an 8th grade level during their FLEX Literacy Digital Experience. The instruction will go as fast and as high as the student is ready to go. Outside of their FLEX block, they have the SRA Reading Lab 2.0 to continue their individual reading in an area of interest right at their independent reading level. The same is true of a group of K – 3rd grade students who can move fast through instruction. It is not uncommon for Kinder students in the first year of implementation to complete the Kindergarten standards instruction and move into first grade during their kindergarten year. The same is true in mathematics. Students have the ability to move through more than one year’s worth of instruction in a year. This model provides for the mathematically gifted student to complete Algebra I in middle school with anticipated higher scores on both the SAT and ACT. Where instruction is moving too slow for the student (or group), the consultants will have the teacher skip a number of lessons to move the group faster. Students remain at a high level of mastery (90% or better each day), so that they learn more information faster and better than traditional methods.
What is the advantage for a child that is struggling?
Struggling students work in smaller groups to receive the attention they need in areas where they are weak. Students are also taught to a high level of mastery (90% or better each day). Rather than moving on to the next topic or chapter because the lessons have been “taught” to a class, the instruction is designed so that the child has mastery of all the information that is provided. The timed, performance-based assessments inform the teacher as to the instruction students may have missed (not mastered), so that the teacher goes back and firms understanding (mastery) before moving on. The design also provides for students to skip lessons when appropriate so that more information (standards and skills) are covered in a year. Many students who are struggling simply have skill gaps. Once those gaps are addressed, they are often ready for content to be presented at a higher level and faster rate. Students who are currently performing as much as three to five years below grade level should be caught up within two years. At the elementary level, this means that all students will be able to take Algebra 1 as 7th or 8th graders and move on to higher math in high school. It also means they will not struggle with science or social studies at the middle and high school levels because they have a strong command of the English of school and instruction. They know how to navigate complex texts and can do so with ease and higher levels of comprehension.
What is the advantage for the average student?
“Average” students have an opportunity now to accelerate where possible and get targeted remediation when necessary. The average student will also learn at a higher level than mastery than before, providing them with the skills and knowledge to learn more information faster. Studies using this curriculum and instructional model have demonstrated strong gains in IQ in students previously assumed “average” or “below average”.