SOUTH BEND – Students in South Bend report to class for the first day of school in a month from now. Administrators at Riley, Washington, and Rise Up Academy say they will be building on the improvements they made last year.
This is what got them off of probation. They had to raise their standardized test scores by at least 3 percent in one year to avoid a state takeover. Scores at Riley High School went up 6.8 percent from 2010, Rise Up Academy increased by 6 percent and Washington High School boosted its scores by 4.9 percent.
The key now is for the corporation to keep those scores up. Corporation leaders say they have a plan, but it means administrators, teachers and students need to build on the steps they took last school year.
It was a big deal for Riley sophomores Farseir Carr and Jasmyne Sutherland to raise their personal scores on state tests.
“It made me feel good, I was excited!” said Sutherland. “I felt accomplished.”
“We had to work really hard,” Carr added.
They are proof the school corporation's effort to avoid a state takeover worked.
“It’s a process and it’s something that just did not begin, as a lot of people may assume, last year,” said Riley principal Edward Bradford.
They did it by implementing a model that began in Texas, called the 8-Step Program. It dramatically changed the way teachers taught, therefore improving student performance on state tests.
The program has since been used at schools in Indiana and across the country. A consultant met regularly with a leadership team of teachers and administrators to help them learn how to implement the process.
The Eight Steps:
- Disaggregation of data: Teachers analyze how students perform on tests to determine their individual needs.
- Instructional timeline: A 4-week calendar outlines which state standards will be taught. All teachers integrate English and math into their curriculum. For example, a Spanish teacher could to math problems in Spanish for 10 minutes of each class period.
- Instructional Focus: Riley has “Success Classes” made up of small groups of students who need extra help in English or algebra.
- Assessment: Students are tested regularly to see if they’re retaining what they learn.
- Tutorials: Extra assistance is given to students who need it.
- Enrichment: This is provided to students who have mastered the instruction.
- Maintenance: The eight-step process does not end in a year. The school constantly builds on the progress. Changes are made as needed.
- Monitoring: Teachers are constantly monitored, and the overall process is constantly assessed.
The corporation also re-vamped alternative high school – Rise Up Academy – moving it to a new location on the north side of St. Joseph County and bringing in a new principal.
Through the program, the corporation also pulled some students out of elective courses to give them extra help in areas where they needed it. The program was so successful at the three high schools facing state takeover, the corporation plans to stick with it at those three schools and implement it at the city's other two high schools this fall.
Still, Bradford acknowledges the corporation has a long way to go.
“At Riley we have 60 percent of our kids passing and that's not sufficient. A school of this size and the diversity of Riley High School needs to ensure 75 to 80 percent of our children are consistently passing the end of course assessments, and that's a big challenge,” he said.
Bradford’s goal for Riley is to increase test scores by another 5 percent in the 2011 – 2012 school year.