When students return to school this fall, educators anticipate larger-than-normal gaps in learning as a result of remote instruction last spring. While teachers, administrators, and parents worked tirelessly to keep students learning, most agree distance learning wasn’t an equal substitute for being in the classroom. How can we get our students back on track? We talked to three schools that previously tackled the challenge of improving student outcomes across the board. Here’s what they shared about how to successfully close learning gaps.
Challenge students at the right level
Educators have more success in helping students improve when they provide questions that are at the right level for individual students. Questions should be challenging enough to make kids think but not so difficult that they cause frustration.
At West Avenue Elementary in Waco, TX, principal Joseph Alexander noticed that teachers needed more tools to differentiate instruction and close gaps, particularly in reading comprehension. The school decided to use Measuring Up, a blended solution that helps identify learning gaps, target instruction, and provide differentiated, adaptive practice. Teachers tapped into Measuring Up’s insights to pinpoint student needs. Then they created “high-yield questions”—questions that really get kids analyzing and thinking about what they’re reading. This helped the school successfully close learning gaps and increase reading scores.
Consider question types
When students are familiar with question types, they participate in more productive class discussions and perform better on exit tickets and tests.
Dr. Lisa Gleason, director of curriculum and instruction at Wall Township Public Schools, and her team wanted to increase student achievement at Wall Intermediate School in NJ. To meet their goal, Wall teachers used Measuring Up to streamline their regular instruction with state testing standards. That meant having the students see questions that would mirror those found on assessments. Teachers used the information they received from Measuring Up exit tickets to predict test performance. Measuring Up can analyze how students respond to exit ticket questions and uncover student misconceptions, so teachers can reteach those concepts before they become bad habits.
Practice makes progress
For students who have gaps in their knowledge, practice matters. When students continually have opportunities to see the same question types (e.g., questions about main idea and details), they improve. They get better at understanding the questions and knowing how to find the answers.
At Horizon Science Academy Belmont in Chicago, IL most students were below grade level; some were even multiple grades below. Only 6% percent of students were proficient in math, and only 10% were proficient in reading. Horizon teachers used Measuring Up to create their own formative assessment questions that gauged student mastery. Then, they used the information Measuring Up gleaned from these assessments to adjust their teaching. “It’s nice to have control of your own assessments, so you can practice better,” says Aynur Aytekin, RTI coordinator at Horizon. Horizon successfully addressed learning gaps and made significant gains. In fact, they more than tripled reading and math scores in part by providing strategic practice opportunities for students.
Look ahead at the knowns and unknowns
As the new school year approaches, Wall Township Public Schools is planning ahead to meet the needs of its students.
“We have to look ahead at the knowns and unknowns we are facing during this challenging time in education and find opportunities to meet the needs of our students, our staff, and our families,” says Gleason. “It is critically important to ask the question, ‘What do our students need?’”
One way Wall educators aim to answer that question is by working with Measuring Up to build baseline readiness assessments that identify skill gaps and develop customized instruction that addresses the unique needs of their students.
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