Under the leadership of two successive principals, the 35-member faculty of Newbern Middle School (grades 6-8) is implementing writing as a way to learn with the Writing to Win UNDERSTANDINGS and STRUCTURES routines that are moving the student performance on all independent tests of knowledge. In the first two years of implementation, the mean score of all tests rose significantly. Additionally the gap between the performance of all students and students with special needs (SN) closed significantly. On the state 8th grade writing assessment, scores for all students rose 38% and SN gap closed by 18%. For math, student scores rose 17.4% and the SN gap closed 9%. For Reading/ELA scores rose 9.4 % while the SN gap closed by 14.4%. In science, the rise of all students was 22% and the SN gap was reduced by 10%. The rise in social studies scores was 49% while the SN gap shrunk by 21%. A further notable change was the student completion rate on all tests. For the first time, over 90% of all students responded to all tests items in math, R/ELA, science and social studies and 100% of all students wrote papers for the state writing assessment that were scorable. Students unaccustomed to meeting state standards are becoming comfortable in a culture of high performance learning. The transition is impossible to miss. Newbern MS has met 40% of its goal to become a 90-90-90 school. Stay tuned.
Led by Academic Coach Beverly Faircloth and supported by principal Mike Johnson, Button Gwinnett Elementary School is a team of teachers committed to improving student achievement. With a student pass rate of 51%, this team knew they needed a systematic approach to writing. Dr. Faircloth chose to implement W2Win UNDERSTANDINGS for interactive journals and STRUCTURES for extended writing. In three years, student performance on the state’s fifth-grade writing test moved to 87.5%. Button Gwinnett jumped from 7th to 1st among eight elementary schools in Liberty County. This dramatic rise is proof of how effective a systematic approach to writing from Kindergarten to grade 5 can prove to be. Additionally, students wrote short explanations of what they were learning 3-5 times a week in core subject areas. Using 4-6 key vocabulary terms in each journal entry, students explained what they learned a different way than their teachers taught them. The percent of students meeting and exceeding the stated standard for reading moved from 84% to 98%, ELA 85% to 93%, math from 77% to 98%, science from 68% to 90% and social studies from 73% to 83%. Mr. Johnson’s explanation? When the teachers do what they were trained to do with writing, “It just works,” a phrase echoed by teachers throughout the school.
In implementing Writing to Win UNDERSTANDINGS, 24 classroom teachers at Canby Lane Elementary School (grades K-5) saw a significant rise in student performance on all state criterion-referenced tests, grades 1-5. The gap between the performance of general education students and students with special needs (SN) closed significantly. The example of math scores demonstrates this fact. Second-grade students saw their pass-rate move from 63% as first graders to 88% as second graders. Third-grader posted an 89% pass-rate, up 52% from their second-grade scores. The third grade scores also showed how the scores of a grade level with a high percent of SN students closed the performance gap. Fourth and fifth-grade math scores rose 34% and 27% respectively. The school, which placed 70th among 84 elementary schools in its district on math scores, moved to 32nd in a single year. There will be more good news to come.
Writing to Win’s “writing to learn” routine in all classes
A team of five academic coaches led the implementation of Writing to Win UNDERSTANDINGS journal “writing to learn” in this 9-12 school of 1450 students. Administrators held the line on writing three times a week in every class. Interestingly, this implementation followed in the wake of six years of school-wide professional-learning initiatives. The school had embraced school-improvement concepts from differentiated learning to cooperative learning to smaller learning communities in those six years with mixed results. Writing to Win UNDERSTANDINGS seemed to connect all the dots for teachers and students according to this example of math scores on the state high school graduation test. The performance of all 11th graders taking the test for the first time rose 23.4%. White students posted an increase of 17.4% with greater gains for all other subgroups: black (35.5%), special needs (30.9%) and educationally disadvantaged (28.8%) students. The achievement gap between white students and the other three subgroups closed significantly: black (from 31.6% to 13.5%), special needs (from 54.4% to 40.9%) and educationally disadvantaged (from 21.8% to 10.6%). With a rigorous writing initiative, the rising tide of student performance lifts all subgroups.