Average or low-performing schools do not become successful schools through good will and blind luck; they are successful through deliberate planning, tenacious follow through and stubborn refusal to accept the fact that 70 percent of high school freshman are reading below their grade average; that 40 percent of students drop out of school; that we spend $2.6 billion a year replacing teachers because they do not receive the proper training or support to transform low-performing schools into successful schools.
Below are 5 student intervention strategies boiled down from William Parrett and Kathleen Budge’s book, Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools.
1. Create a Unified Instruction Strategy
Without a unified vision—one that is based on coherent instructional programs designed to meet state and district standards—there will be no standard by which to evaluate what happens in the classroom. Successful schools have a set of common, core values—and everyone subscribes to them.
2. Provide Student Intervention
Successful schools do not implement a conditional approach to student instruction. In other words, “good” schools not only buy into the notion that all children—regardless of their socioeconomic status, race or gender—can learn, they also provide the additional support and student intervention strategies necessary to make this notion a reality. No school can choose its student body—nor should it want to. Rarely (should we say never?) will a school have equally motivated, well-nourished students who come from safe neighborhoods and a stable home. Successful schools meet each student where s/he is at, not the other way around. To accomplish this, schools must use targeted student intervention strategies: additional support—small-group and individual tutoring—that happens outside of the traditional school day, week or year.
3. Ensure That All Students Develop Literacy Skills
Reading is, according to Parrett and Budge, “the gateway skill to other knowledge.” Start with reading. End with reading. Of course there is a lot of important stuff in between, but if students cannot read, how can teacher leaders expect them to accomplish the rest of it? To ensure that each student is literate, successful schools must design a comprehensive approach to reading that
- Begins with an analysis of student needs
- Understands how poverty impacts literacy
- Assigns students—based on an analysis of data—to a targeted, student-specific intervention group that meets the student where s/he is at.
4. Use Research-Based Models for Professional Learning
Student and teacher learning are inextricable from one another; they are, as the saying goes, “two sides of the same coin.” What Parrett and Budge are suggesting is that once students’ needs are identified, it logically follows that in order to meet those needs, the learning needs of the teacher leaders must also be identified. Try using a vertical approach to professional learning: pair a 5th grade teacher with a 6th grade teacher; these duos will not only observe one another, but collaborate and engage in a dialogue guided by the school’s core vision.
5. Engage in Continuous Data-Based Inquiry
Parrett and Budge suggest that “second only to the development of caring relationships in schools” is the collection, evaluation and response to data. Here are several steps used by successful schools:
- Identify the problem
- Gather and analyze the data
- Set goals
- Select and implement a strategy solution
- Evaluate whether or not the strategy is working
- Rinse and repeat