Friday, June 26th, 2009...11:15 am

School Improvement Effort Pays Off for Students

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This spring a state report said coaching and collaboration are making a difference at Creswell High School.  Now test scores vividly illustrate the impact teachers are having.

Test scores are up sharply at Creswell High School, a grade 7-12 school in rural northeastern North Carolina.  And a recent formal review of Creswell High School by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction cited the Quality Teaching and Learning Initiative as one of the positive actions the school is taking to improve student success.

The review, shared with QTL by the school, says: “The Quality Teaching and Learning Initiative, with its ongoing coaching, has created the structure for collaboration and the discussion of teaching and learning.”

creswell scores

Preliminary test scores attest to the impact of collaboration and more strategic lesson planning, especially in the middle grades, where reading and math scores rose sharply.

Those scores come on the heels of an analysis of Classroom Walkthrough data, which shows improvement in 18 different areas of instruction. Creswell High teachers showed a 63% increase in the variety of instructional practices they used, and a 62% increase in the use of Marzano’s nine essential instructional strategies.

The changes in teaching are evident in the work that students are doing. Observers recorded a 40% increase of student work at the application and analysis level, and a 55% increase of student work at the synthesis and evaluation levels.

Principal Randy Steele says major changes began last year with a new approach to lesson plans. The school increased its emphasis on Marzano’s strategies, Bloom’s taxonomy, and Classroom Walkthroughs. Dr. Steele saw a conference presentation on the QTL Process last year and thought it might be the last piece of the puzzle.

For the past year, Creswell High has partnered with The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning to help teachers find more effective ways to reach students. QTL offers a variety of programs that bring ongoing, structured, effective and affordable professional development programs to schools and districts.  QTL staff customized a plan for Creswell that successfully fit the school’s needs.

Looking back on the first year’s partnership, Dr. Steele says QTL was “the concrete” that held all of the faculty’s efforts together.

“QTL helped us develop a common language, work together as a faculty to problem-solve, and find different ways to incorporate research-based learning strategies with technology and other areas,” he says. “We saw some huge gains in some of the areas that QTL was working with our staff on in the focus groups.”

The staff was divided into four focus groups, and each group showed gains. Literacy coach Kathy Britt, who helped coordinate and drive the teams’ efforts, says there is much to build upon next year. “Now we’re able to apply the process and collaborate using the common language and the techniques and strategies that have been emphasized so much.”

QTL instructor Steve Puls says he’s observed the growth in teachers’ confidence and the change in their teaching.  “The Creswell teachers have established a learning community that promotes innovation and an open discourse of best practice implementation,” he says. “The focus of their work has resulted in significant gains in student performance.”

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