Thanks to our incredible staff and administrative team, I am fortunate to work at a school that has very few discipline problems. Because of this, I am able to focus on classroom instruction, assessments, and professional development. I pride myself on being a strong instructional leader, and one of my main goals is to help all students, regardless of their background, experience academic success. How can school leaders ensure academic success for all of their students? At Sixth Ward Middle School in Thibodaux, LA, we have made great strides in reaching this goal through a laser focus on three important factors:
A Vision of Literacy, Curriculum, and Instruction
Emphasizing literacy in instruction is essential to our students’ success. Our school’s vision is centered on the idea that students who can read, write, and speak about the most important content in their subjects have the best chance of being college and career ready. This vision is where every discussion of curriculum and instruction begins. Our goal is that all of our instruction is student-centered. Each and every day, our students read, write, and speak with a variety of rigorous activities. Our teachers help students by designing learning experiences that make them read to gather information and then actively involve them through analysis and manipulation of that information. To support our teachers, we encourage them to seek out a variety of materials that support the curriculum, instead of blindly following textbooks.
Our vision of literacy, curriculum, and instruction drives all of our decisions, which we strive to implement with consistency during classroom instruction. To ensure this implementation takes place, our administrators conduct essential learning walk-throughs to check for alignment and rigor. These walk-throughs are the centerpiece of accountability and monitoring. We look to make sure that teachers engage their classes in reading, writing, and meaningful student-led discussions every single day. Another way we maintain consistency in our school is by ensuring all of our teachers’ lessons are aligned to standards. We analyze grades in core classes and proficiency on state tests to determine if classroom lessons and assessments are aligned to student performance. If there are errors in alignment, teachers adjust, revise, and align to meet the standards and assessment.
In order to support students’ success with literacy and understanding of essential curriculum, we provide flexible interventions based on each student’s individual needs. Our school provides two types of intervention.
The first intervention is through our RITE (Reteaching Intervening Tutoring and Enriching) Program. A core teacher provides intervention five days a week for 25 minutes. Students are assigned to intervention groups based on need in six-week intervals. Teachers are allowed to bring students into intervention groups day by day for reteaching as needed. Every six weeks, administration re-evaluates student progress and adjusts intervention groups accordingly. Parents and students may also request a certain RITE class if they feel the need for further intervention. Core teachers reteach, provide additional instructional materials, or allow for peer tutors in needed areas. This helps our teachers meet the individual needs of our students and gives us a level of intervention that provides for rapid response by the classroom teacher.
An intervention teacher provides the second intervention five days a week for 50 minutes for students who have shown a greater need for intervention. Students are identified based on previous standardized test scores, grades, teacher recommendation, and Lexile (reading ability) level. The intervention teacher meets with core teachers to collaborate weekly lessons, address individual student needs, and discuss adjustments needed to the program. Students are monitored daily and weekly to ensure if interventions are appropriate based on essential curriculum.
Culture of Academic Success
Through these three commitments of literacy, consistency, and interventions, Sixth Ward Middle School has cultivated a persistent culture of academic success. We have earned an “A” on our Louisiana state report card for multiple years. Our students consistently perform higher on state assessments than other students in the district and state. We owe our achievements to our dedicated staff and enthusiastic students who work hard each and every day to advance our vision of academic success for all.
What do you do to ensure your students’ academic success?
Alyce Callahan is the principal of Sixth Ward Middle School, the highest performing middle school in the district, in Thibodaux, LA. She served as the school’s assistant principal for 10 years. She is the 2018 Louisiana Assistant Principal of the Year. Follow her on Twitter @alyce_callahan6.