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Student achievement really matters in 2013-2014

Student achievement really matters in 2013-2014

By Maureen Stafford Bethel

     What really matters as we voice our concerns about the coming school year?  We should have the same aspirations for all of our students since the school and its programming is our priority.    As educators, it’s time to coordinate our efforts and focus on the value of learning.  We all support the desire that is embodied in the theme – “No Child Left Behind.” All students need adequate assessment and programming to improve educational outcomes and to reduce the gap in achievement between students in various demographic groups.

It should be the ultimate goal and supreme focus to help students reach attainable success based on their potential in reading and mathematics.  This year should be an opportune time to make the American Dream come true about establishing visionary programming for excellence in the Miami-Dade and Broward County School Systems. Elevating student achievement should be the key focus.  It’s obvious that there’s a great need to study our accountability in this area.  After all, schooling is all about our number one entity – THE STU-DENTS and their quest for educational growth in all areas.

The FCAT has revealed the specific areas of weaknesses, but this is the last year of its existence because of its ineffectiveness.  We are now approaching a new school reform with the Common Core National Curriculum which proposes to elevate educational expectations for students in all States.  Seemingly, the establishment of curriculum standards should be the role of each state and local systems. Already, there’s an outcry of negativism and a wave of vehement criticism for the proposed national standards.  Such a movement has created a lot of nonsense about school, learning, accountability, assessment, student growth, student performance and educational preparation.

The real concern now, after 14 years of confusion, misunderstanding, doubtfulness, unworthy measurement and determination of the school’s success is: Do school assigned grades, after FCAT testing, measure the overall school’s growth and success? Do the classifications of A,B,C,D,F objectively reflect how learning takes place or is this a reflection of a movement that needs an immediate change?  Evaluation strategies that yield greater meaning of a school’s overall programming for school’s success would be more efficacious.

It’s embarrassing to note that schools with “F” grades or repeated grades of “D” work unsurely against continuous or successful improvement.  Just take a look at what was done to Lauderdale Manors Elementary School and Arthur Ashe Middle School in Fort Lauderdale.  They were closed at the end of last school year.  Those schools were victims of being located in improvised neighborhoods.  However, it’s inevitable that a better school grade would be essentially guaranteed for schools in affluent neighborhoods.  Where one resides really makes a significant difference!

Let’s give students an unparalleled opportunity to receive a successful and productive school year so that they can change their life style and overcome the devastating effects of being poor and victims of poverty.  That gridlock can be broken with adequate financial resources and effective programming where the needs are the greatest.

Kudos and congratulations to Dr. Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools for proposing a plan to help close a digital divide in schools by investing in new technology and expanding existing programs.  He plans to distribute 140,000 digital devices throughout the district and expand the “iPrep” program, which allows students to learn from home via the web.

Dr. Robert Runcie, Superintendent of Broward County Schools, has proposed a change in the opening and closing times for eleven (11) schools identified as being among the 100 lowest performing elementary schools in the state. This designation was based on 2013 FCAT 2.0 reading results.  These schools are required to extend their school day by one hour to provide additional intensive reading instruction and enrichment activities. That’s great news for student achievement!  Also, during 2013-2014, Broward County is introducing a personalized learning pilot to over 3,200 fifth grade students.  Their teachers will receive specialized training throughout the year to integrate technology in the classroom. Such involvement with technology will promote more hands on, direct and action-oriented learning.  It will enhance the focus on the core of the learning process. The main focus is to maximize learning and student achievement.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel” for student achievement during the 2013-2014 school year.  These changes indicate that efforts are being made to usher in acceptable practices and programs that accentuate academic standards in a meaningful and challenging manner.  Such approaches will also encourage students to be “champions for learning.”

It’s about time that the students’ educational progress is considered as the paramount agenda and concern for 2013-2014. Aren’t the students our number one priority for the school system?  Let’s stop putting the concerns for improving student achievement on the “back burner” of operations.  Certainly, students deserve better. Here lately, the concern seems to be tied and shifted to the political arena.

It’s a known fact that students from poverty stricken neighborhoods desperately need effective schooling to teach them key life-functioning skills that will lead them into successful endeavors.  Therefore, it’s time to plan, organize and produce an excellent 2013-2014 school year.  Let’s identify some key ingredients that will enhance student achievement:

*Establish positive beliefs and passionate understanding that students can achieve educational proficiency. Encourage students to perform at their very best level at all times.  Give them security, motivation, inspiration, and understanding.

*Focus on key areas of weaknesses as revealed from quarterly assessments; use this data to track the percentage of students achieving proficiency. Prepare new strategies to boost achievement every nine weeks.

*Present Golden Achievement Awards to honor the progress on a regular basis.

*Provide greater specifications of curriculum standards and outcomes with more focus on the key areas of weaknesses.

*Enhance and elevate achievement in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

*Plan Parental Involvement Programs to help them improve the areas of student weaknesses as they work with them at home.

*Improve the writing skills; the FCAT indicates a definite decline in student performance.

*Provide more personalized and individualized teaching to students based on needs and strengths.

*Focus on the programs and ideas that we know can affect student performance.

*Ensure that teachers are well-prepared so that they can meet the individual needs of every student.  Teachers should have I.M.P.A.C.T. Attributes: Insight, Motivation, Productivity, Accountability, Commitment and Tenacity.

*Provide a “Red Carpet” school atmosphere with safety, carefree and welcoming places for teaching and learning.

*Provide a highly productive and effective Parental Involvement Program.

*Work continuously on turning priorities into specific action-oriented proposals for success during the 2013-2014 school year.

Improving student achievement is a challenging task.  It will take a lot of patience and commitment.  Remember that all things are possible if we only believe that it can be done and we believe whole-heartedly in improving student achievement.





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