Student Achievement Soars With Use Of Quality Strategies

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Information about Student Achievement Soars With Use Of Quality Strategies
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Published on February 2, 2009

Author: siddharth4mba



Student Achievement Soars With Use Of Quality Strategies

Making the Case for Quality Student Achievement Soars With Use of Quality Strategies by Jeanne Chircop Students at Kingsley Elementary School in Kingsport, Tennessee, traditionally did poorly on the Tennessee State Achievement Tests, ranking among the lowest performers in the state in writing. Now, after four years of learning how to use quality tools to take control of their performance, students have improved their writing scores by 68 percent (see figure 1). Gains in math and other curricular areas have occurred as well. Figure 1 Improvement in Kingsley Elementary Writing Scores 100 Percent Competent 80 60 40 20 0 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Year At a Glance... • Kingsley Elementary School in Kingsport, Tennessee, What’s been the key to improvement? Effective organizational tools developed and shared through used the Four Square dedicated teacher collaboration have helped the kids really understand how to write. By using a writing approach and combination of quality tools and strategies, the students have learned better problem-solving skills ASQ’s Koalaty Kid and self-directed learning techniques. Teachers at the school have honed methods for providing program for continual feedback to their students and rewarding them for good academic performance. improvement in student achievement. A Low-SES School • From 2001 to 2005, student scores on What makes the school’s writing improvement especially significant is that a majority of Kingsley achievement tests in writing students are from families with lower socioeconomic status (SES), a factor well documented to affect improved by 68 percent. school performance. Approximately two-thirds (63 percent) of the school’s students qualify for free • Focus on process, or reduced-price lunch. consistent practice, and recognition for Located in Sullivan County in upper eastern Tennessee, near the state’s borders with Virginia and improvement help account North Carolina, the Title I school is about 100 miles from the Smokey Mountains. The school for Kingsley’s success. historically spanned kindergarten through fifth grade but also included sixth-grade classes for a short time. The fifth- and sixth-grade classes were moved to the local middle school starting in the 2005-06 school year. Kingsley’s current K-4 enrollment numbers around 225 and includes a large population of special education students. The American Society for Quality ■ Page 1 of 4

Building a Strategy Process During the first year, the process used with fourth and fifth Kingsley students traditionally scored low in several sections of graders was the Four Square method. First and third graders the state’s standardized tests, but particularly low in writing, were trained to use a similar graphical writing organizer known with a mere 20 percent of students achieving passing scores in as the Lotus Diagram, which was identified as a best practice 2001. Concerned educators, ranging from individual teachers to used at schools with student writing deficiencies similar to those the district’s superintendent, knew something had to be done to at Kingsley. bring scores up, especially in the area of writing. They began to search for methods they could use to increase student Although proven effective at nationally benchmarked schools, achievement. Ultimately, they found several tools and strategies the Lotus Diagram, with its eight squares, is somewhat more they could combine to create a collaborative process for complex than the Four Square tool. Once teachers saw the test whole-school improvement. scores for the fourth graders who had used the Four Square method, they voted unanimously to use it as the preferred A fourth-grade teacher who was involved at that time with schoolwide process and incorporated it into the Koalaty Kid administering the writing tests found one of the first tools that program. would set the school on the road to improvement. While attending a reading conference, she discovered Four Square Practice Writing Method by Judith S. Gould and Evan Jay Gould. She shared the book with her colleagues, and by implementing the A key component of the new approach was having the students systematic approach presented in the book, these fourth- and engage in regular practice writing assignments, or “prompts.” fifth-grade teachers helped their students begin to develop a The fourth- and fifth-grade teachers drew ideas for the prompts better, more organized way to write. from the Tennessee State Education Web site. After witnessing dramatic improvement in the students’ writing as a result of Other efforts throughout the school were simultaneously laying these efforts, the Koalaty Kid team teachers worked to develop a foundation for higher student achievement across all grade and assign writing prompts for all grade levels. The writing goal levels. Peggy Ervin, a former third-grade teacher who now was included in the SIP for total school involvement. teaches first grade, was selected to represent the school at a Koalaty Kid training conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, The schoolwide approach to writing improvement involved where she learned numerous techniques for educational providing every child, kindergarten through sixth grade, with a improvement compiled by the American Society for Quality folder to hold his or her writing assignments. The kindergarten (ASQ). The ASQ Northeast Tennessee Section paid for the students participated by drawing pictures as their means of Koalaty Kid training, and Ervin teamed up with a local ASQ “writing.” A community business partner helped offset some of member to start the process of implementing quality strategies at the cost of the children’s folders and other expenses. Kingsley. Ervin and three other teachers received intensive Koalaty Kid training over the summer of 2001, and they, in turn, The children completed weekly writing assignments during the taught other teachers the strategies they had learned. first year and biweekly assignments in subsequent years. Two of the best samples from each class were submitted to the school’s Hank Somers, a community volunteer retired from ASQ principal, Dr. Sandra Ramsey, to review. Other writing samples member Eastman Chemical Company, served as the school’s were scored and placed in the children’s folders, along with Koalaty Kid facilitator. Somers met with the school’s Koalaty charts on which students could graph their grades and track their Kid team once each month to help monitor progress, identify own writing development. problem areas, and brainstorm for solutions. Recognition Making the Combination Work Students from the group of best samples were invited to read their writings over the school’s intercom system as a way of Dedicated collaboration proved to be basic to the student recognizing them for a job well done. The top writing samples improvement at Kingsley. The Koalaty Kid Steering Team was were also recognized through publication in Koalaty Kid selected based on leadership, experience, and skills. Along with Express, the school’s special magazine published in December representatives from every grade level, the team also included and May of each year. the school’s principal, assistant principal, School Improvement Plan (SIP) representative, and the outside ASQ facilitator. Celebrations held during the year to recognize quality writing examples offered teachers an opportunity to give students The overall approach to Kingsley’s improvement involved: feedback on the work they had done and on how they were • Process improving their writing skills, which was impressive. Students • Practice were selected for recognition based on writing excellence or • Recognition writing improvement. The American Society for Quality ■ Page 2 of 4

During the celebrations, the ASQ Koalaty Kid mascot, the ASQ Though not as dramatic as the improvement in writing scores, facilitator, and a business partner representative congratulated the the students’ standardized math scores increased after students and presented them with recognition certificates. The implementation of the quality strategies. In fact, scores in all business partner, representing the Business Excellence Institute, subjects tested have increased by at least 2 to 5 points. which is the training arm for Pal’s Sudden Service, a local fast Conclusion to Successful Writing Effort food chain (and winner of a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award), supplied food coupons as gifts. Kingsley Elementary School continues to undergo significant changes due to school closings and consolidations in the district. Outstanding Results Over the past three years, Kingsley Elementary has been a K-5, K-6, and K-4 school, respectively. The state writing metric is no Figure 2 details Kingsley’s writing results from 2001 to 2005. longer available to define progress, as writing is evaluated annu- Within the first year of implementing the highly effective ally in the fifth grade. Therefore the Kingsley Elementary combination of the Four Square writing approach, use of the Koalaty Kid writing effort has come to a successful conclusion. state’s writing prompts, and the Koalaty Kid process of Continually improved results over four years verify that the organized, self-directed learning through folders and grade Kingsley Koalaty Kid approach to writing excellence is a proven charting, Kingsley student writing scores shot up 49 percent on solution for an elementary school targeted in writing to meet the state-mandated writing test administered each spring. The acceptable standards rapidly. following year, the Tennessee State Department of Education moved the writing assessment from fourth to fifth grade, and Sharing Best Practices so these same students were tested again, with an additional 9 percent increase. Kingsley’s Koalaty Kid team representatives, Ervin and Somers, have made presentations to other educators, sharing news of their As the third-grade students who had been trained first in the school’s success and tips for those interested in implementing Lotus Diagram and then in the Four Square approach reached quality strategies in their schools. They have made presentations fifth grade and were tested, their scores rose an additional 5 in Ottawa, Canada, at the annual Koalaty Kid conference; at the percent; in 2005, student test scores were even 5 percent higher. Partners in Education Conference in Nashville for the Tennessee The continual improvement gain of 68 percent over four years Department of Education; at the Southern Association of Schools was so significant that school officials began to consider other Conference in Atlanta; and most recently at the National Quality areas where the systematic quality improvement strategies could Education Conference in Miami. enhance student achievement. To date, 19 schools in Sullivan, Hawkins, and Washington Figure 2 (Tennessee) Counties are trained in Koalaty Kid techniques. Kingsley Writing Results by Year and Grade Level Quality Keys, the high school component of the ASQ school quality program, is already in use at some high schools in the YEAR GRADE % COMPETENT IMPROVEMENT surrounding community. 2001 4 20.3 BASELINE 2002 4 69.4 + 49% 2003 5 78.0 + 58% 2004 5 83.0 + 63% 2005 5 88.0 + 68% Math was the next area targeted for improvement, although the benchmark math scores had not been as low as the writing scores. While that meant the improvement goal in the math area was not as high as it had been for writing, school administrators still hoped for higher scores that would indicate the students had gained a better understanding of the math concepts being taught and tested. Building on the idea of the highly effective writing folders, teachers instructed the children in how to use a problem-solving workbook to track development of their math skills. Taking responsibility for their own self-improvement through regular math practice prompts and flowcharting, the children experienced particular success in the areas of critical thinking and solving word problems. The American Society for Quality ■ Page 3 of 4

For More Information Article Contributors Peggy Ervin is a first-grade teacher who served as the Koalaty Kid • Learn more about the Four Square approach by obtaining the program leader. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education, a mas- Four Square Writing Method books, by Judith S. Gould and ter’s degree in media, and has 35 years of teaching experience, Evan Jay Gould, published by the Teaching & Learning encompassing elementary, special, and high school education. Company. • Learn about the Lotus Diagram by visiting a number of Web Hank Somers is retired from ASQ member company Eastman sites, including but not limited to Chemical Co. He served on the ASQ national Koalaty Kid board To of directors for three years and was the volunteer Koalaty Kid download worksheets for the Lotus Diagram or other quality facilitator at Kingsley from 2001 to 2006. tools, visit and click on “Quality About the Author Tools for Teachers.” • Learn more about ASQ’s Koalaty Kid program by visiting Jeanne Chircop has been helping organizations share their successes for more than 20 years. She has written about quality efforts in the education, manufacturing, and natural resources industries. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and resides in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. ■ The American Society for Quality ■ Page 4 of 4

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