11/06/07 — Wayne Schools already preparing for end-of-grade tests

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Wayne Schools already preparing for end-of-grade tests

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 6, 2007 1:45 PM

Although end-of-grade and end-of-course tests might seem a long way off, school officials are already preparing for this year's round of testing.

It's the educators' job to equip students to learn, said Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Well in advance of the end-of-grade tests, "benchmark assessments" are given throughout the year for grades 3-8 in reading, math and science, she explained. Given at the end of each nine-week grading period, the tests help determine where students need help.

Just as teachers must prepare lesson plans, principals monitor those to make sure subjects are being taught.

"Our objective is to have quality teachers and learning in all classrooms and bell-to-bell teaching," Dr. McCullen said.

There are also pacing guides, she said, which "help teachers know how to pace their instruction throughout the school day and the school year so that they can provide the required course of study for every grade level."

Nothing is left to chance.

After school tutoring programs will be introduced at several schools in the coming months, with in-school tutoring and other supplemental educational services also offered, Dr. McCullen said.

"We also have some web-based programs that parents can access from home and help their students study at night," she said.

Administrative teams also conduct "classroom walkthroughs" on a regular basis.

"They go through the classroom and look to see that teachers are using the correct objectives and that their teaching practices are instructionally sound and that students are engaged in learning," she said.

The practice provides the district with information to address staff development needs and then provide it. Dr. McCullen calls it "continuous improvement."

"When you're focused and monitoring, it really improves all teaching and learning," she said.

Principals are also taking on a different role at each school, spending less time in their offices and more time sitting in classrooms.

There is also a curriculum and instruction council, comprised of representatives from each of the schools. Members have applauded seeing administrators in the classroom more often, Dr. McCullen said.

"One of the things we do is talk to students. They can actually tell us what they're being taught that day," she said.

Theresa Cox, principal at Northwest Elementary School, frequently visits classrooms at her school to observe and talk with students. She said the hands-on effort has been beneficial.

"It gives us an opportunity to see if the teachers are teaching the standard course of study and objectives for the test," she said.

She looks for types of activities going on, materials teachers are using and instructional practices -- lecturing, coaching, working one-on-one or in small groups.

The environment is important, she said.

"Students let us know whether or not they're learning," she said.

If something isn't working or needs to be changed, that can be suggested sooner rather than later, Ms. Cox said. "For instance, if they're doing more worksheets or lectures, we may tell them to try more strategies."

Rather than being intimidated by principals and school officials showing up more often in the classroom, teachers have been appreciative, she said.

"It allows us to see what's going on in the classroom and (we) can make sure the student needs are being met," she said. "The instructional leader is so important.

"A lot of times we get caught up in management. This gives us the opportunity to actually get in there and look at the instruction going on."

And hopefully it will also pay off when test time rolls around.

"It's a support because the teachers feel like they're held to such accountability," Ms. Cox said. "This also helps them feel that the principals, too, are in the accountability just as much as they are."