How do administrators and teachers keep students from failing? Many states are identifying core curriculum standards. This is a great start but administrators and teachers need to do more for our failing or about to fail students. We need to work smarter to have our schools be successful for every student. We must demand that each teacher is highly trained and skilled enough to deliver the same content in the most effective manner possible for the subject, students and level taught.
Teachers need to be trained to teach, re-teach, practice and assess. Activities planned for the day should be listed on the board. Instructions should be kept simple and structured. Props, charts and other visual aids should be used when teaching. Many students do not learn new material completely the first time presented or learn new material inaccurately the first time presented, therefore they need to be re-taught. Students need to practice with new material to really understand the material. The teacher has no way of knowing who understands what without doing a formative assessment. Some type of formative assessment should be completed on a daily basis so the teacher knows which students need re-teaching the following day. Formative assessments need to be a part of everyday practice to help students succeed. Formative assessments help teachers take a snapshot of student learning. Students’ responses give teachers a clear picture of what students know and what they need help with, what material to re-teach and how to pace instruction.
Teachers need to be trained to differentiate daily. Teachers should have at least two groups of students in their classes. The group that understands yesterday’s lesson and the group that needs to be re-taught yesterday’s lesson. This is where Bloom’s taxonomy comes in. The group that understands yesterday’s lesson should progress up the taxonomy with their work for the day for a deeper understanding of the material. The group that does not understand yesterday’s lesson should be re-taught the lesson using a different teaching method. Try using teaching methods involving different multiple intelligences. Differentiation is essential when educators work with diverse groups of students.
All teachers, not just special education teachers need to be trained to modify assessments. Failing and near failing students need to have their confidence re-established before they can learn. All failing and near failing students need to be utilizing modified assessments until they are a C student regardless of their identified need. Feedback from formative assessments helps teachers modify and differentiate their instruction to help all students meet the standard. Differentiated curriculum calls for differentiated assessment. Using differentiated assessments leads to greater success.
Students should be allowed to retake assessments that they receive a D+ or below on. The retake grade should be the one that is entered in the grade book. For example when one takes a driver’s test, if one does not pass it the first time one is allowed to practice some more and retake the test at a later date. Fair is not always equal when assessing and grading in the differentiated classroom. An effective standards based formative assessment program can help to dramatically enhance student achievement.
Train teachers to treat homework as extra credit. Most failing and near failing students are not doing homework for all kinds of reasons. Since we really cannot control the doing of homework let’s not depend on homework to keep students from failing. Let’s work smarter with the time we have the students in school to make sure they are receiving, practicing and retaining the core curriculum by applying the above teaching methods. There is no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school. For younger students, in fact, there isn’t even a correlation between whether children do homework and any meaningful measure of achievement.
Study halls should be eliminated. The extra time should be assigned to classes for study time within the class. The classroom teacher will now be available to assist students that are struggling in their class. The classroom teacher is knowledgeable in their subject area and knows where the student is lacking. The classroom teacher should be taught to differentiate the work to assist each student’s learning.
No failing students can be reduced to seven steps. Step one teach core curriculum. Step two use best teaching practices. Step three practice material in class. Step four utilize formative assessments daily. Step five differentiate and modify. Step six re-teach. Step seven allow retakes to count in grading.
After 25 years of teaching, I recently had the privilege of being a substitute teacher for the fourth quarter of the year, outside of my subject area. Some of the students were being behavior problems. Upon a closer look, I found these students were failing and had been since the beginning of the year. I applied the above techniques. By the end of the year these students were passing and their bad behavior had receded.