Saturday, August 15, 2009

How Greer did it

Here is an excerpt from our school division's recent press release about AYP results:

 Greer Elementary School had a 13 percentage point gain in overall reading performance, moving from 78 percent pass rate in 07-08 to a 91.42 percent pass rate in 08-09. Performance by black students at Greer Elementary surged from 59 percent in 07-08 to 85 percent in 08-09. Greer Elementary also posted a 21.5 percentage point gain in reading for economically disadvantaged students, a 15 percentage point gain for Hispanic students and a 25 percentage point gain for students with disabilities in reading performance. Greer reported more than 25 percentage point gains in mathematics performance for black students, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. 

“Last year, Greer Elementary did not make AYP, and in 2008-09 it is one of our top performing elementary schools, while also being our most diverse,” Haun said. “Their focused efforts on improving student achievement and creating a culture of success have really paid off. We will be looking to replicate the initiatives Greer has successfully piloted in schools across the Division.” "

So, now I can finally write about this because it is not all embargoed from the state department.

How did we pull it off?

Here is the short list that will be expanded on when I have more time.

1.  People (teachers, staff, kids) worked their butts off.  Nothing replaces good old fashioned hard work and their was just a plain amount of great effort from everyone involved.
2.  We tried to keep focused on the important things, like relationships.  Our school division espouses rigor, relevance, and relationships but sometimes a school under the intense focus of NCLB and AYP can focus simply only on rigor as their way to improve achievement.  Last year, every class held a morning meeting every single day and staff learned about elements of Responsive Classroom throughout the year.
3.  We focused on writing, and writing is thinking.  We implemented the Being a Writer program in every class, every grade and even though writing is not part of AYP measurements kids wrote vast amounts more than they did in previous years and we feel that it impacted every area of learning.
4.  We focused on student learning data in a more frequent, "real-time" manner.   Upper grade teams used quick, every two week assessments in reading and math to gauge student learning and make adjustments.  I think this probably had the largest impact on pacing of instruction more than anything else.
5.  We trusted the process of producing a school improvement plan through the involvement many and then followed and adjusted in a more strategic manner throughout the year.  Probably the smartest thing we ever did was hold a staff retreat in June last summer right after our poor scores came out.  We laid out the reality, put forth some non-negotiables and dreams for the school, and tried to empower people to answer the age-old question, "how do we get there?"

As I make this list, one of the cool things about it to me is that with every single point, we have a long way to go.  We have in no way arrived and our quest to make Mary Carr Greer Elementary an exemplary school in this state and country will involve working the above list and adding many other important school improvement strategies on our journey.


  1. This is great! I love to hear that you made changes and that the changes are things that anyone could implement. There is no single magic bullet that will take care of it all, but you all are well on your way. Kudos to you and your staff. You are a beacon for us all!

  2. congrats - nice to hear good news once in a while