Mauldin Elementary’s educational community is dedicated to the academic success for all students, especially those considered at-risk. Our collaborative effort to provide structured academic interventions to identified at-risk students includes both research-based programs and evidence-based curriculum. Our academic program goal was developed in an effort to assist the identified gap group students in academic growth, specifically by increasing their state-standardized MAP test scores.
To identify students in the achievement gap, our school counselors examined existing services and supports in place for our students. Currently, students in kindergarten through second grade receive the most supports including Response to Intervention reading services, District-level Interventionists, and Literacy Specialists. Due to the lack of school-based structured academic interventions for upper grade students, we focused on at-risk third-fifth grade students. The previous year’s academic achievement outcome data was used to identify all students in grades 3-5 with at least two Ds or Fs on their 4th quarter Report Card. We then analyzed these students’ ELA and MATH MAP state test scores to determine if they also “Did Not Meet” expectations in this area.
While we know early intervention and prevention are key, we focused on 5th grade because they had the largest number of students with Ds/Fs that did not meet expectations on MAP state testing. Our goal was to help increase their academic skills before transitioning to middle school. All students receiving special education services were removed from our target group because they already receive individualized academic support. Our final group included 20 remaining fifth grade students that did not share any common demographic factors (i.e. race or socio-economic status), but were coincidentally all boys.
Administrators, counselors, and fifth grade teachers were involved in developing the Closing-the-Gap Action plan. Four main interventions were progress-monitored to measure student growth and program effectiveness: Breakfast Club, Study Hall, Academic Success Groups, and Real Men Read. Student perception data was collected through pre/post surveys measuring their skills, attitudes, and knowledge before and after completing the interventions.
One of our most effective interventions was the implementation of academic small-group counseling, School Success Groups. Gap group students were divided into two groups of 10 students, a best practice recommendation for small-group counseling. The groups met once per week for ten sessions lasting 40 minutes each. Counselors used the Missouri Education evidence-based small group curriculum focused on test-taking, study skills, organization, time management, and task completion.
We also implemented Breakfast Club, a program that meets before school once per week. Students participate in CompassLearning, which uses the students’ Fall MAP scores to cater standards-based activities. CompassLearning is based on the recommendations and research of leading cognitive psychologists, experts in instructional design, and independent research groups.
Real Men Read and Lead, an outside program, enables our students to read with men in the community once per month for 45 minutes. During this time, men discuss the importance of goal-setting, post-secondary education, and careers. Real Men Read is a national program that emphasizes the best practices of positive male mentorship and increased exposure to literature.
Study Hall is an intervention designed and implemented by our fifth grade teachers. It takes place each day before and after school giving students the opportunity to complete missed assignments, work on their homework, or receive extra help from teachers. Teachers encouraged students to participate in Study Hall, although it was not required.
Outcome data shows a tremendous amount of growth for participants with 80% of students increasing their MAP score and 65% of students exceeding their Target Growth from Fall to Spring. Perception surveys indicated an increase in confidence, knowledge and skills. Perception data also identified a need to focus on the importance of turning in homework and taking notes in class.
Positive feedback from students and teachers for our Real Men Read & Lead program suggests an increase in frequency from once to twice per month. To increase the effectiveness of Study Hall and Breakfast Club, all staff will undergo training to ensure consistency in the administration of these programs. We will reconsider meeting times of our academic small groups in the future to accommodate all students. Tardy students missed some of the instruction as they began promptly at 8am.
The outcome and perception data suggests that our Closing-the-Gap interventions were successful for our target population. All 4 of these interventions will continue next year for students who are identified as needing supports. As a preventative measure, we will begin intervening earlier in students’ academic careers by also targeting 3rd and 4th grade students.