Our Closing the Gap Action Plan addressed the high number of English Language Learning students who scored in the beginning learner (level 1) category on the English Language Arts Section of the Georgia Milestones, our state standardized assessment. This goal aligns with the Sycamore Elementary Local School Plan for Improvement to improve scores on the Georgia Milestones Assessment, specifically in the area of English Language Arts. When the data was disaggregated further we discovered 51.6% of students who scored in the Level 1 range were English Learner students, while only 31% of the total student population are English Language learners. This shows a significant gap in achievement of the students in this sub group. Additionally, students who scored in the Level 1 range are identified as performing below grade level and will be considered for retention. Retention can have many negative socio-emotional implications and while this is an issue for all students who score in the level 1 category, this would further put our English Learners at a disadvantage perpetuating the achievement gap.
Our Closing the Gap action plan outlines a Multi-Tiered System of supports that targets both our total school population of students taking the Georgia Milestones as well as those specific students who scored a Level 1 and our English Learners who were at a Level 1. At Tier 1, our goal was to engage all 3rd-5th grade students in this level of intervention. Thus, all 3rd-5th grade students received specific classroom lessons on test taking strategies and stress coping. We also held a test taking pep rally for all 3rd-5th grade students to promote confidence and decrease anxiety around the Georgia Milestones.
Tier 2, we sent a parent informational flyer about the Georgia Milestones and ways parents could help prepare their child. This flyer was sent home to all English Language Learner Students in 3rd-5th grades, regardless of their previous year’s scores on the Georgia Milestones. The flyer went home in both English and Spanish and gave helpful information about studying for the test, what was on the test, and how to help students prepare both academically and mentally to take the assessment.
Tier 3 interventions were three fold. The first intervention began at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year as a School Success Small Group that focused on goal setting, attendance, self-confidence, and academic skills was conducted for all Level 1 students. The identified EL students were again involved in a “Testing Taking Boot Camp” Small Group held the six weeks preceding the assessment. This group was specifically for the EL students who were at a Level 1 and focused on skills specific to taking the test. The final intervention in this tier was a parent information session held in English and Spanish for the parents of these students.
The interventions at each tier were chosen to specifically address both academic and personal (confidence, anxiety, self-esteem) barriers that influence a student’s ability to be successful. Additionally, with the incorporation of parent informational flyers and sessions, we aimed to increase this populations of parents engagement in school, giving the students additional interventions outside the building as well.
We chose the activities for Classroom Counseling, Small Group sessions, student pep rally, and parent communication/ workshop through the lens of Adlerian Counseling theory. We were working on building social interest through our multi-tiered approach. We were diligent to ensure that our students and their parents had opportunities and experiences to instill that they are connected, capable, and they contribute to Sycamore Elementary School community. In conjunction with equipping our students and parents with the skills necessary to achieve, we shifted their attitude towards school and learning to one of belonging and belief in oneself.
The data and results will help us to deliver the intervention more efficiently in the future by gaining more teacher input into skills taught in small groups so they will be geared to the specific test we are preparing for. Additionally, having this information and working with our parent center liaisons to help prepare parents for helping their children with more specific content. After reflecting on the results, it was evident that the majority of students in targeted interventions reached level 2 or higher. However, the total number of level 1 students in the school did not decrease as significantly. This is likely due to a transient population. Finding ways to identify and reach these new arriving students is necessary in our effort to close the achievement gap.