opportunities for improvement
While the Stark data is impressive and shows remarkable improvement, SEP’s strategic planning process has identified several specific issues and significant calls for improvement that need to be addressed.
- Education Gaps Exist by Student Population Groups – Disaggregated student achievement data analysis reveals significant achievement gaps for economically disadvantaged, minority and students with disability populations from preschool through college going. Research has shown that some of the solutions intended to provide support for underperforming students (i.e. intervention programs or special education resource rooms) have actually further marginalized students by excluding them from high quality instruction with their peers (Frattura, 2007). Systemic changes will be necessary to improve the education outcomes for all students.
- Limited Preschool Access – Research informs us that students who experience high quality preschool have significantly greater success in school. Moreover, it is more cost effective to invest in preventive, high quality preschool than it is to provide interventions once students enter kindergarten. Unfortunately, many preschool-aged students do not have access to any preschool due to limited funding. The Stark Preschool Task Force is committed to ensuring that every preschool program is of the highest quality. This task force, including SEP, has determined that their first priority is the development of a common data management system. This data system will be designed to track progress and inform the task force regarding successful practices as well as serve as a reporting mechanism to the legislature and donors.
- Reactive System: Students Must Fail First Before Qualifying for Intervention – Currently, our education system is designed to support students in a deficits-based/reactive model. This approach waits for students to fail before providing interventions and learning supports to meet their needs. Students are often pulled from their general education ‘core instruction’ to attend these supplemental learning experiences causing the student to be farther behind in their core instruction (Frattura, 2007). While well intentioned, these innumerable intervention programs have not helped students ‘catch up’ and closed achievement gaps. In fact, they further marginalize students by removing them from accessible and rigorous core instruction (Frattura, 2007).
- Learning Experiences are Often Passive – Students retain more when they are actively engaged in the learning process (Hattie, 2009). Additionally, students who are actively engaged in learning exhibit “traits such as motivation, enjoyment, and curiosity” (Loveless, 2015). While the research is replete with evidence that active engagement correlates to more positive learning outcomes for students, many still experience passive learning environments for most of the school day. Evidence shows the positive impact of active learning experiences (including discussion, projects, and teaching peers) increases student retention of knowledge and skills.
- Skills Gap Exists Between Education and the Workforce – Employers have expressed their need for a workforce that has strong academic and ‘soft skills.’ The term “soft” is often used to describe such skills as oral and written communication, creativity, collaboration, leadership and problem solving. The reality of the 21st century workplace is that these skills are as essential as industry-specific and academic skills and must be included in the cradle to career (C2C) curriculum.
- Need for Metrics at Predictive, Transition Points – For many years research has shown that there are formative and predictive transition points in a student’s education journey at K, 3rd, 8th, 9th and 12thgrades. When students have the academic and socio-emotional preparation at each predictive point, they are highly likely to have positive academic outcomes. Unfortunately, the education community lacks consistent measures at some predictive transition points and/or a data management system to demonstrate outcomes. Stakeholders will need essential metrics at each transition point to develop effective strategies to proactively prepare students for success.
- Over Emphasis on Summative Testing – Assessment experts recommend an assessment system inclusive of both formative and summative assessments. District quarterly and end-of-year state assessments (tests) are summative, standardized tests and are useful to inform the system regarding success of a given program and for comparison across schools. To impact student achievement, the most important assessments are the formative, classroom assessments given daily, weekly and quarterly to guide instruction. Students typically learn new skills and accomplish tasks in a step-by-step manner. To help students make achievement gains each day, teachers use daily diagnostic assessments to ‘inform’ their instruction to support each student’s incremental progress to learn the skills, content or perform a task. Evidence shows that implementing more of these formative and predictive diagnostics can have a powerful impact on student development. Unfortunately, Ohio has expanded high stakes, summative testing impacting students, teachers, principals and schools. Significant instructional time is lost as teachers are required to prepare students for state testing formats, new technology tools required to administer the test and the actual test taking windows of time required for each content area. This over emphasis on summative tests reduces valuable instructional time, negatively impacts student achievement and does not inform practice.