Transforming Educational Practices, Schools, and Student Outcomes
Transitioning to an effective and equitable literacy program requires more than just adopting a new curriculum. As early literacy consultant and coach Rebecca Miles explained during the edLeader Panel, “The Simple View of Educational Success: Lessons from the Field,” her own “transformative story” as an educator illustrates the range of changes that schools and districts need to make in order to meet the needs of their full range of learners.
Having started as a classroom teacher in a rural school where most of the students were economically disadvantaged, Miles then became the school’s reading coach and interventionist and led a schoolwide transformation that resulted in significantly improved student outcomes.
This initial success led to a position at a county education agency, helping schools and districts achieve similar results, and her continued work has led the development of what she now calls the “simple view of educational success” for instruction and coaching.
Miles’ early experiences as a classroom teacher were in many ways the opposite of the educational practices that she and other experts now consider essential. There was little or no communication across the grades or up and down the grades as to what was working or needed for student success, nor was there much communication with the classroom teacher about the “pull-out” intervention being provided to students who were struggling to meet their standards.
The first experience that pointed Miles in the right direction was the introduction of Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS). While this was not an instructional program, it demonstrated the value of using matrixes to show what different students were doing and the value of providing feedback in a systematic way.
When she began her work as a reading coach and interventionist, one of Miles’ first steps was to create an “electronic data wall,” where all the teachers could input student data and receive immediate reports. She also changed the meeting structures so that all the teachers could discuss and apply the data that was being compiled. This led to the realization that 30% to 50% of all students were requiring intervention, so the educators were “trying to Tier 3 our way out of a Tier 1 problem.”
With guidance from a consultant brought in to help the school improve its performance, the educators began to unpack their essential state standards and establish learning targets. They also began using diagnostic and formative assessments to see what students could and couldn’t do so that their instruction could be adapted accordingly. The use of progress monitoring further extended this approach and enabled educators to provide data-driven intervention.
One key takeaway from these experiences was the importance of having a clear, intentional, and collaborative approach, including the ongoing use of student data. Instead of wondering whether they even could help the lowest-performing students, the educators could now focus on choosing the right educational practices to meet each student’s specific learning needs.
Based on the turnaround and continued success at her school, Miles was offered a position at a county-level educational service agency with 18 districts and 31 elementary schools in its region. At first, she thought it would be relatively easy to replicate what had happened at her school, but she soon found that schools are complex systems, and not all progress occurs as a straight line going in the right direction.
One technique she has found helpful is bringing educators to a model school where effective practices are already in place, so the visiting educators can observe the practices being used there and talk with the teachers, as well as review student data.
This can lead to discussions about how to implement a similar approach in the educators’ school and eventually result in their school having the right systems in place, the principal on board, a commitment to evidence-based practices, and a fully supported Tier 2 intervention program.
Miles’ experiences have led her to define her “simple view of educational success” as a formula: Effective x Efficient = Empowered. In other words, by combining successful results with maximal productivity, schools grow stronger and better at providing the desired outcomes for their students.
Miles has also found that achieving this type of educational success requires clear goals, including a recognition that “all means all,” so that every student receives timely instruction which meets specific learning needs and leads to a good outcome.
Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, “The Simple View of Educational Success: Lessons from the Field,” sponsored by Learning Ally.
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Blog post by Robert Low, based on this edLeader Panel