First Presenter's Institution

Yolanda Stanislaus

Second Presenter's Institution

Helen J. Webster

Third Presenter's Institution

Beth W. Hester

Fourth Presenter's Institution

NA

Fifth Presenter's Institution

NA

Location

Percival

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

This presentation will focus on Strand II – “Heart” (Social and Emotional Skills) - Over the past two years, Francis Scott Key Middle School has worked to build the Social and Emotional Skills of both teachers and students by focusing on a student voice project. The project grew from the school’s work building the cultural proficiency of teachers as a way to reduce the achievement gap evident in all school improvement measures. It became clear that along the pathway to teachers’ cultural proficiency, they had to hear from students in order to build a school community that embraces the cultural diversity of everyone. This would allow the transformation of classrooms to facilitate the learning of every student through equitable classroom practices. At the core of the student voice project is the belief that empowering students to become leaders in school improvement and developing positive communication skills so that they can share their ideas in a productive, problem-solving setting will create a school climate that has teachers and students working together to create a school where academic achievement is not predictable by race.

Brief Program Description

Is it possible to reduce the achievement gap simply by implementing effective instructional practices? Francis Scott Key Middle School in Montgomery County Maryland learned that building the cultural proficiency of teachers had to move beyond strategies. Francis Scott Key’s Student Voice Project helped both teachers and students transform their thinking about instruction, communication, and school improvement.

Summary

The presentation will share the on-going journey of Francis Scott Key Middle School as we develop the cultural proficiency of teachers in order to reduce the achievement gap. The major focus of this presentation will be the Student Voice Project model used during the past two years. Teachers cannot become culturally proficient unless they hear and understand the culture, experiences, and aspirations of their students.

Session Outcomes: By the end of the presentation, participants will have:

  • Discussed the connections between cultural proficiency, culturally responsive teaching, equitable practices, and high expectations
  • Analyzed instructional practices to identify their relevance to culturally responsive teaching
  • Reviewed a process to collect student voice data and use that data for instructional walk-throughs
  • Heard one school’s journey to reducing the achievement gap

During the presentation, participants will engage in several learning opportunities:

  • Placemats – With small groups discuss which quote “speaks” to them the most
  • Mind mapping – making connections between cultural proficiency, culturally responsive teaching, high expectations, and equitable classroom practices
  • Semantic Feature Analysis – Identify the characteristics of culturally responsive teaching for several equitable practices
  • Think-Pair-Share/Paired-Verbal-Fluency – process questions throughout the presentation
  • Line-up/Corners – Processing personal beliefs with other participants

The presentation will include the following topics:

  • Activator – Placemat with quotes – reflecting on cultural proficiency
  • Francis Scott Key – Who are we and what does our data say?
  • Beginning our work with cultural proficiency – moving from philosophical to practical – This includes defining key terms, and processing activities used with staff
  • Missing the connection – Reviewing the obstacles that we encountered that led us to the Student Voice Work
  • Student Voice 2014 – 2015 – A brief overview of what we had previously done
  • Student Voice 2015 – 2016 - Beginning with a Student Video (Yes, I Can) that focused on how our students wanted to be agents of change, whole-school lesson on student voice (to be shared with participants), student selection of instructional look-fors, staff-student walk-through, root cause analysis using the data.
  • Next steps – 2015 – 2016 – Based on walk-throughs, school-wide lesson for students
  • Questions and Answers

Evidence

The largest stake-holder group in education -- students -- is often the least represented group in educational decisions. The students’ perceptions can be an important factor in school improvement and reform. “Students’ reactions to and perceptions of their educational experiences can provide teachers with valuable insights into their teaching and the classroom environment.” (Bell & Aldridge, 2014).

Giroux (1988) emphasized the importance of obtaining student ideas of teaching and learning as a means to hear the perspectives of “marginalized” groups as a way to “…reclaim the authorship of their lives.”

Listening to student voice also supports the development of culturally responsive classrooms. By hearing from students, teachers can “…construct pedagogical practice in ways that are culturally relevant, racially-affirming and socially meaningful to students.” (Howard, 2003).

Opportunities for students to provide feedback and give their voice to teachers about “…what students know, what they understand, where they make errors . . . then teaching and learning can be synchronized and powerful. Feedback to teachers helps make learning visible.” (Bell & Aldridge, 2014).

Research supports the need to include students in conversations about what is important and relevant to them instructionally. The walk-through process is another way to identify systemic school practices that support student achievement. Pretheron (2009) states that walk-throughs are a “catalyst for improvement.” This process serves to identify “… conditions that when present in the classrooms enable students to improve their achievement and learning levels.” Pretheron continues by stating that identifying the instructional look-fors that are the basis for walk-throughs “… can provide a powerful and collaborative opportunity for teachers and school leaders to address questions …”

Pairing two powerful practices – student voice and walk-through – allows Francis Scott Key Middle School to hear from the largest stake-holder group about their education, and thy open the communication between students and teachers to effect systemic, positive instructional change that supports the achievement of every student.

References:

Bell, L. & Aldridge, J., (2014). “Student Voice, Teacher Action Research and Classroom Improvement,” ADVANCES IN LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS RESEARCH, Volume 6, Sense Publishers.

Giroux, H. (1988). “Literacy and the pedagogy of voice and political empowerment,” Educational Theory 38(1): 61–75.

Howard, T., (2003). “Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection,” Theory into Practice, Volume 42, Number 3.

Pretheron, N., “Frequent five-minute visits focused on specific “look-fors” can give principals valuable information about what’s working—or not working—in their schools;

Using Classroom Walkthroughs to Improve Instruction,” naesp.org, March/April, 2009.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Yolanda Stanislaus – Dr. Stanislaus has been an educator for 23 years in New York City Public Schools and currently in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. She served as a high school chemistry teacher, an elementary assistant principal, an elementary principal, and she is currently serving as the principal of Francis Scott Key Middle School. Dr. Stanislaus believes in the importance of bolstering student voices in order to elevate empowerment and ultimately close the achievement gap.

Ms. Beth Hester – Ms. Hester is the Middle Years Programme Coordinator at Francis Scott Key Middle School. She began her middle school career as a Reading Teacher. Throughout her 12 years in Montgomery County Public Schools, Ms. Hester worked as a Grade 5 teacher and a Staff Development Teacher. She has been an educator for 20 years.

Ms. Helen Webster – Ms. Webster has been the Staff Development Teacher at Francis Scott Key Middle School since 2000 and was the Reading Teacher at the school beginning in 2000. A certified Reading Specialist, Ms. Webster has worked in Montgomery County Public Schools for 32 years and has been an educator for 36 years.

Keyword Descriptors

Student voice, Equity, Cultural proficiency, Student achievement

Presentation Year

2017

Start Date

3-7-2017 1:00 PM

End Date

3-7-2017 2:15 PM

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Mar 7th, 1:00 PM Mar 7th, 2:15 PM

Student Voice: The Beacon in Our Journey to School Improvement

Percival

Is it possible to reduce the achievement gap simply by implementing effective instructional practices? Francis Scott Key Middle School in Montgomery County Maryland learned that building the cultural proficiency of teachers had to move beyond strategies. Francis Scott Key’s Student Voice Project helped both teachers and students transform their thinking about instruction, communication, and school improvement.