Scatterplots on the TVAAS website show multiple schools in the middle Tennessee region making significant growth in the end of course assessment despite evidence of economic disadvantages.
What sets these schools apart? Why are they making significant gains when surrounding counties with similar demographics counties are falling short?
Do student factors, such as poverty, correlate with growth and effective learning?
Testing the data:
A teacher questionnaire was developed that broke down subjective and objective factors of potential for higher rates of student growth. The questionnaire was entitled: POET (Potential of Effective Teaching). After developing POET, phone calls were made to teachers within the selection of the schools listed above. A L5 teacher from a middle Tennessee school was chosen as a prime candidate for this model based upon growth in this economically disadvantaged school. The L5 teacher was interviewed and revealed multiple findings ranging from setting high expectations through teacher made essay-based summative assessments, implementing common core models, and establishing a positive classroom environment.
Does poverty play a significant role or barrier to student growth? No. The Sanders and Horne study (the original developers and the value added system) proved this finding as well, but strong personality teachers and student knowledge are not enough to make growth in rural areas of Tennessee. There is a combination of growth obtaining factors that are worth consideration. Where do schools with low growth go from here? There are multiple barriers to making significant student growth. The largest factor is that of teacher and subject placement. The next barrier to success is the uncertainty of the upcoming field tests and future state assessments for US History. The L5 educator stated in their interview that they were using graphs, charts and maps in composition books for the past ten years and assessed the students through read and response assessments. The L5 also stated that they were not concerned about methods of state testing or projections as much as setting and maintaining high standards for all students in the classroom.
Recommendations for Administration
Based upon characteristics from effective to novice teachers found in these POET interviews, the following concepts should be considered for schools that are lacking in academic growth.
Refrain from using 100% multiple choice formats for testing, and implement essay and response driven assessments that can provide overarching summaries or themes of state standards rather than focusing a majority of time on specific SPIs.
Develop closer knit PLC environments among freshman social studies teachers with a goal of establishing similar assessment formats, notebooks and especially goal tracking techniques based upon TVAAS projections to set higher expectations. (Model feeder schools)
Establish better lines of communication with the special education department in order to provide quality modifications to achieve success for all students.
Develop more mentoring and coaching, where successful or veteran teachers can help novice or lower scoring teachers
Ponder the ethical and dreadful debate of teacher placement.
A range of questions manifest from the research that would be worth consideration for further research. The initial findings on the TVAAS scatterplots showed multiple schools that meet the criteria for high growth in economically disadvantaged schools in Middle Tennessee. Among these schools other factors emerge from involving system wide educational policies to years of average teacher experience. Examples include reward schools, feeder school systems with close knit PLCs, block schedules, Doctorate level educators, and schools have crafted outstanding school homepages that indicate a positive school environment. How would others score in the POET questionnaire? Would a majority of these high growth schools have teacher with high POET scores? Could these high growth schools have teachers with small potential for growth, who are benefiting from school or system policies? What system wide policies do these schools have in common that lead to higher growth versus their neighboring counties?