Victory in Victorville: A replicable model for school improvement

Mikels’ no-nonsense approach to removing excuses, establishing non-negotiables, and building expectations for both students and faculty has been the foundation to Sixth Street Prep’s success.

“It does not happen overnight, but individual teacher results made believers out of others,” she said.

Together Mikels and the teaching team listed the non-negotiables that should occur each time students used the response devices for the 10-A-Day program.  With the agreed-upon criteria, Mikels monitored the implementation with daily walk-throughs.  Results data are shared on a regular basis and in conjunction with Sixth Street Prep’s monthly benchmarks.

Chris Soto, a fifth grade math teacher at Sixth Street, said the 10-A-Day program enables her to give students instant feedback, adjust her teaching in the moment, and allows her to teach all standards 180 days of the year.

“I generally include three questions from previously taught standards and three questions that are preview questions for upcoming standards in my 10-A-Day slides,” Soto said. “This allows me to reinforce concepts all year long.”

“Our students have developed a healthy attitude toward assessment and do not fear answering incorrectly because they realize teachers use questions to help them understand the materials,” said Mikels.

Josiah Battles, like other students, is highly engaged in math lessons and uses his whiteboard, marker, and student clicker as Soto instructs and prompts guided practice. He seems unaware that his teacher is conducting periodic formative assessments. When asked how often his teacher gives the class a test, Josiah responded, “Well, maybe every two weeks.”

Josiah explained that he “likes learning math, and using the whiteboard and clicker help us to learn better.”

Since implementing the 10-A-Day program, Sixth Street Prep’s math proficiency scores have climbed from 30 percent to 94.2 percent, reading proficiency increased from 17 percent to 80.3 percent, and science proficiency jumped from 14 percent to 92 percent, all from the 2001 school year to the 2008-09 school year.

Sixth Street Prep gained well-deserved recognition for its results.  The school received the Title I Academic Achievement Award in 2006-2009, the 29th Annual Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association in 2008, was named a Star School by California Business for Educational Excellence in 2008 and 2009, and received the National Blue Ribbon School Award in 2009.

Despite prior research suggesting that students’ socio-economic background pre-determines their likelihood of excelling academically, schools such as Sixth Street continue to dispel these findings and provide renewed hope. Through the combination of quality teaching methods that maximize on researched practices and current technologies such as TurningPoint student response systems, all schools, regardless of demographic composition, have the opportunity to make a difference in students’ academic achievement.

Laura Ascione
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