In August 2017, Sarajean McDaniel became Moseley’s principal. The school’s administrative team hired 30 new instructional staff, including 20 teachers, as well as interventionists and others. The school also welcomed a number of new students from other schools.

“Coming in, we knew we had a lot to take on,” McDaniel says, noting the need to motivate students and address discipline issues.

The school implemented LSI’s Schools for Rigor model, which includes:

  • Professional development and coaching for teachers and school leaders
  • An assessment of school systems
  • Academic teaming implementation
  • Constant tracking of student evidence

The academic teaming strategy, which has teachers move to a student-centered instructional process where students collaborate, peer coach, and peer teach as they complete tasks, was new for the school, and brought with it encouraging developments.

McDaniel says students were more engaged with their learning and appeared at ease while they took ownership of their own learning. The change also helped teachers recognize that stepping back a bit can lead to students actually wanting to learn.

“When students are taking ownership of their learning, that truly is 100 percent engagement,” she says. “Sometimes people think a quiet classroom is managed, but it’s not, because students aren’t engaged. It’s 100 percent on-task when it’s noisy, and that’s an art. Teachers have to keep working at that. We’re working to release that learning to the students, because it’s been natural for teachers to be in front of the room.”

At the end of that year, Moseley improved its grade from an F to a D. Although the school didn’t reach a C level at first, school and district administrators appeared before the school board to demonstrate the school’s gains in student proficiency and learning. The district’s turnaround process requires an External Operator when a school has earned grades below a C for three years in a row. LSI was named the External Operator at Moseley, overseeing academic programs, professional development, assessment, and more.

“Despite not making a C grade that first year, we had to realize that we were still seeing gains,” McDaniel says. “I told our teachers to think of all the days when we made a difference in the life of a child, academically or emotionally. It’s the teachers who are truly invested and willing to do all of the things that come to them.”

Academic teaming helped this school turn around student achievement

That encouraging mindset helped. Teachers were more comfortable with academic teaming as Moseley entered its second year of partnering with LSI, and it showed: ELA proficiency increased by 20 percent and math proficiency increased by 13 percent. The school’s bottom quartile, in particular, saw large ELA gains. Teacher turnover has also decreased dramatically.

“When you walk into a classroom, you have 20 kids in that room, and 25 percent of our population here is students with special needs,” McDaniel says. “You don’t know which child at that table is a child with an IEP. Everyone is a part of the groups. These kids are on task, working together, and it helps them think outside the box. They come up with things that, if we limited them, they may not even think of. It truly has empowered our students.”

Laura Ascione
About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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