I first met Stephanie and Gloria when they attended one of our Supporting Struggling Students workshops a few years ago. They loved the idea of creating a proactive intervention plan and took copious notes during the workshop. I didn’t see them again until the following year when they attended one of our Motivating Reluctant Learners workshops.
“Remember us?” they asked me during the morning break. “We were at the workshop last year? We asked a lot of questions afterward?”
I squinted at them for a moment and then the teacher in me remembered exactly where they were sitting the year before. Second row, to the left.
“Ahh!” I cried in recognition. “Thanks for coming back this year!”
They smiled widely, pleased that I’d remembered them.
“We are so excited,” Stephanie beamed. “We wanted to come today to tell you that we tried the proactive intervention plan and it really made a difference!”
I perked up. I love hearing how our workshop participants take what they have learned and use it successfully in their classrooms. “Tell me more,” I asked enthusiastically.
“Well, you know how you taught us to do those proactive intervention plans last year?”
“Yes,” I nodded.
“Well, we tried it. We left that workshop and met up over the summer and decided what our plan would be.”
“It was a lot of hard work,” Gloria chimed in. “It took a lot of time.”
“It did,” Stephanie agreed. “At first we thought maybe we were doing it wrong but it really forced us to think about what we teach and why we teach it. It forced me to look more closely at my standards and at the state test.”
Gloria nodded. “It was a bit of a pain.”
I wrinkled my brow in concern. This wasn’t the ringing endorsement I was expecting.
“No, no,” Stephanie placed a hand on my arm to reassure me. “It was good. It really helped us understand the standards and think through how we would teach them.”
I smiled slightly in relief.
“You told us that it wouldn’t be easy,” Gloria added. “It wasn’t. I was a lot of hard work trying to figure out those standards, why they were important, and how to teach them. But in the end, it gave us real focus.”
Stephanie continued the story. “So after we did all that, we created a proactive intervention plan. We decided at first to center the plan around our formative assessments. So we decided that we would set a mastery threshold at 80% like you did. We give a formative assessment about every 2 weeks so it made sense to us to do it that way. We decided that as an intervention, students who earned less than an 80% on any formative assessment had to do corrective action and then retake the quiz the next week. We didn’t have a lot of after school or lunch time to work with them so we made ‘workshop’ days once a week for students to practice, get enrichment, and do their corrective actions and retesting during part of the class period.”
I nodded. “So how did it work?”
“At first it was really hard,” Gloria explained. “We made it mandatory for students to retake the formative assessments but also made retakes open to any student who wanted to as long as they did the corrective action.”
“Gloria struggled with that for a while,” Stephanie teased.
Gloria smiled but then got serious. “Yeah, I wasn’t sure that I really believed in reassessing. I was worried that the kids would try to take advantage of the system and just not study and I was worried about all those extra tests. But Stephanie convinced me to try it. She found a book that had quizzes and we used them for the reassessments. It was still not fun to grade all those extra quizzes at first.”
“We had a lot of kids who needed the reassessment at first,” Stephanie explained. “That’s why we decided to do it during class time. It was a lot at first.”
“Yeah but it started to work!” Gloria exclaimed. “The kids loved it, and they really started to understand the material.”
“By the end of the year, when we took our state test, we had a 100% proficiency rate!” Stephanie exclaimed. “The best we’ve ever gotten before was around 65%!”
I stood there incredulous. “100%?” I asked.
They nodded and Stephanie hugged me. “Can you believe it?”
Actually I can believe it. We are hearing more and more stories of teams of teachers who got together and really examined their standards, changed the way that they taught, supported, and assessed those standards, and gained 20+ percentage points on their passing rate for their state tests. Taking time to unpack your standards and put supports in place to help students reach those standards, and the using smart assessment strategies like assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning can make a HUGE difference for your students. It isn’t an easy fix, but teachers like Stephanie and Gloria show us that it is totally worth the effort.
For more information on implementing your own proactive prevention plan, click here.