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Foster Road Elementary is on the Road to Success with Kagan Structures

Dr. Jean Maddox, Principal

To cite this article: Maddox, J. Foster Road Elementary is on the Road to Success with Kagan Structures. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine, Winter 2005. www.KaganOnline.com

Editor’s Note:
Recently, Dr. Jean Maddox e-mailed Dr. Spencer Kagan this brief, cheerful note:

I thought I would share our good news. We received the results of our state testing, and my school had the highest growth points in our district. We made it to #1. Yeah. We still have a long way to go, but we are on the move. It is all because of CL, MI, and brain-based strategies. Thank you for all your help and training. It is paying off.

Number one in the district —we were quite impressed. We invited Dr. Maddox to share how her school achieved the highest growth points in the district. This is her story.

Foster Road Elementary School has been on the road towards success. Our first prerequisite to success was to identify goals for self-improvement. As a staff, we recognized the unique potential that lies within each of our students. We studied together the knowledge on how children learn which built the foundation for implementing effective teaching strategies. With the help of Kagan Cooperative Learning structures, teachers encourage students to think, communicate, and express ideas in imaginative concrete ways.

Foster Road Elementary (PreK-5) is part of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District. It is a community center school located approximately 18 miles southeast of metropolitan Los Angeles. It is a unique school setting which includes preschool, regular education, and a large population of elementary special education students. Spanish is spoken as the primary language in many of the homes. The ethnic composition of Foster Road’s population was reported in October 2003 on the CBEDS School Information Form. The CBEDS reports

• 82% Hispanic
• 9% White
• 3% Asian
• 4% African American
• 1% Filipino

Foster Road has 68% of the students participating in the free and reduced school breakfast and lunch program.

In 1999, Foster Road’s Academic Performance Index (API) was reported at 446. The Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA) was signed into law in April 1999, which authorized the creation of a new educational accountability system for California public schools. The (API) is used to measure school performance, set academic growth targets, and monitor progress over time. When Foster Road received the (API) report of 446 we knew we had a challenging opportunity ahead of us to improve student achievement. We worked on building our collaborative relationships, mobilized our resources, and implemented effective teaching strategies.

Below is Foster Road’s API History in chart and graph forms:

Academic Performance Index (API)
Year State Target Actual Growth Difference % Difference
2000 18 62 44 244%
2001 15 48 33 220%
2002 12 25 13 108%
2003 10 41 31 310%
2004 7 41 34 485%

As a school, we are making a difference in the students we are teaching. The progress has been steady, and we know we have a long way to go, but the changes are happening. In each year, we have exceeded the state’s target. In 2004, Foster Road’s Academic Performance Index (API) was reported at 695, exceeding the state’s growth target by 485%. This year we had the highest growth points in the district for all 25 elementary and middle schools!

When our first API report was available to us our staff met to analyze the student data. This was our first step and the driving force in the professional learning process. As a Kagan trainer and principal of the school, I used my extensive training in the cooperative learning structures, multiple intelligences strategies, and brain-based research to accelerate our teacher training and student successes. Each staff meeting (twice a month) covered various cooperative learning structures demonstrating how the teachers could use the structures in their classrooms. Our staff development days were on multiple intelligences strategies to help address how students are smart in different ways, and how we could reach more students if we looked at how they learn best. Teachers tried a variety of approaches to meet their students’ diverse learning needs. The teachers worked in grade level teams to identify common needs and discussed each student’s strengths and weaknesses. With standards-based instruction, we wanted our students engaged in the lessons and interacting with one another. We looked at best practices with cooperative learning as a leading method for academic gain, social development, and improving ethnic relationships.

As a staff, we implemented various books each year that staff members were held accountable for reading. We reviewed the strategies discussed in the books at staff meetings, so everyone had a common knowledge of terms and approaches. Some of the books we have used are: Multiple Intelligences the Complete MI Book by Dr. Spencer Kagan & Miguel Kagan, Different Brains, Different Learners by Eric Jensen, Tools for Engagement by Eric Jensen, Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky A. Bailey, and Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites by Dr. Marica L. Tate. The staff was learning strategies on teambuilding, reexamining their teaching skills, ways to implement a few easy strategies as part of any lesson, and classroom management skills to bring about dramatic gains in student success. We use many of the Kagan SmartCards to help the teachers with a quick guide and a reference to strategies they can use in their classrooms. Our goal is to put fun back into their teaching.

Change is forever happening around us. As a staff, we wanted to be proactive in the learning process. The journey begins with the first step. We reviewed the video tapes “Reaching Standards Through Cooperative Leaning.” The tapes modeled cooperative learning structures in action, which helped my teachers, understand how to implement the structures in various types of curriculum. We modeled structures at staff meetings using our curriculum demonstrating teaching in more ways, so we can reach more students.

As students learn at different rates, teachers also learn at different rates. I am available to my staff to offer support, coach, and model various strategies to use with the different curriculum they are teaching. As we learn to stretch our intelligences, we stretch our comfort zone to bring about change. It is all worth it when we celebrate our successes in our students’ achievement.

Kagan Cooperative Learning and all the professional staff development that I have received through Dr. Spencer & Laurie Kagan has impacted the way I teach and work with my staff. All the strategies that have been shared have made it possible to offer students broader and deeper learning experiences. As a staff, we will continue to work together to nurture and improve our students’ achievement. Thank you for being the springboard that builds success and confidence in our students. Here’s to meaningful instruction and having all students be engaged in their learning process.

Success to all,

Dr. Jean Maddox, Principal