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Special Article

A “D” School Ramah Elementary

Amanda Clawson

To cite this article: Clawson, A. A “D” School Ramah Elementary. Kagan Online Magazine, Issue #62. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. www.KaganOnline.com

A “D”!!! How can we be a “D” school? Historically our school has been known as one of the best. Our students were competitive, and although we have always been a small rural school, our reputation drew many from other communities to make the effort to be a part of Ramah Elementary. There was pride and achievement attached to our name, our staff, and—most importantly—to our students.

In more recent years, education has evolved, and with that evolution greater challenges presented themselves and our school began to flounder. Soon, Ramah Elementary was no longer recognized for greatness but as being a difficult school with difficult staff and difficult students. We were a low performing school in a low performing district in a low performing state. The task of turning around our school seemed insurmountable, and the challenges seemed impossible to manage. How could we rise above a low “D” (bordering on an “F”) school grade and help the students achieve the proficiency level they need individually for success?

One of our great challenges has been the high ELL (English Language Learners) population. With 29.6% of our students categorized as ELL, the challenge becomes greater not only reaching grade level proficiency but also reaching and developing language proficiency. Although the task seemed daunting, our staff was up for the challenge and wanted to make improvements to meet the needs of every student.

We began to see growth in our students through engagement. One of the biggest changes we began to see was the language development component for not only our ELL population, but for all students.

Along with other initiatives, one of the tools that we opted for was introducing Kagan into our school and classes. We began with all five days of cooperative learning training for our staff. This allowed every staff member to be trained and to have the buy-in necessary to implement Kagan in every class. Our trainer was amazing and offered help and support every time we reached out. Over the course of a year, teachers began to implement what we were learning as we went along.

In order to ensure implementation of Kagan Structures throughout the school, Kagan Structures were noted on weekly lesson plans for both ELA and math. The principal and instructional coach would check for the structures in the lessons during evaluations.

This new school year, we began implementing a structure of the month. Each month we have chosen a specific structure we would look for during classroom walk-throughs and observations. During our weekly staff meetings, we practice the structure with the staff members as a teambuilding activity.

The principal and instructional coach continue to perform weekly walk-throughs. During the walk-throughs Kagan Structures are noted and recommendations for other structures that would support the lessons are given and practiced. We also benefited from ongoing coaching from the Kagan coaches.

We began to see growth in our students through engagement. One of the biggest changes we began to see was the language development component for not only our ELL population, but for all students. The Kagan Structures allowed students to engage in all four areas of language development (speaking, listening, reading, and writing). This language growth branched out to academic growth, and the students began to experience success.

Our school went from nearly failing (a 37.99 score) to a “B” school (a 61.88 score) in the matter of one year.

The state grades identify a “D” school by a score that ranges from 37.5 to 49.9. Our school went from nearly failing (a 37.99 score) to a “B” school (a 61.88 score) in the matter of one year, even with a variety of other challenges, including staff turnover. A very respectable 23.89-point growth! As we created campus expectations, which include Kagan Structures in every class, the students have benefited and our school is making progress. We look forward to continued success!