My middle school is TItle I (the only one in our district), and with that classification comes some challenges, but overwhelmingly it brings great opportunity–tons of professional development opportunities and resources that would not otherwise be affordable. Clark was torn down after the 2007 school year ended and closed for two years while it was completely rebuilt. When it opened for the 2009-2010 school year (my first year there), it was filled with state-of-the-art technology, beautiful art, and well thought-out space planning. The year that Clark closed (’06-’07), we made AYP. Our students and teachers were then displaced to other schools in the district for the two year closure. Last year, we did not make AYP. As a result, we are classified as a Level 5 school by NCLB and, as a Title I school, had to choose one of five options for Restructuring/Alternative Governance. (Interestingly enough, there are other middle schools in the district above a Level 5, but as they are not Title I schools, they do not need to restructure. Also, they don’t get picked on by local media.) As the first four options are completely unrealistic, we selected option five: creating and implementing a plan that would significantly restructure our governance arrangements. This week, all teachers at the school attend a half day training/discussion of the plan and its implementation. It was a great training and an awesome opportunity for dialogue across content areas.
Part of our Level 5 plan, which was already put into place last year, is to give universal screeners to all students three times per year. There are different screeners for different grade levels and subject areas, but one of them just so happened to match an activity that I’ve used in my classes in the past: the AIMSweb MAZE-CBM formative assessment. Always searching for ways to demonstrate how Elective teachers are supporting school goals and core curriculum, I immediately reformatted the reading comprehension activity that I had used for El chico del apartamento 512 to match the structure of the MAZE-CBM. In that assessment, they delete every seventh word and give each student two (options/dogs) to choose from. The student circles (whichever/whenever) of the two words that best (completes/eats) the sentence.
The first time I did the activity , I did not eliminate every seventh word; instead, I purposefully chose words that we had discussed in pop-up grammar points. That way, I could expect them to get the answer correct and would be able to review them again when we go over the activity after it has been graded. This activity is great because the student must not only demonstrate general understanding of the story, but prove vocabulary acquisition. Later, I stuck to the seventh word rule (more or less), and I have decided that I prefer that because it forced me to eliminate words that seemed insignificant to me. Consequently, I was able to get a fairly deep picture of my students’ comprehension: for example, had they picked up on the difference in meaning between prepositions that we had never specifically targeted?
My students were VERY successful with the activity, which made me happy. It also reinforced to me I need to assess vocabulary in context.