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GEAR UP schools understand the importance of academically preparing all students for postsecondary education through rigorous curriculum and necessary academic support. Schools are utilizing a variety of strategies to improve instruction, increase rigor and support success for all students.
Both of the middle schools and the high school in Roseburg focused much of their GEAR UP funding on improving the quality of teaching and learning through professional development of teachers, aligning the curriculum between middle and high school to ensure an effective transition for students and refining the scope and sequence of subjects to meet the Common Core State Standards. The goal of the CCSS is to help all students become college- and career-ready by the time they leave high school so it’s a perfect complement to the GEAR UP mission.
Mathematics teachers from both middle schools met regularly with each other as well as with the teachers at Roseburg High School to ensure a seamless transition for students. Their professional learning community participated in regular professional development from the Teachers Development Group in order to fully align their courses. The content teams plan to meet each year to review the year and refine the scope and sequence of the content, resources to be used and assessments to be given.
Similarly, language arts teachers collaborated so that writing calibration and common assessments occurred at all levels. The work has already shown promising payoff with a 30% increase in writing skills in two years.
Lost River Junior/Senior High School created a detailed writing plan with two goals: to make sure seniors graduate by passing the writing sample, and to prepare students for the upcoming Common Core State Standards.
The process actually began at the end of the 2012 school year when teachers from across curriculum areas opted to join the writing team. With professional development and training in writing assessment provided by the Oregon Department of Education, STEP UP to Writing, and the Klamath County School District, the team broke down the CCSS into scope and sequence. Next, they trained and calibrated every teacher on the various writing techniques and strategies, developing a binder of tools to use to teach writing across the curriculum that included a common system of assessment.
Thanks to their deliberate efforts, proficiency checks are in place at the junior high school, and high school students are assessed using writing work samples in every subject area. The writing team will continue to work with all staff until 100% of junior high students are proficient on skill set assessments and all seniors can graduate having passed their state writing assessment.
The Cottage Grove School District took the next step forward in student learning by investing in an online course program for middle and high school students. The ODYSSEYWARE Online Program’s benefits are three-fold: increased rigor, especially for talented and gifted students; a convenient way to offer credit recovery for students who need to re-take a class; and a flexible option for students who need learning opportunities outside of the regular school day.
Although online options were available at all three schools, the program has been especially successful at Kennedy Alternative High School where students earned over 175 credits from 20 different class options. The district plans to pick up the tab for the program when GEAR UP funds are no longer available, especially after ironing out the details of how to implement the program.
“Lessons learned: The curriculum isn’t ‘easy’,” said Brian McCasline, the Cottage Grove GEAR UP Coordinator. “Although it can be accessed by individual students, it’s best delivered with regular check-ins and ‘adult supervision’.”