Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tutorial Program Update

           The in-school tutorial program is currently in progress and the first round of tutoring is almost complete as the STAAR test approaches.  The original problem was attendance issues with the after school volunteer tutorial program.  This issue is definitely being resolved as students are required to attend tutorials.  We have implemented and adapted schedule on Tuesday and Thursday allowing for an additional 45 minute period at the end of the day.  Every student reports to their “homeroom” class during this extra period.  At that point, those students who are in need of tutorials report to their assigned tutorial teacher.

In order to make testing day procedures more routine for the students, “homeroom” classes were assigned according to the room in which they will take the STAAR test.  Also, the teacher assigned to them during the turorial program will be the same teacher that administers the test to them.
The only concern teachers had is that it would be difficult to keep the students who are not in need of tutorials on task.  Strict rules concerning what these students were allowed to do had to be put into place before the tutorials were initiated.  In addition, extracurricular events such as band and choir used this time to rehearse for upcoming competitions.  This helped to reduce the number of students in classrooms.

One problem that we have discovered is confusion concerning where students should be going during the tutorial time.  For instance, if a student is to report to their homeroom class with Mr. Anderson, but Mr. Anderson is tutoring math students today, then that student needs to be assigned an alternate classroom.  Also, if a student is going to a student club or organization’s meeting during that time, there has to be a list of who is allowed to go.  This process can become confusing to teachers as they are trying to take attendance and even more confusing to students who do not pay close attention to their room assignment.

Overall, the process has gone as smooth as could be expected and students are now receiving tutoring on Monday and Wednesday as well.  This makes four days a week that tutoring is happening for those students who need extra help.  As the STAAR comes and goes, so will the adapted tutoring schedule.  The amount of work that it takes for teachers to adapt their daily schedule will hopefully pay off when the success of students is realized as test results are returned to us in the near future.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Action Research Project

Action Research Project
How can the development and implementation of an in school tutorial period positively affect student performance on the STAAR test?
Step 1 – Setting the Foundation
            As a result of the annual benchmark tests administered in middle school, plans are being made to remediate those students that have been identified as needing such remediation.  The current procedures that are in place have been called into question and a new approach to offering tutorials has been discussed.  Students have been offered tutorials on a voluntary basis, but attendance has been low and tentative plans are made to offer tutorials during regular school hours.
Step 2 – Analyzing Data
            Benchmark testing results must be analyzed in order to determine which students are in need of tutoring and in which subject they are scoring poorly.  Likewise, teachers that are capable and available to administer these tutorials must be identified.  Teachers must also have access to students’ benchmark results in order to assess what specific TEKS are proving to be the most difficult for the students.  Research must be done to find effective strategies to teach these specific TEKS and student progress must be continually assessed by the tutorial teachers.
            A Google search for possible daily class schedules that include tutorials should be done in addition to making contact with these schools to identify possible problems with these class schedules.  Using available data on student performance, the number of days each week that follow this adapted daily schedule must be determined.  Administrators and all stakeholders must collaboratively make this decision.
Step 3 – Developing Deeper Understanding
            As an adapted daily schedule is made to incorporate this new tutorial period, teachers that travel from campus to campus must be aware of the new class times and be able to make the necessary adjustments (if possible) to their schedules.  Students who did not qualify for tutorials must also have an assigned classroom during this time.  Time management will be of great importance for these students as they must be taught how to use this time wisely and not create problems for themselves and those around them.  Teachers can also utilize this time to meet with extracurricular clubs and organizations as opposed to taking them out of class or meeting after school. 
            Students will be losing regular class time as a result of this adapted schedule and assessments must be done to determine the negative effects of this lost instruction time.

Step 4 – Engage in Self Reflection
            Questions that will arise because of the implementation of this tutorial period will include but not be limited to:
·        Do we have enough qualified teachers in each subject area to effectively tutor students in areas that have a high number of students in need of remediation?
·        Do we have enough classrooms available if tutoring rooms are held to approximately 10 students?
·        Will the captive audience prove to be an effective way to remediate students, or will they lack the enthusiasm and motivation to learn the TEKS that are causing them to score poorly?
·        Will placing tutorials at the end of the day make it difficult for the teachers and students to remain focused?
·        What effect will this have on the staff’s morale if they feel they are forced to tutor students outside of their subject area?
·        Will teachers resent the idea of “babysitting” students who are not being placed in a tutorial class?
·        Will the logistics of changing schedules during the week prove to be a distraction to the students and staff?
·        Will this time at the end of the day show an increase in student discipline problems?
·        Will this strategy prove to be more beneficial to those students who are only slightly in need of remediation or to those that are significantly behind in their learning?
·        Do we have access to effective teaching tools that would improve student test scores that are in this tutorial program?
Step 5 – Exploring Programmatic Patterns
            After much discussion with the lead teacher committee, many different scenarios were presented and most present were in agreement to certain guidelines.  The teachers and students who traveled to different campuses throughout the day determined that there was only one time to offer this tutorial period which would be at the end of the day.  Effective use of a preexisting pep rally schedule made the staff feel better about the adapted class times. 
            The campus principal was certain that the entire process was dependent upon accurate and organized from the campus testing coordinator.  Without proper coordination of teachers and students in need of subject-specific tutorials, confusion would arise and no positive effect on student learning would be evident.  He was also adamant that the overall vision of the tutorial program would also have to be communicated to the staff in order to build confidence and ensure success.
            The campus testing coordinator is confident that the use of the Eduphoria program will make placing students in the correct tutorial classroom an easy task.  Results from benchmarks will be analyzed and students can be identified as in need of remediation within 24 hours.
The project will go into effect on the week of Feb. 11, 2013.  Students who are identified as in need of remediation in 8th grade math and language arts and 7th grade language arts will be assigned a tutorial teacher on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.  Those students who are in need of tutorials will be assigned to a classroom where a teacher will monitor their progress on daily homework, reading, and school project completion.  After more benchmark tests have been completed, students will be identified in social studies and science.  Monday and Wednesday tutorials will then be assigned to accommodate the need for remediation in these subjects.  This will begin the week of March 25 and continue until the first round of STAAR testing is complete.  As each subject to be tested on the STAAR test is completed, the corresponding tutorials will no longer be needed.
Step 6 – Determining Direction
            I believe the results of the action plan can clearly be evaluated and the effectiveness of the program can be determined by the students’ results on the STAAR test.  This will also be reinforced by the continuation of this plan in the spring of 2014.  Our school shares the vision, has the resources/materials, and possesses the skills necessary to implement the program and ensure that the goal of student success remains the focus throughout.  The problem was originally presented and discussed by a group of lead teachers as opposed to a single teacher or administrator. This helps to create ownership of the project by a large group of professionals that are invested in its success.
            The implementation of the action plan is currently underway and the timeline fits comfortably with the current school schedule and testing dates.  Feedback from the teachers will be communicated regularly through the department leaders and discussed at the regularly held meetings in order to make any necessary adjustments in the plan.  Modifications could be made in the length of time in the tutorial period and also to the start date when preparing for next year’s schedule.
Step 7 – Taking Action for School Improvement

Action Planning Template
Goal: To improve test scores of those students scoring poorly on benchmark tests
Action Steps(s):
Person(s) Responsible:
Timeline: Start/End
Needed Resources
Determine which students are in need of remediation

Cliff Horn
Tracy Spicola
Jan. 21-Jan. 21
Benchmark scores for each 7th and 8th grade student

Develop an adapted daily class schedule to incorporate the new tutorial period

Lance Murphy
Luanne Martin
Lead Teacher Committee
Jan. 21-Feb. 4
Current Bell schedule,  proposed bell schedule,  schedules of teachers that travel to other campuses on a daily basis
Lance Murphy, principals of other campuses that share our teachers
Develop a list of students and match them to proper tutorials teacher
Department leaders, Tracy Spicola, Lance Murphy
Feb. 4 – 9
List of available teachers, list of students needing tutorials in each subject

Evaluate logistical effectiveness of new schedule

Lance Murphy
Tracy Spicola
April – May 2013
Input from all teachers

Observe student performance on STAAR of those that were tutored

Cliff Horn
Tracy Spicola
Lance Murphy
July 2013
STAAR test raw data

Observe student performance on STAAR of those that were NOT tutored
Cliff Horn
Tracy Spicola
Lance Murphy
July 2013
STAAR test raw data

Observe student performance as compared to past years using voluntary tutorials
Cliff Horn
Lance Murphy
Tracy Spicola
July 2013
STAAR test results, TAKS test results

Step 8 – Sustain Improvement

Monday, January 28, 2013


Deciding on an action research project is something that seems a little overwhelming.  One of my greatest concerns was being able to find a topic to research that did not overwhelm me, but also had enough substance to be able to have some sort of affect on the campus vision.  Of course, this requires that there be an issue currently facing the school that my principal would allow me to research and that I believed would have enough data to support significant finding.  Luckily we are going through a scheduling issue that fits all of these criteria perfectly.  As opposed to studying the "double-blocking" issue that is very interesting to me, my site supervisor encouraged me to look into the possibility of researching the scheduling of tutorials during the day as opposed to offering it after school on a volunteer basis.  Our middle school is currently transitioning from after school tutorials to a modified schedule on certain days of the week to include in school tutorial time.  As a result, I will have a significant amount of data to support the decision to either continue this schedule next year or to return to the after school tutorial time.  Hopefully this decision will fit well into the action research project guidelines that are shaping this course and the other courses to follow.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Educators and Blogs

The use of blogs in the professional world is becoming more common and this should also be true in the world of education.  Educators (particularly principals) could use the medium to gain insight from other educators going through the same issues.  Principals often face the issue of feeling like they are alone in their struggles and concerns.  Blogs allow the world to become smaller and bring people together over long distances with the simple click of a mouse.  Blogs also allow a certain level of reflection for those that are composing them.  This type of reflection is often as productive for the composer of the blog as it is to the reader.

Action Research

     Action research is a strategy that is used by many administrators to increase the level of success of their students and faculty.  However, the technique has many other benefits that make it a more powerful tool than the research techniques that have come before it.  Action research allows the focus of the administrators and staff to be on the specific needs of the campus.  This means that instead of using a packaged staff development from outside the district, the principal helps guide the investigation to what the campus' needs are at the time.  This helps to foster the idea that teachers and administrators can, and should, continue to make improvements on their campus by adapted their teaching strategies and other aspects of education that affect student performance.  While the principal is usually the leader of the action research, teachers are often involved in the process which helps them to have a sense of ownership in the project.  Also, since the research is centered around a local issue, all parties involved are more likely to be energized by the work involved.  This is not always the case when an outside entity makes the decision as to what the administrators or staff will spend their time investigating.  Action research is different than conventional research in that it is not simply a series of readings or time spent finding literature relating to the topic.  It is the act of identifying a specific problem to be addressed, brainstorming specific solutions, gathering data to support a course of action, and then coming up with a plan to make the desired changes.  Sharing the results of the inquiry is an important part of the process as it helps those who are sure to come across the same problem in the future.

     Action research could be used to help investigate the effectiveness of double blocking students in certain subjects in middle school.  This method of approach will allow a school to analyze the test results of the students that were double blocked and see if the process is effective and worth the investment of time.