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Elementary Staff Work Together to Create Equity for Students

 

Arguably one of the most important times of the year for staff at Grand Blanc elementary schools is when teachers and support staff sit down with their principal to discuss how to individualize learning for students. Sometimes this means extra help with a subject causing a student strife, while sometimes it’s accelerated work given to students who are reaching beyond their grade-level assignments. All options are on the table at ‘Data Days.’

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Year after year, GBCS administrators, teachers, and interventionists track students’ successes and struggles through various means. A large factor is standardized testing, but it is not the only consideration. Currently, students with outlying STAR test scores in reading and/or math at the beginning of the year, as well as DRA scores from the previous year’s end, are identified for intervention or enrichment, and to compare progress or summer learning loss. 

This is where ‘Data Days’ discussions begin. Other topics might include vision/hearing screening, speech therapy, individual or group interaction, after-school support, attention deficit behaviors, changes at home, anxiety and other mental and physical health issues, special education services, class participation, and even personality clashes. Previous actions are discussed and future plans are made. At one time, this was done on a series of color-coded index cards posted on the wall. Now it’s taken the form of a very long and color-coded Google Sheet shared among the staff members.

In September at Myers Elementary, one at a time throughout the day, each grade level of teachers leaves their students in the hands of a guest teacher for a couple of hours and sits down with Principal Betsy Kato and a handful of support staff. They carefully go through an extensive list of students that have been identified as needing intervention by one or more staff members. “Data days give us an opportunity to discuss all of our students and their variety of needs. This is done three times a year to ensure our students are making positive progress,” says Kato. "We appreciate being able to bring together the entire grade level, support staff, and administrator to brainstorm the best ways to support each individual student.” Data Days takes place in the fall, winter, and spring at Myers. This level of communication is necessary to fully evaluate the needs of each student with the goal of creating equity in the classroom. Included in the group you will likely find certified teachers, the building principal, math and reading interventionists, a special education teacher, a school psychologist, a social worker/student liaison, and a speech pathologist.

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Some students are on their radar from the beginning, through kindergarten assessments or previous diagnoses that were passed on by a preschool experience or by the students’ family members. Others are added throughout the year when it’s noticed that they are having difficulty in one area or another or are excelling particularly quickly. 

Students who are excelling are identified for enrichment classes with Mrs. Taranto for Math, or a special Book Club that will form to support the faster-growing readers, which Mrs. Kato will be looking for a staff member, preferably specializing in literacy, to lead. Teachers may need to contact guardians to see about further evaluation in certain areas or to inquire about support at home. Whatever the needs of the student, the teachers work throughout the year to meet them where they are - in an ongoing process designed to give all students their best shot at success.