Case Study #1
Phenomenal First Grade
This kindergarten through eighth grade school in a large Midwestern city has a visionary principal. He strives to improve educational outcomes for all students. This desire led him to search for guidance; he read about the importance of certain components but the more he studied, the more confused he became.
His school has 562 students. 72% are Hispanic, 15% are African American and 9% are White. 88% of the students qualify as low income.
At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, the Miller Guidance System was the model for change at this school.
First grade at this school had 73 students in the fall, 70 in the winter and 69 in the spring. In the fall of 2011, 52% of the first grade students scored at strategic or intensive risk in beginning reading when compared to developmental benchmarks. Large class sizes in kindergarten, the absence of a standardized curriculum and a mid-year change of kindergarten teachers seems to be at the root of this high percentage of at risk first graders. Adjustments needed to be made in the core instruction to meet this challenge.
After working with a Miller Guidance consultant, school leadership realized the importance of standardizing core instruction in reading. The school had purchased a well-researched reading series but had not monitored the use of it. Teachers were using it differently or not using it at all. In addition, the reading series theme tests were not used to inform instruction. The building curriculum coordinator arranged for a pacing guide and the teachers at all of the grades began administering the theme tests. At the five grade level team meetings held during the year, first grade teachers examined the performance of the students and agreed on changes or additions to address the areas of weaknesses. The format of these meetings adhered to the framework of the Miller Guidance System.
The principal had established a daily whole school intervention block of 30 minutes. During this time, first grade students who were at the greatest risk were given small group instruction with peers needing similar skills using a research-based program. Each student's progress was measured and graphed weekly. Results were reviewed every six weeks and changes were made when necessary.
In spring of 2012, just 17% of first graders were at risk of not acquiring basic reading skills (Graph 1.1). In addition, of the phonics skills covered in the first grade reading series, 83% or more of the students mastered all but three of them (Graph 1.2). The Miller Guidance System provided dedicated educators with the direction that they needed to meet the needs of their students. The principal felt empowered to be an instructional leader. Parents watched their children grow and develop.