Principal Leadership - February 2015 - (Page 58)

breaking ranks in practice Building a Model Reading Program James Johnston I magine this: Your PTA president calls you, frustrated, to report that she's hired a local tutoring company to teach her son how to read. His needs weren't being met at your school, and he fell behind. As a middle school principal, what do you do to ensure that students are reading at or above grade level? Scenarios such as this can lead to very difficult conversations and, ultimately, significant changes. Schools have two choices: make excuses or treat negative comments as opportunities for growth. With these choices in mind, Alice Ott Middle School in Portland, OR, set out to create an infrastructure of direct reading instruction. I am the principal of a middle school with high diversity and high poverty, where dozens of languages are spoken and approximately 70 percent of our students receive free and reduced‑price lunch. We went from a school on the brink of sanctions to one that's been labeled a "model school" for the last two years by the Oregon Department of Education. We were also selected as a Metlife/NASSP Breakthrough School and identified by the Oregon Secretary of State's office as one of nine middle schools in the state that are closing the achievement gap. During the past several years, we've faced the same barriers as everyone else across the country: limited resources, loss of staffing, 58 Principal Leadership | February 2015 schedule implications, collective bargaining agreements, the length of the school day, etc. However, we chose to change the reading trajectory for our students, using "champions find a way" as our mantra. The following are ten steps we've taken that can help change the dynamics of reading at your middle school: 1. Analyze and use data to guide your decisions and discussions. We asked ourselves: How many of our students are at or below grade level? What data are we using-if any-and what type of assessment does it originate from? Do we even have data? Each piece of data can be beneficial to building a holistic view of students' reading capacity. Our first step was to identify the best reading assessment available within our budget constraints. We screened every student to identify those who needed additional analysis. After all students were screened, we used a more detailed assessment (there are many available options) to identify each student's specific needs. We developed a Reading Response Professional Learning Team-made up of reading and language arts teachers, a school counselor, and myself- to identify student needs and provide student mobility within our programs throughout year. 2. Develop a tiered reading approach based on specific skills and student needs by separating traditional language arts (writing) from reading infrastructure. Our goal was to develop a systematic process of scaffolded interventions for all students based on their reading level and capacity. We accomplished this with a tiered, comprehensive, research‑based selection of reading interventions using a comprehensive literacy model that also incorporates literacy across the curriculum. Soar to Success, our reading comprehension program, is a key component of our infrastructure. It provides students with the opportunity to work with a licensed reading teacher with a 1‑to‑8 student‑to‑teacher ratio during intervention time. Teachers utilize high interest, low reading‑level books to let students gain additional practice for skill mastery. We built this program upon reciprocal teaching of comprehension strategies to accelerate reading growth and provide practice with decoding, fluency, summarizing, phonics, and vocabulary development. The teacher models four

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Principal Leadership - February 2015

From the Editor
Bulletin Board
Cases in Point
Healthy Schools, Healthy Students
The Power of Partnerships in ELL Instruction
Special Education’s Hotspot: The Principalship
Literacy Lessons Learned
Give Them Five
Winning the War Against Power Struggles
BEYOND MEMORIZATION: Strategies for Next-Level Literacy
Middle School Academic Talk: The Key to Ensuring Access for All
Promoting Achievement for ELLs with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education: A Culturally Responsive Approach
Freshman Academy Spurs Schoolwide Transformation
Instructional Leader
Breaking Ranks in Practice
Discussion Guide

Principal Leadership - February 2015

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