At the start of the school year, the staff at Marion Junior High School knew they wanted to innovate their approach to student performance. They were coming out of a pandemic year, when many students were not able to attend school regularly. They knew there would be learning gaps that had to be filled. They knew they would need to assess where students were, academically, and find ways to help every student improve.
What emerged was a multi-faceted program that includes numerous innovative ways to change the way students think about academic growth, as well as the implementation of the Edmentum learning program.
Edmentum is a learning system that helps teachers identify specific learning gaps for each student, particularly with literacy and math. Every student is assessed, and the program uses advanced diagnostics to both identify the gaps and create an individually tailored plan for each student.
To change the culture, the school added a new period to the school day, a period dubbed “Patriot Time.” During Patriot Time, students are given dedicated time to improve skills, work on deficient areas, get additional support from teachers, and work in small groups. As students demonstrate mastery in subject areas, they are rewarded with incentives that have included things like a popsicle party, a popcorn party, or opportunities to play games outdoors or in the gym.
On top of all this, the school began posting assessment data on walls around the school as a way to keep the objective in front of students and staff and all times.
“We’ve worked hard getting students to know what this is all for,” said MJHS Principal James Scott. “We’ve been talking to them about the data, making sure they know it’s important. We wanted to establish a culture around data and results, making sure everyone knows where we want to go and how we are going get there.”
This month, students took their second set of diagnostic exams. When compared to exams taken at the beginning of the school year, this gave students and staff the first real look to see if their efforts have been working.
The result was very good.
In math, more than 76% of students showed growth since the beginning of the school year. 127 students scored above the 75th percentile, up from 82 in August.
In reading, nearly 69% of students showed growth. 134 students scored above the 75th percentile, up from 102 in August.
And in language arts, 67% of students showed growth. 296 students scored above the 75th percentile, up from 260 in August.
“This is a great sign, and I am very proud of our students,” Scott said. “It shows they are buying in. It shows they are putting in the work. We aren’t where we want to be yet, but we are moving in the right direction.”
Scott also had praise for his staff.
“I am just so grateful for the efforts of our great teachers,” he said. “This growth would not be possible without the encouragement and support they give to our students each and every day. It is an honor to be able to work with such a dedicated staff.”