INTERVENTION IS THE HEART OF STUDENT ACCOUNTABILITY STANDARDS
Testing may corner the lion's share of attention, but the heart of raising student standards is in intervention.
Academic intervention, sometimes called remediation, includes a variety of activities that are designed to help students who are having trouble in school. These activities can include one-on-one tutoring, additional instructional time, specialized teaching and other approaches. Many school systems couple intervention with increased communication with parents and stronger attempts to enlist parents as partners in supporting student learning.
Since North Carolina's ABCs of Public Education program started in 1996-97, and especially since the start of Student Accountability Standards this year, many schools have stepped up efforts to help students who are having academic difficulties. In fact, a recent survey of local school districts by the Department of Public Instruction showed that at least 70 of the 117 local districts had enough experience with intervention to determine which efforts had been the most successful.
The most popular intervention strategies include the following: Saturday academies, before- and after-school tutoring, intensive one-on-one tutoring with trained adults, frequent assessments followed by immediate remediation of subject material that students did not learn, summer school with small classes and individual education plans for students below grade level.
Cumberland County Schools Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instructional Programs Dr. Paris Jones said they've experienced remarkable results with their "Project 2001" intervention program. "Project 2001" is a summer remediation program designed to provide the extended time needed by students scoring below grade level. Principals contract with teachers to provide small group tutoring - one teacher per five students at any given time. The sessions last approximately two hours and are held four days each week. "All students have their own set of unique needs," Jones said. "The old summer school model just didn't cut it because it couldn't provide that personal touch. With smaller sessions, students are better able to achieve and be successful." Jones added that another benefit of the program is that the tutoring is brought as close to the children as possible. "We may hold sessions in a church, a recreation department or a community building. By doing this we cut down on transportation costs while helping facilitate attendance."
Hertford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Stone credits a number of intervention programs for the steady progress his schools are making. "We offer a two-week intersession period - one in the fall and one in the spring - for students performing below grade level. We hire teachers who have experienced a lot of success in increasing student achievement growth to work in a 1 - 10 group setting. At the same time, students performing at or above grade level participate in social studies and science enrichment activities," Stone said. He added that he requires principals, central office staff and himself to teach during one of the intersession periods. "It helps us keep in touch with teaching."
Other activities the school system has employed include an extended school calendar (184 instructional days); Achievement Nights where parents receive information on their child's progress, learn about the school's goals and objectives for the year, and can take a practice end-of-grade test; and parental inclusion as partners in their child's education. Stone said, "It's important for parents - no matter what their education level may be - to understand that there are things they can do at home to support what their children are learning at school. Learning is not just the school's job, it's a parent's job as well, and we work better together."
Although the statewide Student Accountability Standards are only in effect for fifth graders (third and eighth graders are included next year), local school districts have been using intervention strategies for a long time. Catawba County Schools Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Nancy Yount said that they have always been serious about intervention. "All Student Accountability Standards did was bring intervention to the forefront of public awareness. Student achievement is our business. It always has been and always will be," Yount said.
For more information on the state's Student Accountability Standards, please go to DPI's Web site, www.ncpublicschools.org, and look under "What's Going On." Many local school districts' standards also are available at this location.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.