Various Washington County schools finding success in team teaching
Northern Middle School teachers, from left, Donna Almany, Elizabeth Lewis, Sandy Miller and Principal Mike Chilcutt, holding a Kindle which will be a prize in a reading challenge for their students. (By Yvette May/Staff Photographer / July 15, 2012)
During the last school year, “If you were to come in the building, it would not be strange to see a couple extra adults in a room,” Principal Mike Chilcutt said.
That extra adult, whether a teacher or administrator, might work one-on-one with a student or work with a small group of students who need help in a specific area, Chilcutt said.
Success requires more than just an extra adult, he said.
“We make it very clear. You can’t just throw another human being in there and think the results are going to change,” Chilcutt said.
The co-teaching effort works because it fosters a collaborative culture and helps educators evaluate students’ academic data to determine in what areas students need help, Chilcutt said.
One group of data that educators use includes results of the Maryland School Assessment tests, results that improved for Northern Middle this past school year in part because of collaborative teaching and other initiatives at the school, Chilcutt said.
A year ago, Northern Middle was deemed to be in “school improvement” because it missed proficiency standards for two consecutive years, 2010 and 2011.
The state of Maryland received a waiver from the more stringent No Child Left Behind standards, meaning the targets that public schools had to meet for the 2012 assessment test results were more realistic, Washington County Public Schools officials said.
Northern Middle exceeded the new targets for math and reading, and improved its percentages of students who were at least at the “proficient” level in math and reading from 2011 to 2012.
The percentage of students who scored at least “proficient” in math improved from 74.7 percent in 2011 to 83.5 percent in 2012, while the percentage of students who scored at least “proficient” in reading went up from 79.6 percent to 83.6 percent, according to Maryland State Department of Education’s website at www.mdreportcard.org.
The 83.5 percent of students who tested at “proficient” in math marked the highest measure of success the school has had for math, “so I feel really good about that,” Chilcutt said.
Northern Middle is one of five county schools participating in a pilot teacher-evaluation program that takes into account student achievement in evaluating participating teachers and administrators. Financial bonuses are tied to good evaluations.
The other schools in the pilot program are Western Heights Middle School, and Fountaindale, Salem Avenue, and Winter Street elementary schools. Those schools were chosen because of their high free and reduced-price meal rates, a measure of poverty.
Part of the pilot program is a teaching model that promotes more hands-on lessons for students, which leads to deeper engagement for students, Chilcutt said.
The school also used federal grant money to provide three instructional assistants to help classroom teachers at Northern Middle, Chilcutt said. One of them helps in English classes, one helps with math, and the third helps with students whose primary language is not English, he said.
Lead teachers and administrators, including Chilcutt, also help co-teach students, he said.
“I teach eighth grade, so now I know so many seventh-graders already because I worked with them last year,” Lewis said. “It’s pretty neat the things that we’ve done.”
The collaborative spirit was buoyed four years ago when teachers started planning together, Lewis said.