Middle School Beats the Odds

There’s a can-do attitude coursing through Godwin Heights Middle School’s classrooms that’s leading to some very positive results for teachers and students.

The school is achieving never-before results because teachers are focused intently on building positive relationships with students and keeping students informed daily on how well they’re grasping their lessons.

Teachers do this through frequent interaction with each student and things like online gradebooks.

The intentional work has paid off. The middle school can declare itself a Beating The Odds School, according to the Michigan Department of Education. The distinction is based on the fall 2013 Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) scores that validate good results from new strategies helping students learn and achieve.

What’s a Beating The Odds school?

Beating The Odds means the school is among 55 statewide that are out-performing similar schools, despite high rates of poverty and other factors that can be barriers to learning. The state’s Top-to-Bottom ranking
of schools allows some to be considered Reward Schools. These are made up of three categories: High Performing, High Progress and the category this middle school falls under, Beating the Odds.

“Our kids are engaged in what we’re doing and they know it’s a safe place for them, which has lowered absenteeism,” said Renae Hackley, a sixth-grade teacher. “We started a school-wide positive behavior program and students are being rewarded for making right choices. We’re focusing on kids doing the right thing and that’s causing a chain reaction. Teachers are spending one-on-one time with them, holding them accountable. Our students come here and they know there’s somebody they can rely on and trust.”

Godwin Middle School Principal Jeff Johnson said there’s an optimism reverberating throughout the middle school that’s boosting students’ morale because teachers are interacting with them in positive, affirming ways. “We want to make sure we’re doing what’s best for kids by building relationships and making sure we’re providing effective instruction,” said Johnson.

In a real sense, the MEAP results have simply confirmed goals the middle school staff knew it could achieve.

Keeping track

“If we’re keeping track of our kids’ performance and the type of work they’re doing, we know our kids are achieving,” said Johnson. “An important part is the kids having that accountability. We all should know how they’re doing through day-to-day instruction.”

Teachers share the performance with families, too, making a habit to call parents or guardians to let them know of the good choices or accomplishments their children have made.

“This constant assessment, whether it be verbal, written or visual, will indicate to a teacher if an understanding or achievement is taking place,” said Johnson. “Having constant checks for understanding in a variety of ways, to meet the needs of all students, is essential for a true understanding of where students are in their learning.”

“Instead of planning instruction for the class, we plan instruction for the student,” said Johnson. “Understanding who our learners are is an important part of this process.” He explained this includes realizing each student has a different learning style and a background that is different from other students.

“Our district has put an emphasis on making sure we understand our students.”

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