Beginning in 2001, there was a unique collaboration between the superintendent, the community superintendent, and the unions representing teachers, supporting services, and administrators, which jointly made a commitment to increase student achievement at Broad Acres Elementary School. The outcome of this collaboration was Montgomery County’s formulation of a plan to restructure Broad Acres Elementary School by focusing on instruction, teacher recruitment, teacher training and community outreach.
In the spring of 2000, results of state testing showed that students at Broad Acres were performing at very low levels. Scores on Maryland State Performance Assessment Program tests were similar to those of schools being taken over by the state: only 11.8% of third graders were proficient in reading and only 5.3% showed proficiency in math, while at fifth grade, 21% were proficient in reading and 15% in math.
In the spring of 2001, school staff, in cooperation with district and union leaders, undertook a three-year program to internally restructure the school. By 2004, 75% of third graders demonstrated reading proficiency on the new Maryland State Assessment and 67% demonstrated math proficiency. Fifth grade students showed comparable gains: 54% demonstrated reading proficiency and 60% math proficiency. Similarly, the 2004 CTBS scores for second graders were on par with some of the highest-performing schools in Montgomery County, showing increases of 26% to 70%.
During restructuring, the demographics of the student population remained substantially the same. The children at Broad Acres Elementary School came from all over the world, representing 31 countries and speaking 28 languages. The student population was:
- 64% Hispanic
- 23% African, West Indian, or African American
- 13% Asian
- >1% white
While over 25% of the students received English Language Learner support, it is estimated that over 75% of our families spoke a language other than English in their homes. The mobility rate was about 30% and almost 90% of the students received free and reduced-price meals. While demographics did not change during restructuring, the students at Broad Acres learned at consistently higher levels and sustained this achievement throughout the period.
Standards Based Curriculum - There is data driven instruction and a school-wide, indicator focus to ensure that all students learn grade level or above grade level curriculum content. The standards based curriculum allows for acceleration and intervention. The School Improvement Plan includes tasks to accelerate at least ten percent of the students at each grade level. Currently over twenty percent of second graders are being instructed at a third grade level in math, while over fifteen percent of third graders receive fifth grade level instruction.
Increased instructional time, using every minute of the school day for a reading/social studies block and a math/science block. Walk into any classroom and you will see students totally immersed in their academic work, teachers working with students, systems well in place to handle classroom routines. Instruction at BA is without interruptions. Assemblies, cultural arts, and ceremonies are activities that take place outside of the school day, inviting the community, to avoid interference with the laser sharp focus on meaningful instruction.
All Day Kindergarten- At Broad Acres Elementary School and countywide, the expectations for kindergarten students have increased significantly with an emphasis on mastery in reading and math. These increased expectations begin in Head Start and Pre-Kindergarten classes, which are particularly important to the majority of students at Broad Acres, as they often provide our students with their first exposure to formal English. The MCPS Assessment Program demonstrates that while Broad Acres Kindergarten students enter below their counterparts in other MCPS schools, at the end of their Kindergarten year, they are competitive with their peers.
Reduced Class Size - Students have benefited from reduced class sizes at grades K-2 and Title I staffing is used to lower class size in grades 3-5 and provide students with focused interventions. Classes which once were as large as thirty students now remain no larger than 15 at kindergarten, 17 at grades one and two, and twenty at grades 3, 4, and 5. This reduction in class size enables our teachers to maximize student potential by giving specific feedback, meeting individual student needs and nurturing students as learners.
The instructional program is monitored closely using multiple data points. School wide reading level databases have been created to monitor reading level progress in all grade levels. All primary literacy teachers enter running record data twice monthly in order for individual teachers, content experts and vertical teams to analyze and plan for instruction. In addition, our upper grade teachers also monitor the reading levels of students by either entering running record data or informal reading assessments to determine the reading levels of individual students.
The Montgomery County Public School Assessment Program (MCPSAP) has allowed the literacy teachers to make monthly targeted projections based on the end of the year reading level benchmarks. This focused analysis of data about student achievement drives even greater determination to meet the needs of all of our students to achieve on or above level expectations.
As a result of this progress-tracking, a number of our first grade students participate in the Reading Recovery Program. This program provides individual support to students. In addition, our Reading Recovery Teachers have been consultants to the primary literacy team.
Math spreadsheets are used to track student computation skills, as well as their indicator level skills. In addition MCPS math unit assessment data provides a comparison of student performance relative to that of students in other schools.
The Instructional Management System (IMS) provides teachers with up-to-date information about indicators, standards, resources, as well as student, class, and grade level data.
In April 2001, all staff at Broad Acres Elementary School had the option to make a three-year commitment to the school and its students. This commitment included working the equivalent of 15 extra days paid by a supplement to be used to extend the workday every Wednesday until 6:00 p.m. for planning sessions, study groups, and examining student work. Sixty percent of the staff elected to stay. New staff with a shared vision and commitment were hired and almost all have elected to stay for a fourth year. Those leaving now at the end of their three year commitment are moving to administration, staff development teacher positions, GT teacher, and ESOL teaching opportunities where they will serve the system well, taking with them the knowledge and skills gained at Broad Acres.
The Skillful Teacher course was required for all instructional staff as a group and subsequent additions to the staff are required to take the course so that everyone is speaking the same instructional language and maintaining the same expectations for effort.
Content experts (reading specialist, math content coach, GT specialist, and academic support specialist) were trained in the Observation and Analysis of Teaching (OAT) to provide consistent feedback to teachers on instruction.
The staff development teacher position provides focused staff development with the expectation that all staff become experts in their content areas.
The Professional Growth System supplies clear expectations for standards of instruction and teachers are aware of expectations towards the six standards.
Bienvenido, Chao Mung, Bienvenue are the words of welcome that begin each parent meeting at Broad Acres Elementary School. The Broad Acres ES media center has books in four languages - English, Spanish, Vietnamese and French. Parents are encouraged to come to the library to borrow books to read at home to their children. We know that children benefit from being read to in any language and encourage parents to proudly read aloud to their children in their native language. Parent classes are offered to extend their literacy skills in their own languages as well as reading in English. Title I funds are used to support the School Improvement Plan parent involvement goal. Bilingual staff (Spanish, Vietnamese, French) are available and accessible to welcome parents, provide needed info about schooling, foster communication and trust in Broad Acres ES. Written communication is sent home in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Broad Acres has a Parent Resource Coordinator, who has an open door policy to support parents in any way possible. Together the Parent Resource Coordinator, Linkages to Learning, and the staff at Broad Acres provide a support system for the community.
The components of the 2001 restructuring plan are crucial to the changes at Broad Acres Elementary School, but the real story is how a thoughtful, committed staff implemented the superintendent's initiatives, and continues to make difficult instructional decisions based on data and what is best for students, to ensure consistent, pervasive, and sustained improvement in student achievement.