A.D. Rundle middle school has taken matters into its own hands to enhance the success of its students.
This year the school rolled out a new math and reading program called Success Blocks, in which all students and teachers participate.
It’s not a learning assistance program, but a remediation and retention program.
That means struggling students, middle-of-the-road students, and high achievers are all getting the supports they need to succeed. As well, all teachers, not just math and English, are teaching the program.
“We’re not singling anyone out,” said principal Paula Gosal. “Were making sure we’re meeting every students’ needs … not just the students who are struggling.”
Success Blocks is held twice a week during a 49-minute block that was previously used for silent reading. The first term was for mathematics and the second for reading and writing.
Back in October, all students were tested in numeracy and then streamed into a class suited to their needs. Some classes had students working at a higher grade, while others had students going back to the basics and foundations of mathematics.
“We’re seeing an incredible number of kids coming into our schools without foundational skills,” said teacher Lee-Anne Clarke, coordinator of the program.
It’s not just an A.D. Rundle phenomenon, it’s happening at schools everywhere.
Students entering middle school scoring significantly below their grade level for math; writing sentences without capitalization or periods; choosing books at a reading level far below where they should be.
And with teachers required to push curriculums through, many of those students already struggling often fall further behind.
With Success Blocks, there is no designated curriculum, no tests, no boring worksheets, no homework. The only directive is to ensure all students become comfortable with the three Rs.
For math, that comfortability was accomplished through game-based learning.
Counting money in Monopoly. Adding and subtracting in cribbage. Forming sequences in rummy and bridge.
Preliminary results have shown success.
Following the math semester, all students were again tested; the results showed an increase in understanding anywhere from two to 20 per cent.
“Which is phenomenal,” said Gosal.
Add to that the anecdotal evidence:
Students, who at the beginning of the year groaned about having to do more math, now begging for it over reading and writing.
Students coming into teacher Alisha Need’s math class at lunch requesting a deck of playing cards.
“I’ve never had that before,” the teacher said, her eyes lighting up.
And the three teenaged boys, who Gosal saw reading to one another. Boys, who their principal described as being more hands-on learners than quiet readers, typical teenaged boys, who bound with energy and enjoy pushing boundaries, but who, on this particular day, were squished together on a bench taking turns reading and respectively listening to one another.
“A few of my boys who you wouldn’t expect to be so engaged reading and listening,” said Gosal.
“That blew me away. They wanted to do this.”
As do their teachers.
The program was rolled out in fast action last fall, and already, staff has unanimously supported bringing it back next year.
“It’s about improving learning,” said Clarke.