When West Side Elementary and High School dismiss students early this year, there are two primary goals: (1) Coordinate the effort of academic teams so that students improve academically, and (2) Conduct coordinated staff development time with the entire staff.
West Side will be dismissing early at 2 p.m. on mostly the first and third Fridays, although some were removed because of other school calendar considerations. The dates of early dismissal are September 17, Oct. 1 and 15, Nov. 5 and 19, Dec. 3, Jan. 7 & 21, Feb 4 & 25, March 4 and 18, April 1 and 15, May 6 and 20. On those days, students should be picked up from campus at 2 p.m., and buses will run 1 hour 10 minutes early.
This will be the first year that West Side engages fully in Professional Learning Communities, a school-improvement process system that is focused exclusively on four basic questions and how the school will respond:
What do we want our students to know and be able to do?
Determine the Essential Standards
How will we know if they can?
Regular Formative Assessments
What will we do if they can’t?
Re-teach and offer other assistance
What will we do if they already can?
West Side uses the Arkansas Curriculum Frameworks for determining the “I can…” statements in each course. That means, at the end of the course, students in U.S. History, for example, should be able to demonstrate that “I can ‘explain the changing role of the United States in the world from 1890-1930 and the effects on future eras.’ ”
Academic researchers have determined that it would take far more than 12 months of instruction per year to adequately teach all of the learning objectives in a given course. For that reason, the PLC process focuses on identifying the “essential standards,” or must-know objectives, of each course. The essential standards become the “guaranteed” curriculum for all students. The objectives listed in the essential standards of each subject takes precedence over other learning standards because they are the things students should be able to do or know in order to move to the next course.
Homework, quizzes, and tests determine if students have met the learning objectives. “Formative assessments,” given frequently, will tell teachers whether students have mastered the essential standards and are ready to move to the next set of learning objectives or whether the teacher must re-teach. In some cases, students will receive even more intense academic interventions.
Significant educational research shows that the PLC process at the heart of the early dismissal by West Side will yield significant academic gains, and the PLC structure will ensure a systemic evaluation and response to student academic performance.