By Tamra Taylor, Superintendent Live Oak School District
It is with great pride that I share with the community that our three elementary schools: Del Mar, Green Acres, and Live Oak, recently received the Gold Ribbon Award designation from the California Department of Education. The Gold Ribbon Award is one way the State celebrates outstanding educational programs and practices through its California School Recognition Program. In order to compete for this award, each school was required to submit a lengthy application which described their model program or practice that specifically meets the academic needs of their specific student population.
Del Mar Elementary School’s model program combines Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops with “Accountable Talk” in order to achieve the Common Core State Standards in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Reader’s Workshop is a teaching method in which the goal is to explicitly teach students strategies to become more skillful at comprehending text. It involves students in authentic reading experiences that focus on the strengths and needs of each individual student through differentiated instruction.
Readers Workshop emphasizes the importance of student engagement and the interaction between readers and the text. Writer’s Workshop is a highly effective format for process writing instruction that incorporates authentic practices within a consistent structure.
Accountable Talk consists of three aspects: Accountability to the Learning Community, Accountability to Accurate Knowledge, and Accountability to Rigorous Thinking. Accountability to the Learning Community is about how students talk to and with each other. Accountability to Accurate Knowledge is about what students discuss. Accountability to Rigorous Thinking is about how students use their accurate knowledge to build a logical and coherent line of argument. As a result of this approach, Del Mar has shown a closing in their students’ achievement gap in the English language arts.
Green Acres Elementary School uses a “Walk to Learn” model of Response to Intervention. All students in grades 1-5 have literacy Response to Intervention time 4-5 days per week for 40 minutes. During this time, all students go to an instructional group at their instructional reading level as determined by their assessment data. The Walk to Learn model was chosen because it was fluid, addressed the needs of all students, and involved classroom teachers as well as specialists: creating a tiered web of support.
“We were concerned about every student receiving targeted skill level instruction and we also did not want a pull out program where some students missed core classroom instruction. Another motivation was that we wanted all teachers and students to participate in the program so there would be no stigma about going out of the classroom to receive additional instruction. The added benefit is that we are also able to address the needs of our above level students.”
As students’ phonics skill has increased at the lower grades, the school has been able to begin fluency and comprehension instruction sooner and have also been able to expand the number of “above level” groups who are studying text structures to improve their reading comprehension of complex text.
Live Oak Elementary School also highlighted their Response to Intervention (RtI) program which serves all students in the school. At the foundation of the program is a research & evidence based literacy program called SIPPS– Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight words. This foundation in phonics helps all students learn to read, decode and comprehend English, but is especially critical for the 65% of students who are English learners. The outcome of the RTI program is a strong safety net for students who need help and a school where no one falls through the cracks.
“We are accountable to the school community because we routinely review data at team meetings throughout the year, and we have intervention records for all students in RTI. Students who do not need small group intervention are also supported because their teachers are able to provide reading work for them that is at or above grade level during the RTI time block. In this way teachers and parents can feel confident that their student is getting what they need. We can show that school-wide achievement has risen as a result of the RTI program.”
We are very proud of Del Mar Elementary, Green Ares Elementary, and Live Oak Elementary. There will be an award ceremony in May, which the three principals and I will attend to receive each school’s plaque designating them as a Gold Ribbon School. I want to heartily congratulate each of these schools — their principals, teachers, and staff for their hard work and commitment, which has now been recognized by the state. Job well done!