Building-level Achievement Teams offer help to individual students

From AAPSNews Service

Achievement Teams have been active and working in each Ann Arbor Public Schools building over the past two school years, put in place to monitor student progress and offer assistance when struggling students need help.

The teams are comprised of teachers, administrators and other staff who meet regularly in each school to assess the needs of individual students in their school buildings.

Achievement Teams just finished their third year of operation in the district and more than 3,226 students have been touched through the process, according to district statistics. That number includes about half who are elementary age students and the other half  secondary.

The program includes a specially designed database created by the school district that allows staff and teachers to follow a student throughout his or her career in the Ann Arbor Public Schools and find methods to help the student be more successful.

“Staff in any building you walk into, K-12, would know about the Achievement Team process,” said Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Joyce Hunter. “Anybody who pulls that child’s name up (in the database) can see what has been done from grade-to-grade. They can see what we are doing to support that child.”

The Achievement Team process was researched for more than one year before being put into place in August 2008. It is one of many ways the school district is addressing the achievement gap by looking an individualized student plans and making changes to the culture of the school district.

‘Anybody who pulls that child’s name up (in the database) can see what has been done from grade-to-grade. They can see what we are doing to support that child.’
– Joyce Hunter, AAPS assistant superintendent for secondary education

This process is part of the district’s ongoing Strategic Plan, specifically part of Strategy 2, which looks at personalized learning plans for individual students as well as other strategies which look at equity and eliminating achievement gaps.

The district is also working toward implementing an overall Achievement Gap Elimination Plan, which was discussed at the board committee level in the fall and, more recently, during a full board study session on June 15, when a first reading of the plan was presented. It is being reviewed by building-level School Improvement Teams and Equity Teams before being posted on the district website.

Interim Deputy Superintendent for Instructional Services Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley shared achievement data and told the board that the plan would raise expectations and achievement of all students while the district focused on improvements in specific groups.

She said the Achievement Teams are part of this process and play a great role. “Students are making greater progress,” she said. She noted that the Achievement Teams are serving the general student population better and that they have reduced referrals into special education.

Dickinson-Kelley leaves the district at the end of this month, retiring after 38 years with the Ann Arbor Public Schools. She said she is pleased that many initiatives addressing student achievement are being put in place and will continue on after her retirement. “We are positioned to do very good things,” she said of Ann Arbor.

The Achievement Teams assist general education students who need extra attention during their educational careers in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Hunter said before rolling the program out, she visited each school twice and then brought staff into a central location so that they could share information with each other.

Hunter said the number of students served by the Achievement Team varies by building – “some did a lot (with it) right away, others didn’t know how to schedule it and figured out how to do it,” she said. This spring, the district will assess how the program is being used, she said.

The district’s Informational Technology and Instructional Services departments worked together to design the special database being used by the Achievement Teams, piloting it last year and putting it into place in the 2010-11 school year.

The database follows each child needing assistance through their years in the district so that anyone can view the history, notes and other interventions done over the years.

The idea for the database is that it will carry over from grade to grade, Hunter said. “We’ll be able to see trends that might merit a closer look.”

Overall, the program has been well received in the schools. “I think it’s going well,” Hunter said. “The idea that these students are getting much more personal attention – that’s not been something we’ve done in the past. It’s going to continue on.”

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