Colonial educators present at state Title I conference
Colonial School District had a strong presence at the Pennsylvania Title I Improving School Performance Conference held in Pittsburgh the first week of February, with educators from both Conshohocken and Plymouth elementary schools delivering presentations.
Conshohocken Principal Denise Marks and teacher Amy Campbell were selected to present their topic, “What’s Data Got to Do With It?” Their presentation will showcase what they are doing to improve academic achievement among students.
“We wanted to highlight what we do here. We are proud of how we look at data from student to student,” said Mrs. Campbell, who is also the school’s Lead Elementary Facilitator.
Conshohocken Elementary’s third-graders performed well on the 2022-23 (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), the standardized test that is one of the components used by the state to determine if schools are meeting academic targets. Eighty-three percent of Conshohocken’s students were proficient or advanced in English Language Arts (ELA), which represented a 14 percent gain from the 2021-22 school year.
Mrs. Marks attributes this growth to her school’s collaborative approach to scheduling, which involves all the staff members working together to determine how they will meet the needs of every individual student. Sometimes that means getting creative with how teachers and reading specialists meet with students.
In addition, Mrs. Campbell noted that schools must be comfortable with really digging into the data, even when the numbers indicate challenges.
“Data tells a story about a child in a different way,” she said. “As a building, we have done a good job of figuring out how to understand it and act on it and share information with (parents/guardians),” she said.
Also presenting at the conference are Plymouth Elementary School Reading Specialists Liz Morris and Jennifer Ramsden, who were selected to share their expertise related to the “Active View of Reading.” This reader model is tied to the District’s recent implementation of structured literacy, looking beyond the Simple View of Reading, a bridge that recognizes other skills are needed in addition to decoding (word recognition) and comprehension in order for a student to be a successful reader.
The two have been working with teachers to emphasize that the greatest learning for a beginning reader occurs when a variety of different skills merge together because learning to read is not just about recognizing words or understanding what they mean. Having “executive functioning” skills, such as being able to stay on task or manage time well, is also important as a student develops literacy.
“They could be doing everything right and not have the product they expect,” said Mrs. Ramsden. “We’re hoping to shed light into why that might be.”
The reading specialists are also sharing information about some school-wide initiatives at Plymouth that have allowed for family and student engagement in reading and literacy: One Plymouth, One Book and the Story Path. The One Book One Plymouth initiative is a shared reading experience across all grade levels, where each family receives the same book to read at home and is provided with tips for reinforcing reading strategies learned at school. A kick-off for this is planned for Feb. 29 at 6 p.m. (click here for information). The Story Path is a permanent installation outside the school where pages of a book are spread out over a trail. A different book is shared each month, and classrooms are invited to walk the path to read the books, which are tied to emphasize different reading standards. Families are also free to visit the story path on their own.
Mrs. Morris said Plymouth has also created new ways to implement book clubs, where students do a “book tasting” and group themselves based on the title they want to read. Activities like the book club help increase student motivation and accountability toward reading, and they hold themselves to higher standards as a result.
“We were able to get some new titles that got all the learners excited,” she said.