As a student in Mexico, Jose Miranda was always at the top of his class. In Spanish, as a fourth grader, he read at a high school reading level, and scored high in every subject.
But when Jose moved to the United States last year, everything changed. In English, his grades plummeted. Classmates bullied and teased him for falling behind. According to his mother, Jose stopped wanting to go to school and hit a complete slump. That’s when a friend of Jose’s mother recommended she enroll him in Rod Kelley Elementary.
All means all — Supporting every student’s growth
Nearly two-thirds of the students at Rod Kelley Elementary are low-income and Latino, and they have effectively closed the achievement gap in English and math for these students. 6 out of 10 of low-income Latino students are on grade level in math, compared to 2 out of 10 low-income Latino students across the Bay Area. Similarly, 5 out of 10 of them are on grade level in English, compared to 3 out of 10 low-income Latino students across the Bay Area. This qualified them for our Top Schools list for the third year in a row.
School leader Maritza Salcido believes her school has accomplished these results by focusing both on proficiency and improvement, and refusing to leave any student behind.
“I know when I was teaching, [administrators] would always tell us to focus on those kids that are “almost there.” It would bother me that they were implying that those kids were where you’d get the most bang for your buck, that they were where we should put our energy, because those kids can make it,” said Salcido, “And I just hated that philosophy.”
So during Salcido’s first year as school leader, she put more intervention resources towards the school’s lowest achieving students, and explicitly told staff members to do the same. She led with the philosophy that “some students need a little bit more, and some students need less” depending on their starting point. But all students, at all levels, should be supported and celebrated.
Using data to create a growth mindset
When Jose arrived at Rod Kelly, teachers meticulously used data to track Jose’s incremental growth. There is a danger in relying heavily on data when it’s not done well. When not paired with a safe culture where teachers and students emphasize growth, data can lead students to feeling shame, anxiety, and a sense of failure. But at Rod Kelly, teachers used data to help students celebrate the small steps towards achieving their personal goals.
Every trimester, teachers set student goals based on his previous trimester’s scores on school-wide assessments. Suddenly, Jose entered a school culture where his low scores in English were not a source of shame, but instead an opportunity to learn where to grow.
“What I’ve heard from students in other places in my career as an educator is ‘Ugh, I didn’t get that score because I’m dumb.’ Here, instead I hear ‘I didn’t annotate.’ or ‘I didn’t check the text twice.’ They can identify the area of growth. “Here, a teacher won’t say “You got the wrong answer.” Or “You got the lowest percentage” but instead ‘What can you do next time to improve?’” said Salcido, “That’s just something that’s kind of instilled in the kids. It’s not about success or failure. It’s about the perseverance to take those small steps towards success.”
Eva Montano, a third grade teacher at Rod Kelley, says students don’t use data to create pressure or competition among each other, but instead to help them learn and celebrate together: “Students think ‘I’m the one competing against myself and against my scores to better myself. But I’m not competing against others.’”
This exemplifies the growth mindset that’s shared by teachers and students. The dual-language structure of the school also helps frame this kind of messaging. At Rod Kelley, students could observe how Jose’s reading level switched based on language. By constantly seeing how a student can lead or struggle at different times, students begin to understand the need to support each other.
“They know they have to have that interdependence,” says Salcido. “They understand “If I’m really great at this, that means that I should share my talents with other students. Then when I switch, I expect that to be given back to me.”
Using data to inform instruction
Teachers also feel invested in using data because they see how it improves their practice. “We want to look at the numbers, so we know whatever it is we are doing that’s working, or so we can decide “No, you know what? We need to sit back and take another look at this,’” said Montano.
Creating this supportive culture around data has led to promising results for English Language Learners like Jose. Just six months into his time at Rod Kelley, Jose made three years of growth.
“I just see a different child,” said Salcido. “Our school opened up his ability to know that he’s not any less smart than he was in Mexico. He just has some challenges, and he has the support of the class and teachers to overcome them.”
What counts — Quick tips from the Rod Kelley team:
Create rituals for students to monitor their own growth
Students have their reading level marked on the bookmarks they use while reading. When we asked Jose about his progress, he could explain to us explicitly his reading level growth in both Spanish and English. Salcido says that whenever she walks through campus, she hears students telling each other their scores on assessment: “They’ve very aware of how much they’ve improved.”
Use formative assessments every day to guide instruction
Teachers incorporate simple assessments throughout the day that help them gauge what students have learned. For example, teachers end classes with “exit tickets” that provide specific and quick data about how many students understood the lesson, and what needs to be retaught. Because of this, teachers know how students are doing toward mastering their goals every day, rather than two or three times a year.
Keep parents informed
Every trimester, the school sends parents a report that plots their student’s progress. The report shows parents where their student started and what level they’re currently at now.
Build a staff culture of using data to improve
Salcido understands that she can’t ask her teachers to commit to data-driven instruction without also providing the time and support to do it well. So she used staff professional development time to give space for teachers to look at data together and collaborate on how to move forward. When teachers meet in smaller instructional teams, they constantly use data to plan next steps. Teachers are so bought-in to this idea that when asked about data-driven instruction, teachers like Montano say: “It’s just the way we do things here.”
This profile explores one of the six pillars of our World-class Schools Framework. Learn more here.