1Needs Assessment~ Mae GuerraProblemPlace Middle School students in grade 7 are failing to meet the requirements of theColorado Model Content Standards in writing. Denver Public Schools conducts aBenchmark pre-assessment in the fall and a mid-year and a post-assessment in the spring.Currently at Place, students are failing to score proficient on the post assessment andtherefore are failing to meet the requirements of the Colorado Model Content Standards.Curriculum FitPlace Middle School students score below grade level in the following writing standards: Standard 2: Students write and speak for a variety of purposes and audiences. Standard 3: Students write and speak using conventional grammar, usage, sentencestructure, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.(CO Dept. of Education, 2005-2006)In this needs assessment my primary role is to document the interventions made andprogress students make in the area of writing. The expected outcome is to discern the gapsin student learning and design/adapt a curriculum that will allow students to be successfulin meeting Colorado Model Content Standards and as well as maintain grade levelexpectations.Local Data Collection & AnalysisIn 2005-2006, Place Middle School was rated "Low" by the Colorado Department ofEducation for the middle school level. The Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP)tests students skills in reading, writing and mathematics in grades 3 through 10 and inscience in grades 5, 8 and 10. On the CSAP 26% of 7th grade Place Middle School studentsscored at or above proficient level on the writing portion of the CSAP assessment. Thatmeans that 74% of seventh graders at Place middle school are below grade level standardsin writing. The Federal No Child Left Behind states that Place Middle School did not makeadequate yearly progress in 2005-2006 and the state Department of Education identifiedthis school as "in need of improvement, Year 2" for 2006-2007. (CO Dept. of Education,2005-2006)
2Gap AnalysisThe Studio writing curriculum that Denver Public Schools has been using fails to addressgrammar and writing mechanics necessary for writing proficient essays. The ideal state atPlace would be that students would be proficient at writing essays that demonstratedproper sentence structure, correct punctuation, and capitalization. The actual state at thisschool is that students do not consistently demonstrate these skills based on CSAP scores.Multiple CausesThere are three key factors that add to a large percentage of seventh graders performingpoorly. One such factor is that students lack needed organizational skills necessary foracademic success. Currently, 68% of students at Place Middle School are on free orreduced lunch and lack the appropriate guidance at home in preparing for school each day.Because of this, they are consistently missing required materials for class. Two, basicgrammar skills are below grade level as determined by the pre-essay assessment given toall students the first week of school. Third, classroom teachers are asked to teach at gradelevel with curriculum that does not support student’s needs in grammar and punctuation.Other factors that contribute to the lack of student success on test scores are: inconsistencyof staff, student mobility, students arriving late to class, lack of parent support, large classsize and low staff morale. Another strong factor in low scores has to do with family incomelevel. The students participating in free or reduced-price lunch program at Place is 68%compared to the State average of 32%. There is a strong correlation between low-testscores and the lowest income schools as indicated in the article, “Whats facing Denverschools” from the Denver Post.Our analysis found that DPSs lowest-income schools - those most in need of academicgrowth - have shown little progress on the CSAP since the tests inception in 1996. Whilesome CSAP gains have occurred, they have been disproportionately in the districts highest-income schools. As a result, the achievement gap in the district has widened, despite aconcerted effort over the past few years to narrow it. (Gottlieb & Schoales, 2005) Toincrease scores on Benchmark tests we must consider the previously listed factors facingour students and we must find methods in resolving these issues.Non-Educational AlternativesThere are some non-educational alternatives that may solve some of the deficiencies inwriting. These alternatives consist of eating a good breakfast, going to bed at a reasonablehour, getting to school on time and acquiring the necessary materials for class. Althoughsome of these alternatives are out of an educators control it is worthy to note that thesenon-educational alternatives could contribute to solving some of the deficiencies in writing.
3Values and PrioritiesPlace Middle School has written a school improvement plan due to the low overallacademic performance on CSAP. It is recommended that teachers prioritize the immediateneeds of the students and formulate a plan of action to address any educational gaps withinthe curriculum. Teachers also have high values in correcting these deficiencies as requiredby the school improvement plan. At our school, teachers are given a great amount ofautonomy in designing new curriculum that supports the school improvement plan.Determined Need/RecommendationThe need is to improve student achievement in the areas of reading and writing andimprove test scores. One method that can resolve writing deficiencies is to find what is andwhat is not successful with students on the Benchmark assessments and determinealternative positive interventions. Another recommendation for action is to design acurriculum that addresses writing deficiencies through the use of graphic organizers, DailyOral Language practice sessions, grammar lessons, and the use of the 6 traits of writingmodel.The 6 trait writing model helps students understand what is working well and what needsto be improved in their writing. This model gives teachers a focus for their writinginstruction and gives all a common language for talking about and celebrating writing. Themodel also breaks down writing performance into a manageable group of teachable andassessable skills. A key focus of the recommended action is to provide effective feedback tostudents and to develop self-assessment skills in students so that they make improvementsin their own drafts. Current research supports the claim that immediate feedback on essaywriting increases student achievement (Natriello, 1987; Crooks, 1988; Black & William,1998). This is also supported by Marzano’s (2003) synthesis of 35 years of research oneffective schools. In his research he identified a set of 11 strategies that characterize high-achieving schools. Effective monitoring and feedback of assessment information tostudents was ranked 2nd out of the 11 characteristics. Marzano also identified a number offeatures of feedback that make it successful:• Feedback needs to be judicious throughout the learning process• Use specific feedback to the content being learned• Align feedback with assessment• Feedback needs to be formative in natureThe recommended action in this needs assessment is to design a curriculum thatmeets all these criteria by helping students internalize and use feedback to generate theirown feedback as they work through their own process of writing.
4ReferencesBlack, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment inEducation: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5(1), 7–74.Crooks, T.J. (1988). The impact of classroom evaluation practices on students. Review ofEducational Research, 58(4), 438–481.Gottlieb, Alan, Schoales, Van (2005). Whats facing Denver schools? Retrieved February 4,2007, from Study points to problems and fixes Web site: http://nychold.com/art-denverpost-050703a.htmlMarzano, R.J. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research into action.Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Natriello, G. (1987). The impact of evaluation processes on students. EducationalPsychologist, 22(2), 155–175.