Broad Acres Elementary School was recognized today [Monday, May 6] for continuing to make academic progress in student performance following the reorganization of the instructional program and staff at the end of the last school year to improve the educational program for a school heavily impacted by poverty and English language learners.
The school made impressive gains in kindergarten reading and mathematics skills through the first semester of this year and in the improved performance of students in Grades 2 and 4 on the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS) for 2002.
For example, kindergarten students at Broad Acres mastered early reading skills at rates that exceed the average for other MCPS schools with full-day kindergarten programs. A higher percentage of students (38.4 percent) were reading text at level 3 or higher in winter -- the target reading level for spring -- compared to all schools with full-day kindergarten programs.
County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, Board of Education Members Patricia O’Neill and Steve Abrams, State Senator Christopher Van Hollen, and Superintendent Jerry D. Weast lauded the Broad Acres faculty and staff during a press conference today in the school’s media center. Central office staff substituted while the school staff attended the event.
“Given the enormous challenges faced by this school because of poverty and lack of English language skills, the academic progress evident among its students is a reflection of their personal and individual success and the professional skills of a highly able and deeply committed instructional and support services staff, especially the principal, Ms. JoAnn A. Leleck,” said Dr. Weast in a report to the Board of Education released today.
On the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS) for 2002, Broad Acres students in Grade 2 made a 5-point gain in reading and 13-point gain in mathematics, while students in Grade 4 maintained the previous year’s achievement in reading and gained 3 points in mathematics.
Broad Acres also had a higher percentage of kindergarten students meeting standard in four of the seven mathematics skill areas than the percent among all students in 34 full-day kindergarten programs. In fact, Broad Acres had a higher percentage of students above standard in three of the seven areas, compared to the percentage among all full-day kindergarten students.
The Broad Acres’ enrollment of more than 600 students has a poverty rate of 89.5 percent, reflecting student participation in the Free and Reduced-price Meal System (FARMS) -- the highest participation rate in MCPS. More than 41 percent of students at Broad Acres are now or have been in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, compared to 23 percent systemwide. The majority of the English language learners at Broad Acres speak Spanish or Vietnamese in their homes.
Among the first to receive the early childhood education reforms implemented by the Board of Education two years ago, Broad Acres features the full-day kindergarten program with classes of 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio and reduced class sizes (17:1) in Grades 1 and 2, as well as other specialized instructional and family support services.
“The combination of poverty and learning the English language makes the school the most heavily impacted in MCPS, but there are literally dozens of other schools facing similar academic challenges,” said Dr. Weast.
Dr. Weast said the earlier reorganization of Broad Acres, which was sparked by previously declining student progress, was “a unique undertaking in the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), but in a short period of time it has proven to be rich in authentic examples of how such intervention can be replicated elsewhere in our school district.”
The Board of Education has approved the expansion of the full-day kindergarten and reduced class size initiatives to 56 elementary schools next year, compared to nine just two years ago. In addition, other academic supports in mathematics and reading are being planned for the federally funded Title I schools, including the Extended Learning Opportunity program this summer for students in kindergarten through Grade 3.
The Broad Acres reorganization last year featured a stronger emphasis on literacy, an extension of the school day and school week, and the implementation of a highly competitive teacher recruitment process that offered stipend incentives for additional work and responsibilities in order to retain a high performance team of professional educators, including many who are bilingual.
The reorganization also involved the collaboration of the school system’s employee professional organizations, including the Montgomery County Education Association, the Montgomery County Association of Administrative and Supervisory Personnel, and Montgomery County Council of Supporting Services Employees.
Parent and community outreach activities included such initiatives as the Community Bridge Project, a unique partnership with former Peace Corps volunteers, immigrant organizations, businesses, and community members who help children and families highly impacted by poverty, language, and mobility.
The gains in kindergarten were identified as part of a systemwide study of the impact of the kindergarten initiative, including the full-day instructional component, the revised kindergarten curriculum, the staff development program for kindergarten teachers, and the introduction of formative assessments during the school year.
Data from the formative assessments have been collected on student acquisition of early reading skills and, for the first time this year, data were gathered on early math skills. Such data are used by teachers to improve instructional planning, by the school system to monitor student progress, and by parents to become more informed on the progress of their children.
The conditions served by Broad Acres are becoming more common. For example, among the 56 schools that will have full-day kindergarten next year, nearly one-third have the highest ESOL population in the system (17 schools have above 31 percent of students who are now or have been in ESOL) -- including six schools above 40 percent. In the last year, the highest poverty group (comprised of students who receive free breakfast and lunch support) increased by 4.7 percent, compared to an overall enrollment increase of just 2 percent.
“The lessons learned at Broad Acres as a result of the instructional program changes and personnel reorganization at the end of last year can serve to strengthen our efforts in other schools,” Dr. Weast said. “There is clearly an improved environment being developed at Broad Acres that should be replicated elsewhere.”
Note: The full report on Broad Acres is available as a PDF file at the link below.