GOALS 2000: MEETING THE READING CHALLENGE
Students enrolled at Mt. Savage Middle School perform as well or better than peer County and State students in most skill areas measured on the MSPAP test. However, in one area, reading, they tend to lag behind. Fewer than one-fifth of eighth grade students scored satisfactory on the MSPAP reading component compared to over one-quarter statewide. Over the four-year period 1998-2001, approximately 21% of Mt. Savage Middle School students scored satisfactorily compared to 22% in Allegany County and 26% in Maryland. Furthermore, this lag occurred during the students' schooling at Mt. Savage. Eighth grade Mt. Savage students showed a drop in reading scores from fifth grade reading levels achieved at their elementary schools.
The Allegany Board of Education (ACBOE) recognizes that there are many correlates with underperformance on the test, including socioeconomic background and gender (ACBOE 2000) but many factors that are more amenable to school intervention, such as teacher training, learning environment, and technology might have an ameliorative effect on student scores. The fact that Mt. Savage student performed well in other skill areas gives additional credence to the strategy of reading targeted curriculum adjustments and additional resources identified in the grant application.
In Spring 2000, the Board of Education applied for special grant funding from Schools for Success: Goals 2000 in the amount of $200,000 to help close this gap. The grant proposal called for a three-year program focused on improving reading teaching strategies, providing additional teaching manpower, and adding technological and material resources. The ultimate milestone of the program was to improve student MSPAP scores from 27 to 42 percent satisfactory by the third year of the program.
The program entailed three strategies: staff development, student instruction, and technology infusion. First, middle school teachers involved in every subject area (33 teachers in total) were selected to participate in staff workshops to become familiar with Maryland Content Reading Standards, to learn methods for improving student reading, and to practice lesson integration with peer feedback. Second, students were to receive instruction in all grades and in each subject areas using these new methods. Third, teachers were expected to make use of computers, including reading software such as Reading Counts and Skills Bank to reinforce reading skills.
In summer 2000, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) announced that Mt. Savage had been awarded funding for Goals 2000: Meeting the Reading Challenge. However, funding was provided at a reduced level ($70,000) and therefore could support a reading program for only one year. The federal Goals 2000 program, initiated in the mid 1990s during the Clinton Administration was superceded by another program, No Child Left Behind, and the funding stream was terminated.
Because of this reduced funding and several unanticipated developments, the program was modified in several ways. First, many second and third year objectives and milestones were removed from the evaluation plan; thus a teacher coaching/mentoring system and some staff development activities were curtailed. On the other hand, some timetables were accelerated. For instance, teachers were expected to make progress towards incorporating new methods into their lesson plans (an objective not expected to be met until the second year of funding). Second, funding expired before the first round of MSPAP reading data was originally scheduled to become available (December 2002). Moreover, because the test did not align well with new federal guidelines and concerns were raised about test validity and reliability MSDE elected to discontinue the MSPAP test entirely, beginning with the 2002-03 school year. This effectively left the program without panel data to gauge student development. Third, the teacher workshop topics were modified and/or supplemented to introduce more currently accepted methods. For instance, whereas the grant proposal indicated that: the CUCC, ACE, Comma-Quote, and CUPS strategies would be used, the program actually included methods such as SQ3R, the Frayer Model, Mapping, Word Map, QAR, KWL, Link and Think, Slotting, and Click and Clunk.
All teacher training occurred on site at Mt. Savage Middle School. Both daytime and evening workshops were held and were approximately 2-3 hours in duration. Five different workshops were scheduled and attendance was tracked. Workshops consisted of lecture, question and answer, and application. Participants in each session were given a non-binding test at the end of the class to measure retention and understanding of the material covered. These workshops were organized by the Program Director with the assistance of reading teachers, the school improvement team, and the school principal, Mr. Gary Llewellyn.
Evaluation of the program was spelled out in the proposal. First year goals, objectives, and milestones are listed in the report. These milestones relate mainly to teacher participation and survey completion. A quarterly progress report was submitted to MSDE that detailed achievement of milestones listed in the grant application timeline. In this report, a broader spectrum of measures is used to measure program effectiveness. This includes the following elements: (1) management plan (were necessary staff and materials available on schedule?), (2) staff participation (how many teachers participated in the workshops and how often?), (3) staff satisfaction (how satisfied were teachers with the content and delivery of the training?), (4) staff knowledge (how much did the teachers learn and retain from the workshops as measured by tests and self-assessments?), (5) course integration (how many teachers were using the techniques as evidenced by survey responses and sample lesson plans?), and (6) student reading development (what were the perceptions of teachers of the impact of the new methods on student learning?).
The report is divided into three sections. The first section (2.0) addresses outcomes collected internally by the program director. These include self-assessments of adhering to the management plan, teacher assessment of workshop quality and learning, workshop attendance, quarterly reports issued to MSDE. The second section (3.0) describes the results of an end-of-year teacher survey designed by the evaluator and examples of lesson plans submitted by teachers that incorporate reading in-service methods. The report ends with a summary and conclusions.
eQuotient, Inc. 2002. Goals 2000: Meeting the Reading Challenge.