Best Practice Link
Elementary School Themes
Theme - Instructional Programs, Practices, and Arrangements
- Input about program and material adoptions solicited from stakeholders at many levels.
- Meaningful instructional activities designed around student needs and learning standards, with focus on differentiation rather than remediation
In higher-performing schools, little in terms of instructional programs and materials is mandated; when it is, teachers are expected to enhance instruction, not merely teach the text. Thus teachers are encouraged to think creatively in their instructional practices and decide what materials and instructional strategies they will use; these vary from basals to trade books depending on students’ needs and interests. A philosophy of doing “whatever works” to help children learn prevails, while objectives are clear and well articulated in the curriculum.
Leaders of higher-performing schools consistently look for insight from teachers concerning the effectiveness of programs and materials. Changes are made after piloting new materials and gaining feedback from teachers.
Differentiation in instructional practices allows for students of differing academic performance to be grouped together and aligns with district visions of encouraging high performance in all students. Expectations for all students regardless of prior experience are high, and all students receive the benefits of enrichment within their classrooms.
Some differences between higher- and average-performing schools
In average-performing schools, teachers use programs and materials adopted by district administrators with little teacher input into the process of review and adoption. Most instructional programs, materials, and practices are mandated and are used with little attention to relevance in students' lives. In higher-performing schools, teachers continually review how programs and materials meet students' needs and share responses to programs and materials with administrators. Little in terms of instructional programs, materials, and practices is mandated, and their use emerges from student and community needs.
Average performers offer enrichment programs to selected students only, who have opportunities for problem solving, decision making, and self reflection. For lower-achieving students, the focus is on remediation. In the higher performers, enrichment programs provide opportunities for all students to discover and nurture their unique gifts. Instruction encourages problem solving, decision making, and self reflection for all students. The focus is on differentiation rather than remediation.
In Mount Vernon, the science and math committees developed a rubric to facilitate the selection of instructional programs. At the Traphagen School the after-school mathematics and ELA interventions are based on district programs.
Gotham Avenue in Elmont requires teachers’ lesson plans to include differentiation.