When Kit Carson International Academy (Kit Carson), an elementary school serving grades PK-5, in Las Vegas, Nevada was identified as one of the lowest-performing schools in the state in 2009, only 30-34% of the students were proficient in English language arts and 40-44% of students were proficient in math. Kit Carson and Clark County School District staff knew that they had to make dramatic changes. To improve instruction and raise student achievement, they needed a place to start, so although math scores at Kit Carson weren’t particularly high, the leadership team decided to focus their efforts on building students’ reading skills. The good news: Those efforts are paying off. Kit Carson increased reading proficiency by over 30 percentage points in just the first three years.
In 2010, with assistance from a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s School Improvement Grants (SIG) program, Kit Carson began making some of the changes that would be necessary to improve student achievement. Students needed more time to focus on reading, and teachers needed support for efforts to make reading instruction consistent across the school as well as to meet students’ needs. That led to the school’s decision to overhaul its program by investing in additional learning time focused on reading and providing a common schoolwide approach to target reading instruction and support for teachers.
Time was added to the school day to offer additional literacy support, instruction was refocused, and teachers received coaching and collaborated to help students get the results they knew they could produce. Building teachers’ literacy instruction skills, providing support for lesson planning, and implementing a new walk-through monitoring process to ensure effective use of literacy strategies in the classroom became the focus of their teachers’ training and expectations. According to Kit Carson’s principal, “reflecting on the alignment between expectations, monitoring and feedback for teachers is ongoing and critical to minimizing variation in the quality of reading instruction.”
The outcomes are noteworthy and exciting. By the end of the first year alone, student proficiency in reading skyrocketed by more than 10 percentage points, and the focus on reading influenced student performance in math as well, with math proficiency increasing by more than 15 percentage points. Kit Carson’s thoughtful planning, targeted interventions, continuous adaptation, and relentless focus on improving reading instruction offer a useful example and promising practice for schools and districts across the country. To learn more about Kit Carson’s strategies for increasing learning time for literacy instruction, read the Kit Carson International Academy practice profile.
The Office of State Support is highlighting promising practices from the implementation of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program in schools, districts, and states across the country. For more profiles, visit: http://www.ed.gov/programs/sif/sigprofiles/index.html