At Dreamcatcher, we offer school districts much more than after-school intervention programs for academically at-risk students. For school-year 2011-2012, Dreamcatcher expects to be listed as a provider for Turnaround on the Colorado Department of Education website by early August. Our goal is to additionally offer services for school districts that wish to turn around a particular school which is not demonstrating adequate yearly progress and improvement. Although research presently does not offer much guidance on turnarounds, our curriculum for reading and math, along with Core Knowledge curriculum has demonstrated success in 16 of the lowest-performing Baltimore City Public Schools.
Many school districts are finding that current turnaround approaches are inadequate. The four models for turnaround that are most frequently adopted are:
- Turnaround Model – The most frequently used model is simply, “fire the school principal and teachers” in a given school.
- Restart Model – also known as the charter school governance structure.
- School Closure Model – close the school, forcing parents to find another school for their student
- Transformation Model – school districts implement each of the following strategies: (a) replace the principal and take steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness; (b) institute comprehensive instructional reforms; (c) increase learning time and create community-oriented schools; and (d) provide operational flexibility and sustained support.
Research confirms what all parents know – children learn from one another as well as from the teacher. In high-poverty schools, a child is frequently surrounded by classmates who are less likely to do homework and graduate, less academically engaged, and more likely to act out, cut class, and abandon big dreams.
Low-income schools have widespread disorder problems three times as often as middle class schools. Classmates in high-poverty schools also are more likely to move in the middle of the year, creating disruption in the classroom. (By third grade, 60 percent of very-low-income students have attended two schools, compared with 30 percent of more affluent third graders.) Research also finds that it is an advantage to have high-achieving peers, whose knowledge is shared informally with classmates all day long; but low-income peers come to schools with half the vocabulary of more-advantaged children. For example, a given child in a high-poverty school is less likely to expand his vocabulary through informal interaction.
DREAMCATCHER: A PROVEN AND EFFECTIVE TURNAROUND MODEL
Dreamcatcher believes foremost, for implementation of any model to be successful, there needs to be complete staff “buy-in” and willingness to teach to fidelity. Therefore, one of the first priorities is to gather the existing staff of the school, and to explain Direct Instruction in general, the vision of Dreamcatcher in particular, and our past successes. It is to create a “can do” culture within the school, as well as a willingness to faithfully implement our curriculum. If any staff member feels he/she is unable to commit to this level of expectation, we support any district transfers they wish to invoke. We will hire additional teachers to compliment lost staff. All teachers agree that they will adhere to our policies, guidelines, and implementation strategies we teach. If they stay, it is with the understanding they will be:
1) Open and agreeable to using our curriculum Direct Instruction (DI),
2) Open and agreeable to staff development and training,
3) Open and agreeable to coaching and completing monthly goals as assigned.
We provide staff development trainings to guide them in not only learning DI as a specific curriculum, but to adapt overall effective teaching strategies with proven results in the areas of curriculum implementation and classroom management. In addition, we will have in place literacy coach(es) to provide on-going support in teaching DI. Teachers will receive verbal as well as written goals on a monthly basis from these coaching sessions.
Next, the school will use DI for all students in grades K-5 (or K- 6, if an elementary is designed this way) for reading, writing, spelling, and math. In addition, the upper elementary will receive 1-2 semesters of our Thinking Skills program. This gives students advanced development in
reasoning, problem solving, statement inference, grammar and test taking skills that enables a stronger capacity to do well in advancing their education.
For all other core curriculum areas, we use Core Knowledge. This is a strong curriculum in which many successful charter schools have adopted. The one difference with us is that we teach the Core Knowledge curriculum using DI methodology like Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy in Colorado Springs, and the Baltimore Curriculum Project schools. This makes the strongest possible adoption. Please see the following websites for just this combination. These 2 sites will further explain how they have become exemplary schools. Baltimore did it with the bottom most schools in the city.
Dreamcatcher’s proven track record for significantly raising achievement scores:
Hyannis, Nebraska and in Reno, Nevada
- Baltimore Curriculum Project (www.baltimorecp.org)
- Turnaround Schools that Work,” Education Week, September 2, 2009
- Arne Duncan, “Education Reform’s Moon Shot,” Washington Post, July 24, 2009, A21.
- Arne Duncan, “Start Over: Turnarounds Should Be the First Option for Low-Performing Schools,” Education Week, June 17, 2009, 36.
- 5 Richard D. Kahlenberg, All Together Now: Creating Middle-Class Schools through Public School Choice (Washington D.C.:
- Brookings Institution Press, 2001).
- Sam Dillon, “U.S. Efforts to Reshape Schools Faces Challenges,” New York Times, June 2, 2009.
- Betty hart & Todd Risley, “Meaningful Differences,” Paul H. Brookes, Publisher, 2004.