School Improvement From Students’ Point of View


March 3, 2015


Last year, we unveiled Success Now!—our new approach to school improvement. Unlike other approaches, the Success Now! framework helps schools focus their efforts and see quick gains in student success while working toward long-term goals and sustainable change.

The Mary Walker School District in Springdale, Washington—a town of less than 300 people located an hour north of Spokane—was one of the first schools to try out the Success Now! approach. Over a year ago, the district began working with Education Northwest coaches on a change process that focused the energies of the middle and high school on one strand of literacy instruction that had been a challenge area for Mary Walker students: reading analysis. The schools implemented changes in instruction that centered on teaching students strategies for different text types—including re-reading—and how to mark up a text to capture main ideas.

Back in September, we ran an article asking Mary Walker teachers what they think of the changes to their classroom practice and the success they were having on test scores that occurred while working with us on this approach.

But, what do the students think?

To find out, we asked students from Mary Walker High School to give us their thoughts on the experience.

One student said that at first she didn’t get the purpose behind re-reading and marking up a text, though she now understands the value. “Re-reading allows me to get a better grasp on the point the author is trying to get across and discover things I missed during the first read through,” she says, “while marking up text allows me to see a thought and come back later and go over it.” She goes on to say that the strategies also help her with writing, which she says, “has been a challenge my entire life.”

Another student says that the strategies helped him on a college-admission test. “SATs were what finally got it through to me that those strategies are vital to my performance, rather than flying by the seat of my pants and crossing my fingers,” he says. “My scores were greatly benefitted by my going over the material once, re-reading it, and then marking up the important bits to assist in answering the passage-based questions, of which there were many.”

A third student appreciated that what he learned was a strategy that can help him across many contexts. “It pays to know the strategies for taking a test,” he says. “And, while that sounds like more work, it makes things immensely easier.”

Improving student learning is the heart of the Success Now! approach. Creating a sustainable system that engages in the ownership of improvement and teachers as the agents of changing their instructional practice is intentionally built in to this process so that the school community truly experiences success now…and into the future.