Locke Elementary School in Montclare wasn’t in line for the trial run of Pathways to Achievement last year. But when staff saw the document, they liked what they saw, and used it to develop a comprehensive school improvement plan that, among other things, spells out what students need to know at each grade level.
“We looked at Pathways last February, broke the staff into five cadres or committees to address each of the five key areas and started working on our school improvement plan in April,” reports Principal Myrtle Burton-Sahara.
Responding to the notion that instruction should be aligned with the Chicago Learning Outcomes—a set of achievement goals developed by teachers under a joint venture of the previous Board of Education, the Chicago Teachers Union and the highly regarded Washington, D.C.-based Council for Basic Education—Locke’s faculty developed outcomes for every subject at every grade. It also listed activities to promote each outcome.
“We said, ‘Okay, in 4th grade in language arts, students are supposed to know how to appraise their work and the work of others, and [to] speak and write in standard conventions in a well-organized manner appropriate to a variety of audiences,'” notes Burton-Sahara, quoting from the Chicago outcomes.
To promote these goals, Locke’s school improvement plan calls for peer tutoring, cooperative learning, having students keep daily journals, and participation in the Young Authors program and a promotional reading program sponsored by Pizza Hut.
For each activity, the plan designates which staff person is responsible, the funding required and a deadline for completion.
“We worked on our SIP for a year, and we now have copies of it in the main office, the library and the teacher resource room,” says Burton-Sahara. “Our teachers even go to the SIP so they know what to put in their lesson plans. Plus our PPAC [professional personnel advisory committee] meets once a week to talk about the SIP.”
One advantage of Pathways, says Barbara Radner, a DePaul University professor who has been working with Locke, is that it gets everyone involved in improving the whole school.
“One of the key best practices to student learning is that there is shared decision making and collaborative efforts,” she says.