How to Grow Students in a Low Performing School

Jun, 14, 2019

Student growth is possible with all students. Even at campuses that are struggling. Find out how to help students grow at a school that isn't doing so well.  Remember, all students can learn.   #studentgrowth #differentiation

All students deserve a quality education. If you work at a low performing school, then you know how hard it is to get your kids where they need to be. Low performing schools are under more pressure than any other schools. A lot of time, they expect you to work a miracle without the resources you need. To turn a low performing school to a high performing school, you have to focus on other things besides test scores. We know that we are held accountable for our students through test scores, but to get the scores you want you have to focus on some key things first. Although it is a challenge, it is possible. Here’s how.

Build Relationships First

I know you’ve heard this a million times before, but it is true, you have to gain your students’ trust and respect before they will work hard for you. They’ll give you more effort if they know you care about them. Children are the most intuitive humans walking around Earth, so they can tell if you really care about them. I suggest you use some of your instructional time to get to know your students.

In the mornings we do something called Good Things. During Good Things, we go around the room and share something good. The only rule is it has to be something good! At first, it is a struggle to get them to share something personal. But, after a few weeks, they’ll tell you and the class all about their soccer game, the book they’re reading, or what they did over the weekend. My kiddos love Good Things! I mean, who doesn’t like talking about themselves? My shier students usually pass during Good Things, but when I talk to them during small group, they open right up.

Just don’t build relationships with your students or kiddos in your grade level, get to know students across the campus. Doing this will make it easier to bond with those kiddos if they ever become your students! This is something I do, especially with the grade level directly below me. Trust me, this works! Build relationships now!

Meet Them Where They Are

In a dream world, all of your students would be on grade level. But, the reality is you have kids on various levels and many of them are not where they should be. It is what it is. 

Instead of using your energy to complain, develop a plan to grow your kiddos. I think sometimes we can focus so much on where they should be, we don’t focus on where they are. If you meet them where they are, they will grow much faster than if you try to make them get ahead without the background knowledge they need. Focus on making small gains because small gains will lead to tremendous growth. Student growth is what turns schools around. 

Set Goals

When you meet them where they are, you can then set goals to get them where they should be. Goal setting is so important. This gives the kiddos an idea of how hard they need to work during the year. In my experience, when students know their goals they put more effort in class.

For goal setting to work, we can’t just talk about their goals at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. We have to discuss them regularly for them to be more meaningful. That is something I’m definitely working on this school year.

Have High Standards

Just because several of your students are at a first-grade reading level in third grade, does not mean you can just give them packets. Hold all of your kiddos accountable. Your lowest students have the most potential to grow if you give them what they need. They should be the students making the most gains. If you don’t push them, they won’t reach their potential.

Encourage Them

Every year I have students that don’t meet their goals. Or always bomb district tests. No matter what I still encourage them.If they got a 50% on one test but a 63% on next one, that is a win! Celebrate their gains!

 I like to give my kiddos notes throughout the school year to encourage them. Your students that struggle the most are the ones that need the most motivation.They know they’re behind and they need people around them who will encourage them to keep going.  Find a way to let your kiddos know that you believe in them.

Your students can and will grow. You just have to be persistent and consistent in your efforts. On the day that you think what you’re doing is pointless is the day that one kiddo is going to get it and motivate you to do more. You have to believe in yourself and your students if you want them to grow to their fullest potential.

Melissa Nikohl

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