An FCAT success story
Gradebook asked the principal of Cahoon Elementary School in Tampa, "what are you feeding your students?"
And Joanne Griffiths graciously answered, "it's really what we're feeding our teachers."
In a year when third grade FCAT reading proficiency rates barely budged, Cahoon's jumped from 55 to 81.
"We are thrilled," Griffiths said. "But I have to say I was not surprised."
How did they do it? There's always some guesswork when you answer that question.
But here's what Griffiths and her teachers said:
1. At open house and conference nights, teachers are very direct and very specific when talking to parents about their students' reading levels. They sit down with graphic depictions of where the students are, where they were last year and where they should be this year.
Of course, it helps that Cahoon is a magnet school where the population remains relatively stable from year to year.
2. FCAT Night. This is not unique, but the people at Cahoon insists it is effective. Parents sit down with their children, who take them through a detailed explanation of what the test is and how it works.
3. Teachers find ways to infuse reading into other lessons that don't look like reading.
For example, June Scanlon’s class wrote letters to governors, asking for information about their states.
In response they received maps and pamphlets along with letters that they read to each other. One state sent a sample menu of its finest restaurant.
“There were these pictures of the food, and descriptions of the food, and they were so interested,” Scanlon said. “They were so excited to read. It just lit their world on fire.”
4. Teachers go out of their way to introduce reading into casual conversations. They tell the kids what they are reading. “We talk to them in the hallways,” said Caitlin Hemphill. “We’ll say, 'hey, I found this interesting book.'"
It all paid off, but don't think they're planning any kind of "we aced the FCAT" bash. Part of their philosophy is to celebrate reading for reading's sake, not because you need it to pass a test.