Customizing Classes to Promote Success

Customizing Classes to Promote Success

Success by 8 Getting Results

The staff and parents at Newington Forest were so looking forward to becoming a Success by 8 school, they began using multiage classes for their early literature program before they got word they would be joining the program.

As a result, Newington Forest has spent four years using multiage classes while only being a Success by 8 school for two years.

In 2000 Newington Forest joined the Success by 8 program which provides a customized school experience for children in preschool through second grade by implementing eight interrelated components.

The school did its homework before fully committing to the program which included gaining the support of the parents.

"We took 13 parents to Mantua [which became a Success by 8 school in 1998] and we didn't have a hard sell," said principal Donna Lewis. "We did not force multiage on anyone who did not want it, but the entire school had to support it. It was a journey."

THE IDEA BEHIND Success by 8 is to create a model of what a 21st century school should be and could be that meets the needs of the children and the needs of the parents, said Ann Hansborough, the program's chief administrator and a early childhood specialist with the Department of Instructional Services.

In order to become a Success by 8 school, the entire community has to commit to the eight components: learning community options including multiage, multi-year and single- grade classes; clear standards and benchmarks; school-based professional development; team teaching; family/school connections; full-day kindergarten; challenging, complex and connected curriculum; and quality early childhood practices, which have their own 10 elements, including hands-on learning, age and individually appropriate curriculum, responsiveness to cultural and linguistic diversity, learning stations and the opportunity for choice.

Hunter Woods in Reston, Lemon Road in Falls Church, Mantua in Fairfax, Terra Centre in Burke, Waynewood in Mount Vernon and Westbriar in Vienna started the program in 1999.

Since then, Belvedere in Falls Church, Clearview in Herndon, Kings Park in Springfield, Parklawn in Alexandria, Timber Lane in Falls Church and West Springfield in Springfield were added in 1999.

In 2000, Beechtree in Falls Church, Terraset in Reston, Newington Forest in Springfield, Belle View in Mount Vernon and Popular Tree in Chantilly joined the program.

Virginia Run in Centreville and five as yet unidentified schools are proposed to begin the program in the FY 2003 budget.

In FY ‘02, the cost of the program totaled $3.1 million and a total of 42.6 positions, with the addition of the six proposed schools the cost will rise to $3.6 million and 51.7 positions to administer the program. The program also requires additional classroom space to accommodate the all-day kindergarten.

"THE GOAL is to have every child reading by second grade," said Hansborough. "Success by 8 creates proficient teachers because they are under evaluation and have standards they have to meet."

Unlike other programs, there is a shared document of quality practices, which are designed to help a teacher work at their best, are spelled out thereby eliminating the need for staff to create its own definition of what performing at their best might be.

The program, said Debby Fulcher, curriculum resource teacher in the Office of Early Childhood and Family Services, "forces a school to look at what they've been doing and look at the value of what they've been doing and see if it has been working to meet the Standards of Learning."

For Newington, Lewis said the common language created by the quality practices was a critical selling point.

She said the program, "erases the ceiling" and the full-day kindergarten better prepares the students.

"When they come in the first day of school of first grade, the students are so much more confident," Lewis said.

THE INTERIM REPORT for the Success by 8 program, released in March, supports what the schools are saying.

"The Phase One kindergarten pilot students outperformed non-pilot students in the ECAP [Early Childhood Assessment Package] areas of print awareness, story retelling and writing sample. For Phase Two schools [those entering the program in 1999], 80 percent of kindergarten students reached grade-level benchmarks," said Recardo Sockwell, coordinator of Evaluation, in the Department of Educational Accountability.