Two Schools, One Goal


After implementing Success for All, two Kentucky elementary schools in very different circumstances have seen very similar results.

Farley and Heath elementary schools may be part of the same district in McCracken County, Kentucky, but they have markedly different challenges. Their paths converge, however, when it comes to implementing Success for All’s comprehensive school-reform approach to improve student performance.

After receiving Success for All’s Investing in Innovation (i3) grant in fall 2011, the McCracken School District implemented the program at Farley and Heath. Despite beginning the program in different circumstances, each school has seen rapid improvement in its students’ academic performance. “Without the i3 grant, this wouldn’t have been an option for us,” said Tina Hayes, McCracken’s director of elementary instruction. “Our teachers, parents, principals, superintendent, and board of education support the implementation of Success for All and believe in what Success for All has brought to our district.”
 
Over the past several years, Farley Elementary saw third-grade scores on reading tests fall from among the highest in the state to near the bottom. The decline in performance had administrators looking for solutions. In fall 2011, measures of academic progress (MAP) conducted by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) indicated that only 28 percent of Farley’s fourth graders and 36 percent of fifth graders were reading at or above grade level. “Something had to happen, and that was what sent us on this journey,” said Hayes. “We didn’t want a quick fix; we wanted a long-term change.”

An “Amazing” Turnaround

Working with Success for All coaches and facilitators, the school (which has the highest percentage of children receiving free or reduced-price lunch in the district) adopted the program in fall 2011. When the school’s new MAP scores came out in spring 2012, they showed significant progress: 56 percent of the school’s fourth graders and 63 percent of fifth graders were reading at or above grade level. “Success for All has been a perfect fit. It is the missing piece the teachers needed to support the shift to Common Core standards,” Hayes said. “Success for All has been amazing.”

Hayes attributes the change to consistently and strictly adhering to Success for All tenets such as a schoolwide block of time devoted solely to reading. Farley has always had a dedicated staff, but their concentrated focus on consistency in instruction, in addition to support from facilitators and coaches, has been key in the school’s improvement. Farley Principal Paula Grubbs notes the collaboration going on within the school. “The entire staff, from PE, art, music, to classroom teachers, are dedicated to teaching the students to read, think, and problem solve using Success for All,” Grubbs said. “The results are evidence that the program works.”

Circumstances were different at Heath Elementary School, which also adopted the Success for All program in fall 2011. Though approximately 55 percent of students in grades 1–5 there were reading at or above grade level at that time, Principal Tim Adams wanted more. “We were looking to break that ceiling to become a distinguished school, and we didn’t really have anything in place that we felt like we could do that with,” he said.

Heath implemented Success for All and has been impressed with the results. In spring 2012, on the school’s last reading assessment, 80 percent of students were at or above grade level. Heath’s success echoes Hayes’s sentiment that “Success for All is not [just] for low-performing schools.” Still only in its first year at Heath, the Success for All approach is putting the groundwork in place to help students make academic achievements for many years to come. “We’re seeing growth now, but I think we’re laying the foundation to see the growth later on,” said Adams.

McCracken School District has been utilizing Success for All’s new Common Core-focused model, which aligns with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These standards require students to learn and use a more complex level of reading, thinking, speaking, and writing skills to ensure that they are ready for college and careers. To align with CCSS, Success for All curricula heavily emphasize critical-thinking skills. “We’ve been teaching our kids to think,” said Ronda Cartwright, Heath’s SFAF facilitator. “With the new Common Core standards, they’re learning how to think and how to approach a task.”

Adams is confident that SFA instruction has helped prepare Heath students for state testing. “I believe that when our students sit down to take the high-stakes assessment, they’re prepared to problem solve—to think,” he said.

Success for All’s comprehensive approach to learning, its ongoing support and professional development, and the array of materials the foundation provides with its curricula have given Heath and Farley students the tools to excel in all areas. “The Success for All program is a schoolwide program,” Adams said. “It’s not just a reading program. You apply those strategies to reading and science and social studies and math. That gets students actively engaged, and thinking, and challenged.”

Though the transition to Success for All did come with its share of challenges and hard work, both schools are pleased at how the program has helped them make strides. “When you instigate change, it’s difficult,” Hayes acknowledged. However, she noted, “As difficult as it is, it has changed the way we do business in McCracken County.”

The Success for All Foundation, founded in 1987, was awarded a $50 million federal Investing in Innovation (i3) scale-up grant in 2010. It enables eligible Title I elementary schools to receive grants of $50,000 or more toward first-year implementation costs. To learn more about available i3 grants, contact us at (800) 548-4998, ext. 2372, or learn more online at www.successforall.org/i3.