Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap by DuFour

Raising the Bar
Closing the Gap
by DuFour
MAY 7, 2010
Ultimately there are two kinds of schools:
learning-enriched schools
and learning-impoverished schools.
I’ve yet to see a school where the learning curves of the
youngsters are off the chart upward while the learning
curves of the adults are off the chart downward, or a school
where the learning curves of the adults were steep upward
and those of the students were not. Teachers and students
go hand in hand as learners – or they don’t go at all. (p. 43)
An Elegantly Simple Strategy
Adlai-Sevenson HS strategy for raising the bar is
remarkably simple:
give more students access to a more rigorous curriculum,
and provide them with the additional time and support to
succeed in that curriculum. The results provide clear
evidence of the effectiveness of that approach. (p.64)
Focusing on the Right Work
One of the most common mistakes we have seen
educators make as they attempt to implement the
PLC concept is to regard collaboration as the end
itself, rather than as a means to an end. (p. 33)
What Happens in Our School When a Student Does Not Learn?
Marzano (2003) has described three different levels of
curriculum. The first is the intended curriculum – what we
intend for each student to learn. The second is the
implemented curriculum – what is actually taught. The
third is the attained curriculum – what students actually
learn. (p. 34)
When Time and Support for Learning are Regarded as
Constants, Learning Will Always Be the Variable
 A PLC operates from a very different premise. Each teacher
in a PLC begins the unit by advising the students of an
essential outcome, an outcome so important, so significant,
that every student must achieve it. Learning will be the
 In this situation, it is imperative that time and support
become variables. Some students require more time to
learn, and so the school develops strategies to provide those
students with additional time during the school day.
Groundwork for Effective Interventions
 Intervention will have a powerful impact on student
achievement when the educators in a school:
Acknowledge a collective responsibility to ensure that students
learn rather than they are taught
Are organized into collaborative teams whose members work
inter-dependently to achieve common, results-oriented goals
for which members accept mutual accountability
Work together collaboratively to establish the essential
knowledge, skills, and dispositions all students must learn in
each unit of instruction
Create pacing guides or curriculum maps each teacher will
follow to clarify when the essential skills will be taught
 Develop frequent common formative assessments to
monitor the learning of each student, and provide teachers
with relevant feedback
 Clarify the common standard of proficiency each student
must demonstrate in order to be deemed proficient and/or
the agreed-upon criteria the members of the team will use
to assess the quality of each student’s work (p.24)
Promoting Prevention
 The Whittier District operates from the premise
that the initial focus of a school must be on a prevention
rather than intervention and that the best way to limit the
need for intervention is to ensure students receive effective,
high-quality instruction in their classrooms each day. The
emphasis on using common assessments, so that each
teacher can identify the strengths and weaknesses in his or
her instruction, and providing teachers time to collaborate
to learn from each other were both specifically intended to
promote best instructional practice. (p. 146)
Using Assessment to Inform Students and Teachers,
Not to Merely Assign Grades
 Teachers were also asked to review the results of
common assessments in their teams and to discuss
such questions as the following:
What learning targets are in need of improvement?
What instructional strategies represent best practice for this
What strategies should be altered based upon poor results?
Are there issues with the students’ understanding of key
vocabulary terms that may have impacted achievement?
 The turning point in the intervention program came when
staff recognized they had the power to take control of time
during the school day. Teachers acknowledged that
students learned at different rates and needed different
levels of support.
 Moving to a modified A/B block schedule was one step in
creating that flexibility. (p. 101)
Building Relationships with a Caring Adult
 All students were assigned to a Guided Study (our
Advisory/Extension) which
the teachers have developed
into one of the most potent weapons in their
interventional arsenal.
 The goals of the program are 1) to ensure every
student has a personal and supportive relationship
with a caring adult in the building, and 2) to monitor
and respond to the needs of each student. (p. 90)
Additional Layers of Support
 If Guided Study does not resolve the problem,
students can also be assigned to the Learning Lab (our
Working Lunch). The one-on-one monitoring, mentoring,
and support provided by the Learning Lab are
particularly effective for students who are unable to
stay organized, focused, or motivated to complete
work after they leave school. (p. 91)
 Students failing a course should not be assigned to
an intervention for a designated period, but should
instead know that as soon as they are passing the
course, they will have immediate access to a privilege
at school. Students should recognize the correlation
between meeting their responsibilities as students
and receiving the privileges the school is willing to
offer. (p. 106)
By Schools to Watch, 2004
 High-performing middle schools establish norms,
structures, and organizational arrangements to
support and sustain their trajectory toward
excellence. They have a sense of purpose that drives
every facet of practice and decision-making. (p. 87)
We are emerging as that middle school---way
to go MMS!
Exit Pass
 1) Record the attribute of MMS that makes you the
most proud?
(Examples: PLCs, Preventions, Interventions, Privileges, Learning Culture,
Flexible Bell Schedule, etc.)
 2) Document the area of our work that should be
improved upon.
(Examples: Development of Common Formative Assessments, Analysis of
Assessment Data, Collaboration of Best Practices in Instruction, Collaboration
as a Means to an End, etc.)

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