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Education matters: Catching kids up
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During the 2006-2007 school year, Bryan County Middle School implemented Acceleration Classes in English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. Acceleration teachers preview up-coming concepts and/or skills and provide a foundation or scaffold for new learning. Students are enrolled in these classes based on academic needs as demonstrated from their Georgia Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) scores as well as teacher recommendations.

Acceleration is a Learning Focused Schools instructional model and is designed to "catch kids up". Traditionally, a remediation approach is used and students fall further below grade level which consistently produces negative effects on motivation and self-esteem. Fifty percent of student achievement is directly attributed to students’ self-efficacy, feelings of competency and confidence. Students in Acceleration experience success which positively affects achievement by directly impacting their motivation.

The Acceleration model addresses the root cause of many students’ learning difficulty which is the lack of prior knowledge, vocabulary, and experiences that are necessary to connect to new knowledge and skills. Acceleration acts as a "bridge" for these students to close the gaps in their learning. Acceleration teachers assist students in building these learning "bridges" by previewing vocabulary, concepts, and graphic organizers. Acceleration activities are high interest instructional activities that help students develop the prior knowledge needed to achieve in the regular classroom. The advanced exposure to this information has given these students the confidence to participate in class and reach goals that they have never attained before.

The Acceleration program at BCMS has been a great success at closing the achievement gap for struggling students. The success of this program is evidenced in a greater number of students achieving Honor Roll and an increase in Acceleration students’ CRCT test scores. Many of those Acceleration students making Honor Roll had never done so before. Current CRCT scores show that 82 percent of 6th grade students served in ELA Acceleration increased their CRCT scores, 64 percent of 7th grade students, and 65 percent of 8th grade students. In Mathematics Acceleration, 57 percent of the 7th grade Acceleration students increased their scores, and 48 percent of the 8th grade students increased their scores.

While gains in test scores are at the core of educational discourse, the true success of this program is demonstrated on a daily basis in classrooms school-wide. Students that were once quiet and non-participatory are now engaged and willing to raise their hands. Students that were once defiant and disruptive are no longer feeling the need to act out in order to distract from their lack of skill or knowledge. These students enter the regular classroom with a new confidence. These students enter the regular classroom with the background knowledge and confidence needed to succeed.

Written by Julie Howard, BCMS/BCHS curriculum resource teacher.

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