There are many different terms we use for making things better than they were. With children, we talk about “learning from our mistakes.” With adults we believe we should “leave things better than when we found them.” At United Way, we take this notion very seriously, and even have a name for it, “continuous improvement.” And, like many efforts to achieve excellence, this involves cultivating both a culture and a daily practice. United Way Promise Partners also take continuous improvement seriously, particularly the Community Schools, whose core function is often to help kids achieving well below grade level, and bring them up to speed.
In January, Granger Elementary had a very rude awakening. Looking at the mid-year reading scores, not only were students not improving at the anticipated rate to ensure they achieved their end of year goals, they were actually decreasing in some grade levels, meaning they were further behind than when they started at the beginning of the year.
And this is where a continuous improvement culture matters. Continuous improvement means continually monitoring your actions and practices to see where they can be improved. Granger had already done a lot to improve reading instruction, including small group work, one-on-one tutoring, additional instructors, and much more. But, rather than resting on their laurels, Granger staff doubled down. They focused their core instruction on the specific components of reading, such as fluency, accuracy, and retell. They sought out practice tests, evaluated the results, and tweaked instruction to individualize each student’s particular need.
And, it paid off! Granger students just finished their end-of-year reading tests, four of the seven grades reached or exceled their year-end goals, and all of them improved for the year. Given this type of result, who knows what great things will be achieved next year!