For those of you who read this blog often, you know that I believe that success and radically improved teacher and student performance is possible for all schools. So, in the effort to showcase that buckling down, making important yet simple changes and implementing what we know will work and has been proven to work, I interviewed Lori Furgerson, instructional coach at Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Caldwell, ID. Read Part I to see the simple, yet powerful changes her school made that led them to marked improvement and AYP success.

JJ: Describe your current position, district, school population, etc.
LF: I am currently an Instructional coach in the Caldwell School District in Caldwell, Idaho. Three out of six of our elementary schools were Reading First schools. Our superintendent decided he wanted to have the three other schools follow the Reading First model and so coaches were put in the other three elementary schools, the two middle schools and the high school. My school at has 80% of students on free and reduced lunch and 75% of our population are Hispanic.

JJ: What is your biggest instructional accomplishment at your school this year?

LF: Our biggest instructional accomplishment this year is an adjustment we made in our first grade. In the state of Idaho, kindergarten through third grade takes what is called the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI). It is a fluency assessment. At the end of the year, we have to report to the state how many of our students moved from intensive on the IRI to benchmark. For the last two years our first grade has only moved 17% of their 1s to 3s. This year we knew we had to make a change. Starting in November we placed our lowest ten students all together in one classroom during the 90 minute reading block. All of our strategic and benchmark students were divided up and put them in the other classrooms. Later in the year, around February, we were more purposeful and took the strategic kids and split them up between two teachers and then placed all of our benchmark students together in one classroom, which was the largest group. The results were great. We ended the year moving 41% of our intensive students to benchmark. We still have more work to do, and with additional changes, that number will improve more next year.

JJ: In five steps or less, list the contributing factors to your success this year.

LF: 1. As a coach, I really made sure I provided support to the teachers. I worked a lot at the beginning with the teacher who had the lowest group. It was a struggle for her at first so I was there to work with her on that and she did an amazing job.
2. My principal is very open to suggestions that I present to him. I give him the reasons why I think something will work and he is always receptive and then takes it to the teachers.
3. The teachers in the school are open to how they can better their instruction to support student learning. So when we presented this idea to the first grade team they were eager to try it. There were things we had to work through in the beginning, but they were very willing and had a positive attitude.

Check back Thursday to read Part II of From Struggle to AYP Achievement: An Interview with Lori Furgerson!