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School Plans, Differentiated Instruction, Key to Raising Achievement

With individual school plans for raising achievement, differentiated instruction, and a focus on reading skills in the early grades, the Collier County (Florida) School District hopes to boost performance in its diverse district. Included: A plan for raising achievement in a district with a diverse population.

Because Collier County (Florida) School District staff members recognize the need to improve student achievement, the district is working to remove barriers that prevent children from progressing through the grades without the skills they need to be successful.

The district serves 37,109 students, and the district includes very wealthy families and the children of migrant workers.

Each school in Collier County has a plan in place that describes how it will raise academic achievement. Much time has been spent training teachers and support personnel in how to analyze data to determine what instructional changes should be made to help all students reach the desired targets.

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A district wide database is in place that enables school staff and classroom teachers to access a student's entire history of achievement, including the student's academic strengths and weaknesses. The goal is for teachers to use this information to differentiate instruction according to a student's individual needs.

One of the district goals is to improve the reading skills of students in the early grades so that they will be successful in all content areas as they progress across grade levels. With a new Reading First grant, reading coaches have been placed at school sites to support teachers in various ways. The coaches serve as role models for delivering instruction to students. They also provide staff development and training for teachers in a variety of instructional strategies and help teachers acquire the skills necessary to make teaching and learning more effective.

A massive training program is underway to ensure that all teachers will be able to bring students to higher achievement in reading. Collier County also has undertaken an initiative to provide children with a strong base of readiness before they enter formal instruction in kindergarten and the primary grades. Toward this end, Title I schools have pre-kindergarten classes for 4-year-olds, funded from Title I and Head Start. Universal pre-kindergarten soon will be required in Florida.

SOURCE: Center on Education Policy

To read the full report, see A Look Inside 33 School Districts: Year 2 of the No Child Left Behind Act.