Ascencion Solorsano, Brownell and South Valley middle schools and Luigi Aprea Elementary School were among 22 schools that received the 2020 Vision Award by the Santa Clara County Office of Education.
Below is a breakdown of teaching strategies educators say are helping them reach their goal of reducing the achievement gap to zero by 2020.
Implementing Strategies That Work
Following a district-wide guideline, Gilroy’s three middle schools have implemented a 90-minute math period, up from the standard 45-minute class, which principals and Valeria Kelly, math department chair at Solorsano, attribute to helping their students gain a deeper understanding of algebraic concepts. Language development also plays a huge part in student understanding, especially among Latino students, she said.
“We do a lot of language development in algebra because ‘quadratic’ and ‘coefficient’ aren’t words kids know, let alone can pronounce,” Kelly said. “Knowing that academic dialogue really builds that level of confidence students need to do well in math.”
Along with “Saturday academies” and after school programs, which South Valley has implemented as well, Solorsano has hired an English language development facilitator to help Spanish-speaking students learn the language of math.
The middle schools have also taken on the task of doing formative assessments, which requires them to check on students almost daily to see who is falling behind and needs more help.
Maria Walker, the principal of Solorsano, called the award a nice and unexpected recognition. She pointed to an increase in inter-school collaboration as one of the reasons that Gilroy middle schools rank among the top in closing the achievement gap.
“We are doing a lot of middle school collaboration, sharing strategies amongst each other, and that’s really played a part in the success we’ve had,” she said.
South Valley Principal Anisha Munshi said their teachers work across grade levels to develop effective teaching methods as well.
Prodding students to explain their answers, the middle schools found, goes a long way in algebra proficiency.
“Our students talk with partners about math problems and then demonstrate to teachers how they got to that answer,” Munshi said.
Educators from each interviewed school said they look closely at collected data, such as benchmark tests, to determine where students are struggling. Luigi Aprea Principal Richard Rodriguez said this data is invaluable in developing classroom strategies that get results. He also noted that his school has a strong core of parent volunteers that are really invested in helping students.
“In terms of learning theory, if kids, students and even people have more than one modality of interpreting information, that will come out as an asset,” Rodriguez said.