Taft Middle School, a public school in inner-city Oklahoma City, serves approximately 850 students in grades 6-8, more than 90 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced price lunches. In 2006, Principal Lisa Johnson told her staff she wanted to find and implement a schoolwide program to help them address the needs of the school’s low-performing students.
Taft math teacher and 2009 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Heather Sparks recalls, “The other program we tried didn’t take root; we just didn’t see a real connection with the learning issues we were seeing in our kids, many of whom come from very challenging situations.”
The following summer, with support from a state grant, several Taft teachers participated in the Schools Attuned to All Kinds of Minds course, and over the next two years the rest of the school’s 70+ faculty members took the course.
Faculty members credit the training for giving them a common language they now use when sharing observations and ideas about individual students, as well as tools that facilitate their ability to collaborate around student interventions, both across subject areas and as students move from grade to grade. With the assistance of Title I dollars, faculty at each grade level have taken on roles as “profile advisors” to coordinate and serve as resources on the development of learning management plans for students identified as needing help.
Ms. Johnson notes, “Prior to implementing Schools Attuned as a school-wide model, our intervention strategy was inconsistent and varied from teacher to teacher. Furthermore, intervention plans were often limited in scope and did not include strategies specifically tied to the root of the student’s difficulties. The training gave us a great diagnostic tool, as well as practices that can be used by teachers, students, and families to help students be successful at school and at home.”