Dianna Minor

How Do We Help Each Student Succeed?

We help students succeed by personalizing instruction to meet the needs of the learner. This may seem like a daunting task because it takes front-loading at the beginning of the year and ongoing progress-monitoring. Teachers can design activities and assessments that focus on personal interests, strengths, and academic standards. When teachers personalize instruction through various assessments, it is easy to find the "tools" that motivate students to be successful in the classroom.

Student interests and strengths are important components in student success and academic achievement. When a child believes he can succeed, that motivation translates over into the classroom. According to an ACT Research and Policy report (PDF) on the importance of early learning,

Student interests often develop at an early age. Students with the good fortune to be exposed to rich content in science, history, and other subjects at a young age may develop an interest in those subjects. Interest, in turn, leads to greater learning. Disadvantaged students often depend on their schools for this exposure, since their access to content outside of school may be limited. Simply having the content available in libraries and on the Internet is not enough, because children need adults to guide them to the content and help them understand it.

Exposing students to content-rich classrooms that incorporate rigorous standards will result in students being better prepared for college. In addition, research has shown that content-rich classrooms will boost high school graduation rates and college enrollment for children including those from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds.

Because academic behavior plays a vital part in student success, teachers must make keep students engaged and motivated in classrooms. Using a variety of assessments to gauge and monitor academic behavior (i.e., motivation) assessments such as the ACT Engage, teachers can use the assessment data to monitor progress and provide targeted interventions and support to help students. ACT Engage uses assessments from middle school to college help educators evaluate students'self-reported psychosocial attributes, determine their levels of academic risk, and identify interventions to help them succeed. ACT Engage measures motivation, social engagement and self-regulation.

Teachers must put each student at the center of the learning experience. They must train students to be active participants and take ownership and pride in their learning. Giving students the power to self-assess is one way to give students ownership in the classroom. By taking part in self-assessments, students can set personal goals for themselves while taking personal ownership of their learning, a powerful way to personalize learning. In addition, teachers need ongoing professional development on quality formative and summative assessments that focus on the mastery of Common Core standards.

According to the Equity and Excellence Commission on education, teachers must have the tools necessary to help students to succeed. The commission stated (PDF), "To assist students, teachers need curricular materials and technology systems that support learning. The materials and technology must be aligned to the new standards—not as mandates or straitjackets, but as supports. This includes well-equipped work environments with access to up-to-date learning resources. This is especially true of teachers in struggling schools."

Helping students to succeed is a collaborative effort. Everyone must work together at all levels (families, communities, and all branches of government) to build partnerships for student success and to provide quality education programs that include tutoring, mentoring, and intervention services for students.

Dianna Minor is a former classroom teacher and currently serves as a curriculum and instruction specialist in Alabama and as a consultant with American College Testing (ACT). She is an active member of the National Council of Teachers of English, International Reading Association, and National Education Association. Connect with Minor by e-mail at diminordan@gmail.com and on Twitter @diminordan.

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