IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -
A new program at a local elementary school increased test scores so much that now almost all of the Bonneville School District is trying it. An instructional coaching program began at Falls Valley Elementary School last year. Since its implementation, Falls Valley has become a five-star school.
The first coach is Rodd Rapp, who now works at both Falls Valley and the new Summit Hills Elementary School. He meets with students every nine weeks to review their most recent standardized test scores. Together, they set goals for growth on these assessments.
"Those plans are communicated to the teachers and the parents. Then, we all work together as one team focused on student achievement, and my role is to be the coach of that team," said Rapp.
Time is set aside each school day for students to work on their plans in what's called an "intervention." This time existed before the coaching program began, but now it is more focused on individual priorities. Small groups are organized based on similar goals.
The program targets growth for all students, whether that be remedial training, extra practice, or advanced enrichment for high-achieving students.
Summit Hills Principal Tom Gauchay helped create the program in response to state requirements.
"The pressure, frankly, to perform, to grow kids academically [and] the standardized test. We want to be able to grow the student growth percentile as well as the individual proficiency of the individual students," said Gauchay.
He hopes to prepare students for more requirements than just tests.
"The Common Core curriculum, which is upon us, is a lot more rigorous," he added.
Instructional coaching also gives students ownership over their learning.
"They are excited. Every time we meet in in an interview, they can't wait to see what their progress has been, if they have met their goal, how close they got to it or how far they exceeded it," said Rapp.
The trial year at Falls Valley was very successful, and students displayed growth in many categories. In sixth grade math, 73 percent of students were in the advanced percentile. Their "cut scores" were above the seventh grade average. For 4th grade language arts, 55 percent were advanced, and scores increased by 15 points. The average increase is about 5. Also, 53 percent of third graders were considered advanced in reading. No student scored below basic level in third grade reading.
All but two elementary schools in D93 are participating this year. There is one coach for every two schools. Many coaches were teachers at their schools, and there are new hires as well.