J.M. Wright Regional Vocational-Technical School
The practice: Standards
Administrators and teachers at the J.M. Wright Regional Vocational-Technical School in Stamford, Connecticut had long been concerned about their students' academic performance. Compared to their peers at the other Connecticut Vocational-Technical schools, the students of this small urban high school consistently scored at the lowest levels in reading and math on state standardized tests. After studying the eighth-grade state test scores for their incoming students, Wright staff identified reading comprehension and problem-solving skills as the areas most in need of improvement. They hypothesized that a Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) intervention using a digital classroom model would not only improve these skills but also increase students' motivation, confidence, behavior, and metacognitive awareness.
The digital classroom model incorporates the use of technology with content area material through Web-based learning units. The Connecticut Regional Vocational-Technical School System had already partnered with the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC) to create the template for these learning units and piloted them a year before Wright implemented the intervention. Dr. George Cicchetti of the CTDLC, who had trained the teachers involved in the pilot, trained all the remaining Wright Tech 10th grade teachers for the intervention and developed four web-based learning units specifically geared toward the skills needed on the CAPT that were also aligned with the Connecticut State Curriculum Goals and Standards.
With coaching from Dr. Cicchetti, school administrators, and teaching colleagues who had participated in the pilot, Wright Tech teachers used the template to develop their own learning units. Once these units were complete, teachers, parents, students, administrators, and policymakers could access them from a searchable online database, allowing them to become familiar with the standards and how they were being met in the classroom.
Comments from student focus groups conducted periodically throughout the intervention showed that the explicit standards and rubrics included in the learning units gave students a clear path to improvement. Students emphasized that this helped them stay focused and boosted their confidence and abilities when they took the CAPT in May 2002. The evidence bears this out. Since the intervention began in 2001, there have been dramatic drops in disciplinary incidents, failing grades, and absenteeism among the students involvedand significant increases in reading and math scores. (See the Results section for more details.)
Wright Tech acknowledges that it took a team effort to implement the intervention. The following staff members gave their time and effort to ensure the success of the digital classroom model: Peg Sonntag and Trevor Jones, master teachers and coaches; Diane Bauby, school director; Dr. Maria Romero and Edward Kennedy, assistant directors; John Tarnuzzer, Ann Sandagata, and Mike Suntag, central office administrators; and Don Bartels, Peter Clark, Dave Cronin, Sara Gonzalez, Dr. Charbel Herayoui, Justo Karell, Phil Lepinasse, Doug Moffat, Joe Rios-Ninos, Roberta Schwartz, Karen Stabile, Shannon Winchell, and German Yanez, teachers.
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