Bridging the gap between theory and practice
by Joi Holmes
Throughout the history of curriculum and instruction, one general assumption that has been proven true is that there is simply no one-size-fits-all method. Schools have their own individual identity and cultural make-up. Once academic deficiencies and social influences have been identified, meaningful reform can be realized, and the transition of bridging the gap between theory and practice can commence.
Several schools have found ways to balance the cultural, social and academic influences that impact the learning process. In the state of Georgia, over 100 Title I schools were recently recognized for reaching annual yearly progress goals for three or more years.
Principal Dr. Edwina Boggs, her team of administrators and faculty, have met annual yearly progress for 10 consecutive years at Robert Shaw Elementary School, of DeKalb County School System. Robert Shaw Elementary is 97 percent African-American with 68 percent of students considered economically disadvantaged. Since 2001, Robert Shaw Elementary has maintained consistent academic achievement and ongoing success through exceptional leadership and the implementation of outstanding instructional practices.
Boggs contributes the school’s success to having a clean and safe environment, where students can feel good about what is expected of them as well as providing activities that are engaging and hands-on to foster academic achievement. Boggs notes that “ensuring all artifacts are visible for a standards-based classroom and making sure students understand that their jobs as students are to be the best that they can be is cornerstone to creating a learning environment that sets a positive and challenging experience for all involved.” Boggs feels an important characteristic for educators to adopt is to be pleasant when working with students and parents.
To improve academic performance, Boggs says the administration “communicated to all stakeholders about test scores and presented ways to improve students’ weaknesses throughout the school year. The school had several parent meetings along with classes for parents to strengthen the home/school connection. Boggs involved her staff during instructional faculty meetings with strategies, data and hands on materials in an effort to improve student performance. According to Boggs, the school “adopted the ‘family concept’ where the administration invited teachers to come and have the one-on-one or team talk with parents, look at the data and work with those students who need more assistance.”
Going forward, Dr. Boggs believes it is important to “continue to provide adequate teaching and maintain positive attitudes.” In addition, Boggs says the faculty will “work each day to instill in students the importance of learning and being successful and continue to keep our parents informed and involved in this process as well”.
Academic achievement can be realized as demonstrated by Robert Shaw Elementary School. However, the key is to bridge the gap between theory and practice and identify how the school’s individual identity and cultural make-up can be used for positive academic outcome.
Joi Holmes is a veteran ELA Teacher and Reading Coach. She taught elementary, middle and high school students in both Georgia and Florida. Currently, she is a 2nd year Ph.D. student in Curriculum & Instruction.