What leads to success in Excell Academy’s classrooms? In our Profiles of Achievement series we highlight the academic success of our students, emphasizing high quality instruction (great teaching), believing in our students (and helping them believe in themselves), determination and the hard work of teachers and students together to meet our goals.
“I always have high expectations and push hard for success because the stakes are so high. The futures of our children and their options really are at stake and I take that extremely seriously. I’m very proud of the students and what they accomplished last year. It’s a gift for a teacher that I don’t take for granted. I’ll be very proud of this year’s classes as well when we celebrate their amazing growth.”
Mr. Kip Sneen
Research has shown again and again that high teacher and student expectations are essential to student achievement. It has also shown that teachers, especially white teachers, often have lower expectations for students of color and students living in poverty. That is precisely why setting high expectations for our students and giving them the tools they need to be successful is such an important part of Excell Academy’s growth over the last two years. School wide we have had above average growth scores in math for two years in a row and all of our student groups with an achievement gap are growing faster than the opposite group in the state.
Nowhere has this been more evident than in Mr. Kip Sneen’s 7th and 8th grade math classes. The success our students have shown in his classes is impressive. In 2013-2014, his 7th grade students had higher proficiency than the state of Minnesota’s ALL student group and 100% of his students showed medium to high growth, 61.9% making high growth. 80% of his students in both grades combined grew at above average rates and his average growth scores (called “z scores”) were an impressive +0.586 (7th grade) and +0.655 (8th grade).
In 2014-2015, his students had another year of strong growth. His 8th graders, all of whom qualified for Free and Reduced Price Lunch, were within a point of the state ALL student proficiency (almost 20% higher than the state’s FRP students) and 100% made medium to high growth on the MCA. 81.8% of his 7th graders grew at above average rates and their average growth score (z score) was +0.589.
What do these scores mean? They mean that our students are getting the instruction and support they need to achieve academically and are growing much faster than other students in the state of Minnesota.
I asked Mr. Sneen about the success of his students, the classroom culture that he promotes and the role of hard work and expectations. Here’s what he had to say.
TA: What are the most important factors that you believe led to your impressive growth numbers in math?
KS: The impressive growth was gained by high expectations, diligent planning and classroom management, knowledge of content, and teaching the results of hard work not just math content in the classroom.
TA: What kind of place do you want your classroom to be?
KS: I want my classroom to be a place of hard work. Hard work gets results. I’d rather have a room full of hard workers then lazy intellectuals. The students know I’m a hard worker, they can see it every minute in my classroom, every day, and I feel that rubs off.
TA: How important are the teacher’s expectations when it comes to students being successful? What are your expectations of students?
KS: Teacher’s expectations are the most important part of classroom success. However, high expectations mean nothing without a plan and practice that achieves them. I expect them to focus, behave and work hard and the rest will come.
TA: Anything you want to add about the success?
KS: Success can breed more success but success can also cause you to relax. My foot is absolutely always on the gas. I may take things too seriously. I always have high expectations and push hard for success because the stakes are so high. The futures of our children and their options really are at stake and I take that extremely seriously. I’m very proud of the students and what they accomplished last year. It’s a gift for a teacher that I don’t take for granted. I’ll be very proud of this year’s classes as well when we celebrate their amazing growth.
Want to learn more? E-mail Thomas Anderson at email@example.com
Sources for more about the importance of high expectations for our students:
Hassan, Jeffrey A Esq. and Eric Mahmoud and edited by Kim Nelson, A Crisis in Our Community: Closing the Five Education Gaps, published by The African-American Leadership Forum, pp 6-9.
Holzman, Michael. Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2010. Cambridge: Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2010.
Mueller, Dan. Tackling the achievement gap head on. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Wilder Research, 2005, 12.