Chapter III: Yes We Can! Collective Efficacy and Student Achievement at Excell Academy
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 have grown a tremendous amount from being able to observe other teachers. Every time I walk into someone else’s room, I learn something about classroom management. I am able see creative approaches to teaching and learning. This makes me want to be better at my craft. I also find it incredible that so many teachers ask for my advice. We are able to help each other and encourage each other.”
Mrs. Julie James, 5th Grade Teacher and Lead Teacher
“I think I have grown as a teacher at Excell because all of the wonderful things implemented within the classroom. Having professional development and support while implementing things, such as balanced literacy and the [Academic Language] matrix have helped me become a better teacher. My fellow teachers are always there to help if I have any questions or need suggestions on anything. At the same time, it challenges me to incorporate all of these things into my lessons to make them the best they can be. They also are there to provide encouragement and ways to help if you are struggling.”
Ms. Jennifer Schemenauer, 2nd Grade Teacher
The negative impact of poverty on student achievement is well documented and is often cited in the media and by educators as the most significant cause of the achievement gap. What is not as often cited is that multiple studies have shown that collective efficacy, the collective belief of teachers and staff that they can and will positively impact student achievement (and that all students can learn), has a more significant positive effect on student achievement than poverty’s negative impact (see the resources at the end of this article for the research). Collective efficacy represents the confidence that teachers have in themselves, in each other and in their students which leads to greater collaboration, helps to create a positive school culture and results in high expectations and greater perseverance from both teachers and students. Strong collective efficacy is a key part of overcoming the belief gap and the low expectations that many students experience on a daily basis.
We have seen the positive impact of collective efficacy at Excell Academy as we have implemented a new framework (McRel) and new strategies for creating a positive and effective context for learning and are giving students the high-quality instruction that they need and deserve. Our data shows that it’s working.
There is a lot of work left to do, but we are definitely moving in the right direction and are giving students what they need to learn. We have had impressive growth in proficiency over the last two years in math and reading, going up 16.3% in math proficiency and up 15.8% in reading in that same time. In 2014-2015, our schoolwide growth scores for math and reading were above average meaning our students are growing faster than kids in the state. Our English Learners are growing really fast and are meeting all of their state targets for growth in language, math and reading. Also, last year, every single group at our school with an achievement gap in Minnesota grew faster at Excell than their counterpart group in the state in both math and reading. We were named a Beating the Odds school by the Star Tribune for reading proficiency of schools with high percentage of students receiving Free and Reduced Price lunch.
A lot of these gains have to do with the various research based strategies that we are implementing, from Formative Assessment (Learning Objectives, Success Criteria, Feedback) to Balanced Literacy (a framework for teaching reading) and the work of the Student Success Team (positive behavior coaches). But those strategies and initiatives are only effective because of the strong collective efficacy we see in our staff. We give a collective efficacy survey every school year and in the spring of 2015 it showed that an overwhelming majority of our staff agree with these statements:
Teachers in this school truly believe every child can learn.
Teachers here are confident they will be able to motivate their students.
Teachers here are well-prepared to teach the subjects they are assigned to teach.
If a child doesn’t learn something the first time, teachers will try another way.
What’s really exciting is that teachers are staying at Excell as they become stronger teachers. They are excited and our students are getting multiple years in a row of high quality teaching, something that is truly life-changing. The kids believe in themselves and have higher and higher expectations for what they’re going to achieve every year that they’re here.
To learn more about collective efficacy at Excell Academy e-mail Thomas Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out the research here: