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Column: District 518 implements SIOP methods

District 518

WORTHINGTON -- Minnesota was granted a waiver in 2012 to the No Child Left Behind federal legislation that changed the accountability system for schools. Districts were previously measured solely on student proficiency that was measured through Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) reports. The waiver now measures districts on student growth, closing the achievement gap and increasing graduation rate, in addition to student proficiency. In response to this waiver, District 518 is working to stay on the cutting edge to better help students learn and achieve at higher levels. One way the district is addressing this is by implementing teaching methods known as SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Operation Protocol).

SIOP teaching methods focus on how to engage all learners with a special emphasis on reaching English Language Learners (ELL). This protocol is composed of eight main components and 30 features of instruction. These instructional components have been identified specifically as benefitting English Learners, but are good teaching practices that can positively impact all learners. Many teachers describe SIOP as, "simply good teaching practices for all students."

Some teachers at Prairie Elementary have been implementing parts of SIOP for the last two years. This year, all staff at Prairie Elementary will be trained on these methods and implement in their classroom. Additionally, a handful of teachers at the middle school, high school and alternative learning center are also participating in the trainings. Next year, the district hopes to broaden and provide training to all teachers in all buildings.

In order to best equip teachers to use these strategies, an expert SIOP trainer is in the district approximately one time a month. While here, the trainer provides workshops for all staff involved during in-service times. Additionally, the trainer meets with a small group of teacher leaders, coordinators and administrators. The trainer also models sample lessons and works with small groups of teachers to design lessons that include SIOP components.

The SIOP goals align with those identified in the Minnesota Department of Education Waiver of No Child Left Behind. Goals include: increase student proficiency levels, have higher levels of student growth, close the achievement gap and increase graduation rate at the high school.

Of the measurement criteria above, student growth and achievement gap reduction have improved district-wide. In 2012, 72.7 percent of students demonstrated medium or high levels of growth on the Reading MCA test. In some instances, the district has reduced the achievement gap faster than the State. Student proficiency levels have been the challenge area for all buildings.

Prairie Elementary has been identified as a Focus School (15 percent of schools greatest contributing to the state achievement gap). This is primarily due to the proficiency level criterion. Continuing to have large numbers of students with medium and high growth will result in further narrowing of the achievement gap and increased proficiency levels.

Through the implementation of SIOP, the district hopes to increase student achievement in all of these areas.

Katie Clarke is District 518's coordinator of curriculum and instruction.