April 24, 2014 - 01:23
Chilhowee integrates Classworks
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Although this is the first year that CMS has used the program, the preliminary results of two Benchmark assessments show growth that appears to exceed mid-year expectations.

by Courtney Pippenger

After Chilhowee Middle School teachers voluntarily attended an overview of the Classworks program this summer, Principal Connie Dunn met with teachers, who almost unanimously voted to integrate the program at Chilhowee Middle School. Mrs. Dunn contacted the Central Office, and the program was available when school started this Fall.

Although this is the first year that CMS has used the program, the preliminary results of two Benchmark assessments show growth that appears to exceed mid-year expectations. CMS teacher Andrea Yates noted exceptional gains with her math students directly associated with their time spent in Classworks. Furthermore, the program’s impact on student learning has been documented at schools using the curriculum. According to Dr. Dan Lawson, Director of Tullahoma City Schools, TN, Classworks is correlated with an increase in TCAP scores. “In Mathematics, Classworks Users increased by 10.45%, while Non-Users increased by only 0.71%. In Reading/Language Arts, Classworks Users increased by 11.86%, while Non-Users decreased by 0.88%.”

What is Classworks? According to publisher Curriculum Advantage, Classworks is a “web-based curriculum resource in mathematics, reading, language arts, and elementary science.” Each week, CMS students go to the computer lab to complete Classworks mini-lessons, learning activities, and quizzes to assess learning, receiving immediate and specific feedback. Although this program cannot replace classroom instruction, it is a tool teachers can use to teach efficaciously.

One reason teachers approve of utilizing valuable class time for the program is its ability to differentiate for specific learning needs. After students take a periodic assessment, the program generates an Independent Learning Program based on that student’s strengths and weaknesses, which is why the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) endorses the program. According to Luann Purcell, Ed.D., executive director of CASE, “There is no question that Classworks helps educators successfully address the inherent challenges of special education.”

This differentiation does not end with the generation of the learning plans. Although subject-level teachers and lab directors Christal Morris and Mark Dixon circulate to address learning issues and informally assess progress, student scores and time invested per item are reported within minutes to the teacher-access component of the program; once received, educators may reassign or provide alternative support in areas until students demonstrate proficiency. This factor may be one reason teachers believe Classworks is helping students to succeed. According to Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001), “Asking students to continue working on a task until it is completed and accurate (until the standard is met) enhances student achievement.”

Middle school students are savvy enough to know that this program is essentially a mode of instruction delivery, but appreciate the change in pace from traditional student-learning roles. Student Robert Goodner states that Classworks is “better than regular class because you get to do your work with the screen and mouse instead of boring textbooks,” and student Jordan Howard says that she enjoys the “break from writing,” noting that some of the activities are “a lot like games.” Moreover, transfer student Ashlee Berry affirms that this program is “better than anything we did at my Texas school!”

Parents with internet access appreciate the availability of the program at home. Students may work on teacher-assigned lessons, and educators can monitor student progress and adjust assignments, even when school is not in session. The ease of use outside of the classroom has also aided students with extended absences due to lengthy illnesses.

Classworks is new at CMS, and time will tell if utilizing this tool helps teachers to reach students and help them grow. However, students do enjoy the program; furthermore, teachers and administrators believe the early gains demonstrate that students are benefitting from having access to this curriculum, as well.

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