CARY, N.C., Jan. 15, 2019 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- As many of us re-evaluate our goals for the new year, students at Cardinal Charter Academy are already well on their way to monitoring, achieving and setting new goals as a weekly routine. Each Monday, students pull out their data binders and record their grades, assessments and accomplishments from the past week that point toward the goals they've set. They then meet with their small groups to discuss how their performance stacked up according to stated goals. Together, the small groups non-judgmentally review accomplishments, celebrate wins and make suggestions on how to get closer to their targets. This time allows students to re-evaluate if their goals are too aggressive, not aggressive enough or right on target, then, they adjust if necessary.
"We start the goal setting process as early as kindergarten," said Rebecca Draper, principal of Cardinal Charter Academy. "In grades K-2, we teach the foundations of goal setting and adults are involved in all aspects. Once students reach third grade, we begin transitioning them to own the process with less adult intervention. By the time students reach middle school, they are well-versed in goal setting and directing their progress, needing only minimal adult monitoring at that stage."
Middle-school students meet with their small groups weekly, then quarterly meet with their entire grade and separate into new small groups to have table talks to discuss progress, challenges and solutions. Twice per year, students lead conferences for parents and teachers to show their progress toward their goals.
"Small groups are very supportive at every aspect of the process. At the morning meeting level, students are grouped with others who share similar achievement goals. So, you may have a small group of students who are naturally high achievers, a group who has challenges with reading and a group that has challenges with math. Students recognize that they are not alone in their struggles and benefit from the experiences of their peers," said Draper.
Sixth grade ELA teacher, Lauren Webb has seen some tremendous success stories since students started using data binders and time has been scheduled weekly for reflection.
"Some students have had data binders for several years, so they can see how far they've come over a number of years in some cases. Others see their progress from the beginning of the year. They set academic, social and extra-curricular goals and get a designated time to reflect on where they were and where they are now. This is very helpful when a student hasn't quite reached a goal. It's affirming to see that they've made progress, even if they have not quite gotten to their end point."
She has also seen very tangible results. One of her middle-school students, for example, started out with a disappointing 205 points on the school's standardized testing. Within six months, after reaching small milestones and progressive goals, she was able to achieve 227 points, which translates to about a year and a half of growth.
"When my student came to me to show her progress, her eyes were sparkling, and she was just so motivated to keep going on such a positive path."
According to Webb, the biggest obstacle she has seen in fully implementing the goal-setting process with all students is when consistency is lacking at home.
"We have to have buy-in from parents for the process to work well at school. When students practice goal-setting at home, it becomes second-nature to make it work at school."
Jackie Green is a seventh-grade student at Cardinal Charter Academy and believes the best part of keeping data binders and setting goals is how everything stays organized.
"Staying organized helps you track your goals and writing them down helps you reach them," said Green. "Last year, I increased my NWEA scores by 20 points and that was because of my data binder. I set goals to read more each night and read a wider variety of materials. One of my goals was to access old end-of-grade (EOG) tests online and try to pass them. By doing that practice, I was able to improve my scores."
Data chats are not only focused on academics. Social goals and extra-curricular goals are addressed as well.
"I like to talk too much and that interferes with my learning. So, I set goals to sit away from my friends to keep distractions lower," added Green. "I also know that getting enough sleep and exercise will improve my overall academics, so I set goals for that too."
Green says that the most important part of the goal-setting process is knowing that you are not alone.
"You don't do this individually. People help you so you feel better about your goals and get help if you're struggling. It's not just one person, it's lots of input and you can share your strategies with others if they are having a tough time."
According to Draper, the entire goal-setting process allows students to understand and be part of their learning. It helps teachers identify student needs early and differentiate their instruction according to student needs. It also identifies early intervention opportunities for students who struggle as well as those who are high achieving. Identifying learning levels early eliminates the boredom many advanced students experience when not challenged and identifies needs for counselors or interventions for students who need extra help.
"The goal-setting process has enhanced our personal learning plans designed to get the best out of every student," adds Draper. "Parents, students and teachers enjoy the tangible benefits and work hard to continue to set and reach higher goals."
SOURCE Cardinal Charter Academy