About 15 years ago, I attended weekly central administrator meetings as an elementary program supervisor in a large urban Texas school district. The agenda of the meetings varied widely from week to week, but, these meetings frequently spurred tangent discussions that were often more valuable and insightful than the official agenda topics.
The Academic Need for Bridge Resources
During one particular meeting, an elementary associate superintendent opened up a discussion on daily curricular rigor. She asked the small group of program supervisors, “How can we determine that each elementary school is providing daily rigor in problem solving and application in accordance with state standards?” Upon reflection, I realized that our elementary schools did not possess a standardized process from grade level to grade level, let alone from school to school that assured an accountable daily rigor for intermediate grade level students.
A decade prior, I was cognizant that elementary students – especially economically disadvantaged students attending Title 1 schools – invariably possessed academic literacy and numeracy gaps. These academic gaps significantly affected students’ current grade level learning. Hence, literacy and numeracy stop-gap programs were designed to accelerate students back to grade-level curriculum. The simply designed literacy stop-gap programs are free downloads at The New 3rs Academic Transformation. The numeracy stop-gap resource is a Formative Loop product, and it can be inexpensively purchased at Formative Loop.com. Since a school’s or a district’s adopted daily core curriculum used are customarily designed for grade level practice, stop-gap literacy and numeracy resource programs afforded the adopted resources to function as designed by the major curriculum manufacturers in this country.
However, after the students are instructionally prepared for grade level curriculum, how can the classroom teacher and administration be confidently assured that students are receiving the expected grade level problem solving rigor as required by state standards? Of course, this was the associate elementary superintendent’s insightful question. The answer was as equally simple as the formation of stop-gap literacy and numeracy resources ten years prior: a bridge resource was needed.
What are Bridge Resources?
As with Stop-Gap Resources, Bridge Resources possess a singular academic design benefit and pragmatic objective in core subjects in both Title 1 and non-Title 1 classrooms. Bridge Resources apply grade level reading, writing, mathematics, and science skills that are aligned with state standards in a real world or situational problem.
For instance, a typical Bridge Resource problem is a math word problem that requires fourth (4th) grade students to compute the area of a rectangular garden given the garden’s perimeter and only one known side or dimension (i.e. length or width). The student must use discrete addition and subtraction skills to compute the parallelogram’s missing length or width, and then use multiplication of the two dimensions – the length and width – to compute the garden’s area. In this case, a student computes the parallelogram’s area by connecting discrete math skills in a logical and sequential process, piece by piece, as if forming a ‘bridge’ of myriad math skills to solve the word problem. Typical bridge resources can be purchased at Amara 4 Education for reading and math or at Forde-Ferrier for science. There are free downloadable resources for science at The New 3rs Academic Transformation - under the 'Expertise Resources' tab.
Highly effective grade level Bridge Resources afford the classroom teacher with a daily curricular tool that provides grade level rigor and student learning expectations as specified with either the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in all core subjects. Consequently, students are adequately prepared and exposed to the grade level rigor and the problem solving expectation in each core subject.
It is important to note that a Bridge Resource used in the classroom during the fall may look different than a Bridge Resource implemented in the spring. A high quality Bridge Resource in the fall includes specific skill building practice in conjunction with skill application problems, because students are building both application and discrete skills in the fall. Yet in the spring, the resource is more solely focused on application problems aligned with each state’s student learning expectations.
Academic Implications of Bridge Resource Implementation
Both the Stop-Gap and Bridge Resources were instrumental in producing two National Blue Ribbon Schools and Profile Schools in the Austin Independent School District – in 2012 (Graham Elementary) and 2015 (Blackshear Elementary). As expected, the resources require consistency, perspiration and academic focus to be effective. Title 1 school administrators and teachers are already working hard at their campuses; however, in this case, Stop-Gap and Bridge Resources make that work productive by producing heightened academic results regardless of socioeconomic setting.
Title 1 Elementary School National Blue Ribbon Success is more than possible when fundamental student needs are addressed on both the social and academic level. Bridge and Stop-Gap Resources are just two of those necessary steps - and academic replication is possible.