McIntosh Elementary School Gets Results in Reading Classes

     Classtalk was used in a multi-strategy effort to boost reading performance of 5th graders prior to state mandate reading comprehension tests.

     In the spring of 1996, Mrs. Carol Wiatt of McIntosh Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia began using Classtalk in her 5th grade classroom. Her goal was to help students successfully complete the standardized Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) test. The school was expecting 56% of the students to "pass" (i.e. scores "at or above grade level"). What happened next surprised everyone, 90% of the students passed! The school was besieged with visitors trying to figure out how they did it. A closer look at the strategies and data will help us to see how this performance was gained and how the interactive classroom system Classtalk fit into it.

     The student population at McIntosh Elementary School is 79% "at risk." This means the student comes from a single-parent family or falls below the poverty line qualifying for free meals. The students need test taking skills and reading skills and therefore, Mrs. Wiatt was 'teaching to the test'.

     Some of the key strategies implemented were:
1)  students complete reading assignment and answer questions on worksheet;
2)  teacher addresses questions one-at-a-time with whole class, in the following way:

  • students send in their own answer by using calculators,
  • class looks at answer histogram (splits not embarrassing for individuals),
  • class analyzes "WHY" some choices are better, students explain, sometimes lots of class discussion;

3)  students keep individual charts of their performance over the semester;
4)  students receive a 'reward' if they miss one or fewer answers; and
5)  as the test approached, the teacher allowed less time for answers to simulate the DRP test environment.

     Data was collected based on the formation of three groups in the spring semester. The groups were divided as follows: Group 1 was randomly selected and used Classtalk two or more days per week, Group 2 had a poor prognosis & used Classtalk one day per week and Group 3 had a good prognosis & didn't use Classtalk. Students in Group 1 & 2 (using Classtalk) advanced their reading skills more than those in Group 3. Data shows that in Group 1 & 2, 52 of 60 students (87%) advanced two or more years with Classtalk compared to 8 of 15 (53%) without Classtalk in Group 3.

     With funding from the Newport News School System, the Beasley Foundation, and equipment loans from Texas Instruments, McIntosh Elementary now has ten Classtalk systems and has extended the experiment to all 5th grade, all 4th grade, and two 3rd grade classes. Also, these systems are no longer being used just fro reading comprehension, but for ALL disciplines.


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