A Summary of the Educational Model Implemented by Quality Schools International
The schools of Quality Schools International (QSI) use a model of education based upon student performance. An outline of the implementation in these schools follows:
This success oriented model has three foundational beliefs:
- QSI believes that all students can experience success in their learning including higher order thinking skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.
- QSI believes that success breeds success.
- QSI believes that it is the school’s responsibility to provide the conditions for success.
This success oriented way of operating a school leads to optimum learning and to happy and motivated students. Using knowledge of educational research, these schools are student performance-based rather than ‘time-based’ or ‘calendar-based’. Teachers and students in QSI schools use time as a resource to reach mastery of clearly-defined objectives (unit outcomes) rather than using time as a boundary condition to determine when learning begins and ends. Our teachers are expected to employ instructional practices of excellence, however the measure of success is not how well the teacher teaches, but how well the students learn.
The implications of QSI’s three foundational beliefs
All students can experience success in their learning.
QSI defines academic success as performing at a minimal level that would traditionally earn a “B” grade. The system for evaluation is mastery at an “A” or “B” level, or a “P” which means the student is still in progress toward mastery in a particular unit.
There is a relationship for any student between the time spent on learning and practicing, and that student’s level of performance. Rather than employing an extensive grading system, such as A, B, C, D, E, or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. to record varying performance levels, QSI believes that the amount of time each student spends on a unit of study can vary considerably as each works toward achieving an “A” or “B” mastery.
The QSI curriculum identifies core units that make up courses. (In most courses there are ten (10) units in a year’s course.) It is expected that most students will achieve mastery in these core units within the school year. Higher performing students may master not only the core units, but selective units as well. This is shown on the status reports. Some students will need to take advantage of the many opportunities provided for students to utilize extra time to master the units.
Some examples of ways for a student to find extra time to work on a unit include:
- Using time from another course in which that student is performing well and therefore does not need the full class time to master units. (i.e. a student who is doing well in a reading unit may take some of that time to work on challenges they have encountered in a mathematics unit, or vice versa.)
- Using some time at recess or lunch to spend with a teacher or to do some practice in an area that they find challenging.
- Formal “safety netting” sessions after school where teachers stay after the normal school day to work with students who need extra assistance.
- The administration may schedule additional time for a student to work in a specific area of study.
- Younger students may seek the help of older students on a formal or informal basis.
- A student may spend more time at home in the evenings or on weekends working on areas that they find challenging. On occasion, students set themselves up with study groups or peer tutors.
- Some may hire tutors to help them.
There will be occasions when a student will be engaged in a course for more than one academic year. A student’s progress may be updated daily on the computerized status report program. This is available at any time. In order to ensure that parents, students, and staff are well informed of the progress that a student is making, student status reports are sent home five times per year. Parent-teacher conferences are also scheduled three times a year, once each term.
Success breeds success
QSI believes that there is a definite connection between how a student perceives their performance in a subject and how they actually perform in that subject. Students who consistently experience failure are unlikely to see themselves as successful. It is very important to break cycles of failure. One of the best ways to do this is to place students in situations where they will begin to experience success.
Following admission to the school, students are given an assessment to determine their level of performance in mathematics, reading, and writing. The results of these assessments are used to help determine the level of instruction that would be best for the students in the core courses. Based on these assessments, students are placed at the appropriate levels for achievement in each of the core courses. Students remain with their chronological age group for homeroom. They attend all courses not in the core group with their homeroom.
The progress of students who are placed in instructional groups below their age level is monitored. Once mastery is achieved, they are moved to their appropriate level. Students whose lack of English skills would prevent them from finding success in the main classroom are assigned to the Intensive English department. Here very small teacher-student ratios exist. Students will exit from Intensive English in stages.
It is the responsibility of the school to provide the conditions for success.
QSI believes that more learning will occur if students have a desire to learn, have positive feelings concerning the school environment, and have success in their work. A comfortable atmosphere of caring and acceptance is considered important. Students are encouraged to strive for excellence and creativity. An aesthetically pleasing environment, with a view to appreciation of beauty and order, enhances this. Student possibility of success increases when they work at the appropriate level of difficulty and sense positive expectations from well-qualified, experienced, and caring educators.
To achieve these conditions, QSI takes on the responsibility:
- to recruit educators who have a love for children, who have positive expectations of children, and who are willing to give the time and energy necessary to meet the needs of individual students.
- to employ educators who have acceptable values and who believe that their life style should be a positive influence on their students.
- to employ educators directly from outside of the country, if necessary, to provide experienced and successful educators for specific positions.
- to employ enough educators to maintain reasonably small class sizes.
- to provide facilities that support academic and activity programs.
- to assess each student in reading, mathematics, and writing upon initial enrollment to assure a proper entry level in these courses.
- to encourage parental support of the school with a view toward enhanced learning and the development of positive student attitudes.
To provide these conditions, the staff at QSI schools takes on the responsibility:
- to continually assess the students in all areas of learning to assure mastery.
- to ensure students know what learning tasks are expected.
- to provide appropriate learning experiences and allow students sufficient time on tasks to be able to experience success.
- to provide reteaching experiences if mastery is not achieved.
- to reward students equally for mastery.
- to evaluate students in a way that encourages self-growth rather than competition against other students’ achievements.
- to inspire students toward actualization of accomplishments in excellence and creativity.
- to provide a positive school atmosphere by working with a cooperative spirit supporting one another and encouraging a high morale and efficiency within the staff.
- to incorporate differentiated teaching methods and styles within the classroom.
The curriculum is based upon these objectives which are designed down from the school’s Exit Outcomes.
There are four levels of outcomes as follows:
- Exit Outcomes - In the beginning of the restructuring process these were developed for Sanaa International School and subsequently for QSI’s other schools. These were formulated in weekly meetings for an entire school year by a voluntary ‘core group’. The starting point was to imagine our definition of a model graduate and then write what that graduate would know, would be able to do, and would be like. This led to dividing the Exit Outcomes into three parts: Knowledge, Competencies, and Success Orientations. From this the school’s overall curriculum is developed. QSI particularly stresses success orientations which include trustworthiness, responsibility, concern for others, kindness/politeness, group interaction, aesthetic appreciation, and independent endeavor.
- Program Outcomes - These are derived from the Exit Outcomes and outline the school’s curriculum in each of the seven departments (English, Mathematics, Cultural Studies, Science, Languages other than English, Creative and Applied Arts, and Personal Health). Each course (8 year old reading, biology, algebra, etc.) is identified in the Program Outcomes
- Course Outcomes - These are derived from the Program Outcomes and give a more detailed description of each course and include information on materials available for the course.
- Unit Outcomes - Each course is divided into essential unit outcomes which are designed to require from 12 to 18 class periods for the student to attain mastery. These consist of a general statement and a series of measurable objectives (segment outcomes) which are used by the teacher and student to identify what the student must demonstrate in order to receive credit for the unit. Each unit has an evaluation instrument (usually two equivalent versions) used to determine student mastery and level of success. This may be a paper/pencil test, project, performance, or other means of determining student success.
Alignment – The teacher teaches, the materials support, and the mastery demonstrations test the objectives of the unit outcome. In other words teachers teach what they test and test what they teach. To do otherwise is not ethical. We want Mastery Learning, not Mystery Learning.
Expanded Opportunities - Students differ in time needed to attain mastery on a unit outcome. A variety of ways are employed to allow a student the time necessary, while those who need less time are able to engage in selective outcomes and receive additional credits.
Credentialing – Aligned with this structure is the reporting system. Mastery of each unit is evaluated at the time of completion with an ‘A’ or ‘B’ (mastery grades). Mediocre or poor work is not accepted. Completed work is assigned either ‘A’ ,or ‘B’, or ‘P’ – “You’re not done yet!”. If a student has mastered a unit with an evaluation of ‘B’, he or she may wish to demonstrate a higher level of mastery at a later time in the same school year in order to change the evaluation to an ‘A’. This encourages continued learning. Data is entered in a computer on a daily basis and ‘Status Reports’ can be produced at any time. A time period (quarter, term, semester) is not evaluated; student performance in each unit outcome in which a student is engaged is evaluated.
This results in enhanced student learning and high student motivation as students are rewarded for their successes.