ZAP policy (Zeroes aren’t permitted): How a school boosts student achievement

In September 2008, *Ray Landers*, the Alabama principal of Boaz Middle School, was named Middle School Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary Principals Association (NASSP). This award is given to someone whose school has achieved greatness.

Ray Landers attributes student achievement at Boaz Middle School to the teacher teams. All of the schools in the Boaz City School District are exemplary and they all use the concept of teams with teacher teams and leadership teams. Click here.

Below we extract some interesting elements of the school’s success and the hallmarks of their school program:
~ mentoring/buddy system;
~ no homework, yet Zeroes Are not Permitted (ZAP) policy;
~ project-based cross-content learning;
~ math and reading initiatives;
*~ policy of teachers knowing where their kids come from *
*~ shared responsibility (eg for state of school);*
*~ Top o’ the morning and afterschool remediation programs to assist
students who need help with schoolwork.*
*~ creating a community/team of teachers who collaborate and care and who
are trained*.

Some of the fundamental guiding principles and philosophies of the school were:

In low performing schools, teachers are less likely to collaborate with and learn from one another. Whereas, in high performing schools, teachers will share with one another the needed knowledge and skills to help their students reach high academic standards. Through the years Ray has moved the culture to where, today, it is one of collaboration where the faculty learns from each other and can see what is going on in other classrooms.

His objective was to create a *dual focus* on both adult and student learning. The more the teachers learn, the more the students will learn. Increasing student literacy became a priority. This required training teachers to produce effective instructional techniques. The faculty, staff, and administration began their training together. As a group, they read and discussed topically important books. Every member of the staff received training aimed at improving the entire
spectrum of literacy components. From English teachers and math teachers to P.E., music, and art teachers, every teacher was and still is involved in the school’s literacy effort. Every faculty member is included in an on-going, collaborative learning process to ensure the success of the
literacy component.

The school has a mentor program designed to nurture emotional and academic needs of targeted students. Teachers pair with students on a one-on-one basis, building relationships. There is a “Lunch Buddies” program that pairs teachers with groups of five or six students. They eat together as a group emulating a family-style meal. For many of these students, this is the only family-type gathering they experience.

Another “radical” concept and outgrowth of the visits is that there is that *no homework* given to students. Ray shares, “Our students work very hard during their seven hours at school. Every minute of their time here is focused on learning. They need time at home to focus on other things. And for many of our students, the realities of a difficult home life preclude their ability to complete homework.”
*New teachers go through a comprehensive induction program that begins the summer before their first year of teaching. All* *new teachers are coached and nurtured by an effective veteran
teacher*,”which continues for two years. The collaborative environment means that no teacher ever teaches in isolation.

They found that in-school suspensions merely took their students out of needed classes so, Together we created programs that replaced the ineffective in-school suspensions. Students are not allowed to not do their work. They had a policy: *ZAP*. *Z*eros *A*ren’t *P*ermitted and supported it with several new programs:

– *Top O’ the Morning:* Students practice and make-up work before school.

– *OSCAR:* On School Campus Alternative Remediation: This after school program replaces in-school suspension. Students work closely with teachers to fulfill class assignments or get extra help.

– Instead of textbooks, teachers collaborate to plan in-depth units of study and share best practices across both grade levels and content areas. They develop materials based on the needs of their students, with freedom to change from year to year. By not limiting themselves to standard textbooks, they were able to create instructional materials that not only fulfill state educational requirements, but exceed them in depth and scope. The teachers continually work together to ensure that literacy skills are taught *across content areas*.

– Weekly math vocabulary words are included in the lesson plans of all teachers.

– Students in language arts classes practice reading and comprehension using a math word problem.
– Social studies teachers plan specific lessons together across grade levels. This enables students of varying abilities, ages, and grades to work in cooperative groups together.



*November 2008* A School That Achieves Greatness

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