Can the Let Me Learn Process make a difference in student achievement? Judy McLaughlin, principal of Lawrenceville Elementary School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, doesn’t just think so, she knows so. Ms. McLaughlin explains in this interview why her school’s achievement scores were the highest in her district.
LML: Tell us about your school’s test scores and how they compared to other schools in your district.
McLaughlin: In the Language Arts Literacy section of the NJ Assessment of Skills & Knowledge (NJASK), 90% of our students scored Proficient or Advanced Proficient. This put our school more than 20 percentage points ahead of each of the other schools in our district. For the Mathematics section of the state test, 93% of our students scored Proficient or Advanced Proficient. Only one other school in our district matched this score. The other schools had noticeably lower scores.
LML: What do you feel made the difference in your scores being higher?
McLaughlin: Students are exposed to the Let Me Learn Process in grades K-3. By the time they reach third grade, the students know their own learning patterns and learn to use strategies to complete any task successfully. Students are intentional learners. Third-grade students develop a Strategy Card. This helps them stay on task and accomplish a specific assignment. They analyze a task, decode the directions, and match the pattern use to their patterns. Students forge and tether their own patterns to meet those required by the task. Having this knowledge gives the students confidence. They are not reluctant learners. They know they have a strategy to use that works. When faced with high-stakes tests, they apply their learning strategies and face the test with confidence and calmness. Teachers make a conscious effort to respect and mentor the personal learning processes of his/her students. This reinforces how important it is to know and use your patterns.
LML: How is the LML Process® implemented at your school?
McLaughlin: Teachers attend a two-day summer LML workshop. This gives them background knowledge and an introduction to the LML Process®. They sign up for year-long coaching and mentoring sessions. They have a LML consultant or LML teacher come into the classroom and co-teach with them. They may attend small group sessions to discuss lesson planning and LML implementation. Our school has a teacher who is a LML facilitator. This person is a resource for teachers implementing the process. Teachers follow the LML Scope and Sequence Grades 1-8.
LML: What types of changes do you see in your students once you begin implementing the LML Process®?
McLaughlin: Students are more engaged in learning and completing tasks without struggles. They are more confident in their learning and performing. Students explain who they are as learners, talk about their patterns, and see pattern behavior in others. They work well in groups because they understand their classmates.
LML: Why do you feel LML has been so effective?
McLaughlin: Students and teachers have a language they can use to talk about learning. Students are understood and respected. All the students understand that each person learns differently. LML makes students accountable for their learning. The classroom shifts from being teacher-centered to student-centered.
LML: Do you think other schools in your district will adopt the LML Process®?
McLaughlin: LML usage is growing in the district. The initiative is supported by the superintendent and resources for staff development are available. Currently one elementary school, the intermediate school, and the middle school have teachers trained in the process. Next year, all third-grade teachers from the other elementary schools will be trained. In addition, our high school is looking into training teachers and using LML in the Sophomore Experience which includes making career choices and evaluating career academies.
LML: What would you recommend to other schools if they want to integrate the LML Process® into their instruction?
McLaughlin: I would recommend that the teachers receive introductory training and begin to use the LML language in the classroom and follow the steps necessary to embed the LML Process® in the classroom.
LML: Can you share one student’s experience using LML to become a better learner?
McLaughlin: Certainly. Here is just one of many LML success stories at our school. It was shared with me by Donna Lawrence, who teaches third grade.
Will entered third grade as a bright student used to doing the minimum of whatever was asked of him—just enough to get by. He always had something on his desk that was more interesting to him than his school work and eager to rush through his work to get to his own agenda. After taking the LML inventory, he learned that he was a use first in technical reasoning and in confluence and a very low use as needed in sequence and precision. His patterns made sense to Will and he began to recognize who he was as a learner.
Will’s first reaction was that he wasn’t a good writer and never would be because of his patterns. He wanted to use his patterns as an excuse. After learning that excuses were not acceptable and that patterns could help him decode assignments, he came to know what was expected of him, and his work began to improve. His teacher taught him that he could build a paragraph rather than write one. He just needed to know the elements of a good paragraph and to put them together. He realized that if he “built in” two or three additional details that his paragraphs got even better.
As Will began to feel successful, he became more and more motivated to improve his own work and to not rush through it. Will liked that he could be in control of his own learning. He learned when to intensify his use of as needed patterns and to tether his use first ones. Not only did his writing go from as few words as possible to one paragraph, it went to multiple paragraphs. His reading and math skills began to improve as his confidence grew. His agenda became, “Let me show you what I can do.” On the NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) test at the end of the school year, Will’s actual growth was more than twice what was expected in both reading and in math. He did well on his NJASK, but most importantly, had become a highly motivated learner. This year, as Will’s sister entered third grade, his mother reported that he had a great fourth-grade year and is excited about fifth grade. She gives the credit to LML for Will’s understanding of himself as a learner.