We have developed two kinds of interventions to address the performance gap, the gap between what students are expected to do and what students are able to do.
1. Teacher-focused interventions
—CONTENT ENHANCEMENT ROUTINES
—are directed at how teachers think about, adapt, and present their critical content in “learner-friendly” fashion. Content Enhancement Routines are sets of inclusive teaching practices that help teachers organize and present critical information in such a way that students identify, organize, comprehend, and recall it.
2. Student-focused interventions
—are designed to provide the skills and strategies students need to learn the content. The Learning Strategies Curriculum encompasses strategies for acquiring information from the printed word, for organizing and memorizing information, for solving math problems, and for expressing information in writing .
In addition to these two types of interventions, SIM addresses the realities teachers face in today’s classrooms through the use of a planning technique called SMARTER
(a framework for making decisions about content at the course, unit, and lesson levels of planning) and recognition of the need for teamwork to achieve instructional goals. Recognizing that academic interventions alone are not sufficient for student success, SIM also includes components that help students create and participate in productive learning communities, develop strong and appropriate social skills, advocate for themselves and their needs in education conferences, envision positive futures for themselves, and plan how to reach their goals.
QUALITY TEACHING MATERIALS
Our research confirms that appropriate and supportive teaching materials greatly enhance teachers’ ability to provide quality instruction in their classrooms. At a minimum, these materials consist of well-designedteacher manuals, student learning sheets and practice activities, scoring rubrics that enable teachers to provide high-quality feedback, and the necessary technology supports (such as DVDs and computers).
Our long-standing commitment to and investment in developing these instructional supports underscores the importance we place on this aspect of our work.
QUALITY PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
We are committed to placing our research findings into the hands of practitioners, students, and other researchers in the field.
An extensive network of dedicated professionals who share our values and goals takes the primary responsibility for promoting our products and teaching methods. This network—the SIM International Professional Development Network—consists of more than 1,000 individuals who offer workshops, inservice training, and support for state initiatives across the country and around the world.
These individuals work directly with teachers and districts, providing opportunities for teachers to learn to use the SIM instructional practices and then supporting their efforts in the classroom. To build school district capacity in supporting continuing SIM implementation, many districts support members of their staffs who pursue certification as SIM Professional Developers.
Through our Professional Development Research Institute, we coordinate the SIM Network, ensuring that members adopt our high standards for quality of both instructional materials and professional development experiences.
We organize international and regional conferences as learning opportunities for SIM Professional Developers. Other resources include newsletters, e-mail discussion forums, videos, CDs, DVDs, and web sites, all designed to aid members in their work or provide updates on our latest thinking.
We believe we obtain our best results when we work directly with the individuals affected by the problems we seek to solve. Consequently, we have partnered with teachers in hundreds of classrooms to develop
and refine SIM instructional materials to meet rigorous standards we have set for ourselves.
Every instructional procedure we develop must be palatable for teachers. If it’s not, they won’t adopt it for classroom use. Procedures must be powerful enough to make a difference for low-achieving students and must be perceived as valuable by high-achieving and average-achieving students. In addition, the degree to which students are able to use SIM skills and strategies in a variety of settings and situations is important in determining whether an instructional procedure has merit.
Our procedures also must result in socially significant gains for students. In other words, a procedure that results in an increase in performance from 20 percent to 40 percent might be statistically significant, but it is not socially significant because the student is still failing.
SIM’s components—Content Enhancement Routines, Learning Strategies Curriculum, and supporting materials—give teachers access to a breadth and depth of instructional procedures to address many of the challenges they face in the classroom. As a result, more students who are at risk now can realize success in school.
The key to making strategic instruction a reality is to realize that it takes time—months or years even—and a strong administrative and instructional commitment.
By holding firm to our high standards, we have built a solid base of work upon which schools can rely as they develop programs to meet today’s extensive demands. Not only are schools required to show student gains, they also have to prove that they use teaching methods grounded in research. Evidence-based practices are key features in current education legislation, including the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act.
Our extensive research—which has been reviewed by scientific panels at the U.S. Department of Education and other public agencies and which has been documented in leading academic publications—demonstrates that use of SIM interventions can improve student performance.