It’s impossible not to get called on in Ashleigh Krudys’ classroom. That’s the way she likes it.
“I sit next to them and make sure they’re doing things right,” she says, laughing. “My students don’t have the option of hiding in the back row and hoping they don’t get noticed.”
That’s because Ms. Krudys teaches ninth grade Literature Support, a class with a very small size. The most students she teaches is 11 and she has as few as six.
“They get a lot of attention from me, and I make it a point to know a lot about my students, so the small class size is vital,” she adds.
Literature Support focuses on catching students up to a ninth grade reading level, which is a challenge given that some students enter KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School several reading levels behind, and others are even learning the English language at the same time.
As Ms. Krudys sees it, “These are kids who have so much to give and so much untapped potential, so we owe it to our students to do what we need to do in order to give them an opportunity. I think the biggest thing with being on grade level with reading is that it affords them choices with their future.”
Knowing that reading and comprehension abilities also fosters confidence, Ms. Krudys spends time at the beginning of the year intentionally building a community of support.
“We call each other friends, because you’re not embarrassed around your friends. I always remind them that I’m here for them and want them to grow in the class together.”
The way the class—which is taught statewide in ninth grade—is structured, students tackle four small books per week, as well as discuss longer texts that they are reading in their English Language Arts class.
“We’re reading 1984, and I like it a lot,” says Sa’Mya, one of Ms. Krudys’ students. “I like how she talks to us and constantly gives us feedback on our work. She’ll pull you aside and help you with your work, so it’s very personal.”
Lindsey Nelson, who serves as Literacy Regional Manager for KIPP Nashville, thinks Ms. Krudys’ class is special, because, “Too often we start with content then student. But she starts with the student and then the content. There’s no doubt the stakes are high. It’s almost a last chance to fill in the gaps. Ms. Krudys’ classroom allows for that extensive diagnosis of identifying the gap, then building small group or one on one instruction around them.”
While testing her students to see whether they are learning critical reading skills is important, Ms. Krudys says she is most excited by the gains that cannot be measured with an exam.
“I think in general, one of the biggest things I’ve seen is a growth in their confidence,” she explains. “KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School has Socratic seminars for Introduction to Literature and four of my students told me they spoke at their seminar. None of the students know the questions before they show up, so my students were so excited about having spoken. I was so proud of them.”
For ninth grader Juan, Ms. Krudys’ class has helped him across the board.
“I’ve noticed a big change,” he says. “Because of Ms. Krudys, I approach homework in my other classes differently, which helps me understand the content better.”
Nelson adds, “I think the skills that are being taught in this class are actually changing the trajectory of her students’ lives. It’s more than just ‘We’re reading a book together today’. It’s ‘I’m giving you the skills and the toolkit to become the most successful version of yourself now and in the future.’”