In the Spotlight: Naylor CCSU Academy

Submitted by: Donna Merritt and Nicole Vitale

Naylor CCSU Academy began year three of its participation in CT’s SPDG by instituting a major infrastructure revision that has changed their multi-tiered system of supports/SRBI framework. Most notably, all K-4 teachers participate in weekly three-hour grade-level PLC meetings, called “Naylor U,” which are in addition to teachers’ personal prep time. These PLCs, sometimes referred to by staff as “Kid Talk,” are guided by Naylor’s Literacy Coach, who facilitates team professional dialogue via a structured data team process. All general education and special education teachers collaborate within Naylor U, including student support services professionals. Each PLC is unique, driven by student and teacher need and focused on academic progress (primarily literacy) and/or behavior.

Grade-level teams examine summative and formative data within their Naylor U PLCs and triangulate universal screening data as a first step. Based on these analyses, including teacher input, students are grouped for interventions depending on their common needs. Teachers are also learning an Analysis of Student Work protocol to support their dialogue and decision-making. Based on the data profiles of students at each grade, the teams created targeted Tier I supports.. This has resulted in changes to core instruction, including greater student engagement, as evidenced by administrator walkthroughs; less reliance on using basal readers for instruction; an increase in Guided Reading; and fewer referrals for special education evaluation.

Grade-level teams are also collaborating to design and deliver Tier II interventions based on student data. Naylor’s Literacy Coach is working with each team to contextualize the interventions to the needs of the students, CT Common Core standards, and teacher strengths. Tier III interventions are not as fully fleshed out yet, but are supported by a newly formed “Rapid Response Team” whose members monitor attendance data and systematically correlate it with academic outcome data.

Published: February 8, 2016

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In the Spotlight: Winthrop SPARKS Good Behavior

Submitted by Clare Wurm, Technical Assistance Provider

Winthrop is officially a Cohort Four school, but, as usual, they’re ahead of the curve. The leadership team was eager to begin their school-wide PBIS program and worked hard to roll it out months before the grant dictated. Their program is based on SPARKS -- Self Control, Participation, Accountability, Respect, Kindness, Safety. The team was mindful about including the whole staff in the SPARKS rollout. Teachers, paraprofessionals, school staff and community partners who provide enrichment courses were included in the preparation and planning.

stairs with math facts printed on the risersClimbing the stairs at Winthrop provides opportunities for positive math behaviors!Tickets are given to students who exhibit positive behavior based on SPARKS. It is evident that teachers are using the recognition process. The adults we see wear rolls of tickets around their necks, or have a stack in their pocket, just waiting to be handed out. Students’ tickets go into a daily raffle. Winners can choose from toys, trinkets and coupons for special events, like lunch with the principal. The types of raffle prizes have changed based on feedback from students. Monthly town meetings are another opportunity to recognize positive behaviors.

Teachers report that behavior has improved since SPARKS was implemented, and they continue to monitor behavior by examining SWIS data. The leadership team is enthusiastic about SPARKS and is awaiting further training in order to incorporate Tier II and III systems of support.

Published: November 20, 2015

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In the Spotlight: Whole-District Involvement in SPDG

Submitted by Irene Zytka, Technical Assistance Provider

Region 10 (Harwinton, Burlington) is located in Northwestern Connecticut and is comprised of four schools: two elementary schools, Harwinton Consolidated and Lake Guarda; a middle school, Har-Bur; and a high school, Lewis Mills. The middle school and high school are connected by the central office building.

Over the four years of the grant, all of the schools participated in the Literacy and Behavior training and technical assistance offered by SERC through the State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG). The middle school and high school also took advantage of additional trainings in Scientific Research-Based Interventions (SRBI), Instructional Strategies, student learning objective (SLO) development, and data team training.

Region 10 as a whole was the first district to participate in the revision and development of its SRBI document. This effort was facilitated by SERC consultants during the summer.

The district has demonstrated its commitment to improving student achievement by aligning structures put forth by the SPDG work and through the additional professional learning opportunities. District leaders shared comments such as: “We now have a more deliberate focus on data-driven decision making” and “There is a more systemic connection between all initiatives and the ability to communicate the connections to staff.” This reflects Region 10’s dedication to doing what’s best for students.

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In the Spotlight: Making It Work In A Small CT District

Submitted by Sarah-Ann Nicholas and Alice Henley, Technical Assistance Providers

Nestled in the Northeastern corner of the state, the Thompson Public Schools serve approximately 1,260 Connecticut students (CEDaR, 2011). The district’s central office, high school, middle school, and elementary school all inhabit one campus; in fact, the buildings are all connected. In a small district like Thompson, the importance of taking a district-wide approach to behavior management is paramount.

Through participation in the State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG), Thompson developed a leadership team representative of staff from each building who attend professional learning opportunities and engage in decision-making around how to deliver academic and behavioral supports for all students. Involvement of staff members from each school allows for the needs of each individual school to be addressed, while ensuring a consistent approach to be utilized throughout the district. A central office administrator participates as well as a representative building administrator.

All three schools began implementing PBIS in spring 2015 and agreed upon three district and school-wide behavioral expectations: Be Responsible, Be Respectful, and Be Safe. While each school’s behavioral matrix contextualizes each expectation as appropriate for its student population, the consistency of expectations across schools provides more structure and predictability for students as they move from grade to grade.

The effective use of resources and time during district leadership team meetings has allowed this small district to engage in comprehensive professional learning opportunities and increase consistency in the use of PBIS as well as adding to the sense of community across all of their schools.

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In the Spotlight: Whisconier Middle School, Brookfield

Submitted by Tom Foote, Technical Assistance Provider

During the fall data review, Whisconier Middle School drilled down into its reading data and noted only 56% of its fifth grade students were at goal in reading as measured by the DRP. The school’s Leadership Team set a yearlong goal to improve that metric.

Using a Root Cause Analysis fishbone, the Leadership Team looked at four potential causal areas: Learners/Curriculum, Teacher/Teaching Process, Content/Subject, and Context/Setting. The Technical Assistance Team from SERC worked collaboratively with the Leadership team to facilitate the process Whisconier Middle School would undertake for the year. This process involved a drill-down approach to each causal area, with a specific focus on students requiring targeted and intensive interventions. Areas measured were Effectiveness of Core Instruction, Effectiveness of Targeted Interventions, and Effectiveness of Intensive Interventions. Strategies were implemented using specific programs (i.e., Read Live, My Sidewalks, ReadWorks, and Quick Reads) with dedicated time to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of support for those scoring below the benchmark.

Ongoing progress monitoring occurred throughout the year. At a year-end data review, the Technical Assistants and Leadership Team reviewed the data and found that 76% of the 5th graders were now at or above goal in reading as measured by the DRP. This gain demonstrated how a laser-like focus on students with specific deficits in reading can yield positive growth and gains for struggling readers at the middle-school level.

This approach is worth replication in other SPDG sites in Connecticut.

Published: April 22, 2015

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In the Spotlight: Huckleberry Hill Elementary, Brookfield

Translating and Transforming the Effectiveness of Core Instruction (ECI) Tool

Submitted by Jared R. Lancer, Ed.D., Technical Assistance Provider

Huckleberry Hill Elementary began participating in the State Personnel Development Grant in September 2012. From the outset, Principal Mary Rose Dymond and the School Leadership Team articulated two primary goals: Define what the school calls the “Huckleberry Way” and clarify the relationship between adult actions and student learning.

During year one, the Leadership Team established a collaborative process using dialogue with the entire staff to foster a shared understanding of and commitment to the Huckleberry Way. With greater clarity regarding the school’s purpose, the Leadership Team began year two focused on explaining the relationship between adult actions and student learning. A combination of facilitated data reviews and technical assistance targeted the school’s intervention procedure. This structured the dialogue in a way to move the Leadership Team forward with a focus on improving teaching and learning. In time, the vision and persistence of the Leadership Team led to transformation of the ECI Data Review Protocol. The school generated a set of Guiding Questionsand agreed upon a revised ECI structure for Grade Level Instructional Data Teams and Grade Level Community meeting dialogue. With an agreed-upon protocol, Grade Level Communities use the modified version of the ECI process to identify common problems of practice for the year and effective instructional strategies over time.

The ECI Process at Huckleberry

At Huckleberry, the ECI protocol has provided a structure and process resulting in greater consistency and coherence among Grade Level Instructional Data Teams to advance teaching and learning. The steps and process at Huckleberry include the following:

  • The protocol is transferred to a Google spreadsheet and shared via Google Drive so that the whole Instructional Data Team can review and reflect
  • Groupings are identified to support opportunities for designing targeted interventions
  • Instructional Data Teams are given a spreadsheet
  • A report is generated reflecting totals entered for the entire Grade Level Community  
  • Grade Level Team and Community dialogue is structured using the Guided Questions (see Figure 1, below)
  • Communities identify common problems of practice and effective practices over time
  • The ECI process occurs three times per year

Impact: Shifts in Dialogue and Practice

According to Principal Dymond, “At first, probably the biggest shift for us was looking at the whole community together versus individually.”  However, over time, “the process has helped us work much more collaboratively to look at common data together with individual accountability and group accountability.”  This has led to fostering a greater awareness, ownership and responsibility among teachers across grade levels and communities for ensuring that every child is learning.  “Teachers are now more vested in doing the ECI because they see the purpose…. It helps them see visually where the children are and what they need to do next,” says Dymond.

Guided by a shared purpose that defines the Huckleberry Way, the new structure has provided a way to talk about children, learning, and teaching.  Now, grade-level teams are meeting with greater clarity and consistency to identify common goals for improving teaching and student learning. Examples of goals developed for improving teaching include: supporting children in understanding the author’s craft as well as how to critically examine and make inferences from text; understanding effective strategies and approaches for engaging children in learning; and identifying effective practices and approaches for understanding what children are doing and why to make adjustments in teaching to facilitate learning.

The new structure has further supported productive shifts in dialogue among Instructional Data Teams and Grade Level Communities, resulting in focused sharing regarding specific strategies and resources around a targeted concern.  Teachers are starting to identify promising instructional practices and develop common tools.  These include new approaches and practices for conferring with children in order to assess learning and understanding, creation of Grade Level Community rubrics, and a greater focus on fostering strategic thinking among learners grounded in evidence.  Now, Dymond says, “Teachers are talking about all students in all of the classes, not just their own students...and we know where the majority of students need support across all classes in the school….We are starting to re-emphasize flexible groupings as a result because teachers are now looking at all children in a community as their responsibility and are now considering multiple options across classrooms for effective grouping practices to maximize student learning.”

In the final analysis, translating and transforming the ECI process in the school has provided a structure for improving teaching and learning.  “It’s helped us to focus on the impact of adult actions on student achievement: what do we need to get better at in order to make a positive change in student outcomes?” asks Dymond.  At its core, the structure and resulting shifts in dialogue and practice is based on a process to clarify as a school underlying perspectives and assumptions regarding children and learning to guide and refine instructional practice.  According to Dymond, “Through the discussion, teachers are digging more deeply into the data to identify elements that children need support in…. I definitely believe mindsets are starting to shift…. We are now thinking differently about children who are struggling and that they may need to be taught in a different way.”

  Figure 1. Revised guiding questions generated by school

How are students doing?

  • In thinking about your students, what do you notice about their learning?
  • What are their learning strengths?
  • In what areas do they struggle?
  • Are there any identifiable patterns across classes within a community or for particular student groups? If so, what are they?

What has worked in the past?

  • What 3-5 strategies have we used in the past that have been most effective?
  • Provide a descriptive summary describing the strategies implemented

What will we do moving forward?

  • If we could solve one thing about our teaching that would address needs reflected by student outcomes, what would it be?
  • How will we gather information and learn about best practices in this area?
  • What are 1 or 2 anchor standards from the Common Core Standards that this would most closely impact?
  • How will we measure progress in this area?
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In the Spotlight: Derby Middle School

Submitted by Terry (Tarold) D. Miller, Technical Assistance Provider

Derby Middle School (DMS) has been implementing some great strategies to attempt to reach the families and community of the students they serve. DMS has been actively participating with the SPDG grant and has continued to attempt to strive for greatness. DMS implemented a culture night which was an international sensation. The culture night was the brain child of an 8th grade Social Studies teacher (Lynn D’Andrea). Families were invited and, being culturally sensitive, the invites were sent out in more than one language. Derby Middle School is being explicit in acknowledging that they are a culturally diverse community and wanted to offer families and community members an opportunity to meet, greet, and break bread with everyone involved in the student’s lives.

DMS took the opportunity to celebrate their students and their families and to learn more about each student’s culture, language, and individual history of their ancestral nations. An invitation was sent to all families and a participation form was attached to each invite. This participation form was to be submitted by each family that was interested in bringing a dish. The invite also encouraged students and families to wear or bring in traditional clothing, artifacts, music, a flag, or anything they would like to display that was representative of their country of origin.  Emphasis was made on welcoming all families and students and it was pointed out that families were not obligated to bring anything as this event was only a way for school-based staff to form genuine relationships with students, families, and community members. The 7th grade students were working on displays and banners during and after school to share and celebrate each culture. 6th grade also had students create heritage displays which showcased the history of their individual families and their countries of origin. After all of the dust settled they had a significant turnout and it was a deliciously successful night. 

Published: March 23, 2015

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In the Spotlight: Region 10

Submitted by Janet N.Y. Zarchen, Technical Assistance Provider

Lake Garda School and Harwinton Consolidated School in Region 10 have worked closely together throughout the grant period in order to develop consistent effective practices. The reading teachers at each school, Joanne Ellsworth and Angela Pasqualini, recently shared what changes have occurred as a result of the schools’ participation in SPDG:

Our participation in the grant has helped us at both the school and district level. At the school level, we have been able to look closely at the teams and meetings that we had in place in order to streamline the groups and make our time more efficient and purposeful. At the district level, we have revised our SRBI document so that all schools are following a similar procedure. The work we did with both schools to develop the flow chart has helped clearly define our response to intervention.

Published: February 17, 2015

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In the Spotlight: Bowers School, Manchester

Submitted by Barbara Slone, Technical Assistance Provider

Bowers School, a member of SPDG Cohort 1, has become more welcoming to families and community members than ever before. Through the leadership of Principal Dr. Mary Lou Ruggiero, Bowers operates under the belief that every child will learn. One of the vehicles to communicate that belief to families and the community is the school’s Family Resource Center (FRC).

Bowers’ FRC is run by Latasha Easterling-Turnquest, who is also coordinator for FRCs across the district. Easterling-Turnquest and Bowers Principal Dr. Mary Lou Ruggiero meet monthly to share recent activities and coordinate outreach to parents and community members around school academic, social, and behavioral priorities.

Ms. Easterling-Turnquest, a longtime Manchester resident whose children attend the public schools, has taken several approaches to outreach. She partners with families, community organizations and agencies, and other district schools by providing information and resources at events such as the PTA’s monthly Multicultural Nights. The FRC sponsors a series of Family Nights highlighting academics, bringing families together to discuss student achievement. At Lunch Bunches, students have lunch with a parent or caring family member, engaging in one purely fun activity and one literacy-based activity.

These events serve to introduce families to what students are learning and encourage the enjoyment of time together. By inviting families into the school building, the school helps make them feel like special guests.

Once visitors enter the school, they are first greeted by the school secretary whose tone and body language is warm and welcoming, helping all visitors to feel relaxed and at home at Bowers.

Readers are welcome to contact Dr. Ruggiero at (860) 647-3313 or Ms. Easterling-Turnquest (860) 647-3521, ext. 73506 for information on their programs of family engagement.

Published: February 2, 2015

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