Voices from the Field: Strategic Decision Making - Judson Elementary School

Submitted by Carly Quiros

At the end of October, seven members of Judson Elementary School’s SPDG leadership team participated in the Cohort 4 Strategic Decision Making Training alongside five other SPDG schools. With a focus on literacy, participants examined ways to interpret and analyze assessment data, reflected on and planned for the use of indicators of strategic decision making in SRBI and evaluated and refined school-based processes for intervention planning and progress monitoring.

Throughout the two learning days, the team worked together to share ideas and develop a common understanding of strategies to support all learners. One card sort activity challenged the team to identify the differences between varied types of supports and interventions that students might receive. Another activity required the team to use clear and precise language to describe a concern and plan for student growth and progress monitoring; the team was quickly reminded that words like “always”, “often” and “occasionally” mean different things to different team members. These are just a couple of the activities that prepared this leadership team for the training’s culminating activity, which included reflecting on a school-based case study and making decisions based on data.

One Judson leadership team member, Patricia Chipko, summarized her learning in this way: “I feel like I have a better handle on what students need. Because we looked at one of my students in the case study, I feel more prepared to return to school tomorrow and implement strategies to better support her right away.” According to another leadership team member, Rachel Reiter, “It was helpful to use the indicators of collaborative strategic decision making. These indicators will help to benefit our students who need intervention supports to achieve success.” Judson Elementary School’s SPDG leadership team remains excited and equipped to meet the diverse learning needs of all students!

Published: November 9, 2015

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Voices from the Field: Change, Change, and More Change

Submitted by Anthony Brisson and Clare Wurm, Technical Assistance Providers

On October 22, 2015, we were scheduled to conduct the annual fall data review at Derby High School. As we kicked off our third year of partnership, we were greeted by three new team members, two teachers and a resident administrator. The entire team was eager to share their data with us, along with all of the changes they made to practices and policies.

To start, we reviewed their SWIS Data. Right away they were able to identify a problem behavior. Due to the revision of their technology policy, there was an increase in ODRs for the misuse of technology devices. The SPDG Team shared how and why they revised their policy, how the entire staff taught the new policy to their students, and ways to promote and reinforce positive behaviors as students adapted to the new policy. As a result of their efforts, the number of ODRs for the misuse of technology decreased more than 50% in one month’s time. Kudos, Team Derby!

As the team continued to share their data with us, we saw a decrease in ODRs for class tardiness from the beginning of last academic year to the beginning of this academic year. What they revealed to us was a prime example of data-driven decision making. After “digging deeper” into the SWIS Data, they realized that certain classrooms were too far apart from one another resulting in students not having enough passing time to get to their classes promptly. Therefore, the SPDG Team, along with administration, made the recommendation to move classrooms around versus increasing passing time. As of the day of our data review, there were only three ODRs for tardiness to class compared to over 100 last year! This is another excellent example of using data to make a strategic decision to improve policies, practices and systems! Again, great job, Team Derby!

As their TA Providers, Clare and I commend them for the hard work they have done and continue to do for staff and students.

Stay tuned to hear about (and hopefully watch!) their Derby-produced PBIS Teaching Videos….

Best,
Anthony Brisson and Clare Wurm

Published: November 9, 2015

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Voices From the Field: Outcomes from SPDG schools

Submitted by Anthony Brisson, Technical Assistance Provider

In 2013-14, there were 64 schools in three cohorts of the SPDG. One of the targeted outcomes for the SPDG is to have a proportionate representation of minority students with ODRs (office discipline referrals; only major referrals are counted). The SPDG Internal Data Team analyzed the PBIS Assessments to identify patterns and trends within each of the cohorts. Technical Assistance Providers received specific training on the triangulation of SWIS Data and other PBIS Assessments to help identify focus areas for improvement and were given procedural guides and tools to help with the necessary in-district technical assistance to address problems of practice.

In 2013, only 27% of the schools (9 of 34) met benchmark, but in 2014, 51% of the schools (22 of 43) had proportionate minority representation with ODRs.

2013

12.c. Performance Measure Measure Type Quantitative Data
The % of CT SPDG participating schools with a proportionate representation of students of color with ODRs (majors only). Project Target Actual Performance Data
Raw Number Ratio % Raw Number Ratio %
/ 50% 9/34 27%

2014

12.c. Performance Measure Measure Type Quantitative Data
The % of CT SPDG participating schools with a proportionate representation of students of color with ODRs (majors only). Project Target Actual Performance Data
Raw Number Ratio % Raw Number Ratio %
/ 60% 22/43 51%

Performance Measure 12.c: This measure seeks to determine if CT SPDG schools have a proportionate representation of minority students with ODRs (majors only). For the purposes of this measure, minority students are defined by the SWIS racial categories of Black, Hispanic, and Multi-Racial. Proportionate representation is defined to occur when the percentage of ODRs that are received by minority students is equal to or lower than the percentage of all students that are minority, within a 3 percentage point margin of error. In other words, if minority students comprise 25% of the student population, they should represent no more than 28% of the ODRs issued within a given school year. As is shown in the following table, 22 of 43 (51.2%) CT SPDG schools with available data demonstrated a proportionate representation of minority students with ODRs, slightly below the target of 60%. The 2016 APR target is also 60%.

PM 12.c: Schools with a Proportionate Representation of Students of Color with ODRs in 2013-14

Cohort # of schools # of schools with PM 12.c data # of schools with proportionate minority representation
Cohort 1 (3rd year of CT SPDG) 19 12 4(33%)
Cohort 2 (2nd year of CT SPDG) 28 22 14(64%)
Cohort 3 (1st year of CT SPDG) 17 9 4(44%)
Total 64 43 22(51%)

Published: June 26, 2015

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Voices From the Field: Reflections on Climate and Culture at Winthrop

Submitted by Rob Travaglini, Senior Director of School and District Support, CT TIME Collaborative

pbis bulletin board As a part of our role in monitoring the progress of schools involved in the Connecticut expanded learning time initiative (the CT TIME Collaborative), we regularly assess the critical variable of climate and culture in our schools. Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School in New London is one of our participating schools.

We would like to commend the work completed this year in creating a vibrant, positive support system in this school. In the past, Winthrop School resembled so many of our schools in their understanding and implementation of a school-wide system of positive behavioral supports. We so often hear, “Oh, we do PBIS”, when upon observation and inspection, the school typically has at best a random, infrequently seen, inconsistently applied ticket system of some sort. These schools continue to rely on nagging and negative consequences as their primary systems, not of support, but of control.

The change at Winthrop school this spring is nothing short of remarkable. Visible throughout the school is the SPARKS framework (Self Control, Participation, Accountability, Respect, Kindness, Safety). In the upper grades, it is clear that the students themselves have created the working behavioral definitions of these attributes. Throughout the school, in every grade and setting, staff were observed systematically and unobtrusively appropriately recognizing students for demonstrating the behaviors of the framework. In many cases, the primary providers of reinforcement were the paraprofessional staff who quietly circulate while the teachers teach. In every setting observed this spring, students were engaged and focused, demonstrating the attributes of successful learners. It will be exciting to watch this good foundational work continue to develop.

[For more information about the CT TIME Collaborative please visit the website for The National Center on Time and Learning at www.timeandlearning.org.]

Published: June 19, 2015

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Voices from the Field: At Jumoke schools, effective interventions and the implications for teaching

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

How do schools determine whether instruction is effective? And how is this related to whether the school has articulated a systematic approach to teaching? SPDG Technical Assistance Providers work with schools over time to help answer these questions, using an inquiry-based approach grounded in dialogue and mutual respect.

As a result, participating School Leadership Teams often find they need to clarify the school’s approach to teaching and develop supporting structures and tools to drive how educators talk about children, learning, and practice. This allows instructional teams to plan and facilitate meaningful and productive learning experiences for every child with greater consistency and coherence. From this authentic professional learning experience, schools generate universal teaching practices and instructional planning protocols to steer grade-level and intervention planning meetings.

Justin Pistorius, Principal of Jumoke Smart Middle School, describes universal teaching practices as “common practices we are implementing with fidelity in the classroom… to take students to higher levels of literacy achievement.” The reflective dialogue is an opportunity for educators “to examine the strategies we are working on as a school, and make explicit what was previously not explicit.”

For Dr. Michael Finley, Principal of Jumoke TED Elementary School, creating an instructional review protocol provided direction and a shared understanding of teaching and learning to guide grade-level meetings and the school’s intervention process. The protocol “promotes collaboration, creates purposeful dialogue, and provides the team with focus areas” for improvement, he said. “The agreed-upon questions create a focus on teaching and learning and have changed the mindset and our approach” to professional dialogue and practice.

Pistorius noted the purpose of creating a team meeting discussion protocol: “The protocol will help us facilitate focused discussion of implementation of universal teaching practices and their effectiveness in relation to student responses…. It will help us know how students are understanding and will promote a springboard to understand instructional practices and tasks and how they are implemented – what’s effective and not effective and why.”

According to participating School Leadership Teams, the opportunity to engage in open dialogue to create supporting tools and generate new structures is beneficial to improving student outcomes. “The value is that it will guarantee an in-depth analysis of instructional practices by teachers in the classroom,” Pistorius said. “It will guarantee quality analysis” of student progress “and lead to quality decision making about what is best for groups and individual students. This will support pedagogical habits of review and reflection on practice and how we operate as a staff.”

Finley said the experience was meaningful and changed perspectives in the school on teaching and learning.

“This has been an enjoyable and awesome learning experience for me as a new principal,” he said. “Through working with SERC, we have received support with our collaboration efforts that have helped us move forward in a positive manner with teaching and learning. The SPDG grant is supporting us in developing a solid foundation. We are creating structures and protocols to establish sustainability [of best practice] as a school.”

This fosters the conditions for shared participation, understanding, and investment among School Leadership Team members and staff. Pistorius found the process itself invaluable.

“It made us think about the importance of intentionality behind everything we do: Why we are doing this, and in what way will this impact our scholars?” he said.

“This has made us work better as a team,” he added. The team is developing tools collaboratively using the expertise and experiences of all staff. The process has empowered the school to create relevant resources to support the improvement of teaching and learning “as opposed to people who implement materials given to them,” he said. “There is value in that, and it is empowering.”

Published: June 12, 2015

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Voices from the Field: Meeting House Hill School, New Fairfield

Submitted by Amanda Johnston, Technical Assistance Provider

pbis bulletin boardOn a recent visit to Meeting House Hill School, I entered a learning environment surrounded by positive supports for students. Meeting House Hill School has been participating in the State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG), offered through the State Education Resource Center (SERC), since 2012. The goal of this initiative is to build capacity and establish a continuum of academic and behavioral supports.

Meeting House Hill School has been focusing on positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) with support from SERC. The school’s commitment to PBIS is evident from the moment you walk into the school. Assistant Principal James Mandracchia has created a bulletin board that highlights the school’s expectations. The students contributed designs for the posters on the bulletin board, demonstrating their engagement in PBIS.

The MHHS Motto is “Make the Effort, Have Respect and Integrity, Help Others, and Stay Safe.” Students earn eagle tickets individually when displaying appropriate MHHS behaviors, and earn incentives together as a class and school. Currently, the students are working together for an outside concert headlining a teacher band.

My visit to Meeting House Hill School revealed that its hard work, commitment, and student and staff engagement has paid off and created an environment that is welcoming!


Published: June 3, 2015

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Voices from the Field: Literacy Practices at Tier One: Shepaug Valley School

Submitted by Meg Porcella, Technical Assistance Provider

Recently, five members of the Shepaug Valley School’s SPDG leadership team participated in the Cohort 4 Literacy Training with 13 other schools. With a focus on core literacy practices, participants were asked to apply new learning to methods and materials “that will, proactively and with intention, provide access and equity for students with disabilities, students of color, and students acquiring English.” The school team divided into three groups in order to participate in a jigsaw- learning protocol in which one or two members of the team each attend a different breakout session and then prepare to “teach” the content of the breakout back to the whole team. The breakout sessions covered topics such as Access and Equity with Universal Design for Learning, Text-Dependent Questions, and Culturally Relevant Literacy Practices.

The interaction of the team members during the share-out portion of the jigsaw was informational and lively. The team expressed excitement about taking the information from different breakouts back to Shepaug’s faculty. Of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) breakout, Stephanie Davies summarized her new learning in this way: “The goal is to avoid retrofitting narrow methods to fit the needs of other students, do your best to prepare for the broadest number of people/students/learners from the get go.” Also, she said, “barriers are not internal to the learner; rather, barriers come from external constructs. Barriers to learning are not, in fact, inherent in capacities of learners, but instead arise in learners' interactions with inflexible educational goals, materials, methods, and assessments.”

The Shepaug team is full of enthusiasm and ideas for strengthening Tier 1 practices for both behavior, through positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), and academics, through strengthening core literacy practices. This team is on its way to achieving the goals of the SPDG grant:

  • Development of a coordinated statewide system of academic/behavior continuum of supports;
  • Implementation with fidelity of scientifically research-based programs of positive behavioral supports and literacy instruction driven by common core state standards through models of multi-tiered interventions and a data-driven decision-making process
  • Improved academic achievement of all students in participating schools.
  • If you want to share your takeaways from the Phase 1 Literacy training, please post your comment below.

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Voices from the Field: Serving English Learners at Hartford Magnet

Submitted by Kc Nelson-Oliveria, Technical Assistance Provider

At Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, the teachers are identifying ways to have more of an impact on students learning English in the core Tier 1 instruction. Jennifer Mancone, an ESL teacher, shared that one of the critical strategies is comprehensible input: developing oral vocabulary, providing visuals so the students can understand the concepts as they learn the language. For these students, she said, “it’s about finding the sweet spot: close to what they know, but challenging enough to engage them.”

A second strategy she uses is lowering the affective filter, or reducing the negative emotional stressors that inhibit learning. She and her colleagues strive to create an environment where it is safe to take a risk and to build relationships with the student and among the students. It also includes understanding students’ culture and bringing it into the class, finding culturally relevant text that is appropriate for their reading level.

Jennifer and her colleagues are always looking to improve their practice by finding ways to maximize the small amount of time they have for collaboration. They use email and catch one another before and after school for quick check-ins.

If you have strategies or ideas on how to find or use collaboration time more effectively, please post a comment below.

Published: March 2, 2015

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Voices from the Field: PBIS in New London

Submitted by Bill Bannish, Technical Assistance Provider

We are so proud of the members of the New London High School Leadership Team for the work they have put in to PBIS. They have finalized the draft versions of the following documents:

  • School-wide Behavioral Expectations Matrix
  • Classroom Behavioral Expectations Matrix (the team now has to make them for each of the other locations)
  • Behavioral Flow Chart
  • SWIS Compatible Discipline Referral Form
  • Rewards for Staff (they hope to begin implementing at least 2-3 for the remainder of the year)
  • Classroom management interventions list (Tier I and Tier II)

The most impressive part of the PBIS work was how New London High School merged its existing school and classroom rules with a new school-wide approach. The team is also looking at an exciting new cell phone policy as it refines its school-wide PBIS Matrix. Stay tuned for further information when the PBIS documents are finalized.

Published: February 27, 2015

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