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School District Highlights

School District Highlights

“What is your hope for this year?”

Heart-warming and hope-filled school year in La Conner Middle/High Schools!  As students, families and staff were welcomed to the September 11th open house they were invited to reflect about their dreams for the school year by answering the question:  “What is your hope for this year?”

Educators wrote:
“I hope my students know they can learn and grow
“To have their mind open to learning and loving it” 

Parents wrote:
I hope my son learns as much as possible
Do your best and make yourself proud 

Students wrote:
“To feel prepared for my tests”
Make this a great year”
“Be more Confident” 

The windows of the entry became a chalkboard of hopes and aspirations for the students. In the video you will see this community building and positive focus in action.

Principal Todd Torgeson, La Conner Middle School and High School Principal explains that he saw a video of a similar activity and shared it with the Assistant Principal, Kathy Herrera and some students in the Leadership Class. Bryan Milliren, Leadership Teacher worked with students in this class as they gained excitement about the idea to welcome and ignite community at the open house in September. Thanks to the hard work of these students, the community, students and teachers experienced a powerful start to a great school year. 

These La Conner schools are working with high intention to build a culture and climate of inclusion and safety to learn. In collaboration they will develop the mindset to face challenges with the confidence to take a risk….to move forward. Increasing student voice and truly listening to what students think, hope for and want to accomplish is a pathway to building the social and emotional learning necessary for success. 

In Torgeson’s welcoming newsletter he encourages the families to visit the school “where you can witness the excitement of learning. Open house was a good example. 

Leading, Growing and Learning so All Students Can Succeed

The staff in Granite Falls School District is committed to increasing learning and growth for students on a systematic and continuous basis. After studying research-based findings linked to increases in achievement, leadership teams at the district and school levels utilize the school improvement process as an opportunity to focus on elements critical to sound improvement: developing shared vision, clear goals, ownership of plan by all stakeholders, and ongoing monitoring and adjusting.

The administrative team works collaboratively to align school plans between levels, to develop the district plan that supports school plans, and to guide development of the corresponding school level professional learning plans through a cycle of inquiry. Strategies for monitoring and adjusting are explicitly designed into school plans. Regular meetings throughout the school year are calendared during which the administrative team, at times jointly with teacher leaders, functions as a professional learning community to review copies of all school plans, analyze progress according to predetermined metrics, and to collaborate in highlighting successes, identifying possible solutions, and/or making adjustments. This information is then returned to the school teams for review and next steps. In this way, the leadership team becomes a safe learning community in which all administrators hold one another accountable and share mutual responsibility for the learning and growth of all students within Granite Falls School District.

“Whatever it Takes”

That’s the belief that permeates the environment at Salem Woods Elementary School.   This may be a contributing factor to this school’s high percentage of students meeting grade level standards in English Language Arts, Math, and Science as measured by Smarter Balanced Assessments.

What does “Whatever It Takes” look like in action?

Janna Pope, Principal, Salem Woods Elementary School in Monroe, WA  explained that they do “Whatever It Takes” to make sure that every student succeeds. Two strategies they have employed to accomplish this are to build intentional relationships with students and to develop individualized student plans.

They use a specific method to ensure that each student has the opportunity for a relationship with a staff mentor. Janna Pope said, “We’ve created boards with each student’s picture to make sure that every student has a caring adult assigned to them in the building. Students listed any adult they could identify that they felt cared about them as individuals and that they could go to if they needed someone. This included any staff member, not just teachers. Once this data had been collected, staff analyzed the results. Time was devoted to selecting students with whom staff could commit to make connections to be a caring adult. We then brainstormed ways to make connections, including finding ways to have contact with them, knowing something personal about them or things they were interested in outside of school. It was assumed that a student’s current teacher would care about the students already assigned to their classrooms, so they did not select their own students.” At the end of the school year, students will be surveyed once again to measure the difference in the number of adults each student believes cares about him/her. This student perception data will help to inform staff as to the success of their efforts.

The picture boards are also utilized in the analysis of student data. This helps to ensure that data is not just attached to a student number or grade level, but to a particular child’s face. Janna said, “Interpreting data can feel overwhelming – often because we have so much data with which to work and because the interpretation of data is complex. Using a picture of each child to ‘hang’ his or her data on reminds us of the importance of this work and that we are actually impacting the opportunities this child will have based on our decisions.” The data displays help faculty to connect data to their overall purpose, to ensure that each child acquires skills they can use in the future toward as many post-secondary options as possible.

Congratulations to staff at Salem Woods Elementary for their hard work and commitment.

Retrieved from https://washingtonstatereportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/ReportCard

Improved Course Grades

Are you interested in learning about a way to provide enrichment and intervention during the school day?  One school is taking the initiative to help students catch up in the classroom.

Program helps students at their pace
By Maria Matson

Headlines, in a way, are what mislead you because bad news is a headline, and gradual improvement is not.

~Bill Gates

Professional Learning Spotlight for Six Districts

The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CSTP) and the Northwest Educational Service District 189 (NWESD) are providing strong professional learning experiences for six districts identified for support.

Sedro-Woolley, Burlington-Edison, Stanwood, Ferndale, Sultan and Orcas Island are “shining” in a series of workshops and consultation/coaching sessions designed to increase collaboration between general and special education in order to improve outcomes for students.  Teams of administrators, special education and general education teachers are participating in this 3-year process.  The content includes collaboration protocols around student data/performance intended to be replicated by districts in PLC teams, team meetings, staff meetings, etc.  CSTP focuses on process and collaboration skills while NWESD provides specific content in equity, progress monitoring, co-teaching, effective instructional strategies, lesson study, and other strategies that teams may identify as a focus for their School Improvement Plan (SIP).

One of the critical components in this project is the expectation that each team identifies a small test of change with their team.  A small test of change is an actionable, shorter-term goal designed to be a small step closer to a broader, overall aim (such as improved outcomes for students with disabilities).  Teams considered their existing initiatives and elected to set a small test of change to refine implementation. For example, one team elected to develop a fidelity checklist to ensure classified and certificated staff were implementing a citizenship program effectively. Another team’s small test of change expanded an existing idea-collecting data from teachers on their actual implementation of evidence-based instructional strategies presented during staff meetings. This team elected to slow down, focus on each strategy for a longer period, and use the data to guide their follow-up training.

Developing a small test of change feels a bit foreign because our habit is to set goals that are evaluated at the end of each school year. These goals are often rewritten into a new School Improvement Plan each year, which results in unwieldy expectations with too many goals in too short a period. Changes may occur in this hurried process, but the changes may not be improvements. Going deeper with existing, promising practices and using data to adjust practice may not generate “headlines” or silver-bullets, but will likely result in improvements that stand the test of time and actually improve student learning.  Please contact Lara Cole at lcole@nwesd.org if you may be interested in participating at a future time

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