The team decided that a Reading Goal was certainly an area to focus our efforts. We were uncertain how to begin with such a broad topic. We knew that reading comprehension and fluency were two areas in the data we wanted to address. We decided to find out what all the teachers were using for materials in reading and how they were structuring reading instruction in our school.
To our surprise the primary teachers had completed curriculum maps for a literacy class that two teachers had taken for a reading endorsement. We had numerous Reading programs and various curriculum components being used by our primary teachers.
We also discovered that some teachers taught reading for 60 minutes in the morning, while others had a 90- minute block in the afternoon to avoid pullouts.
The school improvement team met with all primary teachers and two intermediate teachers to see how we could be more consistent with what we teach, how we teach and when we teach.
We decided to continue with Houghton Mifflin: The Nations Choice as our core program since our school district adopted it last year and it was an approved Reading First program for schools in Alaska. We agreed that some of our students needed more explicit phonics instruction, that basic (literal) reading comprehension and deeper levels of comprehension needed attention, and fluency were all concerns. We suspected that reading speed or fluency might be a key component to assist in literal comprehension. We decided the following:
to use our core program as much as possible for consistency in classrooms
to investigate the phonics instruction in The Nations Choice and possibly supplement with Zoo-phonics since two of our teachers already use it
to emphasize fluency in daily instruction and use Read Naturally with those students who really struggle with fluency
the special education teacher uses Reading Mastery (an Alaska Reading First approved program) and suggested we investigate this program for some of our struggling readers scoring Not Proficient on the Benchmark Exam
We decided that flexible grouping practices was an area we needed to use more effectively because of our diverse student population and to deliver What we Teach.
We also needed to use more Direct Instruction for phonics and comprehension.
We also value Guided Reading Instruction and want to provide students with materials that are at their reading instructional level, especially since literal comprehension is area that needs improvement.
We agreed to accomplish our Improvement Goal in Reading that a 90-minute uninterrupted Literacy/Reading block in the morning would be the ideal. The principal agreed to work with the intermediate teachers and the specialists to organize a schedule that would provide for a morning block of 90 minutes.
We put together a list of staff development needs based on our data and an analysis of the training we needed.
We wanted to become more familiar with Nations Choice since it was recently adopted so we requested a face-to-face meeting or several phone conferences with a representative of the publisher. Two questions came immediately to mind for us to have answered. First, how does the explicit phonics component work? Second, are there useful assessments that we can use to monitor student growth and progress in comprehension and fluency?
We wanted to have site licenses for Read Naturally installed in our computer lab for student use.
Could we purchase and use Zoo-phonics after we talked with the publisher of Nations Choice?
Could 2 or 3 of us get training in Reading Mastery?
We were hoping that our school district could sponsor a class on Flexible Grouping Practices for primary teachers. We had two new teachers who had recent training, but several of our veteran teachers wanted to update their knowledge.
Focus on Change –
Measuring Student Progress
Step 3 – Focus on Change:
During this stage of your plan, your school improvement team should identify the assessments aligned to Alaska performance standards and to the instructional strategies that will be used to measure student progress during the year. You will identify the persons responsible and the timeline for implementing student assessments and the other activities required to support the implementation of your new instructional strategies or materials. You will monitor the implementation of the activities and the results of the student assessments in an ongoing process throughout the school year. Attention to the adopted schedule and “Start - Completion” dates will help your school continuously move forward to accomplish the overall learning improvement goals which shall systemically increase student achievement in your school.
Before you get started, and as you begin the implementation of the school improvement plan, make sure that:
Resources are secured for implementation (money, people, etc.)
Realistic timelines are established
Staff development plan has been developed
Stakeholders have reviewed and school improvement team has refined the plan
Formative measures such as classroom based assessments and analysis of student work will be used periodically throughout the year to see if progress has occurred in each of the goal areas. Regular monitoring of the implementation of the plan itself is also necessary. A school may wish to integrate regular teacher release time to review progress on both student achievement and the plan implementation. The key outcomes of this stage are to:
Focus attention on the plan,
Collect the data that provides a basis for making necessary changes, and
Give reasons to celebrate efforts of staff, students, and parents.
Monitoring student achievement and implementation should continue on a regular basis until the activities outlined are completed AND they become part of the school’s culture. Embedding the activities and plan into the natural practices of the school may take several years.
Step 3 – Focus on Change:
Select appropriate formative measures to measure student progress.
It is critical that staff understand that interim assessments are used as formative measures to monitor student progress toward meeting each goal. Your team should not wait until Benchmark/Terra Nova/HSGQE scores return at the end of the year to see if what you are implementing is working! Some formative techniques that are used to monitor implementation include:
Classroom assessments aligned to performance standards and grade level expectation
Pre- post- achievement measures
Surveys of staff
Observations of students
Individual student work analysis
Checklists of student behavior
External review teams
Ensure assessments align with change: It is critical to be sure you are measuring the results of each strategy correctly. Pay close attention that the assessments used are aligned with the teaching strategy/program as well as the original standards in the goal. Assessments can be teacher developed or publisher developed.
Determine how growth will be measured for the assessments selected. Once an assessment has been administered, the teacher should be able to determine if the student is making progress toward the goal. For example, if end of chapter assessments are used in the textbook, what is the score or measurement that will determine progress.
Schedule regular intervals for measuring progress on student assessments. A team should meet at least quarterly to review student data on the formative assessments to determine if progress is being made or if there needs to be a change in strategies or plan. Periodic teacher release time for this purpose may be paid with school improvement funds.
^ These may be people who were on the original school improvement planning team. Their task is to check on progress on a regular basis throughout the school year. Schools are such busy places that it is easy to make assumptions that things are in place because we planned them to be! Use the Monitor Implementation of the Plan – Sample Team Meeting Agenda and the Monitoring Implementation Checklist (see the “Resources and Tools” section for this step) to make sure implementation is on track.
^ The school improvement team members must find ways to communicate regularly with the staff about the implementation of the plan and the progress of students. They may also be charged with planning any celebrations (How about treats at a meeting or a sparkling cider toast to the efforts of folks most affected by changes?).
^ This sheet is found in the 2004-2005 School Improvement Plan Submission Packet. Complete one page for each goal selected. Identify the goal and the specific performance standard(s) linked to the goal. Identify the baseline and target for measuring growth in student achievement. Complete the first 4 columns of the top section that identifies the instructional strategy or materials to be implemented, the persons responsible, the timeline, and the student assessments that will measure progress. (Do not complete the final column at this time. This column will be used to review the progress at the end of the year.) Complete the first 3 columns of the bottom section that identifies the support activities that will be implemented to achieve the goal, the persons responsible, and the timeline. These activities include professional development activities, parent involvement activities, and other activities such as materials acquisition. (Do not complete the final column at this time. This column will be used to review the progress at the end of the year.) A sample “Changes to Current Practice” form is found in the “Resources and Tools” section following this step.
Submit the plan for district review: Be certain at each step that district assistance has been sought, and that the site has self-evaluated this step before sending documents on for district review. ^
Keep the school improvement plan public and alive. One way to do this is to create a large chart in the staff lounge, the office, or some place staff is likely to see it. A large colorful arrow can be put next to the activities as they are implemented. The reason for this is that we pay attention to what we see.
This stage is very important to the continuous progress at your school. It must be kept up throughout the school year—this is not an end of the year event, it’s a constant gentle process of paying attention and making adjustments when necessary. In order for assessments to be effective, they must be aligned to the intended goal and the teaching strategy.
Focus on Change –
Measuring Student Progress
Resources and Tools
Step 3 – Focus on Change:
NESS Materials – Lessons and assessments aligned to Alaska Standards – www.eed.state.ak.us
Alaska Math Performance Tasks – This publication contains standards-based math performance/assessment tasks, student samples, and examples of scoring each task. Grades 2-10 available. Teacher to Teacher Publications, Inc. P.O. Box 988 Lake Oswego, OR 97034 firstname.lastname@example.org
DIBELS – Early literacy reading skills measurement tools. http://dibels.uoregon.edu/
Monitor Implementation of the Plan – Sample Team Meeting Agenda
Monitoring Implementation Checklist
Sample Narrative – Step 3
Sample School Improvement Plan – Changes to Current Practice
Sample Progress Report for Schools in Improvement
Monitor Implementation of the Plan - Sample Team Meeting Agenda
Meeting Goals: To make sure activities and tasks in the plan are moving forward on specified timelines
Time Needed: 1 Hour – Set a schedule for these based on school needs, but at least quarterly.
Review action plan outline
Your leadership team reviews the 2004-2005 School Improvement Plan 2004-2006 – Changes to Current Practice, (see 2004-2005 School Improvement Plan Submission Packet) for each goal, asking the following questions for each individual step or activity within the goal.
Are those involved with the activity meeting the timeline?
What evidence of implementation exists?
Are the indicated resources available and being utilized?
Have any unanticipated barriers or challenges occurred since the plan was written?
Does the Action Plan need to be adjusted to reflect any of the above information?
Monitoring, Adjusting the Plan and Addressing Issues and Challenges
Use Monitoring Implementation Checklist, (see Resources and Tools for this step) to review progress on each goal and activity. Seek additional information as necessary.
Reinforcing changes in practices related to school improvement goals is the best way to ensure that these practices are embraced by staff and become part of the school culture. Your team should anticipate important milestones and plan extraordinary ways to recognize staff efforts. Some ideas include:
Staff bowling party or mini-Potlatch
District recognition through administrator visit (with treats)
Displaying information for community to see
Lapel buttons that say “We’re getting there”
Bulletin board with individual acknowledgment for student work and highlighting staff contributions
Newsletter articles honoring staff efforts
Set Dates/Assign Tasks:
Determine when your team needs to meet again to monitor implementation. There may be new tasks as a result of the monitoring process—assign roles as necessary.
Evaluate meeting effectiveness:
What worked? What still needs to be addressed?