Highland Park Elementary School

  1. PLC Story
  2. PLC Practices
  3. Achievement Data
  4. Awards
  5. Resources

Walking into Highland Park School nine years ago you would have seen a beautiful new school with amazing views of the mountains, all the latest technology, and teachers and students walking around exhibiting all the correct behaviors. However, for several years, Highland Park Elementary had been utilizing the TAP model for professional development and school improvement. This model has had success in other schools, but it was tearing our school apart.

 

By the spring of 2009, morale in the school was at an all-time low, teachers routinely shut their doors creating a feeling of isolationism, and academic scores were plummeting. Change was needed; our staff was ready to begin a journey to meet the needs of every student and grow as professionals. One of the necessary components for the successful implementation of the PLC process is to have widespread commitment to the idea. Highland Park’s staff was so hungry for change and unity that the decision to embrace the PLC model was the obvious choice if we were going to collectively impact student learning.


Over the summer of 2009, a large portion of our staff attended a national PLC conference to gain a deeper understanding of the process and create an attitude of buy-in. The difference in our school culture was incredible. The collective work we were doing was not coming from administration, it was organically grown from within our teacher teams. Communication, trust, collective commitments, shared vision and accountability are several areas of vast improvement at Highland Park. We began to understand that to establish a culture that continuously builds teacher capacity and focuses on student achievement and success we must find ways to support all teachers regardless of experience or expertise. Our PLC process affords us the opportunity to foster growth in all of our teachers through discussions of the four critical questions.
 

If Highland Park was going to close the achievement gap and actually accomplish our fundamental purpose of “Ensuring high levels of learning for every student, every day”, we knew our teachers must develop accountability to not only their students but also each other. School administration created a schedule that allowed common planning for all teachers as well as embedded intervention and enrichment  times within every school day. When we collectively accepted the shift from “my” students to “our” students we were able to accomplish the goals of the four critical questions. We continued to look at all of our students as our shared responsibility and began to work together to create common formative assessments that drove our instruction, then systematically provided intervention and enrichment; we were able to visibly notice increased student achievement. It took an incredible amount of trust and dedication to move forward in our pursuit of excellence. The development of high performing collaborative teams using data to increase student learning provides all of our teachers with a sense of support and trust.
 

Our school went from an underachieving school with very low morale and trust in each other to being recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2014. Professional Learning Communities impacts student success every day and we truly live our fundamental purpose of “Ensuring high levels of learning for every student, every day.”

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

An essential component of high quality education is the practice of monitoring student progress at a granular level. Monitoring student progress is a systematic tracking of student learning for the purpose of making instructional decisions and providing timely feedback and interventions to students. We began the process by creating priority standards. These standards were chosen based on the highest need for our students. Our priority standards were created in grade level and vertical teams to ensure students would not have gaps in their learning while providing a structure for teachers to identify what our students need to learn.

From our priority standards we then worked with Jan Hoegh, from Marzon Labrotories, to develop proficiency scales. These scales provide teachers and students with the learning objective as well as a method in which to know when our students have met the outcome. Through the creation of our proficiency scales teachers were able to dissect our priority standards and truly understand how to scaffold the classroom learning to make sure students would be taught each standard in a consummate manner.

Once our teachers knew what to teach we had to develop a system to track each student. This is done through our common formative assessments that have been created for every priority standard. Common formative assessments developed by grade level teams serve as the vehicle for us to evaluate a student’s place on the proficiency spectrum. The assessments, when incorporated into classroom practice, provide the information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are happening. Once the content is taught in the classroom, students take a the first common formative assessment to measure student progress. After interventions are provided each student then takes another common formaitve assessment to monitor their growth and understanding of the desired piority standard. After the initial assessment every student is then placed on a spreadsheet that allows all teachers on the PLC team to view the progress of each student and take the appropriate action to provide then immediate intervention based on the specific area of need.  

Additional daily strategies used at Highland Park include whiteboard activities, exit slips, think-pair-share, 3-2-1 summaries, conferring, running records, journaling and observations. These practices allow for teachers to determine where students are in the mastery of the learning target. Using daily strategies provides teachers with timely data that can help drive their instructional decisions quickly and effectively.

These strategies help us to answer the critical questions of what do we want students to learn and how will we know when they learn. 

2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.

An integral part of comprehensive instructional design answers the questions "what do we do when a student has mastered the material?" and "what will we do when a student has not achieved proficiency?" At Highland Park, we have implemented and embedded an intervention and enrichment time into our schedule for every grade level that occurs 4-5 times per week for 40 instructional minutes. Students are taught content, pre-assessed and then placed into groups according to their needs.

Using common formative assessments, we are able to determine the needs of our students and then provide them with the correct next step. We use our data to drive our decision making about student instruction. We are able to create smaller intervention groups for students who require the extra time and support to achieve the learning objective. These students are taught by the most skilled teacher for that particular standard. Intervention is vital to meeting student needs and is structured to support identified students with targeted and specific support and instruction. Because we have common intervention time for the grade level, we have the opportunity to switch students to different classrooms with each classroom teacher or specialists providing either the re-teaching or the extension activities. Students who have achieved proficiency are placed in enrichment groups which provides them the opportunity to extend their learning. 

3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.

Changing the culture of a school to become collaborative and focused on the learning of all students is important and difficult work. There are several areas that are fundamental to the successful implementation of building high performing, collaborative teams.

The staff of Highland Park has determined the fundamental purpose of our staff is to "Ensure high levels of learning for every student, ever day". Our fundamental purpose was created collaboratively and excepted by ALL staff. Once we had collectively created our fundamental purpose we then determined our what we hope to become. Highland Park's goal is to institute the belief that, "It is the vision of our educational community to ensure all individuals develop the desire, confidence, tools, and skills to achieve high levels of learning while reaching their highest potential in our ever-changing world". This drive decisions we make and influences all aspects of what we do on a daily basis. After our school was clear on what we wanted to become and why we exist, we then moved on to what we can promise each other. Our collective commitments are as follows:

  • I will establish strong, positive relationships with my students, colleagues, and families.
  • I will look at student data immediately to help guide my decisions as well as my teams.
  • I will collaborate with all staff for the betterment of our students.
  • I will teach my students that mistakes are about overcoming obstacles and those mistakes don’t define them.
  • I will continue to educate myself in order to reach the educational needs of my students.
  • I will be open minded to new ideas and methods of teaching.
  • I will regularly adapt, refine, and reflect upon my teaching practices to ensure each child succeeds.
  • I will be mindful of what others are going through...some may be struggling more than I know.
  • I will think and act in a positive manner when faced with adversity.
  • I will celebrate success.
  • I will strive to make learning fun.

A few areas we purposefully focused on as we built high performing collaborative teams are shared accountability, valuing ideas, building trust in each other, and creating a shared sense of purpose. We felt each of these areas were specific to the needs of our staff to better meet the needs of our students. The thinking behind each process is different but important to our overall success.

Shared accountability- every student at Highland Park is my student, not just the one who is in my classroom. As our school transitioned from “my kids” to “our kids” we saw an overall improvement in both academics and behaviors.

Ideas are valued- every member of the team contributes and is respected. They know their ideas and efforts are noticed, appreciated and are contributing to the overall objective. From the seasoned veteran to our newest hire, everyone contributing allows a free flow of ideas.

Build trust- the environment must be one where we can share in the challenges and celebrate the successes without fear and judgement. This was one of our most difficult challenges to overcome.

Sense of purpose- Creating a common purpose is what turns “me” into “we”. The team begins working and pulling in the same direction creating an unstoppable force.

Highland Park Elementary

Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students (PAWS)

Compared to State

 

 

3rd Grade

4th Grade

5th Grade

 

Highland Park

Wyoming State

Highland Park

Wyoming State

Highland Park

Wyoming State

2016 Reading

80%

58%

76%

65%

80%

61%

2016 Math

70%

53%

68%

55%

83%

56%

2015 Reading

78%

60%

71%

61%

83%

58%

2015 Math

59%

49%

72%

51%

83%

52%

2014 Reading

84%

62%

86%

64%

82%

58%

2014 Math

73%

50%

64%

47%

89%

54%

 

National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence 2014-2015

Wyoming Success For All 2015-2016 - Given to schools who "Exceed Expectations" on the state test for 2+ consecutive years. (We have hit "Exceeds Excellence" for 4 consecutive years). Exceeds Excellence can only be reached if all students reach the growth mark, set by the state, from one year to the next on the state test.

Certified by ADVanced Ed

"Exceeding Targets" in Acheivement- recognized by the Wyoming Accountability System for the past 4 years.

 "Exceeding Targets" in Growth- recognized by the Wyoming Accountability System for the past 4 years.

Highland Park has been ranked in the top 5 schools in Wyoming for the past 4 years by Niche!

Top