Degan Elementary

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

     

Degan Elementary is located in Lewisville, Texas, a suburb north of Dallas/Fort Worth. In 2003, Degan, nestled in a largely middle-class neighborhood, began a significant demographic change, moving from a student population of eight percent economically disadvantaged to fifty-eight percent in 2018.  While the staff was highly committed to the community, instructional practices had basically remained the same during this demographic shift, and academic achievement was beginning to decline.

In May of 2013, a new principal was hired who immediately created two leadership teams: one to focus on instruction and the other to focus on culture and management systems, so that the teacher leaders never had to let management items on the agenda take precedence over teaching and learning. Thus, the Design Team always focused on instruction, while the Advisory Council took care of campus culture and created the systems necessary to pave the way for prioritizing student achievement. The newly formed dual-leadership teams began their work by taking an inventory of current Degan practices and analyzing various data.  This investigation found that instructional practices lacked intentionality, teacher morale was low, community support and parent relationships were dismal, and that student achievement was in a serious decline.  While eye opening, this initial realization that so many areas needed to be addressed was overwhelming and disheartening for the Degan staff.

The change began in June of 2013 with the Design Team reading the article “What is a Professional Learning Community?” by Richard DuFour.  Immediately, the team knew that Degan needed to establish a school-wide professional learning community with a commitment to student learning, a culture of collaboration, and a focus on student results. Then, the Advisory Council read the same article and was tasked with establishing a positive PLC culture and creating the necessary systems to sustain this new mission. To begin, Advisory Council created a master schedule that supported collaboration for each grade level for two hours and forty-five minutes each month for professional learning time. This protected collaboration time included the support staff from special education, the ESL teacher, the gifted services teacher, and dyslexia services. The Design Team then created collaboration documents that introduced common language for all staff and guide teachers in answering the four questions each time they meet. This ensures that everyone is on the same page for designing instruction that supports the full rigor of state standards. As a result, the trust between general education and support staff and the efficiency of weekly lesson planning also improved because all teachers agreed upon what students must know to master the standards and how they will know if that learning has occurred. Furthermore, teachers found that making decisions about how to intervene for struggling students and advanced students is much easier with support staff participating in the conversations. Altogether, the initial work done by our leadership teams ensured that our campus could finally transform into a flexible, collaborative, and authentic professional learning community.

While teachers are engaged in meaningful collaboration, the students are in student-choice, student-driven clubs that focus on engagement, meaningful integration of technology, college and career connections, as well as higher-level thinking. As two grade levels meet each Friday on a rotating basis for their protected collaboration time, students are enjoying their “Club Friday” which means that the grade level teachers do not have to plan for someone else to implement instruction while they meet. Since they are not worried about lost instruction time, teachers are automatically more focused on the collaborative conversations about instruction, intervention, and innovation in the classroom. This became yet another way that Degan teachers collaborate to educate the whole child and support one another within the professional learning community.

Since the 2013-2014 school year, the Design Team has agreed upon an agenda that allows for maximum collaborative time during these Friday meetings. Each year, as the campus focus is redefined, the items on the agenda reflect the campus goals, while still upholding the campus vision and previous best practice. Whether the teachers needed more time to analyze standards, dive into student data, share effective Tier 1 instructional practices, discuss students in need of RtI support, or compare writing samples using a developmental writing rubric, the agenda agreements that were made allowed the team to stay synergetic. In sum, a clear and focused agenda allowed all teams working within the professional learning community at Degan to feel supported in their professional growth and confident that they were a part of a collective effort to increase student motivation and achievement. 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

The timely monitoring of student data is of utmost importance at Degan. Within collaborative meetings, teams not only have conversations about student achievement, but kid-by-kid growth discussions. Each teacher tracks student reading, math, and writing data on individual notecards for each student. Teachers also use these notecards and data folders to have data conferences with students in order to boost students’ ownership of learning. The updated notecards are then sorted and rearranged on our data wall in the Teacher Learning Center based on the students’ current level of grade-level mastery. This allows all stakeholders to see the big picture, including the number of students needing specific accommodations for below grade-level, or above grade-level performance, and to discuss any student who has not shown growth based on their most recent formative data. The living data wall includes all students’ notecards from kindergarten through fifth grade and is consistently updated, which also allows for teachers and administrators to see school-wide trends as they occur. Even if they are the highest student in the class, if they have not shown growth, the team of educators all join the discussion on what can be done differently to motivate achievement. The conversation for every child considers the resources they have available, their areas of strength, data patterns, and multiple perspectives. We have found that these conversations are especially important when considering struggling students who may have had a lack of educational opportunities. Traditionally, these students may have contributed to the overidentification of economically disadvantaged, and more specifically, African American, students in Special Education within our campus and district. Through the establishment of these data management structures, both in the classroom and school-wide, along with the implementation of the student growth conversations in collaborative meetings, Degan has been able to provide students with the support and interventions they need to overcome educational gaps, and only if necessary, continue forward in the RtI process. This way, we are always focusing on every child’s results to ensure that everyone at Degan grows, because we are all a part of powerful learning community.

Utilizing campus common assessments, teachers analyze and sort students based on their mastery of the most recent standards taught in math. Approximately every four weeks, teachers hold data meetings where assessments, student work, and data trends are analyzed and discussed. This allows teaching teams to think about necessary adjustments needing to be made to future instructional practices, as well as any changes that might need to be made in the common assessment to fully assess the rigor of the state standards. In addition, these meetings allow support staff and special education teachers insight into student misconceptions, needs, and strengths that need to be considered when planning for the upcoming Eagle Time cycle.

 

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

Whether the focus for intervention is intended for students in temporary crisis, those with ongoing academic gaps, or students with significant learning deficits, Degan’s systems are now aligned to support the growth of all students.

When the Advisory Council redesigned the master schedule in 2013, they allowed for thirty minutes of “protected time” for each grade level Monday through Thursday. Eagle Time, as it is called, allows small groups of students focus on standards that have been previously taught and assessed. Degan kindergarteners and first graders focus on literacy, while second through fifth graders focus on math. The schedule is set so that special education and support service professionals can assist with Eagle Time intervention and all students can participate. Typically, students are in groups of ten or less and are provided with a risk-free environment to re-discover or extend the specific focus standards by grade-level teachers and support staff for a three-week cycle. Additionally, students who are in need of critical intervention in another subject area not covered during Eagle Time may receive specific interventions in their area of need for a selected time period instead. For example, using the most current data, third grade students reading significantly below grade level would benefit more from improving their reading skills during Eagle Time for at least one cycle, rather than continuing to review or extend their knowledge in math for the time being. A shift from primarily whole-group to mostly small-group instruction in all homerooms has also helped to meet the needs of students with significant academic gaps who need cross-curricular intervention.

Once again, our protected collaboration time on Fridays supports Eagle Time through discussing student weaknesses with assessments, what strategies have worked, and how to best meet student needs during the upcoming Eagle Time. Furthermore, the Friday meetings also provide time for teachers to discuss students who are in need of further interventions. With representatives from the RtI team present, including administrators, grade level teachers, and support staff, the student conversation time provides an avenue for general education teachers to gain insight and advice while navigating the RtI process. Once a pattern of no growth has been established, or other extenuating concern is voiced in these meetings, teachers are then expected to bring a student to the RtI committee for further intervention advice. This committee then designs appropriate interventions to help fill instructional gaps for our tier 2 or 3 students prior to considering special education support. Depending on the needs of the student, this might include one-on-one interventions during, before or after-school, Saturday school, or perhaps a high school or adult mentor. Ruby Payne's Research-Based Strategies: Narrowing the Gap for Under Resourced Students is a tool for every staff member to help address the needs of our economically disadvantaged population while considering their resources. SMART goals are established that will allow teachers to focus on the ‘next, most important thing’ that a struggling student must master in order to unlock future success.

Either way, our school-wide systems allow for appropriate interventions to be put in place for all students, despite their background, ethnicity, language, or experience. 

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

Ensuring that Degan has everyone on “the right seat on the right bus” has been a priority. Degan has been fortunate to not have a great deal of turnover in staff, however, the first priority has been making sure that each staff member is highly trained. This has been accomplished by looking at data and determining what is the most important area to focus on to ensure that all students learn. This becomes the focus for ongoing professional learning for all staff and has included areas such as understanding the state standards, strategies for quality small group instruction, understanding students who come from poverty or trauma, teaching students the importance of grit and growth mindset, and most recently, how to design innovative engaging instruction. All staff knows the importance of a deep commitment to our initiatives, however when necessary, Degan has maintained strong teams by making small shifts to move people around to ensure that everyone’s strengths are effectively utilized and that teams have balanced leadership. In the cases where we have needed to fill openings, grade-level teams interview potential candidates using focused questions on a rubric to ensure that candidates reflect our values and priorities. Degan continually strives to bring new staff up to date through working with mentors, instructional coaches, and providing additional training in the areas important to Degan’s collective success so that new staff can feel confident with implementation of these habits and routines.

All grade-level teams are required to collaborate weekly when designing lesson plans, and also utilize district and campus instructional coaches for support. Content area teachers collaborate when possible and certain staff meetings are saved for vertical planning time as well. Degan teachers frequently collaboratively score student writing samples and discuss instructional implications with their colleagues. In addition, support staff and general education teachers collaborate to discuss student performance and successful or failed instructional attempts during frequent data meetings. Although it may have seemed strange for some at first, all teachers now contribute their voices and ideas during the protected collaboration time on Fridays, which is especially important as we work toward innovation. All teachers create goals and reflect on their progress to those goals as well as their impact in relation to campus and district goals. Overall, the Degan staff is dedicated to grow in their practice through continuous learning through book studies, focused professional learning sessions, or continued collaboration on these topics during their collaborative meetings. 

 

Degan Elementary STAAR Analysis

3rd Grade Reading

 

% Meeting/Approaching

% Masters

 

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

2016-17

76%

75%

68%

73%

28%

0%

9%

29%

2015-16*

77%

36%

60%

73%

18%

13%

14%

24%

2014-15

62%

33%

49%

77%

8%

8%

4%

22%

 

 

3rd Grade Math

 

% Meeting/Approaching

% Masters

 

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

2016-17

75%

20%

68%

78%

28%

0%

17%

25%

2015-16*

68%

43%

50%

75%

18%

13%

12%

19%

2014-15^

60%

14%

48%

77%

9%

7%

2%

16%

 

4th Grade Reading

 

% Meeting/Approaching

% Masters

 

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

2016-17

64%

33%

44%

70%

16%

7%

7%

24%

2015-16*

61%

17%

53%

75%

11%

0%

6%

20%

2014-15

63%

22%

47%

74%

13%

0%

10%

21

 

4th Grade Math

 

% Meeting/Approaching

% Masters

 

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

2016-17

72%

36%

59%

76%

26%

20%

13%

27%

2015-16*

68%

29%

60%

73%

14%

0%

10%

22%

2014-15^

68%

13%

62%

73%

17%

0%

15%

17%

 

4th Grade Writing

 

% Meeting/Approaching

% Masters

 

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

2016-17

58%

27%

46%

65%

9%

0%

0%

10%

2015-16*

58%

11%

52%

69%

9%

0%

6%

15%

2014-15

58%

33%

53%

70%

0%

0%

0%

7%

 

5th Grade Reading

 

% Meeting/Approaching

% Masters

 

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

2016-17

80%

42%

69%

82%

9%

0%

6%

25%

2015-16*

75%

45%

65%

81%

16%

6%

7%

25%

2014-15

91%

83%

88%

87%

24%

13%

19%

24%

 

5th Grade Math

 

% Meeting/Approaching

% Masters

 

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

2016-17

86%

53%

80%

87%

13%

0%

15%

24%

2015-16*

80%

50%

78%

86%

15%

0%

2%

20%

2014-15^

79%

50%

80%

79%

14%

0%

9%

18%

 

5th Grade Science

 

% Meeting/Approaching

% Masters

 

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

2016-17

70%

42%

61%

74%

10%

6%

4%

17%

2015-16*

75%

45%

70%

74%

12%

0%

4%

11%

2014-15

71%

33%

66%

72%

10%

0%

0%

11%

 

Degan Cohort Reading

 

% Meeting/Approaching

% Masters

 

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

2016-17 5th Grade

80%

42%

69%

82%

9%

0%

6%

25%

2015-16

4th Grade *

61%

17%

53%

75%

11%

0%

6%

20%

2014-15

3rd Grade

62%

33%

49%

77%

8%

8%

4%

22% 

 

Degan Cohort Math

 

% Meeting/Approaching

% Masters

 

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

All

SPED

Eco. Dis

State

2016-17 5th Grade

86%

53%

80%

87%

13%

0%

15%

24%

2015-16

4th Grade *

68%

29%

60%

73%

14%

0%

10%

22%

2014-15

3rd Grade^

60%

14%

48%

77%

9%

7%

2%

16%

 

*increase in passing standard

^change in Math TEKS

2017 Transforming Learning School Designation (Texas Principal's Visioning Institute)

2016 Lewisville ISD Strategic Design Award

2015 1st No Excuses Univerisity School in Denton County (1 of 50 NEU Schools in Texas and 235 schools in the Nation)

2014 Learning Forward Foundation Principal As Leader of Professional Learning Grant Recipient (Intentionally Teaching Grit and Growth Mindset to Increase Student Achievement in Students from Backgrounds of Poverty)

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