High Plains Elementary
- School District: Cherry Creek School District
- School Address: 6100 S. Fulton St. , Englewood, CO 80111, US
- School Phone: 720-554-3605
- Principal: Derek Mullner
- Contact E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Web Address: http://highplains.cherrycreekschools.org/Pages/default.aspx
- Number of Students: 602
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 16.72%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 12.65%
- Percent of Special Education: 12.98%
- White: 62.06%
- Black: 2.33%
- Hispanic: 14.14%
- Asian: 13.82%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.16%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.16%
- Multiracial: 7.33%
- Other: 0%
The first step in moving forward as a school required us to create a vision, mission, and values. As a school we didn't have a vision and mission to guide our future thinking as it relates to who we want to be as a school community. We used a collaborative process that allowed all staff members to give voice to what they value. We then anazlyzed the words that were used by each individual response, and moved forward in our guiding coalition to start the process of creating a vision, misison, and values. In fact, we used the district structure of having the three components (vision, mission, and values) in our document. The result is that we have words that express our passion for learning and supporting kids of the High Plains Elementary!
We first started with structures within our master schedule that would create time for teachers to collaborate within the workday. We were able to be creative with our resources to allow for 1.5 hours every other week of embedded collaborative team time, with 50 minutes of collaboration during the alternate weeks. We strategically provided training for each PLC facilitator from each collaborative team and created a guiding coalition in which the facilitators had opportunities to reflect on progress as a group. Areas of focus included creating norms and working agreements, building strategies to address productive conflict, and establishing trust. Before we had the structure of PLC's to support our work, it was difficult to build trust. Why would we need to trust each other knowing that we were still operating in isolation? These guiding coalition meetings allowed the facilitators to be vulnerable, ask each other questions, and learn for each other in the spirit of building capacity within our building.
Upon this foundation of trust, we intentionally emphasized a focus on student learning. This approach was directed at dismantling the theme of "I taught it but they didn't get it." This emphasis on student learning set the stage for public sharing of data within our collaborative teams and kept our conversations in a reflective matter of what our teachers can do differently to support all students.
Another thing we are proud of is the work we did with providing a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students. Teams spent time creating curriculum maps that aligned with priority standards. These curriculum maps were shared with all certified staff members in the building. This helped build our collective commitment to "our kids" and not just "my kids".
We have found that this PLC structure of continuous learning has tested and strengthened our collaborative culture. Each collaborative team has experienced periods of great success as well as opportunities to pause and reflect on the purpose of what we are doing. This reflection strengthens our "why" so we continue to have a clear focus on future actions. This constant re-grounding allows us to use the four questions of this PLC structure to put the needs of the kids first. Creating agendas centered around the four questions of a PLC, helped us to keep conversations focused around students and student learning.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
When it comes to monitoring student learning on a timely basis, we first needed to have specific assessments that were created with a specific focus on a learning target. Through professional development provided from Dr. Tom Many we are creating common formative assessments that allow teams to analyze data publicly, and then work towards an action plan as teachers reflect on their own practice of instruction. We also have rubrics that assist teachers in identifying success criteria as a team. Our goal is to turn this data around in 48 hours.
We have the expectation that teams have data meetings specifically to look at where they are at with thier CFA's and making sure we are accessing the important data that will allow us to progress monitor students. At these team meetings we use data spreadsheets and protocols to organize and analyze the data. Of course, this process has brought the importance of having a collaborative culture to the forefront as we revisit norms and expectations so all team members come prepared to these data meetings.
Upon reflection as a staff with monitoring student learning, we realized early on that we were using the term intervention to describe our system of support for kids was really remediation. There were no timelines assigned to receiving intervention, and this turned into a cycle where kids receivied intervention and stayed there until a possible referral for special eduction. Our new understanding of what a true intervention shoudl look like has interrupted our traditional systems and strucutres and has increased the fidelity of our universal instruction.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Creating systems of intervetion to provide students with additional time and support for learning has also been an on-going process of refelction and introspection. We have a forty-minute "Enrichment" Block built into the master schedule in which students who have IEP's and ALP (advanced learning plans / used for gifted and talented identification) are pulled out to receive direct instruction in a small group setting. This expectation of a pull-out strategy is driven by district and legal expectations as we meet the needs of individual students. During this time our general education teachers have used data to drive decisions about how to allow students to have time and support for their learning needs. Teachers have worked together and shared kids to focus their level of instruction!
We have a 'collaboration day' once a month in which the special education team, interventionists, and specialists come together with general education teachers to look at the curriculum maps and discuss priority standards, learning targets, and vocabulary that will align instruction and expectations. This has really supported collaboration in a positive and proactive way!
We have Tier 2 meetings every six weeks in which we pause to ensure documentation is occuring to paint the picture of intervention. These Tier 2 Conversation forms are shared between teachers and are used to help ensure students are getting time and support.
For next year, we are working on tightening our expecations within each grade and among school staff as it relates to how we are using our workshop model and providing grade level isntruction for ALL children in grade level content. This flexibility of the workshop model allows for each child to be pushed, supported, and engaged with their own learning.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Establishing a Guiding Coalition to support facilitors throughout the year has been critical to our growth. Guiding coalition meetings create a space where facilitators can openly share success' and struggles as it relates to their own collaborative team. No teacher on any team is an island, and the staff have ownership of the PLC structures. So much so, that our hiring practices make it clear to incoming staff and teachers that we are a professional learning community, and with that understanding comes expectations of working on a team to focus on student learning with data in a collaborative nature.
At High Plains, we never assume that our positive culture is guiding the way. We intentionally build upon our foundation of trust by revisiting norms and working agreements. It is this cycle of re-grounding and re-centering that ensures ownership is shared.
At High Plains, adjustments have been made to our staffing plan to have a full-time PLC coach. Administration and the teachers are clear in thier expectations for this role. The PLC coach is an extension of the collaborative team, not an extension of adminsitration. Our PLC coach helps teams to set clear agendas, make sure that norms and working agreements are being followed, and is 'in the trenches' and does what it takes to make sure the teams are moving forward. Whether it be re-working a curriculum map, creating common formative assessments, entering data, facilitating a data protocol, or simply listening, our PLC coach is an integral part of each teams movement forward.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
According to the accountability tool of the Colorado Department of Education, the School Performance Framework, see below for our percentile rank among all Colorado schools, in the areas of English Language Arts and Math. The percentile rank is based on acheivement data.
High Plains Elementary School Percentile Rank:
English Language Arts
We are proud of the increase we have experienced as it relates to our rank amongst all Colorado schools. Our growth, understanding, and internalziation of the PLC process is directly correlated to the growth we have experienced in our state assessment.
We have also submitted achievement data using the suggested excel spreadsheet in our application.
While High Plains isn't able to sight specific awards for our good work, we have received several votes of confidence from Dr. Tom Many, district leadership, and sister schools. We have hosted six schools in a variety of capacities this year as it relates to sharing our learning. Our school principal has been asked to share school structures to other principals at district meetings, and our PLC coach shares protocols, strategies, and conversations at district instructional coaches meetings.
We are proud of the work we have done at High Plains. Our achievement data reflects success, but more importantly, the smiles on our teachers and students faces throughout the day tell any visitor that we are a professional learning community where all means all.