Washington Elementary School
- Number of Students: 394
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 43.7%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 9.9%
- Percent of Special Education: 15.5%
- White: 74.4%
- Black: 17.5%
- Hispanic: 4.8%
- Asian: 3%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 0%
- Other: 0%
Washington Elementary School began implementing the DuFour, DuFour & Eaker model of Professional Learning Communities at Work during the 2006-07 school year. The school district made a commitment to our community by implementing a monthly 2-hour late start for collaboration; in turn, those collaborative teams have dedicated themselves to improve their instruction and student learning by utilizing their common planning time, creating additional collaborative times every other week to analyze data, developing essential learner outcomes and fine-tuning instructional strategies to meet the needs of our students. The teams developed norms, SMART Goals, grade level specific essential learner outcomes aligned to state standards and developed common assessments to determine areas where students needed additional support. Based on the needs of the students, collaborative teams have utilized their data to flexibly reorganize groups of kids for small group instruction in reading and math and for our intervention/enrichment block of time that was developed within the master schedule, called WIN (What I Need) Time.
As a school, our data historically indicated major issues both academically and behaviorally; the data clearly made the case that we weren’t meeting the needs of our students. Our initial steps included having the difficult conversation about whether we believe all kids can learn and learn at high levels. We shifted the way we delivered interventions from utilizing a paraprofessional model that worked with our highest need students to our present model of placing them with highly trained teachers. Our collaborative teams moved from having conversations about field trips, playground issues, etc. to developing norms, SMART goals, ELO’s and identifying appropriate methods to improve student learning. Today, Washington Elementary School functions as a Professional Learning Community because of the commitment we made to one another, the understanding that all students do not necessarily learn on the same day or in the same way and by committing ourselves to providing time and developing a structure of support for all students to achieve.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
All students, K-5, are assessed using the NWEA and DIBELS tests three times per year, fall, winter, and spring. The DIBELS results are utilized to target instruction for those who have not hit the grade-level benchmark. Students who have not yet benchmarked are first discussed within their collaborative teams and when needed are brought to the Problem Solving Team to discuss and properly place students in an appropriate intervention, with a trained teacher, in an intervention that is used to meet their individual need and progress monitored every 1-2 weeks. NWEA results have allowed us to goal-set with students, monitor student progress and adjust our instruction and the instructional groups based on individual needs.
Classroom teachers developed Essential Learner Outcomes aligned to state standards and have created common formative assessments to utilize for each unit of math and reading. The results of the formative assessments are used to differentiate instruction during whole and small group lessons, as well as during WIN Time.
All classroom teachers, special education teachers and ELL teachers meet with the principal on a quarterly basis about their students of need, i.e. “WIN Kids”. The purpose of the meeting is to identify students that need additional support academically, as well as develop support in the social/emotional areas. We analyze the individual schedule of each child to ensure that the staff is maximizing the learning time for all, taking into account the times our Tier II and III students leave the classroom for additional support to be sure they are not missing critical new instruction.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Washington has created WIN (What I Need) Time, an intervention/enrichment block of time that allows us to flood each grade level with ELL, SPED, Title, Reading Intervention teachers and paraprofessional support in the classroom rather than pulling students from other subjects. WIN Time was developed by collaborative teams carefully looking at their daily schedules and practices. In the past, we failed to treat time as preciously as needed; by tightening up our transitions, lunchtime, classroom management and holding true to the master schedule we were able to carve out 30 minutes everyday to give children the extra time and support they need for growth. Instruction is differentiated for small groups based off their common formative assessments and DIBELS progress monitoring to target the skills that need to be reinforced or further developed. Intervention groups are based on the similar needs of individual students and these are determined through collaboration between grade level collaborative teams and the Title I/Intervention Teachers collaborative team.
We instituted the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) system to better meet the needs of our students who not only struggle academically, but also behaviorally. Utilizing the School-wide Information System (SWIS) we track discipline referrals and drill down to identify students that are struggling and work to find the root cause of the behavior. The implementation of our PBIS system called Washington Wildcat PAWS (Provide Respect, Act Safely, Work Hard, Show Responsibility) has led to a dramatic reduction of discipline referrals by nearly 900. Historically students spent an average of 29 minutes out of the classroom per referral. By reducing the amount of referrals and reteaching our expectations, we have kept children in the classroom and prevented them from missing critical new learning.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
The master schedule has been created to establish common planning time several days a week for collaboration. The school district has established a monthly two-hour late start for PLC teams to meet and as a school we have established a two-hour collaborative time per team in addition to the scheduled late start, which is scheduled the week following the late start. Our staff meetings have become professional development opportunities focused on developing instructional strategies to meet the needs of our children. As a staff, we have focused our professional development on engaging students in their learning, meeting their individual instructional needs and developing better strategies through book studies on Reciprocal Teaching, The Highly Engaged Classroom, Pyramid Response to Intervention and others that are helping us to meet the needs of each individual. These opportunities are occurring in their collaborative teams, as well as being led at staff meetings by the principal and the building Continuous Improvement Coach. Over 75% of the instructional staff has attended the Professional Learning Communities at Work Institute over the last four years, which has helped bring a common understanding to the purpose of our occupation, a common language and a definite direction for us to follow.
Percentage of Students Meeting State Standards on MCA II
Switch to MCA III in Math
Washington Elementary has shown an upward trend in all subject areas at all grade levels over the past six years, other than a dip in math scores in 2011 with the implementation of a new state standardized test in math. From 2007 to 2010 the overall math scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment have increased over 18%. In fourth grade there has been a 12% increase in reading and 14% in math. The cohort group from 3rd grade 2008 to 5th grade 2010 had a 5% increase in math and an 11% increase in reading. While the 2010 3rd grade scores show a significant drop in reading, we understand that a Professional Learning Community means we are invested in continuous improvement and will respond accordingly to meet the needs of our students. Reading scores from 2007-12 have shown a 17% improvement as a school, with a 25% increase in the 3rd grade.
Since our shift to becoming a Professional Learning Community in 2006, Washington Elementary has made impressive gains and has moved from a school consistently in the lower half of the district elementary schools to one of the top performing in the district and consistently above the state and district average. The past two school years we have been recognized by the State of Minnesota as a Reward School for placing in the top 15% of all Title I schools.
Reward School – Top 15% of Title I Schools - Minnesota Department of Education