Woodland Park Elementary
- School District: Sheridan County School District #2
- School Address: 1010 East Woodland park Road , Sheridan , WY 82801, US
- School Phone: 307-674-7937
- Principal: Paige Sanders
- Contact E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Web Address: https://scsd2.com/schools/woodland-park-elementary
- Number of Students: 312
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 36%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 2%
- Percent of Special Education: 12%
- White: 90%
- Black: 0.03%
- Hispanic: 5%
- Asian: 0%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 1%
- Multiracial: 2%
- Other: 1.97%
Eight years ago Woodland Park Elementary embarked on a journey that would not only change the way learning occurred within our school, but impact students around our state.
We began by refining our fundamental purpose. Together, as a collaborative staff we began to develop a vision statement that truly represented our beliefs. Because we knew we wanted our foundation to be built upon our most important assets, our students, we decided upon the following… “Woodland Park Elementary: A Community that Inspires and Empowers EVERYONE to Reach Their Full Potiential.”
This single statement began to refine the way we ‘do business’. We set out to do whatever it would take to ensure each and every one of our students are successful.
Our collaborative vision:
- Emphasizes the learning for each individual student by building a collaborative classroom culture.
- Provides data-driven instruction, quality curriculum and assessments.
- Communicates with parents on a regular basis.
- Teaches student postive behavior while providing interventions and supports.
- Creates a postive culture of learning for EVERYONE, by working as a Professional Learning Community.
This was only the beginning and set the stage for how we would move forward. If we were going to impact our students to the degree outlined in our vision, our decisions had to be made collaboratively.
As a staff we continued by sketching what success with our vision would look like on a day-to-day basis. We designated what we are ‘loose’ and ‘tight’ on. For example, we are ‘loose’ on bringing snacks to meetings, but ‘tight’ on bringing data. We developed specific shared beliefs that would build trust. Because our school was able to complete this process collectively, and were not handed our beliefs from administration, we built trust. We built interdependence. These ‘tight’ shared beliefs provided us with expectations to hold ourselves accountable for.
Without a doubt, we faced challenges. Some of our team members were resistant to the change necessary for us to remain true to our vision. As a collaborative team, we read a particularly impactful book, “Transforming School Culture” by Anthony Muhammad. This allowed us to have discussions about our beliefs and resistance to specific changes. It allowed us to be hesitant, but still trudge forward. We built an assumption of good intentions, and began to view contrasting viewpoints as creative energy.
We were ready to look at the next set of decisions that had to be made collectively in order to best meet our students’ needs. Structurally, we created common planning times within our grade levels. This allowed our curriculum and assessment decisions to truly be collaborative. Teachers were finally able to plan together, regularly! Each team created their own norms that would help their team prosper.
It is important to mention how this was a point of change for our staff. We began to see how our collective culture (respect and support others, stay positive and our willingness to change, evolve, reflect and improve) was not only impacting teaching, but also impacting learning. Our students were reaping the benefits…already.
These norms set up our team meetings to function around the four necessary questions to impact learning. Now, we had to implement them. Our schedule was once again evaluated with scrutiny. We resolved to provide each student with a 40-minute time period, four days per week, of focused instruction. These small groups would deliver intervention or entension based on our students’ current level knowledge. After sweat and a few tears, our schedule utilized every member of support for our students. Our librarian, our office Para-professionals, our Special Education Staff, and our Title I support were slated to specific grade levels for intervention and extension groups.
In relation, we began designing common assessments to inform our instruction. Starting small, we began with writing. Defining proficiency, developing common expectations, and creating rubrics were only pieces of the complex puzzle we pieced together.
Needless to say, we have come a long way in eight years. Our knowledge continues to flourish as we select, read, and reflect upon professional text. With our grade level teams, we remain abreast of the current research and continually make the changes necessary to carry out our lofty vision.
We have difficult conversations. Trust balances our need to confront challenges when they arise. Practice is analyzed collectively as we evaluate student data and reflect in teams. We have developed a rotating observation schedule that allows teachers the opportunity to routinely learn from colleagues both within and outside of our school.
Most recently, we have reached far beyond our school walls to spread the power of PLC. Two major projects are underway. First, we are partnering with Casey Reason and the University of Findlay to offer an element of professional development to many schools across the country called “PLC Live!” We are documenting our professional learning communities endeavours and allowing developing PLCs to get a ‘sneak peak’ into what they are working on. This is expediting the growth other teams are making, while offering a new dimension of reflection for our teams. Second, our district is offering a statewide “Principal’s Academy”. This opportunity offers principals from around the state the opportunity to observe, participate, and obtain feedback from our high-performing PLCs and leaders. These schools are also coming to Woodland Park Elementary to get a first-hand look at how our strong teams use the three big ideas of a PLC to guide their work. Both of these endeavours are strengthening our teams through reflection and collaboration with other schools.
Possibly most importantly, we have changed our narrative from teaching to learning. From activities to results. From assumptions to evidence. From competition to collaboration. From comfort to continuous learning. From what’s always been, to “A Community that Inspires and Empowers EVERYONE to Reach Their Full Potential.”
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Monitoring student learning on a timely basis is a high priority of ours. We understand the undeniable research regarding the need for balanced assessments. With this in mind, we implement assessment that allows us to learn the most about our students, and our practice.
While we do conduct assessments of learning, we invest more of our time and energy into assessments for learning. These are the practices I will elaborate upon.
One essential element we value as a staff is informal, on-going assessment. Our staff integrates regular checks for understanding throughout instruction. From student self-evaluation to exit slips, we pride ourselves on using what our students know to guide our instruction.
In reading, we conduct regular running records of reading to analyze strategic reading processing. These running records allow us to recognize specific needs of our struggling students on a weekly basis.
In math, we have invested in training our teachers to implement Strength In Numbers assessment to evaluate conceptual number knowledge. This allows us to integrate short, focused assessments based on student need, so we can focus instruction specifically on the needs of our individual students.
Arguably the most important process we have utilized to monitor student learning is creating common formative assessments. This began with defining power standards to guide curriculum development. After recognizing the most essential outcomes our students need to master to be successful, we collaboratively developed learning targets to outline a step-by-step process for students to achieve our power standards.
With these pieces in place, our teams were then able to craft assessments that are given to every students within a grade level to demonstrate mastery. The creation of rubrics and proficiency scales allowed us to construct a collective understanding of proficiency. These assessments provide instrumental information. We are able to use the data to group students into appropriate and effective intervention and enrichment groups. We are able to compare data and learn from colleagues whose students exhibited high levels of achievement. We are able to think reflectively about our own practice and set professional learning goals.
Assessments are continually evolving at Woodland Park Elementary. As we learn from professional resources, other professionals, and our students, we pride ourselves on delivering assessments that teach us the most about learning.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
“How will we respond when some students don’t learn?” is a question that remains at the forefront of our discussions. As the Dufour’s put it, we do not leave our students to the educational lottery. We have systems in place to ensure each of our students is afforded the same learning as the next.
Our schedule allows for a 40 minute intervention and entension time for each student. Support staff, both certified and classified, are assigned grade levels they provide WIN ("What I Need") services to each student. For example, our Literacy Coordinator is committed to providing WIN to our 4th grade and 2nd grade students. Teachers and students are comforted by the consistent aid from other members of our staff to help the teacher help the student.
We use a cycle of learning that has not only allowed for intervention time for each student, but ensured it takes place. Simplistically explained, our students partake in in-class learning focused on a particular learning target(s). Then students are given a quick common assessment to help identify their current mastery of learning target. This assessment data is used to break students into WIN groups.
Within these WIN groups, we are ‘tight’ on a few factors. The students requiring the most intensive intervention are placed in the smallest groups with the most qualified team-member. This way we can ensure these students are afforded the best opportunity to be successful. Also, we insist that our students are pushed to meet their potential. This may mean moving beyond grade level expectations, and it may mean time outside of the pre-arranged schedule or implementing alternative strategies. No matter the student or situation, we hold ourselves accountable for being insistent upon learning.
Following the intensive intervention, we administer an additional short, common assessment to help reassess student learning. This allows us to measure growth, reevaluate teaching, and determine if our learning goals were attained. While this cycle requires a great deal of logistical planning, creative thinking, and reflection on our part, it is worth every second when we are able to see the impact on our students’ learning.
In addition to the fluid creation and evaluation of WIN groups, we provide another option of intervention for our students who demonstrate a need for more intensive instruction to obtain proficiency. Using data from our ongoing running records, classroom observations, and common assessments we hold flexible intervention groups at each grade level. This allows for students who require extra support in areas like the reading process to obtain grade-level achievement. Based on specific student needs, these interventions utilize resources like Leveled Literacy Intervention, The Comprehension ToolKit, Reading Recovery, and Guided Reading Plus.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
At Woodland Park Elementary we realize that we cannot accomplish high levels of learning for all students unless we work together collaboratively. We also understand that simply ‘collaborating’ will not create high levels of student learning. As teams, we have to focus on the right things.
In order to keep our focus on the ‘right’ things, each team has created norms. While each team has their own twist on their norms, each team has set boundaries to ensure productivity and focus. Each meeting begins with a quick review of these norms and the consequences of breaking them (although these are light hearted at times, like bring coffee, they are effective!).
The foundation of our focus relates back to the four essential questions of PLC. We use these questions to guide our collaboration. This ensures that we are results oriented. Our teams continually assess their effectiveness on the basis of tangible evidence that our students are acquiring knowledge and skills essential to their success. Assumptions are not valued, but data is analyzed, reflected upon, and used to guide instruction on a regular basis.
Our PLC teams are self-directed. Our district has provided us as a staff the opportunity to develop into a system of dedicated team members who are responsible for their own success. We have limited district goals, which allows us to set our own team goals. This allows us to use our data to shape our professional learning and our next steps on our collaborative journey. For example, we grow as professionals everyday as we develop and refine our common assessments. A test designer or curriculum director did not create these. They were not handed to us from another school. WE poured our insistence upon achievement into each assessment. These assessments are a work in progress, but will determine our students’ needs while helping us develop professionally through our conversations.
These relevant, team-owned assessments provide us with timely information that fuels our continuous improvement process.
While our teams are supported by the principal, literacy coordinator, math coordinator, parent liaison, behavior specialist, and so on, our teams develop their own agendas, analyze their own data, hold each other accountable, and track their efforts through a shared folder. This self-sustaining system did not happen by accident. Our shared beliefs and insistence upon student learning shaped it.
Finally, ongoing professional learning is one way we ensure our teams are high performing. At Woodland Park Elementary we do not take the catch phrase ‘life-long learners’ lightly. We expect this of our students, and therefor model it in our daily routines. Each team is continually participating in a professional book study, related to their team goals. While some teams may be reading about refining their assessments to be more effective, another team may be reading about effective strategies to teach struggling readers, and another about strengthening their team. Also important is our implementation of a regular observation schedule to allow teachers the opportunity to observe other professionals both within and outside of our school. This allows for another opportunity for reflection. We value learning from each other.
Each month at our staff meetings we hold a ‘spotlight PLC team’ where our entire staff is able to take a field trip to a particular grade level and learn about something exemplary and innovative taking place. Last month we learned about a student-directed data notebook in our 5th grade. We are able to see first hand how this was impacting student learning, and how to implement a similar idea in our grade levels. How powerful! Our staff meetings also center about collaborative professional development, rather than organizational logistics. We use strengths from within our staff to enhance practice throughout our school. For example, last month, our literacy coordinator conducted reflective opportunities with teams regarding providing feedback.
Just walking through the doors of our school, it is obvious that we not only value collaboration, but also insist upon collaboration that impacts student learning.
Additional Achievement Data
Woodland Park Elementary
Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students (PAWS)
Compared to State Data
National Blue Ribbon School
Exceeding Expecations in ALL areas of the Wyoming Accountability Model
National Distinugish Title 1 School
Blue Ribbon Nomination
"Exceeding Targets" in Acheivement- recognized by the Wyoming Accountability System
"Exceeding Targets" in Growth- recognized by the Wyoming Accountability System.
Certified by ADVanced Ed
Recognized as a Bucket Filling School that promotes positive attitudes, interactions, and consistant reinforcement of kindness.
Positive Behavior Intervention and Support certified
In 2015 Woodland Park Elementary was rated the #1 Best Public Elementary School in the State of Wyoming by Niche!
"Exceeding Targets" in Acheivement- recognized by the Wyoming Accountability System
"Meeting Targets" in Growth- recognized by the Wyoming Accountability System.