Dr. Craig Gaska, Principal •
Churchill Elementary School • Schaumburg, Illinois
Churchill Elementary School (Schaumburg, IL)
Never Give Up
"Ensuring student success" is our district motto. Yet, every teacher has that one student that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that all students can learn and succeed. This is a story of a sixth grader at our school who was one such student. Michael started the sixth grade this year reading two years below grade level. He was one of the lowest functioning children and struggling in all areas. PLC's meet on a regular basis to discuss student progress and develop intervention plans for students. Michael was a prime candidate for intervention and one of the first students discussed by the PLC this year, futile as it seemed because he was so low. The classroom teacher was not optimistic that intervention would work as Michael was one of those students who causes one to question the belief that all students can succeed. The team designed an intensive intervention for Michael using the RtI model and tier III intervention strategies. More time was provided for Michael in small groups and scaffolded reading materials were provided. Students on tier III intervention are re-assessed every two weeks. There was no notable progress resulting from our intensive interventions after the first several weeks and the frustration continued. Michael just wasn't going to close the gap. After a period of intensive interventions, Michael began to make small gains. Things began to "click" and our team began to notice progress across the curricula. Although he was still well behind on the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test in January, we were confident that the improvement noted on common assessments and classroom performance was real. Michael scored five points above the grade level "cut" on the spring MAP assessment, is on target to meet or exceed expectations on state assessments, and is performing beyond his teacher's expectations in class. He is happy and proud of his success. His teacher states, "I am so glad that we held true to our commitment to the PLC process in helping Michael achieve success. In the future, I will be more trusting of the process because if Michael can do it, any child can!" Through students like Michael, teachers prove for themselves that all students can learn and succeed one student at a time; and that makes it all worthwhile.
Submitted by: Dr. Craig Gaska, Principal and the First/Second Grade Multiage Team of Jennifer DiLislio, Laurie McSweeney, Judy Stewart, Tracey Mestas, and Bella Seperghan (Schaumburg, IL)
Can't Get Enough!
Professional Learning Communities (PLC's) have made a significant difference at Churchill Elementary School in Schaumburg, Illinois. Not only have we experienced continuous improvement on test scores over the last five years but also, because of PLC, our professional conversations are at a much higher level. Before becoming a Professional Learning Community, Churchill's state assessment scores had been declining for ten years in a row! Professional Learning Communities made the difference. Improved test results are not the whole story, however. Professional learning communities foster teaming, focus on learning, and solidify commitment to continuous improvement. We will never go back to the time before Professional Learning Communities. The following anecdote exemplifies the point. It was the first PLC meeting of the year and the agenda was comprised of the following topics: analysis of common assessments, reliability of our scoring on extended responses, and discussion of Professional Learning Communities and subsequent planning time concerns. Planning time concerns? I was pleased to see the first two items but wondered about the last one. Perhaps the staff wasn't embracing the idea of Professional Learning Communities as I had thought. Could I be wrong? I was holding my breath. The first and second grade team came for their regularly scheduled PLC meeting and was excited to share the results of the first common assessment. The teachers quickly disaggregated data by essential understandings for the unit and determined intervention groups and strategies. They then discussed the inter-rater reliability of scores for extended responses in reading, a professional concern shared by all team members. The teachers reviewed the state rubric and graded several responses together until they felt comfortable that they had a common interpretation of the rubric. As you can imagine, I was very impressed and proud. This PLC meeting was what Professional Learning Communities are all about. What could the issue regarding PLC and planning time be? When it came time to discuss PLC and planning time concerns, I was informed that the fact we met on Mondays was the issue. Again, a flurry of thoughts raced through my mind. As it turned out, the team was frustrated by the fact that there is no school on several Mondays and they were missing too many opportunities to meet as a PLC! They find Professional Learning Communities so beneficial that they were looking for more time to meet. After some brainstorming and a little thinking outside the box the problem was solved. School District 54's motto is, Ensuring student success. Professional Learning Communities provides the structure that leads us ever closer to realizing success for all; students and teachers alike.