Highland Christian School

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

This is my fourth year as principal at Highland Christian School, an elementary school in Northwest Indiana.  My previous school was a high school where we were focusing on post-secondary opportunities.  I soon realized that it was hard to help students become college and career ready if they did not come to us high school ready.  At the high school, using PLC practices we went from 28% of students meeting all 4 ACT Benchmarks to 50% meeting all 4 ACT Benchmarks.  Based on that experience, I wanted to see what I could do to get elementary students high school ready.  Highland Christian definitely fit the description of a group of people joined together by a common parking lot.  The purpose of the school was on teaching and covering material rather than student learning.  While there were plenty of results available from NWEA MAP and ISTEP (the Indiana State Assessment) the data was not being analyzed or used.  Teaming and collaboration went no further than a feel good collegiality.  Because Indiana is a high stakes testing state with public reporting of A-F letter grades for both public and non-public schools, I seized the opportunity when the board and faculty said that they were tired of being a 'C' school.  I am happy to report that we went from that 'C' to an 'A' school this year.

I would point to the following steps in our journey.

  1. We set a Jim Collins BHAG goal of 70% of our students at the 70th percentile in Reading and Math on the MAP test.  We chose the 70th percentile because that is the score students need to be on track for a 24 on the ACT.  It was the vision of students being prepared that engaged the teachers.
  2. For my first year, we worked with what we had - MAP results.  The one thing that I stressed over and over was The Four Questions: the clarity of learning targets (Question #1) , using assessment to know what students have learned (Question #2), providing timely support for students who struggle (Question #3) and providing additional learning opportunities for students who are ready (Question #4).
  3. Finally, there is no substitute for getting teachers to an Institute.  I first heard Rick DuFour in Vancouver, Canada, in 2002 and immediately knew this was going to be the direction for any school I led.  I have been to a number of Institutes over the years, but is has been the last three years at Lincolnshire that made the differernce for teachers at my school.  I took 6 teachers in each of 2016 and 2017.  In 2018 I took 14 - and now all but 1 of our regular classroom teachers have been to Lincolnshire.  Just as important, the School Board has committed to paying for one third of the staff going each year, so that everyone will be able to go every third year.
  4. This year while celebrating our 'A', we continue to be hard at work unwrapping state standards in our teams and collaborating on building common formative assessments, knowing that this will keep making Highland Christian School better every year.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Monitoring student learning on a timely basis is foundational to the operation of a professional learning community.  By unwrapping standards and frequently assessing students on the individual aspects of the standard, teachers are able to know which students have mastered the standard and which students need additional time and attention.  This year we needed to revisit all of our Power Standards in light of changes to the Indiana State Assessment.  As we began drilling down into the standards and attaching our common formative assessments we came to the conclusion that the CFA's needed a major revision; that is the primary work of our teams this year. While classroom assessments provide valuable and timely information, we also rely on NWEA MAP assessments to help us get a fuller picture of student learning.  With the correlations provided by NWEA to ACT tests, we are able to see students engage with their learning as they see how it connects to future educational opportunities.

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

As mentioned above, we find great value in the data we receive from MAP assessments.  One of the most powerful reports is the quadrant data which shows both proficiency and growth.  Our first step is to study the Pink Quadrant, located in the lower left portion of the data display.  It is in this quadrant that we find students of low proficiency, below the 50th percentile and low growth when compared to the last time they took the assessment.  Teams of teachers, administration, support services and assessment coordinator then meet to look at each student to determine why they are in the Pink Quadrant.  Are there gaps in learning?  Social emotional issues?  Disabilities?  Is the result consistent with other things we see?  Once we have determined a reason for low achievement and low growth interventions are put in place.  Some students are assigned to an IXL class where skill deficiencies are addressed; others are assigned IXL lessons to complete at home; some are given additional time and support in a small group with their peers; while others are recommended to the counselor.  Additionally, we have a weekly opportunity to address students who are struggling to learn built into our Friday schedule.  Our Everyday Math curriculum uses Fridays for a flex day.  Teams of teachers along with para-professionals address student deficiencies in small groups.

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

After taking the first group of teacher leaders to a PLC Conference, I committed to organizing our teachers into teams and providing common planning time every week.  We heard over and over at the conference, that our responsibility was to provide an education that was good enough for our own children and grandchidren.  It was with that mindset that we developed our collective commitments as a faculty and our team norms.  Teachers began to see the value of common planning and common assessment.  They began to see all of the students in their grade level as "our students."  While comments such as "My kids struggled with this standard, how did your kids do?" do not happen every day - they are becoming more and more common at Highland Christian School.  While K-5 teachers were easy to organize into teams, some of the Junior High teachers, as singletons, took longer to see the value.  This year, I have been very please with their efforts: the Junior High Science Teacher is part of a collaborative team with the 5th Grade Science Teacher; the Junior High Math Teacher teams with the Academic Support Teacher, who also teaches Math; Social Studies and Bible are a collaborative Team as well, and I'm still working to help PE, Music, and Art to find value in working together.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

State Assessment in Indiana begins in 3rd Grade.

One additional piece of data is shown in the disaggregated data that the state provides.  For school year 2017-2018, African-American students raised their pass rate on the English Language Arts assessment from 61% to 71%.

In reviewing our data prior to submitting it, I realize that there appears to be an anomaly in the data.  Our scores for Grades 6-8 show significant growth compared to our scores for Grades 3-5.  We admit a lot of students into our school in Grades 3-5 and many come with deficiencies.  Not only academic, but social and emotional issues from previous settings make it difficult for some students.  Our goal is to work with the students where they are with a goal to helping them achieve proficiency by time they leave us, as our passion is to see students highly prepared for their freshman year in high school.  The data shows that the longer students are with us, the more they learn and the higher the percentage of students meeting profiency.

This year we are recognized as an 'A' school by the state of Indiana.