Discovery Elementary School
- Number of Students: 645
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 85%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 26%
- Percent of Special Education: 14%
- White: 20%
- Black: 5%
- Hispanic: 60%
- Asian: 3%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 2%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 5%
- Multiracial: 5%
- Other: 0%
At Discovery School, we are committed to following our district motto of ‘all in for all kids;’ every decision made is to address what is best for kids and their learning. At the beginning of this process, all of our team leads attended a PLC conference to ensure staff buy-in and help build a common understanding of the work to be done. It has been essential that all staff have the mindset that our students belong to all of us and when students believe they can, they will learn.
Our staff collectively engaged in the work of creating our school’s mission, vision and collective commitments. Each staff member had the opportunity to have their voice heard throughout the process and were able to reach a consensus. The staff felt the heart of our school was truly reflected in our mission and vision. Posters with our mission and vision were placed in each room on campus, and the decision was made to include our vision statement during our daily morning announcements. Our collective commitments are posted in our PLC teacher workroom, and are placed on table tents to be referenced throughout our collaborative conversations. Our mission, vision and collective commitments remain crucial while decision-making as we work to continue a culture of continuous improvement.
Once our culture shift occurred, and teachers believed success was possible, the foundational groundwork began. It was imperative that our master schedule reflected our dedication to the process. The schedule includes an extended protected collaborative time for teams to dive into the learning cycle. This collaborative time included teachers, academic coaches and administration. Teams committed to adhering to our collective commitments, which centered around the processes and practices necessary to focus on the components of the learning cycle. Our teams established norms to ensure clarity of behavior expectations in order to hold all accountable to the work agreed upon in our collective commitments. We developed our process for building consensus and navigating crucial conversations.
Professional development and collaborative conversations focused on one of the Four Critical Questions at a time. As teams mastered each question, they progressed to the next question, allowing for differentiation among teams and a continuous cycle of learning. To build a strong foundation, teams began with Question Number One and were in the common practice of identifying essential standards and deconstructing these together. The conversations were centered around student learning targets and required rigor to meet the standard at the appropriate DOK Level. Once teams were proficient at this task, they moved on to the next questions, always revisiting Critical Question One to ensure a shared understanding of the standards and learning targets. Throughout this process, we had a continual focus on building trust among teams in order to have transparent conversations about data, needs, strengths and next steps (PD, resource, adjustments to instruction etc.). All of this work supported the mindset that together we are stronger and teams built momentum.
In addition, to help move the work forward in an accelerated manner, in the 2017-2018 SY, Dr. Sharon Kramer worked with our 3rd and 5th grade teams during monthly collaborative team meetings. She also worked with our Guiding Coalition site teams during quarterly meetings. Guiding Coalition teams consisted of a teacher from each grade band, a special education teacher, a special areas teacher, and administration. Teams received professional development and engaged in active learning during our sessions with Dr. Kramer. Our learning was centered around creating a healthy school culture with a clear focus on student learning, implementing a School Learning Team to drive school improvement, and establishing effective collaborative teams focusing on the learning cycle.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Collaborative teams work together during the deconstruction practice to create a shared understanding of the learning targets and standard requirements. Consensus is built regarding proficiency levels and develop a common pacing guide that includes deadlines for CFA administration.
Common Formative Assessments are created by the team and include carefully chosen items that reflect the rigor and content. This data is analyzed by students, who are responsible for tracking and analyzing their own data, setting goals for themselves, and monitoring their learning. Teachers use the data to consider student growth and provide an opportunity for teachers to discuss instructional strategies and reflect on how to improve their practice. Our teachers became comfortable asking one another about specific instructional strategies when there were variations in student success on their CFA data.
Successes and challenges were shared, with a focus on the instructional strategies that showed student achievement. It is a common practice for teachers to share their successful strategies while analyzing data to support each other’s ability to adjust their own instruction when reteaching to ensure students are exposed to the most effective strategies during intervention to ensure student mastery. When teachers engage in their conversations about effective strategies this creates a higher collective teacher efficacy and provides teachers with a plan of action for students and instruction moving forward.
Classroom and grade level data is posted in a common area to encourage celebration and as a focus of discussion during collaborative team time. Student growth is monitored through interim benchmarks and quarterly data digs during which the entire teaching team works in the same space allowing vertical alignment conversations, sharing of students across grade levels for extension and Tier 2 and 3 intervention planning. Together, this work ensures that each student received the same curriculum no matter the assigned teacher.
The collaborative team work focused on alignment to instruction and CFA questions to ensure data truly reflected individual student progress on identified standards. Dr. Kramer provided additional training and support on using multiple data points while analyzing student data to create individualized learning plans/RTI and adjust instructional planning based on essential standards. This included in-depth discussions on how various assessment data aligns to the standards and what we consider to be proficiency. This conversation got us down to the level of analyzing individual questions from CFAs for DOK level, alignment to learning targets, and measurability of each question through the use of a document titled Reflective Questions for Creating a CFA. We focused on the process for developing our Common Formative Assessments to address current essential standards as well as incorporate spiral review.
Dr. Kramer helped design student passports, learning target trackers, for students to utilize in order to reflect on their progress toward mastery and increase student accountability for learning. This led to the improvement and continued utilization of school-wide data binders that not only tracked overall standards but also learning targets.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Intervention and extension opportunities were considered as part of the greater school improvement plan when creating our master schedule, which includes a period of time daily that is reserved for student interventions when appropriate.
This flex time is utilized after teams analyze data from their common formative assessments to provide a Tier II intervention on standards taught during Tier I instruction. This Tier II response is a team effort, allowing teachers to ensure individual student needs are addressed. Students who have mastered the standards are provided extension opportunities to deepen their understanding of the standard. When this period is not utilized as a Tier II response time, teachers have flexibility to use this time to address the other tiers.
To support implementing this effectively, ongoing coaching support is provided to increase our teachers’ abilities to analyze student data, create small groups of students with similar learning needs and organize their instructional block to allow for small group intervention.
Our school culture has supported an ‘All Hands on Deck’ approach where staff members are used creatively to provide additional small group support throughout each day. Our practice is to share students among teachers in order to maximize instructional time and provide targeted support specific to student need. Data is analyzed frequently and groups are adjusted to honor the learning of all. Our teachers also utilize this flexible block of time for Tier III instruction to work toward pushing students forward. We have stressed the practice of ensuring we have both a Tier II and Tier III response for students in partnership with their first best instruction.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Each year, our staff revisits our mission, vision and collective commitments prior to the start of the school year. This provides an opportunity for our teachers to have meaningful conversations centered around our beliefs as an educational team, and reevaluate our statements to determine if we are holding true to these foundational pillars or if a change should be made. These conversations ensure that all teachers are part of our PLC community, and understand our “why” and “how” for the upcoming year. Quarterly, our team reviews our mission and collective commitments. Our vision continues to be said aloud daily, and posters in each room displaying our mission and vision are a consistent reminder of our purpose.
Teachers are encouraged to focus on the right work by answering the Four Critical Questions in order to focus on improved learning for all students. Collective commitments are made by the team to ensure continuous growth for both students and teachers. We believe that having a range of minds and experiences contribute to a culture that is open to feedback and innovation. To honor this mindset, achievement advisors and administration are a part of the collaborative team meetings as a support, with teachers facilitating the work.
Our extended leadership team, which consists of a team lead from each grade level, works to identify challenges and problem solve through possible solutions. Our team leads were carefully selected as individuals who are champions for school improvement and have credibility with peers. This team receives additional training on aspects of facilitating collaborative teams that allow them to support forward movement and a focus on students. Through this built capacity, many teams collaborate outside of the time allotted within the day to continue their work, as they recognize that a true learning cycle cannot always wait for a weekly collaborative team time. Our most effective teams are those who have the expectation that all team members are experts and have a responsibility to contribute to decision making. Teachers continue working through the Four Critical Questions, as evidence of student growth has solidified the value of this process.
The work with the district guiding coalition provided tools to analyze and reflect on current practices and culture at Discovery. These tools guided teams on the deconstruction of standards and established conversations about appropriate learning progressions and rigor.
The implementation of these tools also redefined the practices during our data digs to get down to individual skill level for the essential standards for every individual student.
Our Guiding Coalition determined it was necessary to measure the culture and collective belief that Discovery is all in for all kids. An artifact walk was conducted to gather data to guide the team toward next steps. The artifact walk and needs assessment were analyzed by the team and brought to light where Discovery was as a learning organization as well as the health of our school culture.
It was evident that overall, the majority of the staff agreed the culture at Discovery was positive, safe, and learning focused (celebrations/affirmations at meetings, informal notes/staff meals, student assemblies, student work/data posted). However, some of the concerns facing our site was the lack of growth in our diverse learner groups.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
During the last five years, Discovery School teachers have been working in collaborative teams, focusing on student achievement. Following the PLC model, teachers and administrators meet weekly to deconstruct standards, create lesson plans for first best instruction, build common formative assessments, and plan for intervention (see artifacts in the resources section).
The Arizona Department of Education has set up an accountability model to label the schools based on the results of the state assessment called AzMERIT. The criteria used is based on proficiency, growth, subgroups, and AZELLA results. The following table and graphs depict the significant gains throughout the years attained by the school.
- Recognized by the State as a ‘Highly Performing School’