Owego Apalachin Central School District
- Number of Students: 2,005
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 45%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 0.2%
- Percent of Special Education: 17%
Schools in District
Owego Free Academy
Owego Apalachin Middle School
Owego Elementary School
Apalachin Elementary School
- White: 95%
- Black: 1.2%
- Hispanic: 1.7%
- Asian: 0.3%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.1%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.2%
- Multiracial: 1.5%
- Other: 0%
Our PLC Story
Our school district collaboratively has been on a PLC journey for about 4 years and our high school for about 6 years. While traveling along this path, it has coincided with our district mission of challenging students in a caring environment with the goal of them becoming confident, contributing citizens and lifelong learners. Our staff has learned the importance of collaboration in helping students achieve their full potential and our students are succeeding because of it.
During this timeframe, our district built a strong foundation based on the beliefs and principles of Professional Learning Communities. Our new Superintendent, Corey Green, had come from a district that used the Professional Learning Community process. He knew the importance of helping us to use this process too. We moved rather quickly along this path because, except for in our high school, teachers were often working in isolation, and we know now, that this isn’t best for students. Some of the major changes that have been implemented in the last 4 years are:
Schedules created to include Collaborative Teacher Team time with the potential to meet daily if needed to target the 4 questions of a PLC
Essential Learning Skills established collaboratively by all teachers in district
Blueprints created to prioritize standards and provide collective guidance for all teachers
Data used to drive instruction
Check-ins and feedback became the norm
Common benchmark assessments and common formative assessments created
Collaborative Teacher Team leaders established to provide team leadership and to help maintain focus
Professional Learning focused on the work of Professional Learning Communities:
District workshops with Solution Tree’s Anthony Muhammed, Laurie Robinson-Sammons, Tim Brown, and LeAnn Nickelsen
District PD with Windsor Central School district (a model PLC district) and Jason Andrews, a Solution Tree consultant
District work around the Growth Mindset (Carol Dweck)
Praise Walks Implemented (Educational Leadership- Barb Phillips, Solution Tree)
Administrators trained as instructional leaders
Changes to AIS and RTI:
Tier 1and 2 interventions within the classroom and often within the lesson
Team teaching with SPED, AIS and classroom teachers
Core, grade level instruction not interrupted
Daily intervention/extended learning period - GOAL time (Grade level Opportunities to Accelerate Learning)
Sharing of students to best meet their instructional needs
Students setting goals
Smooth transition to distance learning
Facilitating a Culture of Continuous Improvement
All of our schools have built their schedules so that teachers have the opportunity to meet with one another daily. Once they saw the benefit of working in a team, there were many aspects of student learning that teachers wanted to meet about. They could clearly see the benefit to their students in terms of student achievement. Each meeting focusses on the 4 questions of a PLC -What is it we want our students to know and be able to do?, How will we know if each student has learned it?, How will we respond when somse students do not learn it?, and How will we extend the learning for students who have demonstrated proficiency?
Teams meet regularly to discuss student data. They look at grade- level or content area student work and priority standards to determine which students have learned what was taught and which students would benefit from intervention or extended learning. They examine benchmark assessments, common formative assessments, as well as student self- assessments. They use the data to make decisions about each student as well as the entire grade level or content area.
Student learning is enhanced because teachers truly know what their students need and how to provide it. Teachers collaborate to ensure that students get additional small group or individual support quickly so that they can continue to understand and learn about the current standards being taught.
Teachers also make decisions about the power standards to ensure that no time is wasted in their classrooms (in- school or virtual). Because of the closing of schools in the spring and the shift to distance learning, our teachers are more focussed than ever on being sure that what they are teaching is essential. They know that when we come back in the fall, there will not be time to go back and reteach everything students may have missed this past spring. Thankfully, all of our staff worked collaborative teaching teams during the school closures an ensured that each individual student was connected to us. Because of this, our students continued to learn, although in new and different ways and often at different speeds. Differentiating teaching became more important than ever and the focus of our professional development this summer has been to continue to prioritize the power standards and to continue to improve instruction so that students can continue to learn to their potential, whether we are in school or students are learning virtually. *Please see evidence of our summer work under "Additional Documentation" where we have listed several sample blueprints.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Monitoring Student Learning on a Timely Basis
It is of utmost importance that we have a guaranteed and viable curriculum. The best way to assure this is to have our teachers working in grade level or content area collaborative teacher teams across the district so that if a student moves from one building in our district to another, they will have been taught using the same standards. We also require teachers to be aligned vertically. Some of their collaborative teacher team meetings are with adjacent grade levels to ensure that there isn’t overlap or gaps in what is taught.
On an even larger scale, our entire district staff met last spring to come up with what we call OA’s Essential Learning Skills (see Additional Documentation). These are 10 skills that all teachers believe our students need when they graduate from high school, whether they are going to college, to a career, to the military, or anything else. These skills are necessary for any young adults living in our society in the 21st century. They are posted on the wall of every classroom and are explained to students so that students know what skills teachers will be working on in every class. Everything we do is aligned to these skills.
Our teachers have learned that monitoring student learning on a timely basis is essential to student achievement. This is why our teachers are using several ways to monitor student progress. Our teacher teams have created common benchmark assessments to get a big picture of student growth. These also give useful information about the teaching going on to support the learning. Does the teaching need to be altered or enhanced? Could teaching in a different way be more helpful? Does time spent on certain standards need to be adjusted? Does the rigor of instruction or of the assessment need to be increased? Much can be learned from benchmark assessments that can inform instruction. Teachers meet and analyze the data from the common assessments to determine which students have mastered the most essential standards.
Using the 4 big questions of a PLC as a guids, teachers look at the entire grade level in the building. If there are students who weren't successful in learning certain standards, action plans are created at the collaborative data meetings. Students are grouped according to the area they need support in so they can be provided with targeted interventions designed to meet their specific needs. If some students need extension of their learning, this is also planned for. Support and extensions are provided during our daily GOAL time (Grade- Level Opportunities to Accelerate Learning) by the grade level teachers, AIS teachers, SPED teachers, or Teaching Assistants. It is all planned out by the grade level collaborative team at their collaborative meetings.
Formative assessment is also used on a regular basis in every lesson taught whether in school or virtually. Teachers may start the lesson with a bellringer or a quick check for understanding. Our teachers continue this throughout their lessons, teaching something and then checking on student understanding. Before moving to a new standard or concept, our teachers are checking to be sure that what they taught, or think they taught, was actually learned. If students didn’t learn to the extent that teachers hoped, their first thought is - “What can I do differently?” This is very different from thinking that a student or students may have done something wrong or didn’t put forth enough effort.
Because we have collaborative teacher teams in place, teachers are required to collaborate and make decisions as to what best practices are needed to help each student succeed. It may involve reteaching some students in different ways, additional practice for some, or enrichment of concepts taught. This often happens in our daily GOAL (Grade-level Oppoortunities to Accelerate Learning) time. This systematic process of collaboration regarding common formative assessments and common benchmark assessments helps all teachers become better. We have a common template that all teachers use when analyzing their benchmark assessments. It is provided in the Resources section, as well as our Master Schedules.
Our S-BIT (Student Based Intervention Team) process allows a group of teachers and support staff to brainstorm based on data, when an individual student consistently isn’t learning and needs Tier 3 interventions. Perhaps a barrier needs to be dealt with, such as attendance or language. Perhaps the student has missed some prerequisite skill that is holding him or her back. Perhaps there are social or emotional issues that are hindering learning. Perhaps there is a physical or cognitive disability that hasn’t been identified. Perhaps the student needs a different type of instruction than that which was offered. Our S-BIT team works collaboratively to determine what the student may need to be successful. Then that support is given and data is kept to see if the student is making progress with the changes in place.
Because we are always in a state of continuous improvement, an area we are currently working on, and received advice from LeeAnn Nickelsen about, is the area of student self-monitoring and goal setting. Our hope is that in time, students will become comfortable with assessing themselves and it will become second nature to do so. This takes consistent messaging from all teachers and demonstrations of ways that students can self-monitor. Students also need guidance on what to do once they have checked their learning progress. Will they move ahead comfortably? Will they need more practice? Do they need the concept explained differently? Are they able to extend their learning around a concept? This is an area that is a work in progress.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning
Tier 1 interventions are provided daily through differentiation in lessons and are based on formative assessments. Teachers assess student understanding in a variety of ways including verbally, using technnology, using whiteboards, with partners, through written responses, through observation, etc. Interventions are timely in that they are often immediate, based on on-going formative assessment. They are also directive and targeted, giving students exactly what they need, and not making them sit through re-teaching or practice that they don't need.
If it is determined through collaborative data analysis of common formative assessments and common benchmark assessments that some students need Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions, they would receive support in addition to their regular classroom instruction. This would be determined by their learning and understanding of the power standards taught. Tier 2 interventions are planned for at collaborative team meetings (which often include AIS teachers as well as classroom teachers) and take place during GOAL time. For Tier 3 support, our building SBIT teams (Student Based Intervention Teams) help our collaborative teacher teams to determine, based on data, which students need this higher level of support. It is then determined what frequency, duration, and teacher-to-student ratio is needed as well as the specific targeting of support and expertise of those providing it. It is still provided at GOAL time, but may be with a smaller group, for a longer period of time, and with the most expert teacher in this area. (See sample Intervention planning in Additional Documentation)
We have created a schedule that includes a GOAL time (Grade Level Opportunities to Accelerate Learning) for all students K-12. (See schedules in Additional Documentation) Every student can get what they need during this half hour each day. It might be extra help, clarification, or reteaching. It might be the opportunity for some practice to gain speed or fluency. It might be the chance to extend learning through a project created by the student or teacher. Our teacher teams use data at their collaborative teacher team meetings to determine which students need which interventions or extensions and how they will be provided. This sometimes means sharing students among team members or grade levels. At GOAL time, students might meet with a classtroom teacher, Literacy teacher, Math AIS teacher, Special Education teacher or a Teaching Assistant, depending on their needs. Students might meet one-on-one or in a small group - again, dependent on their needs and the determination of the team after analyzing assessment data.
Interventions are planned by the team in collaboration with the S-BIT team for Tier 3) and are flexible as students demonstrate through CFA's or benchmark assessments, the need to move in and out of different tiers. If it is determined that a student needs on-going support in reading or writing, for example, they would most likely meet daily with a Litercy teacher in a very small group for a longer duration of time. If some students just need extra practice with multiplication facts, they might be working with a Math AIS teacher or a Teaching Assistant playing Math games designed to enhance speed and fluency in this area. Students are never taken out of direct, grade-level, core instruction to do this. GOAL time is always in addition to regular instruction. Teachers share best practices, ideas for intervening with students, and often they share the students themselves.
Distance learning brought new challenges and opportunities. Instead of students working in a corner of their classroom with a Literacy teacher during GOAL time, for example, students were pulled into virtual breakout rooms to receive additional instruction. At the high school level, this sometimes looked like office hours where students could get help. At the elementary level, it might look like an AIS teacher meeting with a small group of below- level readers who are working on a particular standard. Parents might be encouraged to attend so that they would know best how to support their child. Much like in the regular school setting, AIS teachers, SPED teachers, the ELL teacher, Literacy teachers, and TA’s were able to still team teach in virtual classrooms with classroom teachers. Our secondary schools have additional support through Academies where a team of teachers will work with students needing intensive AIS services.
As we have moved into the fall of 2020, our UPK-6th grade students have the opportunity to attend school daily in person. If they choose to stay home, they learn remotely as teachers connect with them from their classrooms. Our 7-12th grade students are using a hybrid model- attending in-person for 2 days a week and learning remotely with both synchronous and asynchronous instuction 3 days a week.
As a bonus, during in-school instruction, we also have a group of students called “High School Buddies” who walk to one of our elementary schools when they have a free period or after school to provide support to students. Sometimes it is social and emotional support, sometimes it is academic. We have always had a group of high schoolers interested in the field of Education, and we have begun the groundwork for creating a Pathway in Education for high school students who hope to go into this field.
We have many enrichment as well as extension opportunites. Our STEAM programs and after-school and summer Enrichment programs have been growing steadily. STEAM has now replaced Library as a Special Area in our elementary schools, however, library and research skills are still taught within the STEAM program. Students have many opportunities to use the essential learning skills of the 21st century in their STEAM classes. They learn through robotics, coding, hydroponics, engineering, etc. Our STEAM teachers have found motivational ways to encourage students and even the community to learn by offering community STEAM challenges that get families, businesses, and community groups involved.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students
Teachers in all school buildings have been working collaboratively on grade level or content area teams for at least 4 years. There is time in the schedule for teachers to meet daily with their own team, adjacent grade level teams, SPED teachers, Special Area teachers, etc. Because we have two elementary schools, a grade level meeting often is a meeting where both grade levels are together in their own building and have a Zoom meeting or FaceTime discussion with the other building. Elementary teachers have a designated collaborative team time for a half hour every day in the morning before students arrive. Secondary teachers have this designated half hour after students leave at the end of the day.
Meeting norms were established early on but they are reviewed regularly so that everyone is on the same page with how the meetings will run and what the expectations are for the process as well as the outcomes. Administrators are invited to attend the meetings. Principals, assistant principals, and sometimes district office staff often attend the meetings and become part of the team - offering ideas, answering questions, and providing feedback - all related to the 4 ciritical questions driving a PLC. Some non-negotiable expectations are that the teams will work collaboratively, data will be analyzed and used for decision making, and that ALL students will be taken into account when answering the four questions of a PLC.
When we went to on-line learning this spring, due to school closures, teams became more important than ever. They met through Zoom meetings and were able to screen share to show one another what they were talking about. Team members who were technologically adept helped those who weren’t as experienced yet to come up to speed. Teachers were so thankful that collaborative teacher teams were well established and that our schools and district were Professional Learning Communities when schools abruptly closed. Teachers knew they would need to meet to plan for a variety of things - connecting with kids, social-emotional learning, power standards, feedback, interventions, extended learning, data, etc. Basically they would meet on all the things they had already been meeting on, only in a different format.
We have had instructional coaches in Literacy for well over a decade in our elementary schools. These coaches have modeled best practices in literacy, team taught, and supported teachers in their teaching of literacy in every way possible. They have supported the 4 basic questions of a PLC and have helped all teachers to use these questions to guide their instruction. When last March we had Solution Tree’s LeAnn Nickelsen provide Professional Learning, we invited other school districts to join us so that they too could become more familiar with the PLC process and with the ideas being shared.
To allow teachers to get the big picture of the learning that students are doing at every level, we organized “Praise Walks” after meeting with Barb Phillips of the Windsor School District who is also a Solution Tree representative. The Praise Walks were designed so that elementary teachers could walk into secondary classrooms and visa versa with the goal of finding things that could be praised - things like posted instructional objectives, empowerment of students by giving them choice, checking for understanding, use of data, higher level questioning, less teacher talk and more constructive conversation between students, evidence of the growth mindset, opportunities for extended learning, differentiated instruction, use of technology as an instructional tool, etc. The “Praise Walks” break down barriers between levels so that teachers can see all students in the district as their students.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
As a district, we are in a growth pattern of continuous improvement. In analyzing the data for our elementary students in both buildings, there was a consistent pattern. In general, students demonstrated significant growth in ELA and Math from the beginning of the year to the end as well as significant growth over a time period of 3 years. Not only were students learning throughout the year, which is always our goal, but each year, students were coming into a new grade and ending it with scores higher than the previous year's students. This would indicate a pattern of continuous improvement in teaching and learning. We do not compare our UPK-2nd grade students with others in the region or state, however their ELA data is included above. We are in the process of creating a consistent recording system for primary Math.
We have included results for our 3-8 Students with Disabilities and our Economically Disadvantaged students. It is in a file above. Our students in these categories score similar to other students in these categories across the state. Like with all students, our mission is to achieve continuous growth and improvement with students in these categories. We have also included a comparison of our 9-12 students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students with those in the state. We have scored significantly above the state in these categories.
Our middle school has focussed on building strong PLC teams as well as using feedback and assessment data to inform instruction. In reviewing state test data for ELA and Math, our middle school grades have progressively improved over a 3 year period moving closer to or above state averages in most instances. Our 3-8 state test scores are consistently higher than most schools in the region and state.
Our high school Regents scores continue to be exemplary in county, regional and state comparisons. We are looked upon as a model for many other nearby schools. Because our high school was the first building in our district to implement Professional Learning Communities, we feel that it has a very solid foundation to continue the process of on-going student growth and achievement.
In looking at district-wide attendance over a 4 year period, the average number of days students missed decreased from 8 to 5 for most students and for chronically absent students, it decreased from 25 to 18. This is a very positive trend since even one day's absence can result in much lost learning.
Our graduataion rate of 99% this past year is very telling of dedicated teachers and students who want to succeed. Very few schools can boast of such a high graduation rate.
*Model PLC School designation for our high school, Owego Free Academy, for the 2018-2019 school year
*OA district named Prevention Partner of the Year Award through Casa Trinity and the PAX program
*OFA Senior, Jacob Dove, selected to play trombone with the 2020 All National Band Honor Ensemble sponsored by the National Association for Music Education