Dixie Magnet Elementary (2023)
- Number of Students: 516
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 57%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 14.5%
- Percent of Special Education: 20%
- White: 44.6%
- Black: 28.5%
- Hispanic: 16.9%
- Asian: 1%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 9%
- Other: 0%
***PROMISING PRACTICES SCHOOL***
As we entered the 2021-22 school year we realized as a school we needed a process that focused on student learning. During the summer of 2022 our Guiding Coalition, a team consisting of a representative from each grade level and special area team along with administration, attended the PLC Institute in Charlotte, NC. Attending this institute laid the foundation for understanding the necessity and importance of growing together as a PLC. This new learning inspired us to revise our mission statement to reflect the commitment to “all means ALL”. The Guiding Coalition's purpose was to amplify voices of need as we build our PLC. Members were also charged with improving their own practice as leaders in this work while facilitating the workaround answering the four questions. Later, the Coalition used the book “Creating Cultures Built to Last” as a way to clarify our purpose and direction. As the year began, our school leadership facilitated our Professional Learning Team (PLT) meetings to provide an opportunity for teachers to live in the process before taking ownership of the work. By November, as teachers gained knowledge and capacity for this process each grade level team took over their PLTs. Through the course of the year, we established practices and understanding across grade levels that allowed the PLC process to become how we do business as a school. Each collaborative grade level team meets formally once a week, although most teams meet informally every day, and they work to determine essential standards and skills for the upcoming unit. The team collaboratively generates assessments aligned to the essential standard to collect data on progress to mastering the essential standard. Once an assessment is given each teacher reflects on the impact of his/her methods and comes prepared to discuss and analyze the data as a collaborative team. Teachers share their reflections and the methods that were proven to be the most successful for the students. The team uses the data to implement an intervention/extension time called WIN (Whatever I Need) Time. Our process is rooted in the 4 questions that guide our work as a PLC. To ensure we were implementing the process with fidelity we employed Jacquie Heller, a Solution Tree author, associate, and coach. She was pivotal with our staff as we analyzed and built instructional stepping stones to the essential standards. Through this work, we have created a system and process for building instructional maps that are supported vertically. Dixie has established a strong collaborative culture and set of practices that invigorates us to continue to grow and be a Model PLC.
At Dixie Magnet Elementary our mission is ALL students learn at high levels through personalized learning. However simple the statement may be written, the goal is not achieved without continuous and focused improvement. Our administrators and teacher leaders have modeled continuous improvement through the PLC process. All team members feel empowered to ask questions and share ideas throughout our work. The Guiding Coalition meets twice a month to share where each team is finding success and where there are challenges. Teams are sharing their successes in order to help other teams, and we work collaboratively to find ways to support where teams are struggling. We celebrate the big and small wins in monthly faculty meetings, sharing ways in which teachers or teams have succeeded with either a focus on learning, collaboration, or results.
To be at the highest level of service to our students we are committed to a culture of change in response to the needs of students. In our grade-level PLTs we use the data to provide insight on what is working for our students and how we can replicate it for other students. We have the same dedication to teacher learning and growth. The strongest and best example is within our first-grade team PLT in January. They were focused on the reading foundational standard RF.1.2a (Long and Short Vowels). After giving the assessment one class had a mastery rate of 70% while the others had rates of 36%, 60%, and 45%. In a typical environment, teachers would be pressured to be successful at whatever cost and be responsible to learn in isolation. It is evident that the PLC process has taken a place in our culture because the teachers turned to the ones with the higher level of mastery and began to ask questions. The teacher shared her methods and strategies with explicit phonic instruction that led to her students' success. The team implemented these strategies in their WIN time and saw an increase in mastery across all classrooms. We also believe that in order to improve teacher practice we must offer job-embedded professional learning. This entire staff participated in professional development focused on Project Based Learning, Guided Reading, and PLCs. Much of the initial training occurred at the beginning of the year and was reinforced throughout with coaching sessions. We have a plan to continue refining and polishing those strategies this following school year.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
The first lift for our school was to determine the essential standards. Initially, we were provided a curriculum map by our district leaders identifying essential standards across all content areas. The map included many essential standards and would prove to be too difficult to ensure mastery of all of them. In an effort to still align with the district-wide curriculum map, we looked at their list of standards for each unit and selected what we believed to be the most vital. This process allowed us to bring clarity and develop clear targets in each grade level while including the knowledge and skills necessary for student mastery. Initially, this process was done on a unit-by-unit basis to establish and understand the process. In April 2022 our Solution Tree Coach, Jacquie Heller, collaborated with all grade levels to build vertical alignment on essential standards. We used the REAL Criteria (Readiness, Endurance, Assessed, Leverage) to identify the most essential standards in each grade level content standards. This process provided clarity across all grade levels.
Through the course of the year and with each unit grade level teams collaborated to develop detailed learning progressions. These “ladders” (RI.2.3 Example) to student learning provided the concepts and skills that students needed in order to teach them effectively. The learning progression ladders include common formative and summative assessments created by the team. The data from the assessments are used to share best practices that are supported by student data and to create interventions and enrichment opportunities for students.
We use several methods for monitoring student learning. We use data from our state assessments, NWEA MAP data, common formative assessments, district benchmark assessments, guided reading levels, and responsive formative progress checks in the classroom. During our PLT meetings, we discuss, monitor, and reflect on this data to adapt our instruction to ensure all students are learning at high levels. When looking at classroom data as a grade-level team we look for those teachers who have the largest cluster of students who are meeting or exceeding the standard. We ask probing questions to identify what is working and use that information to adapt instruction in other classrooms.
The data we collect from MAP and our state assessments provide us with a macro view of trends with our instruction. The most powerful data we receive is from our common formative assessment. The CFAs allow us to identify students who need additional time and support almost immediately. These assessments happen more frequently and provide time to be responsive. This data is used to create small instructional groups that extend learning or reteach the content using the most effective methods identified by the grade-level team. These groups are created and implemented within the same week as the CFA allowing for misconceptions to be addressed quickly. At the end students are reassessed with another CFA, to determine if further instruction is needed or if they are prepared to take the next step on their instructional ladder.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
With our commitment to all means ALL, we believe in providing every student with equitable opportunities for success. To achieve this each grade level team develops a plan for WIN (What I Need) Time which allocates time for reteaching and enrichment for all students. The groups and plans are created based on the data analysis from the common formative or summative assessments. By using common assessments, we ensure consistency and reliability in evaluating student progress across classrooms and teachers. This helps us identify areas where intervention or extension is necessary.
Interventions are designed to be focused, explicit, and differentiated. In most cases, the teacher with the highest percentage of mastery of the essential standard or skill is assigned the students who need additional time and support. Based on the data analysis the teachers determine what specific skills need to be addressed, and how they will be retaught and reassessed. The team then collaborates to determine the best extension or enrichment in order to deepen the learning for the students who have shown mastery. Teams also determine how students will be reassessed for mastery. These collaborative discussions foster a culture of continuous improvement and ensure that all students receive the support they need.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
At Dixie Magnet, we prioritize building teacher capacity and fostering high-performing collaborative teams to ensure high levels of learning for all students. We firmly believe that a positive culture is the foundation of this work, as it creates an environment where collaboration, trust, and continuous learning thrive for staff and students.
To nurture and support a positive culture within our collaborative teams, we prioritize several key elements. We emphasize the importance of mutual respect and open communication. Team members are encouraged to actively listen to one another, value diverse perspectives, and engage in constructive dialogue. This commitment is set in our norms that are reviewed at the beginning of every PLT meeting. We work together to create SMART goals within our collaborative teams. Together, we develop a collective understanding of what improved learning looks like and set ambitious goals aligned with our mission that all means ALL. This shared purpose ensures that everyone is working towards a common objective and enables our teams to align their efforts effectively.
As a school, we emphasize evidence-based instructional strategies and encourage teachers to share best practices, resources, and innovative ideas with one another. This collaborative approach enables us to capitalize on the collective expertise of our teaching staff and continually refine our instructional practices. This may occur in weekly PLT meetings, informal planning meetings, classroom visits where teachers observe each other, or faculty meetings.
Regular and meaningful data analysis is another crucial component of our collaborative teams' efforts. By analyzing student data, we gain insights into individual and group performance, identify areas of strength and growth, and make data-informed decisions to improve learning outcomes. Through the data analysis protocol, we allocate dedicated time for teachers to reflect on their instructional practices, share successes and challenges, and engage in self-assessment. This reflection allows us to refine our strategies, address areas of improvement, and celebrate achievements together.
To sustain a positive culture within our collaborative teams, we also prioritize regular celebrations and recognition of individual and team accomplishments. We do this by opening our PLTs with celebrations that are focused on learning, collaboration, and results. We also hold monthly celebrations as a faculty that allow teachers to acknowledge the little and big wins that are focused on the same three areas: learning, collaboration, and results. By acknowledging and appreciating the efforts and achievements of our teachers, we foster a sense of motivation, satisfaction, and pride in their collaborative work. This recognition reinforces our shared commitment to high levels of learning for all and bolsters the positive culture within our teams.