Fredonia Early Childhood Center (2023)
- Number of Students: 320
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 99%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 42%
- Percent of Special Education: 9%
- White: 7%
- Black: 38%
- Hispanic: 55%
- Asian: 0%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 0%
- Other: 0%
In 2018, Nacogdoches ISD partnered with Solution Tree to train and implement RtI@Work. At that time, PreKindergarten (PreK) was dispersed among 4 elementaries. PreK was not involved in training and implementation of RtI@Work due to elementaries being focused on upper elementary grades. It was during the 2020-2021 school year, Nacogdoches contracted with Solution Tree to begin PLC@Work training and coaching where all staff, including PreK teachers, would get targeted learning on the why and how of PLC. In 2021, the Board of Trustees voted on creating a PreK campus and hired a Director of PreK with the expectation of working as a Professional Learning Community. Mr. Charles Zemanek was named Director of Early Childhood and created a professional development plan where all PreK staff would understand the principles of Professional Learning Communities:
Focus on Learning, Building a Culture of Collaboration, and a Focus on Results
Importance of Team vs. Group: All stakeholders working interdependently towards a common goal where all members are held mutually accountable
Cultivating a standard of High Expectations for all learners
During the 2022-2023 school year, all PreK teachers from four campuses were consolidated into one campus, Nettie Marshall Early Childhood Center. When considering next steps, Nettie Marshall ECC’s Guiding Coalition, determined the need to focus on the culture of the building before digging into the structures. This meant that we had to take four unique cultures and merge them into one single entity with the sole purpose of ensuring high-levels of learning for all students; which became Nettie Marshall’s mission statement. The merger required teachers, some who have taught in the same room for over two decades, to pack up and move their items over the summer. The building we moved into was temporary and needless to say was not built with PreK students in mind. The challenges were numerous but with the right culture and focus, we knew we would be able to actualize the PLC process that we had been cultivating with PreK teachers for the past few years.
To effectively merge these cultures, we spent considerable time building our campus culture. The guiding coalition set three rules to drive our decision making as teams when it came to our students' success. First, we don’t blame the students. Second, learning is required on our campus. And third, hope is not a strategy for success. These rules created our gutter guards to decision making as we sought to actualize our mission of ensuring high-levels of learning for all students. During the 2022-2023 school year, the principal created three tightly held practices for teams. These practices included: we will focus our efforts on student learning, we will have a culture of collaboration among teachers and teams, and, as a campus, we will own our students’ results. By focusing on learning, working as a team, and owning our results we set ourselves on the path to achieve high-levels of learning for all students.
As we progressed in the process of ensuring high-levels of learning for all students we hit several road bumps. One specifically, was dealing with challenging and adverse behaviors. After three weeks in school, we found that there were a handful of students that completely derailed learning for other students and caused teachers to question coming back to work. We met constantly about these students and were left scratching our heads. These students pushed our staff and team to the breaking point of compromising our mission as a campus. In a point of desperation, we discussed grouping these challenging students into one classroom so that the rest of the campus could learn. If we went this direction, then high-levels of learning was no longer the goal. The goal became adults seeking compliance and an easy fix. This idea was tempting until one brave teacher reached out to the principal for a one-on-one conference. At that meeting, she asked the principal if the placement of those challenging students into one room advanced the school's mission. The principal sat there in silence and did not have an answer. This gut check is what corrected the path of the campus. As a campus, we collectively returned to our mission and values. We reviewed our guiding principles: we don’t blame the students, learning is required, and hope is not a strategy for success. The next day a problem solving meeting was called where we reviewed teacher’s notes and resumed our focus to actualizing our mission as a campus and took these students and their needs as a challenge that we would overcome. It is with great pride that our campus was able to meet each child where they were and through concerted efforts and hardwork each of our challenging students ended the year successfully.
The start of the 2023-2024 school year was revolutionary. We retained over 90% of our staff and after only one year in the previous building, we opened a renovated campus that was designed based on the needs of our students and our program. We expanded our capacity by 100 students and have added five teachers. The onboarding of our teachers to our mode of operations was completely led by our teacher teams and members of the guiding coalition. Teachers frequently discuss our practices and mission as a driving force behind our work. New teachers have been able to perform similar to our veteran teachers on our common formative assessments, which we attribute to our collaborative teams. The start of the year, however, did come with challenges. Due to circumstances, half our support team was missing from the campus for the first five weeks of school. As a result, teachers had to take on a greater role in the classroom. Opposed to chaos, our teacher teams have transitioned from my students to our students. Veteran teachers worked with new teachers to address first of the year behaviors. Despite this challenge, not once has our mission as a campus been compromised or questioned. This speaks volumes to the dedication of the staff at Fredonia Early Childhood Center making our mission of ensuring high-levels of learning for all students a reality.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Teachers at Fredonia Early Childhood Center work collaboratively to identify Essential Standards from Texas PreK Guidelines. This is an important step for our team as we grow together in our culture and practices. When we started the process of selecting essential standards, one teacher made the comment that she didn't even know that PreK had standards. This solidified our guiding coalition’s resolve to ensure that we focused our efforts on the right work. To make that decision, teachers used the following criteria:
Readiness (important for success in Kindergarten)
Endurance (important for future success in life)
Assessment (team can create common formative assessments for the guideline, assessed on CIRCLE and district unit assessments)
Leverage (important across disciplines)
Once we determine essential standards, teachers and the Early Childhood Coordinator collaborate together to determine learning targets and the pacing of each target. We do this knowing that what we create will be a live document that is responsive to the needs of our students and teachers. Next, we create a campus calendar of learning targets. Teams meet to discuss upcoming learning targets and build a shared understanding of what students must learn in order to master the essential standards. These conversations create our proficiency scales that assist us in monitoring progress of students as we work to ensure high-levels of learning for all. As a guiding coalition, we support a focus on question one to drive our work: “What will students learn?”. The administrative team works in collaboratively with team leaders to support and enhance teacher conversations around essential standards and what we expect students to learn. Each subsequent school year, the essential standards and learning targets are revisited and discussed in depth because we believe that continuous learning of the standards is imperative to ensuring high-quality Tier 1 instruction. The best intervention is a rock solid prevention, which cannot happen unless everyone has a focused and in depth knowledge of the standards we are working towards.
After our teams determine essential standards, learning targets, and get them on the calendar, our guiding coalition helps address question number two of the PLC process, “How will we know if students have learned?” The monitoring of student learning was new to many of our teachers. In the past, we taught whole units and relied solely on the Circle assessment, which is administered three times a year, to determine progress of students. By focusing on the essentials, as a team, we are able to build campus wide common formative assessments (CFA) in ESGI, a software to collect data. In building CFAs, our teachers are able to construct, at the team level, proficiency scales of learning. This ties questions one, what do we want students to learn, with question two, how do we know that they learned it. The implementation of CFAs in a regular cycle as part of the teach-assess cycle lays a solid foundation for questions three and four; but more impactfully, the CFA process creates the perfect condition for our teams to collaborate and calibrate on delivery and design of instruction. When it comes to learning we believe that campus selected essential Standards are tightly held. The instructional methods that each teacher uses to engage students in high-levels of learning, however, are loosely held. This practice of tight and loose empowers teachers to take ownership of their craft and their results.
A cornerstone of our data collection process is the use of CFAs to gauge our success. The data collection process requires reams to administer, analyze, and respond to the story our CFAs create. One aspect of this process is teachers connecting their Tier I practices to learning targets that are tested on the CFA. Collaborative teams share the Tier I practices that are successful, and add these to our unit documents for future use. Those practices that are unsuccessful are discussed and no longer utilized with our students or refined for future study. The important factor of our data collection process is that the data tells us a story about each child and allows teams to realign their practices. Teams do not use data to hide poor practices or make excuses. Rather student results drive our conversation about next steps as we seek to ensure high levels of learning for all learners.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Historically, PreK in Nacogdoches ISD was really “good” at question three. We assumed that students did not learn critical skills and we did not have CFAs to guide our practices. Therefore, when it came to the ability of our students we were in a constant deficit mindset. After getting clear on questions one and two, we needed to address our interventions and extensions. After each formative common assessment, focused on essential learning targets, teachers meet and determine the next course of action for every student. These meetings result in changes to instruction at the Tier I level and represent a time for the team to build interventions and extensions. This step represents a significant shift in our teachers' mindset. No longer do teachers talk about my kids but work through these meetings with the knowledge of our kids. The collective ownership of student achievement has been one of the most significant improvements in outcomes. Teachers openly collaborate and discuss ways to build small groups to provide interventions and extensions beyond their own classroom. Most impactfully, interventions take place by student, by standard, by learning target. This granular level of intervention allows for teachers to address the unique needs of students with urgency and focus.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Our guiding coalition created a document that outlines our mode of operation. The document was created to put into writing how we work and our team's core beliefs (see attachment in Section 8). This is just as important for onboarding new staff as well as providing us a reminder of our agreed upon practices. Furthering the work, each of our teams creates team norms, has roles and responsibilities, and creates agendas (tightly held is that there will be an agenda while loosely held is the way the agenda looks). Through these steps, our teachers are no longer having surface level conversations. Now, teacher teams focus on ensuring high-levels of learning for all students. The guiding coalition also sets campus wide SMART goals. Each teacher team then comes together and sets a series of SMART goals that support our common campus goal. Through this process teachers are the critical element as they focus on learning, work collaboratively, and answer to student results.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
Data source is collected from Circle, which is the Texas Accountability Assessment for PreK. The assessment is given three times: the beginning, middle, and end of the year. Data in the attached document is demonstrates the achievements gains we have experienced through engaging and living by the PLC process.
Nacogdoches Education Foundation Grant Recepient
Primary Teacher of the Year named District Teacher of the Year 2022-2023