A.F. Palmer Elementary School
- School District: Windsor Central School District
- School Address: 213 Main Street , Windsor , NY 13865, US
- School Phone: 607-655-8245
- School Fax: 607-655-8309
- Principal: Mr. Toby Youngs
- Contact E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Web Address: http://www.windsor-csd.org/AFPalmerElementary_home.aspx
- Number of Students: 196
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 59%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 0.01%
- Percent of Special Education: 12%
- White: 92%
- Black: 0.01%
- Hispanic: 0.06%
- Asian: 0.02%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 0.01%
- Other: 7.9%
The Professional Learning Community journey began in 2006 when Rick and Becky DuFour came to the Windsor Central School District. Student achievement was lackluster, staff collaboration was limited, structures were inconsistent, and the culture was toxic. As Rick and Becky introduced Professional Learning Communities to the PK-12 staff, many staff members immediately had “aha moments” while others almost instantly dismissed this new concept. Following the two-day opportunity, rather than going back to business as usual the District committed to fully implement what had been presented.
The first step in our journey was to articulate a compelling and shared vision. “Vision provides a sense of direction and basis for assessing both the current reality of the school and potential strategies, programs, and procedures to improve on that reality (DuFour, R., DuFour, R, Eaker, R, Many, T., Mattos, M., 2016, p. 39). A challenge for leaders was to help team members bring this vision to life. When considering the Windsor vision, it was imperative to create a focus to prompt action and motivate staff. The superintendent displayed an image of a lighthouse to the staff with the slogan, “Why Not Windsor?” The staff was encouraged to create programs to become a model for others, challenged to shift our paradigm from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning, to dismiss excuses and view obstacles as opportunities for continuous improvement. As a result, over the past 14 years, each building within the school district has been transformed. The PLC approach has allowed for deliberate and systematic cultural change.
Our Professional Learning Community has resulted in an increase in our student achievement. Using student data to inform our instruction has become the language of the building. If the common assessments are closely aligned to the state assessments, the instruction is research based and effective, and teachers respond to common assessment data faithfully, all students will be successful. A steady increase in student performance rankings among peers across the region has been maintained. All grade level assessments undergo continuous evaluation of the essential learnings and assessment process to ensure that this achievement is maintained.
Empowered teacher teams have focused on the four critical questions:
What do we want students to learn?
How will we know if they have learned?
What will we do if they don’t learn?
What will we do if they already know it?
(DuFour, Dufour, Eaker, Many, 2010)
By closely dedicating efforts toward improved student performance on benchmark, formative, and summative assessments, teachers have geared instruction to meet identified needs. Teachers have clearly identified the essential learnings of their subjects and have implemented the Common Core Shifts into every subject in the school. Curriculum documents are living documents that are created and regularly updated by teacher teams. These agreed upon Essential Learnings are considered the “bar”, describing the essential ideas in each curriculum that every student must master in order to move forward. In the summer of 2015, teacher teams turned these into student-friendly, “I can…” statements. These, in turn, were translated into “I can…” unit Learning Targets, as well as “I can…” daily objectives. In order to more effectively answer the critical question of “What will we do if they don’t learn?”, teacher teams were asked to go one step further and identified Power Targets, a local term to identify the single target that is the key to unlocking related learning targets. This work during the summer of 2016 has raised the level of clarity in the way we answer all four critical questions.
As evidenced above, the intentional systems put in place during the onset of our PLC journey continue to pay high dividends as we continuously grow our practices to ensure success for all students. Without collaborative teaming and a strong focus on data-driven planning and instruction, much of our school's success would not be possible.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
At AF Palmer Elementary School within the Windsor Central School District, collaborative teams (both at the building and district level) work diligently to ensure that each student is learning at high levels. The District has devoted teacher contractual time outside of the regular school day for collaborative teams to closely monitor the trends of students at a district level, a building level, a classroom level and an individual level. Each team is responsible for analyzing student data based on Common Formative Assessments (CFAs) that were developed based on agreed upon Essential Learnings (defined as the “bar” for optimal student learning). Additionally, various forms of informal assessments (including observations, response device outcomes, projects and presentations/performances) provide educators with valuable data in regard to student learning. So that each student is given timely feedback and interventions if needed, CFAs are given at least three times per quarter. eDoctrina, a data analysis tool, is utilized by the teams to display information and to create action plans to support individual student learning and enrichment opportunities. At a district level, AIMSweb Plus and Fountas & Pinnell benchmarking are utilized three times during the year to gain additional data in regard to selecting precise instructional leverage points for students (in reading and mathematics).
Bi-weekly progress monitoring takes place of students who are below-proficient. If growth towards an individual student’s goal is not evident, adjustments are considered and often implemented to address concerns.
Formal reporting of student progress takes place at the 4 and 10 week periods. With the support and expertise of Dr. Thomas Guskey, the District began utilizing a K-12 standards-based report card comprised of Process and Product Criteria. (Process Criteria include Behavior, Work Ethic, and Social Skills; Product Criteria include 3-5 content specific areas of critical learnings collaboratively determined by educators.) Additionally, quarterly reports focused on students’ individual goals are provided to families of students receiving intervention services.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
The District’s mission statement is "Ensure each learner is future-ready by providing empowering educational opportunities"; the staff at AF Palmer make this their focus each day. The staff is comprised of individuals who are committed to continuous learning, especially in the areas of providing intervention and enrichment opportunities for students. Each collaborative team has spent countless hours creating a guaranteed viable curriculum. Each year time is spent reflecting on the curriculum and making sure that each essential standard and learning target is relevant and clear. As a result, a well-articulated curriculum is set and effective Tier 1 instruction is delivered.
As part of making sure that every single student is learning and succeeding, time is set aside during the day for systematic interventions and enrichment to occur. A 30 minute Instructional Support Period is built into the daily schedule. CFA and other assessment data is analyzed to determine the precise area of need for each student. Students are then assigned to either an intervention or enrichment based on their needs.
For students who are still not successful with our Tier 2 Interventions, additional layers of support are available. Various teams meet on a regular basis to support students in a multitude of ways:
Attendance Team (Bi-weekly meetings)
- Provides services and resources to support students and families
- Consistent communication protocols are in place for phone calls, letters, meetings, and home visits
Student Support Team (Weekly Meetings)
- Progress monitors students and identifies best practices/strategies to meet student needs
- Communicates plans to parents/families
Pupil Personnel Team/Social Emotional Team (Bi-weekly Meetings)
- Reviews student cases and creates action plans to address student needs regarding behavior, health, attendance, academics
In March 2019, AF Palmer educators will have the opportunity to continue to reflect upon and refine their intervention practices when working with Solution Tree expert, Tim Brown.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
As outlined above, collaborative teams are the foundation in all that we do in the Windsor Central School District and at AF Palmer Elementary. Each grade level/content area team within the District is led by an identified teacher leader who has applied for the role, has interviewed for the position, and has been appointed by the Board of Education. Team leaders facilitate the setting of team and individual teacher SMART goals that directly align to the building goals and district goals. Teacher Leaders meet as their own collaborative learning group (with elementary principals) once a month for 60 minutes.
Three instructional coaches and one Director of Data, Accountability and Continuous Improvement are available to support collaborative teams and their leaders in regard to effective team meeting planning/implementation as well as generating instructional plans aligned to the District’s Instructional Playbook (defined areas of effective instruction.)
Meeting times of collaborative teams are deliberately set as follows for the purpose of analyzing data, discussing student learning, and identifying best practices to be implemented:
- District-wide grade level/content area teams (across the 3 buildings) meet 3 times per month for 45 minutes
- Building-level grade level teams meet 1 time every 6 days for 45 minutes
Common formative assessments to monitor each student's progress on an ongoing basis have been collaboratively created by the collaborative team members. These assessments are used to implement a systematic plan of interventions when students experience difficulty. Teams not only use the data of the common assessments to identify students in need of additional support, these assessments also provide teams with an opportunity to examine their own professional practices and procedures in light of their impact on student learning. Teams are committed to working together to ensure clarity in regard to what students learn in each unit (information that is shared with students for the purpose of providing clear lesson learning outcomes and opportunities for self-reflection) and strive to learn from one another to fine-tune their professional practices to best meet the needs of each learner.
Encore teachers are members of an elementary-level collaborative team (for example, Elementary Music) and also a district-wide specialty collaborative team (for example, District-wide Music). These teams follow the same procedures and practices as all other collaborative teams within the school (including identifying essential learning standards, creating common formative assessments, and analyzing student data for the benefit of both individual students and overall teacher professional practice.) An example of the Elementary Music's essential learning document can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JTaA29rPWP7r7YEe1X73wFYlgAAp-e8CIPFsajSAItw/edit?usp=sharing
Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) Model School District (only school district in New York State to receive this distinction in this year--first ever in the state)
Six AF Palmer educators named New York State Master Teachers in 2018 and 2019