Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School

  1. PLC Story
  2. PLC Practices
  3. Achievement Data
  4. Awards
  5. Resources

For over a decade, Henry A. Coffeen has embraced being a Professional Learning Community (PLC) at work. This has not only changed the way learning occurrs within the school, but it has also positvely impacted the students and schools within our district, as well as across our state. 

Because of our lengthy PLC journey, all systems were currently in place; however, we knew there was still more to learn and reflect upon to become a model PLC school. As a team, we began refining our fundamental purpose and PLC practice by strengthing the foundation of our PLC at work. We began with a whole staff book study of Learning by Doing and Fundamental Questions to ensure best practice within our collaborative grade level teams. We took each chapter of Learning by Doing and reflected on our current practice, enhancing all aspects of our PLC at Work to ensure we are meeting the needs of our students and fostering high levels of learning for all.

Together, as a collaborative staff, we began to develop a vision statement that truly represented our beliefs. Because we knew we wanted our foundation to be built upon our most important assets, our students, we decided upon the following: "Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School: Our mission, or why we exist, is to value, support, and empower everyone to achieve high levels of learning and leadership." Our vision, or what we need to accomplish as an extension of our mission, is "to work together to develop life-long learners who understand their impact in an ever-changing world."

We commit to be always intentional, purposeful, and thoughtful in our decisions and actions. We systematically engage in professional reflection and collaboration to improve ourselves and our craft, and to best meet the needs of our students.

We recognize and celebrate the leadership abilities of our students and teach Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People through a kid-friendly version called “The Leader in Me.” We also practice positive behavior through Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) expectations. Our students understand that leaders do the right thing, even when no one is watching.

These fundamental beliefs began to refine the way we did business. We set out to do whatever it would take to ensure each and every one of our students were successful and learning at high levels. Yet we knew this was only the beginning, setting the stage for how we would move forward. If we were going to impact our students to the degree outlined in our mission and vision, our decisions had to be made collaboratively. 

As a staff, we continue to reflect on what success with our mission and vision should look like on a day-to-day basis. Together we are implementing a leadership model that is simultaneously loose and tight. For example, we are tight on all collaborative teams developing meeting agendas focused on the four critical questions of a PLC, while we are loose on format and also on allowing teams to determine the content and focus of each agenda. Additionally, we have developed specific shared beliefs that will ensure a guarenteed and viable curriculum. Because our school is able to work this process collectively and was not handed our beliefs from administration, we built trust. We built interdependence. These tight shared beliefs have provided us with expectations to which we hold ourselves accountable. 

Without a doubt, we have faced challenges and continue to do so. But our passion for student success is strong and supported by Learning by Doing and ongoing professional development to build our capacity to meet the needs of our students. 

Once we tackled purpose and vision, we were ready to look at the next set of decisions that had to be made collectively in order to best meet our students’ needs. Structurally, we run common planning times within our grade levels.  This allows our curriculum and assessment decisions to truly be collaborative.  Teachers are able to plan together, regularly!  Each team has their own norms that help their team prosper. 

It is important to mention how this has been a point of change for our staff. We began to see how our collective culture (showing respect and support for others; staying positive; and being willing to change, evolve, reflect, and improve) was not only impacting teaching, but also impacting learning. Our students were reaping the benefits…already. 

These norms set up our team meetings to function around the four critical questions to impact learning. Now, we had to implement them. Once again, we scrutinized our schedule. We resolved to provide each student with a 30-minute time period, five days per week, of targeted instruction. These small groups would deliver intervention or extension based on our students’ current need.   Our schedule utilized every member of support for our students.  Our librarian, office paraprofessionals, Special Education staff, and our Title I support were slated to specific grade levels for intervention and extension groups.

In addition, we began designing common assessments to inform our instruction.  Starting small, we began with math by defining proficiency, developing common expectations, and creating rubrics. 

Needless to say, we have come a long way and continue to refine, reflect, and grow to ensure high levels of learning for everyone.  Our knowledge continues to flourish as we select, read, and reflect upon professional text.  With our grade level teams, we remain abreast of the current research and continually make the changes necessary to carry out our lofty vision. 

We have difficult conversations. Trust balances our need to confront challenges when they arise. Practice is analyzed collectively as we evaluate student data and reflect in teams. We have developed a rotating observation schedule that allows teachers the opportunity to routinely learn from colleagues both within and outside of our school. 

Most recently, we have reached far beyond our school walls to spread the power of a PLC at Work. Having been the principal at Woodland Park Elementary, a successful internationally recognized model PLC at work for 5 years, I have embraced the principalship at Henry A. Coffen while collaborating closely with and mentoring new principals in our district. We have expanded our PLC at Work to collaborate at a much deeper level among district elementary schools. This is expediting the growth of teams, while offering a new dimension of reflection for our teams and strengthening our teams through reflection and collaboration with other schools.  

Perhaps most importantly, we have changed our narrative from teaching to learning. From activities to results. From assumptions to evidence. From competition to collaboration. From comfort to continuous learning. From what’s always been, to empowering EVERYONE to learn at high levels.  

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Monitoring student learning on a timely basis is a high priority of ours. We understand the research regarding the need for balanced assessments. With this in mind, we implement assessment that allows us to learn the most about our students and our practice. 

While we do conduct assessments of learning, we invest more of our time and energy into assessments for learning.

One essential element we value as a staff is informal, ongoing assessment. Our staff integrates regular checks for understanding throughout instruction. From student self-evaluation to exit slips, we pride ourselves on using what our students know to guide our instruction. 

In reading, we conduct regular running records to analyze strategic reading processing. These running records allow us to recognize specific needs of our struggling students on a weekly basis.  

In math, we have invested in training our teachers to implement Strength In Numbers assessment to evaluate conceptual number knowledge. This allows us to integrate short, focused assessments based on student need, so we can focus instruction specifically on the needs of our individual students.  

Arguably the most important process we have utilized to monitor student learning is creating common formative assessments. This began with defining power standards to guide curriculum development. After recognizing the most essential outcomes our students need to master to be successful, we collaboratively developed learning targets to outline a step-by-step process for students to achieve our power standards. 

With these pieces in place, our teams were then able to craft assessments that are given to every student within a grade level to demonstrate mastery. The creation of rubrics and proficiency scales allowed us to construct a collective understanding of proficiency. These assessments provide instrumental information. We are able to use the data to group students into appropriate and effective intervention and enrichment groups. We are able to compare data and learn from colleagues whose students exhibited high levels of achievement. We are able to think reflectively about our own practice and set professional learning goals. 

Assessments are continually evolving at Henry A. Coffeen Elementary. As we learn from professional resources, other professionals, and our students, we pride ourselves on delivering assessments that teach us the most about learning and guiding our instruction.  

2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.

“How will we respond when some students don’t learn?” This is a question that remains at the forefront of our discussions. As the Dufours put it, we do not leave our students to the educational lottery. We have systems in place to ensure each of our students is afforded the same learning as the next.

Our schedule allows for a 30 minute intervention and extension time for each student, every day. Support staff, both certified and classified, are assigned grade levels where they provide WIN (What I Need) services to each student. For example, our Literacy Coordinator is committed to providing WIN to two of our collaborative grade level teams and is an active member within our Professional Learning Community at work at Henry A. Coffeen. Teachers and students are comforted by the consistent aid from all members of our staff to help the teacher help the student. 

We use a cycle of learning that has not only allowed for daily intervention time for each student, but ensures it takes place. Simplistically explained, our students partake in in-class learning focused on a particular learning target(s).  Then students are given a quick common assessment to help identify their current mastery of learning target. This assessment data is used to break students into WIN groups. 

Within the WIN groups, we are tight on a few factors. The students requiring the most intensive intervention are placed in the smallest groups with the most qualified team member. This way we can ensure these students are afforded the best opportunity to be successful. Also, we insist that our students are pushed to meet their potential. This may mean moving beyond grade level expectations, and it may mean time outside of the pre-arranged schedule or implementing alternative instructional strategies. No matter the student or situation, we hold ourselves accountable for learning. 

Following the intensive intervention, we administer an additional short, common assessment to help reassess student learning. This allows us to measure growth, reevaluate teaching, and determine if our learning goals were attained. While this cycle requires a great deal of logistical planning, creative thinking, and reflection on our part, it is worth every second when we are able to see the impact on student learning.  

In addition to the fluid creation and evaluation of WIN groups, we provide another option of intervention for our students who demonstrate a need for more intensive instruction to obtain proficiency. Using data from our ongoing running records, classroom observations, and common assessments we hold flexible intervention groups at each grade level. This allows for students who require extra support in areas like the reading process to obtain grade-level achievement. Based on specific student needs, these interventions utilize resources like Leveled Literacy Intervention, The Comprehension ToolKit, Reading Recovery, and Guided Reading Plus.  

3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.

At Henry A. Coffeen Elementary we realized that we cannot accomplish high levels of learning for all students unless we work together collaboratively. We also understand that simply collaborating will not create high levels of student learning.  As collaborative grade level teams, we have to collectivly and systematically focus on the right work. 

In order to keep our focus on the right work, each team has created norms.  While each team has their own twist on their norms, each team has set boundaries to ensure productivity and focus. Each meeting begins with a quick review of these norms and the consequences of breaking them. (Although these are light hearted at times, like bringing coffee to a meeting, they are effective!)

The foundation of our focus relates back to the four essential questions of PLC.  We use these questions to guide our collaboration. This ensures that we are results oriented. Our collaborative teams continually assess their effectiveness on the basis of tangible evidence that our students are acquiring knowledge and skills essential to their success. Assumptions are not valued, but data is analyzed, reflected upon, and used to guide instruction on a regular basis.

Our collaborative grade level teams are self-directed. Our district has provided us as a staff the opportunity to develop into a Professional Learning Community at Work, consisting of dedicated team members who take full responsibility of their success and how to continually build their capacity as educators. We have limited district goals, which allows us to set our own team goals. This allows us to use our data to shape our professional learning and our next steps on our collaborative journey. For example, we grow as professionals every day as we develop and refine our common assessments. A test designer or curriculum director did not create these. They were not handed to us from another school.   WE poured our insistence upon achievement into each assessment. These assessments are a work in progress, but will determine our students’ needs while helping us develop professionally through our conversations.  

These relevant, team-owned assessments provide us with timely information that fuels our continuous improvement process.

While our teams are supported by the principal, literacy coordinator, math coordinator, parent liaison, behavior specialist, and so on, our teams develop their own agendas, analyze their own data, hold each other accountable, and track their efforts through a shared folder. This self-sustaining system did not happen by accident. Our shared beliefs and insistence upon student learning shaped it.  

Finally, ongoing professional learning is one way we ensure our teams are high performing. At Henry A. Coffeen, we do not take the catch phrase life-long learners lightly. We expect this of our students, and therefore model it in our daily routines. Each team is continually participating in a professional book study related to their team goals. While some teams may be reading about refining their assessments to be more effective, another team may be reading about effective strategies to teach struggling readers, and another about strengthening their team. Also important is our implementation of a regular observation schedule to allow teachers the opportunity to observe other professionals both within and outside of our school. This allows for another opportunity for reflection. We value learning from each other.

Each month at our staff meetings we feature a spotlight grade level team where our entire staff is able to take a field trip to a particular grade level and learn about something exemplary and innovative taking place. Recently we learned about a student-directed data notebook in our 5th grade. We are able to see firsthand how this was impacting student learning, and how to implement a similar idea in our grade levels. How powerful! Our staff meetings also center about collaborative professional development rather than organizational logistics. We use strengths from within our staff to enhance practice throughout our school. For example, our literacy coordinator recently conducted reflective opportunities with teams regarding providing feedback. 

Just walking through the doors of our school, it is obvious that we not only value collaboration, but also insist upon collaboration that impacts student learning.  Henry A. Coffeen is a Professional Learning Community at Work with the support of collaborative grade level teams.

National Blue Ribbon School

Exceeding Expectations in all areas on the Wyoming School Accountability Model

Leader in Me Lighthouse School