Esther Starkman School (2020)

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

It is the mission of Esther Starkman School to “ensure high levels of learning for ALL of our students.” We want our students to think, problem solve, and apply the knowledge they learn so that they are exceptionally well prepared to succeed in our ever changing world. To that end, our staff works as a professional learning community engaging in job embedded professional development on a weekly basis. Our teachers are learners themselves, constantly improving their instructional practices and collaborating to create a diverse and rewarding classroom experience.

All adults in the building strive to create a culture with core values that focus on Three Big Ideas:


Focus on Learning

  • something is not taught unless the student has learned it.

Focus on Collaboration

  • we are not an isolated collection of teachers under one roof, rather we are a team that works interdependently to achieve common goals

Focus on Results

  • it is the results of our efforts that we are concerned with.  If we are not getting the results in student achievement that we are expecting, then we will change our actions to get different results.

In their work, teacher collaboratively engage in answering Four Key Questions:


1.   What do we want students to know?

2.   How do we know if students have learned what we want them to?

3.   What do we do when students do not learn what they are supposed to learn?

4.   What do we do when students already know what they are supposed to learn?

Teachers collaboratively create common formative and summative assessments with agreed upon standards of understanding. They perform data analysis on these assessments, and provide daily systemic intervention determined by the student and by the skill. Student learning, not adult comfort, drives the actions at our school. We hope that all experiences at Esther Starkman are rewarding and will cause you to believe, as we do, that this truly is a school of excellence!

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Monitoring student learning at Esther Starkman begins with the creation of a guaranteed and viable curriculum. Collaborative teams of teachers from Kindergarten to Grade 9 have created a shared understanding regarding which curricular outcomes are essential for all of our students to learn. We believe strongly that it is impossible to effectively monitor student learning unless every teacher is crystal clear about what they want their students to learn. Collaborative teams have sequenced these essential learning outcomes so that they may be delivered in the most effective order. In addition, our teams have vertically aligned the outcomes from all grades to make sure that there are no gaps, overlaps or omissions.

At Esther Starkman we believe that effective monitoring of student learning must include equity in assessment as well as curriculum. To ensure assessment equity, each collaborative team has developed common formative and summative assessments based upon their essential learning outcomes. The data from these assessments is analyzed to answer the following questions:

  1. Do any outcomes require re-teaching?
  2. Which students will require additional support?
  3. What specific outcome(s) do the students need support?
  4. What feedback will assist each student in learning the outcome?
  5. Which instructional strategies proved most effective?
  6. Which teacher will provide additional support to which students?
  7. What is the timeline and plan for additional support?

Once students receive additional time and support they are provided with additional opportunities to demonstrate proficiency.

Academic updates are provided to parents every six weeks to ensure that they are aware of their child's progress at school. After each academic update, teachers schedule interviews with the parents of each struggling student to communicate our plan for their child's success.

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

To ensure every student has equitable access to the support they require, Esther Starkman School has created a Pyramid of Intervention that provides multiple layers of support.

The Esther Starkman Pyramid of Interventions

Esther Starkman School

Mission of Esther Starkman School

It is the mission of Esther Starkman School to ensure high levels of learning are possible for ALL students. To facilitate the successful completion of this mission, the staff of Esther Starkman School believes that all adults in our building must take collective responsibility for the achievement of all of our students. We believe that a collective systemic approach to at-risk students will allow us to succeed where a traditional individual teacher approach has not. It is this philosophy that has driven the creation of our Pyramid of Interventions. The pyramid reflects the strategies that we currently employ to help our at risk students experience success. The strategies are subject to a yearly review and are retained or discarded based upon their effectiveness.

An Explanation of the Pyramid

Level 1 – The Base of Pyramid:

Teacher collaboration serves as the foundation for the Pyramid of Intervention at Esther Starkman School. By collaborating both within the school and within our district, teachers have been able to learn, agree upon and implement effective instructional strategies. In addition, teachers now have a greater understanding of the importance of good assessment practices so that they can determine more accurately the success or failure of these strategies. Adult learning drives student learning at Starkman, by engaging in a continuous improvement process, our classroom teachers are better able to meet the needs of their students thus reducing the number of students who require intervention.

Essential Learning Outcomes (ELO’s):

Teachers will collaboratively review curriculum to determine the essential elements so that their instruction can be more focused. Through vertical collaboration, teachers will gain an understanding of curriculum in a broader sense (what comes before and after them). By acquiring a better understanding of specific curricular outcomes in multiple grades, teachers are better able to specifically identify and target individual student weaknesses.

Formative Assessment:

Teachers will work together to incorporate the following formative assessment strategies.

  • I Can/I am learning to statements
  • Multiple Trials
  • Descriptive Feedback
  • Exemplars and Rubrics
  • Exit Slips/Muddiest Point

Common Assessments:

Teachers have collaboratively created common assessments which are given to ensure program continuity. The results are examined to determine student need and instructional effectiveness.

Curriculum Specific Vocabulary Instruction:

To help close the achievement gap between our have and have not students teachers will provide curriculum specific vocabulary instruction in all subjects and all grades. This method of instruction is based on Robert Marzano’s book “Acquiring Background Knowledge.”

Differentiated Instruction:

All teachers at Esther Starkman School will engage in learning about differentiated instruction so that they can better meet the needs of our students.

Balanced Literacy:

All elementary language arts teachers at Starkman have completed or are receiving instruction in Balanced Literacy. Balanced Literacy is a district developed literacy program based upon effective research based strategies.

Common Scope and Sequence/ Year Plans:

All teachers will collaborate to develop common year plans for all grade levels and subjects. This scope and sequence helps to ensure continuity of instruction across all classrooms. All year plans include the following elements:

  • ELO’s
  • I Can statements
  • Common assessment dates
  • Data analysis dates
  • Agreed upon instructional strategies

School Wide Communication Plan:

  • All teachers are required to update SchoolZone with curriculum and academic info on a monthly basis.
  • All teachers must communicate with every parent within the first two weeks of school.
  • Esther Starkman School has eight formal interview periods that are teacher directed.
  • Teachers are responsible to initiated contact and arrange to meet all parents of at risk students.
  • Parents can request an interview at any time.

Assessment Policy:

Esther Starkman Staff has developed a school wide assessment policy to ensure consistent, fair and equitable assessment policies exist in each classroom throughout the school.

Level 2 - Unwilling:

Students defined as unwilling are capable of completing their school work but choose not to.

Mandatory Help:

Students who don’t complete homework or assignments in class are assigned additional support during lunch, after school or morning/afternoon recess. The student’s subject area teacher provides individual help.

Focus on Core:

Students who continue to struggle with work completion can be removed for a short period of time from all classes except for the four academic core subjects. When they are removed they will work with their core teacher or with the administration to complete work and catch up in their core subjects.

Connecting with Care:

Students can be assigned an adult mentor who is responsible to check with them each day to ensure that they feel connected with the school and to support and encourage their academic success.

Short Term Program Modification:

Students who continue to struggle with completion of work can be removed from class and placed on in school suspension until such time as they are caught up in their subjects and demonstrate a willingness to comply with the expectations of the school.

Admin/Family Conference:

Meetings between parents of struggling students and school administration are arranged if any of the above strategies prove unsuccessful. The purpose of the meeting is to determine if additional intervention is required or if family supports are necessary.

Level 2 - Unable:

Students defined as unable are students who are not able to complete their work in the assigned class time. These students require additional time to complete tasks as well as additional teacher or program aid support.

Assigned Tutorials:

The timetable at Esther Starkman includes a scheduled tutorial time for all Elementary and Junior High classes. The classroom teacher assigns the tutorials and student attendance is mandatory. The tutorials are not intended to be used to discipline students but are instead intended to provide additional time and support to students when required.

Program Aid Support:

After admin/teacher consultation, program aids are assigned to work with individual students or small groups of students to aid in student understanding. In addition, program aids are used to free up classroom teachers so they can work with their most needy students.

English Language Learner Program:

Students that are identified as struggling with English as a second language will be assigned to our English language learner support program. Students will work with a program aid and a web based language acquisition software to support their learning of the English language.

Increased Teacher Support:

Teams of teachers collaborate to determine how they can modify their work schedules to free up time so that they can provide one on one or small group support to their students. For example, all grade 3 students will participate in USSR while the two grade three teachers use the time for individual support. Another example would be to combine the grade 3 classes for Phys Ed. thus freeing up one teacher. 7

Reading Intervention:

The elementary staff of Esther Starkman school has received training on a research based reading intervention program developed at the University of Alberta.

Connecting with Care:

Students can be assigned an adult mentor who is responsible to check with them each day to ensure that they feel connected with the school and to support and encourage their academic success.

Student Mentorship:

Grade 9 Leadership students may be assigned an elementary buddy who is struggling. The purpose is to establish a positive relationship with the younger students so that they can be encouraged to continue to work hard in school.

Family/Teacher Conference:

Teachers meet regularly with families of struggling students to establish a positive working relationship and collaboratively plan for the student’s success.

Level 3: More Targeted Intervention

Level 3 interventions result when all other interventions have proven unsuccessful.

Special Needs Assessment:

Students who continue to struggle can be referred for special needs assessment so that additional information can be gathered about the child to assist teachers in programming or to determine that a specialized site placement is warranted.

Neuro-Developmental Assessment:

Parents are asked to obtain a referral from their family doctor to the Neuro-Developmental Clinic. This clinic examines the role medical factors play in inhibiting a student’s ability to learn.

Attendance Board Referral:

Students with poor attendance records are referred to the attendance board. There is a strong coloration between attendance and success in school.

School Social Worker :

Esther Starkman School has access to a district social worker. The social worker works with families who are experiencing difficulties that are effecting the achievement or wellbeing of our students.

Individualized Study:

Students who continue to disrupt the learning environment in their classes can be permanently removed and placed on an Individualized Study Program. This program utilizes distance learning materials as a basis of programming. The student’s classroom teachers are still responsible to assist students when they require help and assess their performance.

Moving Between Levels:

Moving to Level 2:

A student is identified as at –risk and moves to level 2 on the pyramid in the following ways:

  • Common Assessment Data – A student demonstrating poor performance on common assessments will be assigned level 2 interventions. Common assessments are collaboratively determined and are based on Essential Learning Outcomes.
  • Students who don’t complete their work
  • Attendance Concerns
  • Family Supports Required

Moving to Level 3:

  • Teachers feel that additional information is necessary
  • Student requires medical intervention
  • Student’s academic performance remains the same
  • Student’s academic performance decreases

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

All teachers at Esther Starkman School are involved in weekly job embedded professional development as members of a collaborative team. Each team has developed norms to guide their work and ensure they are able to function at a high level. The team norms must include a process for ensuring all voices have been heard as well as a process for determining consensus. The teams are focused on increasing their understanding and capacity to improve student learning by focusing on 4 fundamental questions.

  1. What do we want students to learn?
  2. How will we know if they have learned it?
  3. What will we do if they haven’t learned?
  4. What will we do if they already know?

To promote shared accountability, all collaborative teams meet 4 times each school year with the school’s guiding coalition to discuss what they are learning and to demonstrate how they are improving student learning. During the meeting team members are asked about:

  • Their SMART goals.
  • How their goals support the school goals.
  • Their essential learning outcomes and year plans.
  • How they are administering common formative and summative assessments.
  • Their process for analyzing data
  • What their data says about the effectiveness of instruction.
  • The process that they are using to identify students who require additional time and support.
  • The process they are using to reteach essential outcomes.
  • The process they are using to reassess students.
  • The process they are using to track underserved students.
  • The instructional strategies they are using to increase student engagement.
  • How they are ensuring students are learning 21st century skills.
  • Do they require any advice, assistance or support to further their work?

By engaging in meaningful weekly collaboration, our teams have developed a deep commitment to the success of their students. They understand that to accomplish great things they must work interdependently and that the success of every teacher is paramount to the success of every student.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

The attached data file contains multi-year Alberta Provincial Achievement Test (PAT) data for grades 6 and 9 in Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. In addition, achievement data is included for HLAT (Highest Level of Achievement Test), and multi-year school results from the annual provincial accountability survey. 

Our province does not recognize individual school excellence.