May 2016 School Success Stories...

 

 

Superior School District Success Story: Part I

The School District of Superior lies on the far northern tip of the state, settled on the shores of the largest Great Lake. Just like the ships that negotiate its waters, Superior’s school district needed to navigate through the deep waters of district change. Getting an entire district aligned with a common set of standards, achieving buy in, establishing communication, and ensuring that the mission was consistent from administration to the classroom required a committed staff and a flexible framework. Superior created and used a fluid continuum of supports, integrating both a multi-level system of support for academics with Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports as their guide through this change.

Building a Foundation for Success

The School District of Superior sits in the farthest northwest corner of our state. Not only does the school district live up to its name by providing “superior education,” they have dedicated themselves to continuous improvement that will increase achievement and outcomes for ALL students. Six years ago the district began implementing an integrated multi-level system of support for both behavior and academics.

Using Data

Superior began by analyzing their overall student data to gauge the effectiveness of their existing system. Longitudinal data made it clear that achievement levels were unacceptable. To measure the impact of their decisions, data analysis was embedded through collaborative structures. Accountability for increased academic and behavior outcomes for ALL students became a priority.

As part of a balanced assessment system, the district also relied on data from multiple assessments including agreed-upon formative, benchmark, and summative assessments. That way, data-based decision making could occur throughout the school year, within grade levels and grade bands, allowing universal instruction to responsively meet the needs of all students. This formed the basis for a data-based continuous improvement model the district continues to this day.

Academic Results

Their hard work has resulted in tangible improvements, as shown by positive student outcomes in universal screening data for reading and mathematics. According to Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Crystal Hintzman: "Our reading and math data indicates that the hard work of teachers and instructional coaches is paying off for student achievement. Our percentages of students performing at or above on our universal screening assessment is increasing. Within our system, we have focused our professional development time on coaching and supporting teachers with data analysis, identifying matched instructional needs, and modeling universal instructional practices across the grade levels and content areas."

The visuals below represent increases for both reading and mathematics.

Reading

 

Mathematics

 

The academic data above reflects ALL second through eighth graders, and – in some cases – ninth graders.

Behavioral Results

Since their journey began with PBIS implementation, data has shown fidelity on the BoQ, which has been achieved and maintained. Student-level discipline data has also shown high percentages of student response to supports and student success. This demonstrates that Superior has begun the work of developing a sustainable system of student supports.

 

Universal Tier of Support

When they first began their journey, the decision was made to begin with the universal or tier 1 level of support. They knew that focusing on strong universal instruction – to bring all students to higher levels of learning – would be the first and best prevention. They also knew that instruction needed to be high quality and needed to meet the needs of ALL of their diverse learners.

While the ultimate goal was to have 100% of students achieving at high levels, they also knew that – at a minimum – at least 80% (or most students) needed to be successful at the universal level alone, in order to maintain a healthy multi-level system of support.

“Focusing on strong universal instruction and bringing all students to higher levels of learning is our first and best prevention. We know that the instruction ALL students receive needs to be high quality and meet the needs of ALL of our diverse learners.” – Crystal Hintzman

Through collaborative structures, Superior teachers and leaders asked themselves what high quality instruction at the universal level of support should look like, and they were able to come to agreement on high-impact, non-negotiable, research- and evidence-based practices.

Evidence-Based Practices

The School District of Superior had to decide on evidence-based practices that would improve academic and behavioral performance. Non-negotiable practices needed to be agreed on, attached to their vision, and all principals and teachers needed to be held accountable. The district chose to use Marzano’s research and work around effective practices, the Gradual Release of Responsibility Instructional Framework, and classroom management as a starting point, as well as tapping into their strong implementation of PBIS.

District leaders knew that professional development was one of the keys to the increased use of research- and evidence-based practices in the classroom. Training was deemed crucial in order to ensure all instructors in all classrooms would adopt and consistently use the same framework. The district was explicit about the guaranteed instructional strategies ALL teachers would use, enabling principals to ensure fidelity of implementation. Making these decisions around strong evidence-based practices built the foundation for continuous improvement.

Coming in the May Newsletter - Part 2: Maintenance and Growth

In part two of this series, we’ll show you how Superior organized their leadership structures. We’ll also explore the importance of the well-established strong coaching model they are using within their district. Finally, we’ll see how they have successfully maintained a culturally responsive multi-level system of support.

 


 

Superior School District Success Story – Part II

Leadership Structures

Integrating specific, single-initiative leadership teams into the district shared leadership team supported Superior’s approach to systemic implementation. In 2015-2016, the district unified their four focus areas – PBIS, technology, literacy, and high-impact instruction – into a single leadership team. This team also aligns its focus areas with the Educator Effectiveness Standards. This has reduced “initiative overload” and helps staff to see the interconnected, systemic nature of the work being done in the district.

The district leadership team’s vision and message have been shaped in part by participation in PBIS Network and RtI Center training. By training together on this important work, members of the team are on the same page when it comes to charting the district’s course, communicating expectations, building culture, and celebrating success.

The district leadership team provides the model for each school’s leadership team. Like the district team, each school team reviews data, determines the school’s vision, operationalizes district non-negotiable practices, and engages in continuous improvement planning. School teams consist of administrative and teacher leaders from various areas of the school, some of whom also serve on the district team.

This insures alignment of their work with that of the district, which then extends to grade-level and content teams, and ultimately to individual teachers. This enables smooth flow of information, which supports consistent, district-wide, systemic implementation of a culturally responsive multi-level system of support.

The Role of Coaching

Coaching is one of the driving forces behind the success of these initiatives. The district initially created three coaching positions. After three years, student achievement in their two lowest academic areas improved, while achievement in unsupported areas declined.

Since then, they gradually built up to nine full-time coaches for the 15-16 school year. Coaches work with teachers in their classrooms, during planning time, or during professional development time. They guide, mentor, and encourage teachers in the best use of universal, non-negotiable instructional practices, while guiding fidelity of practice. They neither supervise nor evaluate teachers.

Superior has taken several steps to ensure the success of their coaching model:

  • All nine coaches are members of the district leadership team.
  • A job description for coaches was created to identify exactly what coaches do and don’t do.
  • Each coach works on only one of the district’s four focus areas.
  • All coaches, principals, and district level administrators attended the Wisconsin RtI Center’s Leadership and Coaching training. 
  • Coaches receive support - and support one another - by participating in monthly collaborative meetings.

Coaching also supports PBIS implementation. Behavioral coaches teach full time while also supporting PBIS at all tiers with fidelity.

  • Along with serving on the district leadership team, PBIS coaches:
  • Guide the building team and make sure key roles are filled. 
  • Ensure building evaluations and surveys are completed correctly and within deadlines.
  • Oversee establishment and maintenance of tier 1, 2, and 3 systems, structures, and programs.
  • Ensure accurate data record collection in SWIS to inform meaningful SWIS reports for the team.

 

Giving Back

Superior has shared their journey at the Wisconsin RtI Summit, the WASCD Conference, and at the Wisconsin PBIS Leadership Conference. Together with CESA 12, they also won an Effectiveness Grant for themselves and nearby districts to attend Wisconsin RtI Center’s Leadership and Coaching training together. According to Director of Curriculum and Instruction Crystal Hintzman: “We are humble in what we have accomplished here in Superior, but know our journey is far from over. Our destinations will forever be changing as we support the needs of the students we serve.”