Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Social Media: a Multi-purpose, Educational Tool

We are living in a new world!  Social media is here to stay, so it is time we embrace it in a positive manner in order to stay connected to our students, parents, and community.  There is SO much 'good' going on in our public schools, but for others to know we have to share outside of our 4 walls.  I have heard, and believe, that we must either tell our story, or someone else will tell it. It is time for classrooms, schools, and school districts to become our own media channel to promote the positive and powerful learning that occurs daily.

Getting out your schools story is easy in this day and age ...

At Sonora Elementary we have a Facebook Page, Twitter Account, Instagram Account, and a blog.  Within our blog we have embedded a link to each of our teacher or classroom blogs.  I know that this looks like a lot to keep up with, but one post to Instagram will post to Facebook and Twitter, too.  I don't post everything to each platform.  I do try to post everything on Facebook because that is what most of our parents use.


1.  Social media is FREE!  In a time of dwindling budgets and large copy/paper costs, social media is extremely cost efficient and timely.  It really puts 'going green' in an entirely new perspective.  We can communicate in real time with our stakeholders, while also being responsive.

2.  Social media opens the door of two-way communication.  A note going home in a child's backpack might never be seen.  Yet, you can post a message on Facebook, and parents can reply, ask or question, or comment.  Then, you can respond in a timely manner.  Now, that's customer service!

3.  Our students need social media role-models.  Social media is a powerful tool, but it can certainly be used in the correct manner.  Students need to see their teachers, principals, and community leaders use it in a responsible way.  

4.  Keep it up and be consistent.  If you are not consistent your message becomes diluted. We tried to keep posting over the summer, with reminders to read.  Good things are always happening!

Two other types of social media that are used by schools are Pinterest and Remind 101. Remind 101 is a great way to send reminders of meetings and links to documents that the parents might need.

Look forward to seeing more classrooms, schools, and school districts spread the wonderful stories that are happening in our schools everyday!

(Note:  There are tons of other social media outlets that our kids know about.  It is certainly hard to keep up, but to understand our students we must seek this information.)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Anchor's Away: What does Catch-Up Growth Look Like? Part 3

Thanks for returning to hear about our journey to meet the needs of every student!

Anchors Away .... 

What do building-wide catch-up growth minutes look like? Scheduling is the key to making a true intervention/extension plan. We have made tremendous modifications to our schedule, but below is an example. We have this document shared on Google Drive. You will see the dark areas are the times we need to push-in all support for instruction. No new instruction occurs during this time. Instead, based on data, students get what they need. We call it OWL Time, which stands for Our Way of Learning. One week a child might need intervention, another week they might need extension. The system is responsive to the child's needs.   The document below is not live, but on our Google Doc anyone in the building can click on the 'link for formative assessment documents' to see current assessment data as well as the corresponding intervention. As you can see, some grade levels have interventions in both math and literacy. Our goal this year, was to use the OWL time to focus on math since we had a slight drop in our math scores last year.

Building-wide blocks of time with links to our data collection by grade and subject
  Once we used the formula (see Anchor's Away Blog #2) to determine the students who were behind in reading, we established schedules to provide additional, direct reading instruction to those students during the OWL time. So, students who are behind in reading do not get math intervention/extension. Instead, they get additional reading instruction to ensure they attain grade level reading skills before they leave elementary school. We do update the data for the reading interventions at the end of each 9 weeks. At semester we used MAP data to make adjustments; in the spring we will use DRA, running records, and anecdotal information.  

What happens during “OWL” time? Students requiring 160+ minutes of catch-up growth receive direct reading instruction through the use of Leveled Literacy Learning (LLI) by Fountas & Pinnell. LLI is conducted by a certified teacher. All other students receive targeted interventions or extensions determined by formative assessment data. When we studied the green book, the Kennewick District did not have the technology that is available to students now. We decided to capitalize on the amount of technology we had in our building to create smaller groups and create lessons specific to intervention or extension groups.
     We are able to provide smaller groups due to the use of technology, as well as hiring extra certified staff that we call Point in Time (PIT) Teachers.  This year, with the use of Title Funds, we were able to purchase 4 additional certified staff (in the role of substitutes) to provide the additional support.  Our hope is that we can close the gap each year a little more to not need the additional staff to provide the interventions.  
  We still have some scheduling issues to work out as you can see from the chart below.

Once we identify which students are behind, we then use the formula to determine how many minutes of direct instruction in literacy are needed to "catch" them up.  We then create a plan embedded within our daily schedule.  Technology is a necessity to make the groups smaller.  We have created some guidelines about the use of technology to ensure it is effective.  We require that the technology intervention tool includes an immediate error correction procedure.  Here are a few tools that have helped guide our intervention this year:

Keep in mind ...

  • Most at need students need BEST teacher of that content or skill.  What does the data show?
  • Most at need students need more time!  Change the schedule; don't let outside circumstances tell you how the day should look.
  • EVERYONE at that grade level must be vested.
  • Monitor the intervention/extension often.
Where we started
     When we began this journey I mentioned that we use several resources.  One was the book entitled, Five Levers to Improve Learning.  From our study of this book, we examined how many of the 5 levers we were moving to impact student instruction.  Based on our work, we determined we are using the impact of all 5 levers:  structure, sample, standards, strategy, and self.  In order to assess our progress and identify next steps to improve, we are doing a book study of It's About Time, the elementary version.  The teacher team leading this study created a format to benchmark against the other schools highlighted in this book.  

Form created, based on 5 Levers book, to benchmark our work against other schools from the It's About Time book. 
We are compiling this information to help make modifications to our current system, so we can serve students at even higher levels next school year.  We want to get better each year.  Our staff will take part in a 12 hour (yep, they voted for it) in-service this summer.  We plan to create our pyramid of intervention, as well as focus on what is happening at Tier 1.  The stronger our Tier 1 is the fewer students that will need intervention.  

We are also currently creating a literacy professional development series that will be used to train all new staff each year is building-wide, non-negotiable best practices to ensure strong instruction remains constant.  

Another change we will encounter in late spring will impact our assessment.  Previously we have used the Developmental Reading Assessment, but we are changing to the Benchmark Assessment System to align with higher standards and expectations.  

Some of our celebrations
     This school year we started with over 1/2 of our kindergarten in need of intervention because they came to us behind.  We assessed within first few weeks and intervened quickly.  Because of that type of urgency, we have these results.  Hoot, hoot!

K data after 4 weeks of focused intervention.
Since then, we have celebrations big and small daily!

Stay tuned for my next blog ... Social Media: a Multi-purpose, Educational Tool.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Anchor's Away: Begin with Reading Part 2

So, we were armed with a wealth of information and a passion for helping the kids we serve, but we still didn't have a plan.  We did meet with the team that attended the PLC Institute one afternoon to create a schedule of protected time for literacy and math.  It really was a basic template, but it was a start.  The rest was processed through our leadership team.  Then, we had the team from the institute create and present to the rest of the staff about the plan.  We decidied to literally jump in!

With a school-wide intervention system, it was important for us to bring coherence to the action plan. The articulation of each component allowed us to negotiate the fit between external demands (district and state) and Sonora’s own goals and strategies to meet goals:

Sonora's Audacious Goals:
* Strategy goal: 90% students proficient in math and literacy.
* Tactical goal: 90% proficient obtained by creating, implementing, and maintaining a school-wide  
intervention system.
District Audacious Goals:
*  100% students reading on grade-level by the end of 3rd grade.
* 100% students proficient in math by the end of 5th grade.

Framework of Coherence

Our professional development in August included all the components of the PLC Institute, as well as the story of Kennewick, from the 'green' book.  (Happy to share our presentation with anyone!  It's about helping kids, right?)  We decided to begin with reading.  This was not to diminish the importance of math or any other content area, but the research is astounding ... when children can read math scores increase! ... when children can read they can learn at higher levels in other content areas! ... when children can read they have access to the world!

What happens if our children don't learn to read?  Watch this video that our team created to show the urgency of the promise of education.  Here is what we believe:

In order to determine the students who needed catch-up growth in reading,  we used the Northwest Evaluation Association's Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA Map) to determine those students who are behind in reading and by how much.  Students were ranked according to NWEA percentile subsequent to fall testing. We applied the research-based formula (from the 'green' book to determine student needs in regard to direct instruction and intervention in order for the child to attain grade-level proficiency in 2 years.

Formula: State %ile - ranked percentile/13= # of years behind.

*13 percentile points = 1 year’s growth according to NWEA

Annual growth = 80 mins (Direct Instruction)

Catch-up growth = # years behind x 80 (2.9 x 80 = 240 mins)

In addition, at the beginning of the year we provided additional professional development to our teachers specifically in the area of literacy.

Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA): Based on research by Powell and Betts (1968), we changed our DRA fluency rate from 95% to 90%. Interpreted, this means the student makes no more than 1:10 error rate and still maintains 70% comprehension which is the level required before meaning breaks down. This adjustment in accuracy rate allows for a higher percentage of our students to gain experience with complex text.

We further correlated NWEA data with NWEA/DRA/CCSS Lexile levels to determine validity of intervention needs. It is always professional practice to use multiple data points, if available.

Miscue Analysis: In conjunction with the DRA, we conducted an Meaning/Structure/Visual analysis on all students to determine if there was a predominant weakness in the cross-checking systems that a reader uses. In all students performing below grade level, there was indeed a weaker area and, therefore, student grouping and guided reading practices are targeted to developing these areas.

There was one problem.  Since our school opened 3 years previously, our literacy scores had increased each year.  Yet, math scores had decreased over the last two years.  How could we defend a strong literacy focus, without also attaching the math need.  When our team puts their heads together we can conquer any challenge.  So, we came up with a plan of action that aligned with all the research, our training, and our student need.

Every grade level, with the exception of kindergarten initially, identified a daily 30-45 minute block of time where no new instruction occured.  Instead this time would be focused on timely intervention/extension based on student needs which are identified by grade level common assessments.  Students who were 2 years or more behind in reading would get additional direct reading instruction.  All other students would receive intervention or extension in math.

Part 3:  What does Catch-Up Growth Look Like? we will share:
  • how 200 plus minutes of instruction are being met for those children who are behind in reading.  
  • how technology can be used to increase direct instruction
  • how we are benchmarking our work
And, our next steps which include a book study on a new book, which will direct the professional development at our summer retreat.

Stay tuned . . . 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Anchor's Away: Sonora's Instructional Focus! Part 1

Schools, teachers, and administrators across America are constantly under scrutiny.  Test scores are at the heart of why we are being judged.  Yet, each institution of learning desires to have students achieve at the highest level.  At Sonora, our vision is, "innovate to educate", where innovate means to do something in a new way or to have new ideas about how something can be done.  That is exactly what we have done this year.

At Sonora, our students and teachers were all working hard, but we were all working hard in different directions.  Our school community did not have a system for meeting the need of all children at any given point in time.  Therefore, this year, with a study of several powerful professional development tools, we have created our system of intervention and extension.  It is a work in progress, but it is making a difference for our students.

This summer, our leadership team read a book that we affectionately call the 'green book', Annual Growth for All Students and Catch-Up Growth for Those Who are Behind.  The book give tells the story of a school district that aligned their resources to meet the needs of their students in reading and math.  The methods used are proven and easy to replicate.  This book was just the catalyst!  Within a week of having the team read the book, the district was part of a hybrid Professional Learning Community Institute through Solution Tree.  The content presented in both the book and the institute aligned perfectly.  We knew we were on to something.  Having 11 staff members present at the PLC Institute also gave momentum.  

During this same time frame, a new book was brought to our attention through Arkansas Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (AASCD), Five Levers to Improve Learning: How to Prioritize for Powerful Results in Your School. Before asking my leadersip team to read, I previewed.  It, too aligned with our current focus of aligning systems to meet the needs of every student.  Our path was surely laid out in front of us, but we had work to do.  

The over-arching concept was that all children should have one year of growth, but those who are behind will always stay behind unless they get 'catch-up' growth, which equals more than 1 year of growth in the content area they are behind.  

So, why call this blog Anchor's Away?  Well, the convicting quote for every educator comes from the green book ...

3d4349bac1d422006f4936ecc1142b18.jpg"We never really leave our non-reading children behind.  We may forget about them, but we are chained to them socially and economically.  Like a ship and its anchor, we must either lift them up or drag them along behind us.  
It is time we teach our children to read.  It’s the promise of education.  There is no ethical or professional way to sidestep the obligation to deliver on that promise."

This is the first part of the 3 part blog.  I hope you come back in the next few days to hear about the changes that have led to increased student achievement and a systems approach to intervention and extension at Sonora Elementary.

Areas of focus in the next blog are:
1.  Children as readers!
2.  How many levers are impacted?
3.  Benchmarking your work.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The World comes to Sonora! (Guest blogger: Mrs. Stephanie Wilson-Scott)

Three Sonora Elementary teachers partner with the University of Arkansas to become 'Teacher Buddies' for the International School.. Before these teachers leave the United States and head to their respective homes, they visited Sonora.  Please read more about our special visitors from our guest blogger, Mrs. Stephanie Wilson-Scott, 2nd grade.

On Thursday, October 2nd International Teachers came to visit Sonora Elementary, specifically the 2nd grade classes of Mrs. Wilson-Scott, Mrs. Dellett and the 4th grade class of Mrs. Hampson. These teachers were from countries all over North Africa and the Middle East, including Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon. (thousands of miles away from where they are having the Ebola crisis!)  These teachers have been in the US for three weeks at an intensive English and American Cultural training class funded by the US State Department. They are teachers of English and American Culture in their own countries.

They came into 2nd grade just as we were starting our Science Experiment, we were observing Gobstoppers,in a dish of water, to see what they would do. We first talked about the items we had to mix and predicted what they thought might happen. Then after putting the candies in the dishes the colors (sugar) dissolves but instead of mixing with each other they stay on their own sides of the dish. When the students touch the mixture it is like there is a barrier keeping the items from mixing. It was a fascinating experiment! The kids were able to show the International teachers how they observe, how they write down their observations and they were able to see if their predictions came true or not.

After the experiment the students came to the carpet and were introduced to the teachers, including where they were from. Of course the teachers had different accents so the kids asked them many different questions. I had created a flipchart of the map of Africa and Middle East so we could locate where these countries were, and found come photos so we could compare and contrast our countries. 

They showed the students how to write in Arabic . . . that you start on the right and continue to the left unlike English.  There are also different characters to represent different sounds in their language. We learned how to say "Teacher", "Hello",  and "My name is..." The students used an Arabic Alphabet poster to  look at and write their names in Arabic.

We also talked about the differences in currency. One of the teachers, Mrs. Aaouatif, had some Moroccan dollars and coins that we were able to pass around. We found that she had enough for each students so she allowed them to keep the coins. Totally spontaneous! 

We then took a class picture, finished our end of the day jobs, gathered our homework and dismissed. The International teachers walked with us to the buses to see how the students went home. They were really blown away with the school, but mostly with the students!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Celebration Continues (Part 3 Sonora EAST heads West)

After all the excitement in July with EAST, it was time to get back home and get ready for school to start - TOMORROW!  Yet, I didn't want school to begin without bringing some closer to the EAST presentation at the ESRI Conference.  

What an experience it was!  Our Sonora EAST representatives, Rikki, Kylie, and Mr Worthy represented Sonora wonderfully at the Esri User Conference.  Yes, they spoke to an international audience of over 15, 000.  I believe that they created a generation of Esri Users, parents, businessmen, or both, who are going to go back to their schools and create opportunities in their schools.  You could feel the excitement and synergy.  It will be exciting to talk to these young ladies years from now to see if they realize the impact they had on the lives of children all over the world by spreading the word of "let kids"!  Teachers have to become more of the facilitator of knowledge, and let students build upon their interests and talents.  
Here is the presentation!  Hoot, hoot!

While at the conference the girls were able to  . . . 

  • spend time with Mr. Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri.

  • see will.i.am Skype in from Australia.  Yes, he is a GIS dude!

To view, click here.

  • to meet the United States Secretary of Commerce, Ms. Penny Pritzker (to view her presentation, please click here.
  • to meet Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, NOAA Administrator, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.  

To view, click here
After their presentation we spent some time in the Map Room.  This is a time where conference attendees can come visit with the team.  It was amazing the impact that the team's presentation and Josh's challenge caused.   We were approached my multiple people who were so inspired they planned to immediately go back and discuss how they can facilitate the use of GIS in schools where they live.  Amazing!

The day after the presentation, we did find some time to take these ladies to Disneyland!

Currently, the team is now on the K12GIS front door:

To view, click here.

This was a phenomenal experience for these young ladies, our teacher, and myself.  I could probably blog about this for the entire year.  What does it all mean?  Well, we are now looking at how we do our work differently:  teachers as facilitators, tools that adults use in their jobs in the classroom, business mentors in the school.   

Because of this notoriety, our EAST students have been asked to present at the Arkansas School Board Association in September.  In February, our students will be the keynote speakers at the Missouri GIS Conference.  

Important to note:  Kylie and Rikki are representing the work of many students.  Even though you see them standing and presenting, they are the speakers for so many other students.  We look forward to having them mentor other students who will also begin to share the story.  

We will keep you updated throughout the year about how this extends into our classrooms, too.  Sincere thanks to Charlie Fitzpatrick, our cheerleader, travel planner, and support!

We LOVE you, Charlie!

Next blog:  Mobile Library Experience!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sonora EAST Heads West (Part2): We've Arrived!

The Sonora Team left Northwest Arkansas on Tuesday, July 8th to travel to Redlands, California- home to Esri.  Esri's campus is absolutely breathtaking, with much attention to detail.




                                 This is the building where we have spent most of our time.


The campus and buildings are set up to create opportunities for employees to have multiple, short networking encounters over the course of the day.  We have witnessed this on multiple occasions.

The Sonora presentation team, Rikki, Kylie, and Mr. Worthy are working 12 hour days (or longer) to fine-tune a 8-9 minute presentation highlighting 3 projects that Sonora EAST completed last year:  Camp Alliance (business), Sonora Balloon (science/weather & math), and Sonora Mobile Library (literacy).  

It is important to note that Rikki and Kylie are representing the work of several students 2nd-5th grade.  Some of the tools used for these projects were Esri Software, specifically ArcMap and ArcGlobe.  They then used "Story Map" to give a description their work.  

We have been housed in a conference room for the last two days, with intermittent visits to an area with a practice stage.  The script for their presentation has been edited multiple (and I do mean multiple) times.  The Story Map has not been immune to those edits.  Yet, this team continues to have a 'can-do" attitude, making any and all adjustments suggested.  

                                                Getting set up in the practice room

                                                     Camp Alliance Map

                                                        Balloon Launch Map

                                                     Mobile Library Map

Tomorrow, after another practice, the team will travel to San Diego, the site of the Esri User Conference.  Continue to stay tuned ...

One last thing.  Check out the introduction slide for Sonora at the Esri Conference!