Classroom WalkThrough Tools | Does your Leadership Team do their Job?

Classroom WalkThrough Tools | Does your Leadership Team do their Job?

Know thy Impact | Using a Classroom Walkthrough Tool as formative assessment to determine the effectiveness of your Leadership Team
Written By: Shannan Church

To reach total school improvement you want all arrows moving in the same direction. As instructional leaders in the building, it is our responsibility to set our building up for success.  How do we do that?  How do we intentionally and strategically align school improvement?  After we get them aligned, how do we explicitly communicate the alignment with our staff?

School improvement starts and ends with data.  We begin by analyzing universal screening data to write Tier 1 Core Improvement Plans. Then we use those plans to draft our school improvement plans.  These school improvement plans should outline the PD needed in order for the teachers to carry them out to fidelity.  We provide PD teachers need then we use our classroom walkthrough tool (CWT) to formatively assess and provide growth feedback that helps us determine the effectiveness of our Leadership Team’s support.  Check out this easy to read graphic that summarizes these alignments.

Questions Playmaker Leaders ask:

Are the Professional Development trainings provided making impact?  Do our PLCs produce highly effective teachers using high yield strategies in their classroom that in turn positively impact our data and student achievement/growth? 

Easy as 1 – 2 – 3 | Steps Strong Leaders Model

  1. Deep Data Analysis | Use this data to drive tier 1 core improvement plans.
  2. SIP Alignment | Use Tier 1 Plans to write SIP goals (look for trends).  Determine PD needed to carry out your plans.
  3. Plan to Action | Provide the PD that is needed over an appropriate period.  Use a CWT to measure what your teachers are implementing and where they still need support.

Indicator Categories to Consider:

These are several indicators that we know yield high growth.  Please note- only indicators that teachers have received PD on should be on your CWT.  This list is not exhaustive.

  • Learning targets, posted, and communicated (Do students know their goals and success criteria?)
  • Instruction is aligned with standards (Did the PLC collaboratively unpack their content?)
  • Data Representation (Grade, Class, Individual Data Notebooks)
  • Differentiated Instruction (Scaffolded, Flex Groups, Data Driven, Collaborative Groups)
  • Instructional Routines (Literacy and Math)
  • Active Student Engagement (Active or Passive learning)

What does a CWT look like, sound like, feel like?

Now that you understand the critical components and compelling why of CWTs you may be asking how do I actually complete these?  Here are some rules our team lives by.

  1. Walk with a purpose.  Are you observing instruction or behavior?  Figure out who is completing the CWTs.  If you are completing behavior walks, this should be completed/done by the administration and counselors in your school.  If you are completing instructional walks, this should be completed/done by the administration and coaches in your building.
  2. Inter-rater reliability matters. At the beginning of each you review your indicators as a leadership team.  Discuss quality measures and non-examples.  It’s a great idea to complete paired walks the first couple weeks.  This will create unbiased, equitable marks and feedback throughout the building.
  3. Frequency over duration.  Each member of your leadership team should complete a minimum of 5 walks per week.  These are quick shots.  Create a schedule for who is walking where each week.  Only stay in the classroom 3-5 minutes per walk.
  4. Feedback feeds back.  Teachers crave positive feedback and constructive feedback.  Create a system for yourself.  Every time you complete a walk pick out something positive and then grow your teacher with a “have you thought about” idea.  Check out the tear off notepads we use to leave our teachers love notes when we walk into their classrooms.
  5. PLCs are the lifeblood.  Leadership Teams should make a standing agenda item to discuss/review the classroom walk data during their weekly leadership PLC and collaboratively design PLC agendas that support and grow teachers based on CWT data.

Do you need help aligning school improvement at your school?  We are here to help – send us your needs info@i-leadr.com.

Do you need help designing your own classroom walkthrough tool on a limited budget?  We’ll help you make one for free that will collect your data and represent it in easy to use charts for your leadership PLCs and teacher PLCs.  Reach out to us at info@i-leadr.com.

Math Diagnostic Interview

Math Diagnostic Interview

Math Diagnostic: Interview Students to Uncover Their Needs

Written by: Allison Kiser

Teachers have lost a lot of time with students because of the pandemic.  How can teachers really see where their students’ understanding of math content is?  How can teachers figure out how strong their students’ number sense is?

The answer to both questions lies in two simple words: diagnostic assessment.

A diagnostic assessment is a type of a pre-assessment that teachers can give their students to evaluate their students’ strengths, weaknesses, knowledge and skills.  A diagnosis itself is defined as the identification of the nature of an illness by an exam of the symptoms.  Diagnosing is exactly what teachers need to do with their students and their number sense.

Some diagnostic assessments are more effective as screening tools, but they are not effective as diagnostic tools.

My daughter’s first-grade teacher administered what they called a math diagnostic assessment last month with the goal of showing the teacher what students knew and didn’t know. At one point, the computerized assessment asked my daughter to solve 25 + 28.  I sat beside her to watch her work because I was curious about her number sense due to how the pandemic affected her kindergarten year.  And I am also a math nerd and love to listen to how children think about the math!  She solved the problem and clicked on the correct answer.

Yes, she got the correct answer to a double-digit addition problem.  She actually got every double-digit addition and subtraction problem correct. The online assessment collected this data.

Sitting next to Brielle, here is what I observed as she solved 25 + 28: She clicked on the hundreds chart tool that she was allowed to use.  She started at the first number, 25, and then she pointed to the hundreds chart on her screen as she counted 28 more numbers one-by-one to arrive at her answer of 53.  Watch the video of my daughter showing how she solved 25 + 28 like she did on her assessment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orldwFyrzPE 

What would a teacher learn about my daughter’s understanding of double-digit addition from seeing the first set of data?  Would the teacher be able to diagnose anything? No, they would only see that she obtained the correct answer.  Since my daughter got all of the double-digit addition and subtraction problems correct, the data may show the teacher that she is proficient with this math skill. But is she?

What would a teacher learn about my daughter’s understanding of double-digit addition from seeing the second set of data? By sitting next to my daughter, the teacher would have seen that she used the hundreds chart tool precisely and proficiently for every double-digit addition and subtraction problem. She used the counting on and counting back strategy for every one of these problems.  She perseveres and is confident in her approach.  Her addition fluency is accurate but not efficient or flexible.  Her strategy works for her to get the correct answer but is a lower-level strategy because she is counting one-by-one, which will not be efficient as she gets to larger numbers.  The teacher will want to expand her strategies to using friendly numbers or decomposing numbers and for her to expand her understanding of place value and learn that she can add or subtract in groups and not just one-by-one.

My colleague, Janna, and I decided to create a math diagnostic assessment to help teachers identify students’ strengths and weaknesses in their mathematical understanding.  We quickly realized that in order to truly assess a student, we need to sit beside them and observe them.  We need to watch them solve math problems or we will miss out on how they are thinking about the math. Whereas we initially called our tool a math diagnostic assessment, we decided to rename it because it’s actually an interview. So, it’s now called a Math Diagnostic Interview, and you can buy it from our shop!

The Math Diagnostic Interview was created by educators dedicated to ​identifying students’ strengths and weaknesses​ in their mathematical understanding. The interview is ​not a universal screener​ to be administered to all students. However, it is intended to serve as a ​1:1 diagnostic interview​ with students to learn more about their level of understanding in ​foundational skills that are critical for conceptual understanding of mathematics​. A research-based universal screener should be used to first identify students who are at risk for difficulties in mathematics. Once students are identified, the Math ​Diagnostic Interview​ can be used to determine deficits​ and ​target instruction​ based on need.

We cannot assume anything about students’ understanding. We should work to discover what students know so that we can teach them what they need to learn.

Looking for your own copy of the diagnostic?  You can purchase and download here!

Want to purchase a site license?  Please email info@i-leadr.com for your personalized invoice.

Virtual Learning Playbook

Virtual Learning Playbook

Your Classroom is Your Classroom
Written By: Brie Beane

The 5 Big Plays to Maximize Success in a Virtual, Remote or Hybrid Model

Your classroom is your classroom! 

It is our responsibility as educators to reach and teach ALL children we serve, but how do we effectively do that now that we are serving in a virtual, remote and/or hybrid model? 

This is the #1 question we have received from educators all over the country. District administrators, building administrators, support specialists, instructional coaches, counselors, and teachers are worried, fearful, frustrated and discouraged on a daily basis.  The struggle is REAL ya’ll, but there is an answer.  Follow these 5 Big Plays in order to Maximize Success regardless of how you are required to deliver instruction.

The 5 Big Plays

Play 1 | The Pre-Game

Social Emotional Well-Being

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.  You have to look after yourself in order to have something to offer others” – Tarynne West.  Educators all over the county are worried about the social emotional well-being of the students who are not showing up to the schoolhouse, not attending virtual sessions, not submitting work, and not relying to communication attempts from the school or the teacher(s), but in order to give the best of us to our students, we must first reach our best self. Identifying your stressors, establishing consistent routines, developing a self-care plan and staying accountable to that plan will set you up for success. 

Play 2 | The Rulebook

Building Processes, Procedures, Routines and Relationships

Identifying and teaching your expectations for virtual instruction; identify, communicate and teach your procedural routines; and establishing and building positive and lasting relationships are essential in order to maximize success. 

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel” – Carl W. Buechner.  Teacher-student relationships are one of the most important factors in determining overall positive outcomes for students.  John Hattie’s research indicates that building positive teacher-student relationships yields over one year of growth impact on a child prior to even delivering instruction.  I cannot stress this play enough, Relationships Matter!!  Rita Pearson said it best when she said, “Children don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

 Play 3 | The Huddle

Virtual Professional Learning Community

“Professional learning communities are the lifeblood of school improvement” – Janna Sells. PLCs should never take a back seat to our necessary daily routines as an educational organization.  Whether you meet face-to-face or in a virtual professional learning community, you should maintain a consistent meeting agenda, engage in regularly scheduled rotations, and collaboratively plan and align virtual instruction with your colleagues to ensure equitable delivery of instruction.

Play 4 | Game Time

Virtual Engagement

Best practice doesn’t change because your classroom design changed.  We do not have to go out and learn how to teach in a completely different way, but instead take what we know how to do and tweak it to successfully deliver that same best practice in a virtual, remote, or hybrid setting.  Imagine you are switching cars for a short time.  It still gets you where you’re going, it just looks and feels different.  Maintaining familiar practices – such as taking attendance, student discourse, and eliciting student response are essential best practice strategies that should be continued.  Consistently embedding active participation strategies, to include verbal, written and action responses into your instructional delivery will keep students engaged and participating.  “The people doing the talking, are the people doing the learning” – Dr. Anita Archer.

Play 5 | Post Game Analysis

Feedback, Assessments and Grading

How do you ensure that your students are learning what you are teaching them?  Data!  The data we collect tells us most of what we need to know.  Assessments should be used to measure the learning of our students, not simply for obtaining grades.  In addition to assessments, virtual conferences, written or oral feedback on student work, and virtual student data notebooks are vital components to ensure we are continuously relying on our data to drive our decision making on a daily basis.

Our students need us more than we may ever know.  We are their structure, their security, their teachers.  Following the 5 Big Plays above will help you to Maximize Success in a Virtual Setting.

Check out our Virtual Learning Playbook for downloadable access to templates and a step-by-step guide to these Big Plays.

 

Stop the Stigma of Labeling Students

Stop the Stigma of Labeling Students

By: Drew Polly
Labels and categories are everywhere in America. The fad has spilled over into education with the labels “low”, “medium”, and “high” or other common labels as we talk about data, student performance, and differentiating instruction. Some may wonder, “why does it matter how I talk about or refer to my students in PLCs or planning?” or they may comment, “I am referring to their data not themselves as people.” Regardless labels and categories are crippling to even talk about and there is a need to change the way we talk (and think) about our students. Students sense their academic ability compared to their peers and we need to avoid any potential stigmas based on academic performance. 

Suzette (pseudonym) was a fourth grader in my class during my second year of teaching 20 years ago. She was curious about all things related to make up, fashion, culture, and shopping. She would fight for equity, fairness, and was loyal to all of her classmates. Suzette, though, was currently working on first grade reading concepts and first and second grade mathematics concepts. Through the processes and systems of social promotion, whole group balanced literacy, and district commitments to whole class mathematics teaching Suzette was not yet able to do things that her peers and classmates could. I knew from Day 1 of the year that Suzette needed more than the typical “core” teaching that my district was focused on. The concepts of MTSS and RTI were foreign to me, but I knew in my heart that there was a need for me to break the mold and do something different. So I did.

To my entire class in math, I posed more open-ended tasks. Everyone had access to manipulatives, graph paper, and lined paper and was graded by how they represented and set up problems, wrote equations, and their answer. Students solved tasks and showed their work in ways that made sense to them. For those students like Suzette who were still working on concepts from previous grade levels there was no stigma of being pulled with similar ability students or being the only students using certain manipulatives or doing certain activities. When I posed tasks whole group students worked in mixed ability pairs and groups of three. When I pulled small groups students the groupings were not ability grouped but represented a range of learners. 

When I was teaching with division with remainders students explored this task, “There are 82 students in 4th grade. They are put in groups of 6 on the field trip. The remaining students are added one at a time to different groups. How many groups have 7 students?” Students used base ten blocks and pictures to set the problem up. Eventually students wrote an equation and found the answer to the task. Suzette worked with a partner to make the set of 82 using base ten blocks and start to divided the blocks into 6 equal groups. She could access the task and contributed to the partnership. 

For students like Suzette there was still a need to support her learning with concepts from previous grade levels. In addition to exploring grade level content, there was also time during the core math block for her to work with peers, an instructional assistant or myself on math games and activities to support her learning. During this time, all students were playing math games and activities in groups. Again, there was no stigma that she and her peers were doing “different” activities. Suzette’s academic needs were being met without the label or the stigma that she was different. 

Strategies to help avoid the stigma: 

  1. Whole class math tasks should be low-floor, high-ceiling tasks that allow all learners to have access to them. For more information check out this article and tasks here from YouCubed.
  2. When teaching small groups look for opportunities and ways to avoid grouping by performance and instead teach a range of learners. While at times it is appropriate to work with specific students on their specific needs there are plenty of opportunities for learners with differing data to participate in the same small group. This includes small group lessons on new content.
  3. Plan for opportunities and reflect on opportunities for ALL students to engage in mathematics. Check out this blog post from my friend Kaneka Turner about this idea.

    Look for ways to get more time into your math block for problem solving and exploration. Here is a lesson framework to consider.

Contact Drew: @drewpolly on twitter 

MTSS | Beyond the Textbook

MTSS | Beyond the Textbook

By: Janna Sells

Are you sick of feeling the MTSS implementation burnout?  Has MTSS become a four letter word where you serve? Tired of the theory not matching practice?  We were too.  Welcome to our roadshow.  A group of educators who were charged with the job of making MTSS work to close gaps and raise student achievement.  In our journey we’ve uncovered the tools needed to build an effective 3 Tiered Model. Let us start off by first saying, it was not easy.  We made tons of mistakes, but we eventually got it right. We continued and will continue to lean into our own learning and improve what we know to be faithful and true about implementing this highly effective total school improvement model.  

5 Critical Components of MTSS 

There are 5 critical components, or pillars, that have to be carefully and thoughtfully crafted prior to implementation of MTSS.  Without these 5 essential inputs, an MTSS model is simply impossible.

1) It all begins with LEADERSHIP |
Leadership knowledge and reinforcement are the driving force behind a strong implementation model.  What does that mean?  

  • Leaders equip themselves with the knowledge they need to lead teachers through implementation  
  • Leaders LEAD MTSS PLCs – know the data, lead the discussion, and equip teachers 
  • Leaders help align the arrows between the work teachers are doing in PLCs to their School Improvement Plan  
  • Leaders are active problem-solvers and strong advocates who support teachers so they may best serve students

2) Clear and consistent COMMUNICATION & COLLABORATION |
More times than we are excited to admit, we’ve coached and supported sites with the best implementation intentions, but they failed because of the lack of clear communication.  The same factor for the leading cause of divorce in the United States is killing MTSS implementation across our country. Why do we continue to ignore the impact of good communication? Likely, because it is an art.  Knowing when and how to say the right things can make or break the culture around implementation. It’s equally important that you bring teacher leaders in with you as you build your MTSS model. Their boots on the ground feedback is immeasurable and will help you stay ahead of potential threats.

3) Capacity and Infrastructure build sustainability
Invest in your people.  Not programs. Work to build capacity in ALL of your staff to create a model that lasts.

  • Invest and equip all the people in your building to help them see the strong role they play in the MTSS model.  
  • It’s an all hands on deck approach.  Every person in your building should see how their role impacts and aligns the arrows towards total school improvement.

4) Data-based problem-solving | 
We would never expect a doctor to begin writing a treatment plan for an ill patient without data based indicators suggesting the treatment is exactly what the patient needs.  We would also expect that the doctor has a strong line of research to support the treatment plan he or she chooses to help the patient recover. The same is true for educators.  To teach without using a data-based, problem solving protocol is malpractice. 

5) Data Evaluation drives continuous improvement | 
Life is a constant cycle of continuous improvement.  We evaluate success in many different measurements, but nonetheless, we drive towards improvement.  MTSS implementation is no different. 

  • There are many tactical tools to measure whether or not your implementation model is having a positive, negative, or neutral impact on students’ growth and achievement.  
  • It’s important that you triangulate your implementation data to get a true measure of impact.  
  • You must listen to your current indicators and humbly reflect and improve on them until your desired implementation is achieved.  
  • Remember, this a marathon, not a sprint.  Be present. Be strategic. Be consistent. 

A Three-Tiered Approach to Academics, Behavior, and Social Emotional Supports

i-LEADR, Inc. coaches a three-part, three-tiered model (see image above).  We believe in order to truly serve the whole child, educators must systematically measure the effectiveness of tier 1 core supports in all three areas: academics, behavior, and social emotional.  There should be strategic core plans in place that identify grade or school-wide deficits in these major areas with a strategic improvement plan. 

Once the school begins acting on core areas of concern, they should start to identify students outside and perhaps within those areas who need strategic tier 2 and/or intensive tier 3 supports.  Intervention plans should be written to address the needs of these students and document support services provided. Educators should measure the impact of students’ response to instruction by using frequent progress monitoring. 

The life blood of this model – Professional Learning Communities.  None of this work should be done in isolation by a single teacher. These conversations, data-analyses, and service planning should be done inside a strong professional learning community model.  These PLCs should be facilitated by a strong leadership team and should be communicated through School Improvement Team work. A comprehensive model, but not impossible.

Just remember, tradition does not make best practice when it stops being best for kids.  Change is hard. Failure is unavoidable. How you rise from your failed attempts will determine the impact and effectiveness of your leadership.  It’s ok to ask for help when help is needed.

To learn more about how i-LEADR coaches and supports MTSS implementation visit us at: https://ileadr.com/service/

Systematic and Productive PLCs: A Coach’s Perspective

Systematic and Productive PLCs: A Coach’s Perspective

Schools join forces to create a unified system. Our bodies are made of complex systems working together to keep us alive. A system of planets quite literally makes the world go ‘round. But when it comes to school improvement and the frameworks defining a proactive MTSS, where might our greatest resources be rooted? Systems .

While common language stands as a paramount implication of effectiveness, it is imperative that educators do more than just “talk the talk.” Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have been put in place to give schools, administrators, and teams of teachers direction in their improvement efforts. Without the appropriate direction, PLCs often become aimless trials of “hoping something works.”

Developing a system for PLCs is a priority for coaching teachers and building capacity within schools. A sequential model creates a drive for effective instruction and a deeper understanding of the WHY behind “What’s next?” The repetition of conversations focus on work that drives teachers forward; an organized PLC model eliminates superfluous tasks and aligns a focus for steadfast growth. Teachers reap the benefits of a devised plan for core instruction layered with high-yield intervention strategies, and coaches alleviate the hardship of being the sole transmitter of knowledge. The PLC model, instead, develops teacher leaders, encouraging the sharing of individual expertise.

So, what does this PLC model look like? The model is implemented as a four-week rotation, giving attention to each priority focus at least once each month.

Weekly focus Purpose and topics of interest
Week 1: Unpacking
content standards
Teachers dig deep into the expectations of their content standards, better
developing an understanding of what students should know and be able to do.
Teachers connect strategies, best practices, instructional tasks, and assessment to
the demands of the standards.
Week 2: Monitoring
student progress
Teachers use instructional data and common formative assessments to
determine the effectiveness and impact of their core instruction. Teachers
determine the grade level needs for supplemental, Tier 2 supports and
intervention.
Week 3: Targeted
professional development
Teachers link classroom practices to the overall goals of total school
improvement through the School Improvement Plan. Teachers connect
strengthened core and intervention practices to the school’s achievement,
actively participating in professional development opportunities
Week 4: MTSS through
RtI:Stored!
Teachers analyze triangulated instructional data to determine the effectiveness of
Tier 2 supports and interventions. Teachers determine students who are in need
of more intensive supports, documenting students’ outcomes of intervention.

While the PLC model reflects a natural sequence and progression of conversation, school and grade level needs may demand out-of-sequence rotations. PLCs are given the autonomy of changing the order of the model, as needed, with an understanding that all PLC focuses are implemented within the month. Using predetermined weekly agenda templates after intentionally training teachers on the purpose of the PLC model enables teachers to gain a deepening respect for their collaborative efforts for school improvement.

Creating a PLC model becomes a lifesaver for the coach or PLC facilitator, giving purpose to the work-at-hand. Such purpose not only drives weekly collaboration but a joint effort for total school improvement. Susan Bird, a coaching colleague, cleverly tags PLCs at her school as productive learning communities.

About the author:
Lynn Plummer is the elementary curriculum lead for Stanly County Schools in Albemarle, North Carolina. With experience as an elementary teacher, curriculum coach, and district MTSS coordinator, he takes great pride in supporting schools’ growth and improvement. By utilizing the PLC model on both the school and district levels, Plummer has led teams of teachers in building internal capacity and strengthening core instruction and supplemental intervention supports.