Using Measurable Outcomes to Reach Every Student
Late last year, we introduced to you a significant initiative PAFE has funded thanks to our donors. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) is a direct investment in the professional development of our teachers. Most of our programs focus on the student. However, we learned from school leadership that these learning communities are a priority. When we invest in the teacher, we allow them to serve their students better. COVID has only underscored that need. The results are so mindblowing, we have created a three-part series on the topic. You can find one and two here:
Part 1: Renewed Passion for Teaching and Learning at LPOSD and Part 2: How PAFE’S Investment Helps to Elevate LPOSD Collaboration and Student Engagement.
PLC is a culture, not a meeting. That culture directly impacts each student every day. –TJ Clary, 7th Grade English and Language Arts, Sandpoint Middle School
At the heart of the PLC culture is the common formative assessment. This assessment rates students on specific skills from a 1 to a 4. By gauging students skill by skill, our teachers can be proactive in course correction rather than reactive at the end of the quarter when they see a column of zeroes and wonder what went wrong when it was too late.
The pitfall is one can spend all your time gathering data and simply be overwhelmed. To prevent that, each teaching team focuses on key priorities. School leaders can see by way of team audits what’s working and what isn’t.
We’ll use the sixth-grade teaching team from Farmin Stidwell as one example of many to illustrate how the PLC is so powerful and engaging students in their learning.
Renee Nigon, the team leader told us:
“When the Farmin Stidwell sixth grade PLC team gathered to review the results of our first common formative assessment, we noticed some misconceptions about the teaching/learning and talked through ways we could change instruction. Through this discussion, we discovered we didn’t actually know how to explain to students the difference between a score of 1, 2, 3, and 4. This was the breakthrough we needed! We needed a way to explain the scores to ourselves and, more importantly, their students.
As a team, we created a rubric for the exit ticket we were giving later in the week. Through the creation of the rubric, we discussed what grade level meant for the standard, what work we expected to see, how students could prove they fully understood the concept and could expand on their thinking to get to a 4. Thanks to this process, we realized what we needed to change in our instruction and what was required to get more students to mastery (4).
We began talking about this in the classroom, and students started asking questions on how they could make sure they were working at grade level.
The best part was when I handed out and explained the exit ticket with a rubric to my students. We went through the rubric and they completed the exit ticket. When I looked at them, it was amazing to see how many students had tried for the 4. One student was getting 3s and some 2s, but now attempts for a four every single time and mostly gets it! He’s explaining his thinking and challenging himself because the expectations are clear. The other great thing is the culture of learning that is growing in the room. Students congratulate their table peers if someone gets a four. They work out mistakes with each other and then ask me when the next exit ticket is so they can get a three and try for a four.
We are still learning and reflecting as a team, but the PLC structure has given us a framework for discussion centered on instruction and challenges us to figure out how to challenge all students.”
The process engages every level from students to parents, and teachers, and school leadership.
Parents love it because they get a higher degree of feedback about their students’ learning. Every ten days students come home with a quick assessment on a skill such as a two-problem division quiz that shows parents their kids missed it (and the teacher is on it) or they nailed it.
“You know something is working when you get students engaged in their success.” – Erik Olson, principal at Farmin Stidwell.
“I’ve been getting a two on this but today, I’m going for the four.”
“When my daughter brings it home and slaps it on the kitchen table: ‘Look! I’m a four in this and a four in that! And this one I got a two but that’s okay because I need to practice this.’”
Now, they own their own learning. And isn’t that what we want? Last year, they didn’t like math, and now they love it.
“PLCs are changing the way we do business in our school,” said Andra Murray, LPOSD director of teaching and learning. “It changes how we collaborate, how we get smarter using data, how we pinpoint student needs. Now we have evidence to show kids are learning more. It gives me goosebumps.”