Fanatically Formative: Successful Learning During the Crucial K-3 Years

Books

Bob Sornson

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  • Praise for Fanatically Formative

    “This book is a significant contribution to the early learning field—and deserves to be read and heeded.”

    —David Lawrence, Jr., President The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation

    “Bob Sornson makes it incredibly clear: Early learning success for our children is possible. Early learning success for our children is an essential ingredient for meaningful school reform and for the success of our nation.”

    —Jim Fay, Co-Founder The Love and Logic Institute

    “This is the missing link we've been looking for. Bob Sornson defines how we can transform our instruction to meet the needs of all children—one child at a time.”

    —Mark Tompkins, Superintendent Harbor Springs Public Schools, MI

    “Fanatically Formative describes all the pieces that must come together to give young children a quality learning experience with a commonsense approach. It is an engaging, thought-provoking, modern masterpiece! The ideas presented are essential to the success of school reform, enabling every child the chance at becoming a lifelong learner.”

    —Dawn Kemp, Special Education Teacher

    “Educators know that the curriculum-driven instruction mandated today in our schools does not work for a very high percentage of students. How do we turn education around to be responsive to how students learn and ensure student success and lifelong learners who will become the leaders of tomorrow? Bob Sornson has elegantly put forth an answer that is at once both simple and profound, and takes the reader through the steps that ensure that every student and educator will succeed. Bob's compelling book, Fanatically Formative, is a must for all educators, especially those working with early learners. I consider it vastly important to the future of education and the success of our nation and the world to solve the multitude of challenges we face today.”

    —Carla Hannaford, Author Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head and

    Playing in the Unified Field: Raising and Becoming Conscious, Creative Human Beings

    “Fanatically Formative describes the process that closely parallels the remarkable transformations that we experienced at Simpson Central School upon implementation of the Early Learning Success Initiatives (e.g., use of essential skills inventories, instructional match time in literacy and numeracy, motor skills instruction, development of a positive school culture). This book is the road map that will lead to success for young learners.”

    —Glen Harris, Superintendent of Education, and Debbie David, Principal Simpson County School District and Simpson Central School, Pinola, MS

    “This may be the education book of the decade. Rarely does an academic work grip the reader so powerfully. Educators will come away inspired and appalled. It is my hope that Sornson's book prompts leaders in education to prioritize authentic early learning success policies that can help more children become motivated learners for life.”

    —Danny Brassell, Professor California State University, Dominguez Hills

    “Fanatically Formative is a compelling masterpiece that can save education as we know it. In a day and age when we are pushing students through standards at a rapid rate, yet have more students coming to us ‘at risk’ than ever, something has to give! Sornson offers a model for quality teaching and early intervention that can lead us to school reform that will actually make a difference.”

    —Shannon Samulski, Educational Consultant and Founder Strategic Intervention Solutions, Inc.

    “Fanatically Formative is fantastically informative! Sornson's book turns best practice into a clear vision for action. Set clear attainable learning outcomes, teach responsively, monitor progress toward the essential skills, build a truly positive classroomand school culture, collaborate to help young children succeed, include parents, and make schools filled with joy. This book makes me believe we can!”

    —Derek Wheaton, Early Elementary Principal Mattawan Consolidated School District, Mattawan, MI

    “Fanatically Formative is another example of Bob Sornson's contributions to all educators who want to reach all students! The ideas are clear and compelling and, if implemented, will positively affect young children everywhere!”

    —Kathy Donagrandi, Administrator Department of Student Services, Livonia Public Schools, Livonia, MI

    “With passionate conviction, Bob Sornson addresses a question we should all keep at the forefront of our discussions: How can we create schools that are responsive to students rather than driven by outside forces? Using an easy-to-read format of real-life examples, Bob challenges us to slow down and assume personal responsibility for ensuring that our students become ‘good readers for life’ from the earliest grades. It is my fervent hope that educators will heed Bob's call to focus on what really matters.”

    —Mary Howard, Author RTI From All Sides and Moving Forward With RTI

    “In an era of reform, Fanatically Formative teaches, reminds, and stretches what is right about education. Sornson intricately marries research with reality to make assessment and accountability relevant for all. His model is filled with heart and reminds us to not outsmart our common sense when it comes to educating, growing, and developing lifelong learners.”

    —Jennifer Jennings, Founder Is It Summer Yet?! Inc.

    “Fanatically Formative is an excellent guide for both teachers and administrators who can no longer bear to see more children falling behind in the rigid ‘rush to cover’ climate that characterizes the era of high-stakes testing. Do you want to change that climate and rediscover the craft of teaching in your school district? Sornson promises no magic tricks, but offers an inspiring model for meaningful instruction and early intervention that can actually make a difference.”

    —Suzanne Klein Founder and CEO, WriteSteps

    “Bob Sornson has not only successfully addressed a challenging topic in the world of educating young children, but has done so in a way that shows he understands! He understands early childhood curriculum. He understands formative assessment. He understands how to best help anyone reading this book make a difference by using a very simple, yet thorough, easily managed process.”

    —Lynne Ecenbarger, Education Consultant Fort Wayne, IN

    “This is it! Teachers have known for a long time the standardized testing and content expectation train is taking our students in the wrong direction. This book is the roundhouse needed to help us turn the engine and take our students through essential skills heading straight for success.”

    —Catherine Hernandez, Teacher Detroit Public Schools, Detroit, MI

    “The best teachers are the ones who are hungry for knowledge and are driven to make a difference for individual children. This important book merges theory and practice and provides the reader with a template for improving everyday instruction.”

    —Mary Johnstone, Principal Rabbit Creek Elementary School, Anchorage, AK

    “This comprehensive book—Fanatically Formative—holds the key to ensure that all students are given a rich foundation in the essential skills that will give them the foundation to be successful in school. I highly recommend Fanatically Formative to use in your district to make meaningful change. The foundation of Early Learning Success will impact the lives of students and increase student achievement in their district.”

    —Debra Krauss, Chief Academic Officer Huron School District, New Boston, MI

    Copyright

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    Preface

    For decades, American schools have been engaged in a failed experiment, attempting to cram more content into a typical teaching day than humanly possible, asking children to learn overwhelming content at younger and younger ages without taking the time to build the foundation skills needed for learning success or behavioral success, and creating anxiety-filled classrooms in which children are less likely to fall deeply in love with learning. Fortunately, that is changing. There are educators across the country who understand the importance of the early childhood learning years and recognize that any school improvement initiative will have lesser results if we allow students to become compromised learners in the early years of school; these educators are beginning to stand up and speak up for good practice.

    These educators are no longer willing to deliver a nonviable curriculum that attempts to cover vast amounts of content at the cost of failing to help children deeply understand and know how to use essential early learning skills. Teachers and administrators are recognizing that racing through rigidly paced or scripted lessons contributes to many students struggling and becoming disengaged from the learning process. These educators are choosing to become skilled observers of children, formatively assessing what students know and are ready to learn, and then delivering instruction well matched to the needs of their students.

    For some teachers, this is a daunting challenge. Decades of pressure to cover greater and greater numbers of grade-level content objectives, indicate which objectives were “covered” in their weekly lesson plans, and keep up with the pacing guide have compromised their ability to teach to deep understanding. Decades of preparing for quarterly assessments of content covered, and preparing for state- or district-required data collection and standardized testing have reinforced one-size-fits-all instructional practices. These teachers have succumbed to the pressure to “cover” content. They have decreased attention to observing children carefully, finding their specific learning readiness levels, discovering their special interests, and understanding the background experiences that shape each student's knowledge base. Curriculum-driven instructional practices have replaced carefully designed instruction to meet the needs of their students.

    In some districts, it will take an act of courage to stand up to the pressure-packed curriculum-driven juggernaut, to recognize out loud that this is harming many children and leading to poor outcomes compared with our international competition. At first, educators who speak up may feel outside the mainstream of school reform efforts that criticize teachers for not working hard enough, demand additional accountability requirements, and devise onerous teacher-evaluation systems.

    It may be difficult to be the one who speaks up for slowing down the pace of instruction, for teaching less content but teaching it better, for giving some children the extra time needed to understand a concept or skill deeply, for letting children play and laugh, for abandoning a model that treats all children as if they are at the same level of readiness, for taking the time to develop language and social skills, for taking the time to build a classroom culture in which children are emotionally and physically safe, or for insisting that good early childhood classrooms are filled with joy. It may be uncomfortable to be the one who insists that we must devise a system that encourages teachers to do more than robotically deliver scripted content. But it is time for a groundswell of educators and community leaders to speak up for a system that values great teaching, attracts the best young women and men to this profession, and nurtures the development of master teachers.

    Quality teaching practice is well described by research and by the experience of thoughtful educators around the world. By reading this book, you may become a fanatic for good practice and insist on using practices that help every young child develop the early learning skills and behaviors needed to become a successful lifelong learner.

    Fanatically Formative offers readers both a big picture and the nitty-gritty details of school reform in the first few grades. You will understand how important the early childhood learning phase really is and how poorly many American students are doing. You will consider the long-term costs of failing to improve early learning outcomes for all of our children, and especially poor and at-risk children. Readers will better understand how an ineffective curriculum-driven system developed, how educators can support each other in the development of models of effective practice, and how to deal with some of the challenges that will come along. The importance of quality preschool and parent engagement is explored. Pathfinders whose work leads us toward exceptional practice are celebrated. Specific action plans are offered for teachers, administrators, parents, and community leaders. Readers will glimpse the train wreck that awaits us if we ignore the need for constructive change and readers will learn that we can choose a better future for our children.

    This book is a call to action, an invitation for a legion of educators to become fanatically formative. Although the typical early childhood classroom may be curriculum driven, racing through content with some students who are bored and many who are overwhelmed, the fanatically formative teacher will insist on identifying essential learning outcomes and using formative assessment to have meaningful data on which to plan instruction that works for her students.

    Although the typical K–3 classroom delivers the same content to all students at the same pace, the fanatically formative teacher recognizes that some children need more time and deserve more time. She optimizes learning outcomes by giving children learning activities at their instructional readiness level. She understands that pushing kids into the frustration zone causes less learning and lower test scores and does not allow herself to be bullied by well-intentioned colleagues into hurting children.

    While the typical classroom is filled with teacher anxiety and student anxiety, the fanatically formative teacher takes the time to build culture. She teaches school behaviors and practices them until they become classroom routines, knowing that children learn better when social expectations are clear. She builds trust and relationship with her students, knowing that children learn better when they trust and love their teacher. She builds emotional and physical safety, knowing that many children need that safety to be able to optimally attend, learn, and remember.

    While the typical classroom is pressure packed, the fanatically formative teacher has a viable curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards or state power standards, offers reteaching or additional practice to students who need it, and offers extended learning options to those who are ready. She has time for projects to integrate learning and activities to make learning come alive in her classroom.

    The fanatically formative teacher recognizes that great learning is more likely to occur in a classroom in which there are engaged learners, where there is laughter, and where students support each other. The fanatically formative teacher recognizes the relationship between great teaching and joy, both for herself and for the students she serves.

    We have an opportunity to choose to build great classrooms and schools in which student learning is effectively nurtured, or we can continue the pressure-packed curriculum-driven juggernaut. We can choose to build schools that develop student engagement rather than frustration and apathy. We can create schools that attract the best possible candidates to become educators, or we can continue to push teachers into dissatisfaction and failure. We can create systems that work smarter rather than always harder.

    This book offers the reasons, the research, and the action steps for transforming our K–3 classrooms into kinder and more effective centers of learning. The resolution to act will come from you. Imagine the impact of schools in which teachers identify essential early learning and behavior outcomes, use formative assessment to understand what students are ready to learn, teach responsively at the student's instructional level, give extra time or help as needed, work within a safe and connected classroom and school culture, help students experience respect and empathy, rediscover the joy of teaching, and help students fall in love with learning. Imagine a generation of children educated in fanatically formative classrooms. For the future of your children and your community, stand up and speak up!

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin would like to thank the following individuals for taking the time to provide their editorial insight:

    • Donna Adkins
    • Teacher
    • Arkadelphia Public Schools
    • Arkadelphia, AR
    • Catherine Hernandez
    • Teacher
    • Detroit Public Schools
    • Detroit, MI
    • Debra Rose Howell
    • Teacher
    • Monte Cristo Elementary
    • Granite Falls, WA
    • Sharon Jefferies
    • Retired Teacher
    • Orange County Public Schools
    • Orlando, FL
    • Mary Johnstone
    • Principal
    • Rabbit Creek Elementary School
    • Anchorage, AK

    About the Author

    Photo by Lynn Gregg.

    Bob Sornson, PhD, was a classroom teacher and school administrator for more than 30 years and is the founder of the Early Learning Foundation. His implementation of programs and strategies for early learning success, the Early Learning Success Initiative, serves as a model for districts around the country. He is committed to the belief that practically every child can have a successful early learning experience.

    The Early Learning Foundation is dedicated to helping schools and parents give every child an opportunity to achieve early learning success, which lays the foundation for success in life. Few things are so important to the future of our children and our society. Children who come to school without important language, literacy, numeracy, motor, and behavioral skills are at a disadvantage for success in the first years of school. Children who have not developed solid skills by the end of the third grade are at a disadvantage for life.

    Dr. Sornson is the author of numerous articles, books, and audio recordings, including Teaching and Joy (ASCD), Preventing Early Learning Failure (ASCD), Meeting the Challenge (Love and Logic Press), Creating Classrooms Where Teachers Love to Teach and Students Love to Learn (Love and Logic Press), and Number Facts and Jumping Jacks (Crystal Springs Books). Love and Logic on the Bus (Love and Logic Press) is his most recent audio training program. His assessment instruments include The Essential Skills Inventories, K–3 (Early Learning Foundation).

    Dr. Sornson works with schools and education organizations across the country, focusing primarily on developing comprehensive programs that support early learning success, building classroom and school culture to support the development of social and behavioral skills, and offering parent training. He offers workshops and keynotes, and develops long-term training projects with selected organizations. Dr. Sornson can be contacted at http://earlylearningfoundation.com.

  • Appendixes

    A. Mrs. Peterson's First-Grade Essential Skills Inventory: Class Baseline Data

    B. References for Considering Essential Early Learning Outcomes

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    Phonologic Skills
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    Oral Language
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    Dickinson, D. K., &. Tabors, P. O. (2002). Fostering language and literacy in classrooms and homes. Young Children, 57, 10–18.
    Hart, B., & Risley, T. (2003). The early catastrophe. The American Educator. American Federation of Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/newspubs/periodicals/ae/spring2003/hart.cfm
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    Levine, M. (2002). A mind at a time. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
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    Gross Motor Skills
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    Visual Motor Skills
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    Numeracy
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    Behavioral and Social Skills
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    C. Essential Skills Inventory, K–3 Outcomes

    Kindergarten Essential Skills Inventory
    Shapes
    • Identifies basic shapes
    • Draws basic shapes
    Visual
    • Uses hands and eyes at near point
    • Maintains visual focus at near point
    Letters
    • Identifies uppercase letters
    • Identifies lowercase letters
    Phonologic Skills
    • Identifies if sounds are the same or different
    • Identifies rhyming words
    • Produces rhymes for a given word
    • Identifies beginning or ending sounds of words
    • Blends given sounds into words
    • Segments words into sounds
    • Listens with interest to stories
    • Identifies a letter sound associated with each letter
    Language
    • Asks questions when appropriate
    • Follows two-part oral directions
    • Uses age-appropriate vocabulary
    • Uses language to solve problems
    Motor Skills
    • Demonstrates throwing and catching skills with a small ball • Can balance on one foot with eyes closed for 6 seconds
    • Skips well for at least 10 yards
    Literacy
    • Understands concepts of print
    • Recognizes personally meaningful sight words
    • Prints 10 to 20 personally meaningful words
    • Uses letter-sound knowledge to write words
    • Prints full name
    Numeracy
    • Demonstrates counting to 100
    • Has one-to-one correspondence for numbers 1 to 30
    • Understands combinations (to 10)
    • Recognizes number groups without counting (2–10)
    Behavior
    • Perseveres to achieve a task
    • Respects basic rules/procedures in the classroom
    First-Grade Essential Skills Inventory
    Letters
    • Identifies uppercase letters
    • Identifies lowercase letters
    Phonologic Skills
    • Identifies a letter sound associated with each letter
    • Produces rhymes for a given word
    • Identifies beginning, middle, and ending sounds of words
    • Combines phonemes to make words
    Language
    • Uses age-appropriate vocabulary in speech
    • Uses language to solve problems
    • Demonstrates effective listening skills
    Motor Skills
    • Demonstrates appropriate balance
    • Demonstrates appropriate skipping
    • Uses comfortable near-point vision
    Visualization
    • Draws pictures with detail
    • Can tell/retell a story
    Literacy
    • Recognizes basic sight words
    • Follows print when reading (visual tracking)
    • Decodes grade-appropriate print
    • Reads short sentences
    • Reads for meaning
    • Prints 30 to 50 personally meaningful words
    • Expresses ideas in writing (simple sentences)
    • Spells using common word patterns
    • Spells words using visual memory
    Numeracy
    • Counts objects with accuracy to 100
    • Replicates visual patterns or movement patterns
    • Recognizes number groups without counting (2–10)
    • Understands concepts of add on or take away (to 30) with manipulatives
    • Can add or subtract single digit problems on paper
    • Shows a group of objects by number (to 100)
    Behavior
    • Delays gratification when necessary
    • Plays well with others
    • Shows interest in learning
    Second-Grade Essential Skills Inventory
    Reading
    • Uses phonics knowledge to decode words in context
    • Recognizes basic sight words
    • Reads with fluency
    • Reads for pleasure
    • Identifies story elements
    • Identifies main ideas
    • Makes text-to-text connections
    • Makes text-to-self connections
    • Makes inferences when reading
    Visual Memory
    • Spells using visual memory
    • Can remember three-block visual patterns
    Language
    • Uses age-appropriate vocabulary
    • Demonstrates effective listening skills
    • Uses language to recognize feelings in self and others
    Writing
    • Prints neatly
    • Writes in full sentences
    • Spells using phonics skills
    • Makes simple revisions to a draft
    • Writes using rich detail
    Motor Skills
    • Demonstrates excellent balance and skipping
    Mathematics
    • Quickly recognizes number groups (to 100)
    • Can show a group of objects by number (to 100)
    • Can add on or take away from a group of objects (to 100)
    • Can add or subtract double-digit problems on paper
    • Counts by 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10 using manipulatives
    • Solves written and oral story problems using the correct operations
    • Understands/identifies place value to 1,000
    Behavior
    • Demonstrates empathy for fellow students
    • Shows interest in learning
    Third-Grade Essential Skills Inventory
    Reading
    • Uses phonics knowledge to decode words in context
    • Recognizes basic sight words
    • Reads with fluency
    • Reads for pleasure
    • Identifies story elements using reading strategies
    • Identifies main ideas
    • Monitors comprehension while reading
    • Makes inferences when reading
    • Makes text-to-text, self, world connections
    Language
    • Uses age-appropriate vocabulary
    • Demonstrates effective listening skills
    • Uses language to recognize feelings in self and others
    Writing
    • Prints neatly and writes neatly in cursive
    • Spells using visual memory
    • Spells using phonics skills and word patterns
    • Uses capitalization and punctuation
    • Writes a paragraph using full sentences
    • Expresses a clear opinion in oral and written form
    • Edits and revises drafts
    Mathematics
    • Reads and writes numbers to 10,000 in words and numerals
    • Uses common units of measurement: Length, weight, time, money, and temperature
    • Can add or subtract three-digit problems on paper with regrouping
    • Can round numbers to the 10s
    • Can round numbers to the 100s
    • Add and subtract two-digit numbers mentally
    • Counts by 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 using manipulatives
    • Uses arrays to visually depict multiplication
    • Recognizes basic fractions
    • Solves written and oral story problems using the correct operation
    Behavior
    • Shows interest in learning
    • Demonstrates empathy for fellow students
    Organization
    • Organizes to complete a task in school
    • Organizes to complete a task at home

    D. Essential Skills Rubric for First Grade

    E. Protocol for Use of the Essential Skills Inventories in K–3

    The Essential Skills Inventories (ESIs) (K–3) are a simple format for assessing the most important skills in the development of language, literacy, numeracy, motor skill, and behavior and social skills during the first years of school. They serve as a universal screening and progress monitoring tool. More importantly, they are an ongoing formative assessment tool for teachers.

    Teachers are encouraged to observe students during typical instructional activities during the first 6 weeks of school. Through this observational phase, teachers collect baseline data.

    Once this information is collected, teachers use the data regarding student skills and needs to plan instruction. Teachers will now have a clear picture of which students have or do not yet have important skills. They now refer to this information as they formulate weekly or daily lesson plans.

    Two sections of ESI are updated each week. This might mean that during one week, the teachers will update observation of progress toward proficiency in two of the seven to eight major sections of the inventory.

    Student proficiency is noted only after the student has demonstrated this skill at the proficient level on several occasions and in different uses or contexts. To determine proficiency, teachers use multiple points of observation, within several different contexts, to ensure solid skills.

    A date is entered on the ESI to indicate proficiency.

    The principal will meet with grade-level teachers or individual teachers monthly to review the progress of students. These monthly data review meetings are important for building the routine of formative assessment and responsive instruction.

    Data from the ESI are considered when making referrals to the school's Support Team.

    Individual student data can be used for communication with parents. The individual student data form allows teachers to rate student progress as Intervention, Developing, or Proficient. Classroom data are never be used for individual discussions.

    The goal is to help at least 90% of all students reach proficiency in every skill by the end of the school year.

    F. Questions and Topics for Monthly Data Meetings

    Which sections of the Essential Skills Inventory did you update last week?

    How did you collect your baseline data? Did other staff members help?

    Are you able to build assessment into instructional activities, or do you construct separate assessment activities?

    How did you assess ____ ?

    What are you going to do with your knowledge of the varied skill levels in math?

    What are you going to do with your knowledge of the varied skill levels in language?

    Which students need intensive support in developing behavior skills?

    Which students need intensive support in developing phonologic skills?

    Do you have math center activities you could share with other grade-level teachers?

    Do you have small group math activities you could share with other grade-level teachers?

    Are there children for whom you need extra help or support?

    Are there materials or services you need?

    Which two sections of the inventory are you assessing this week?

    Is it difficult to get into the routine of updating your classroom data weekly?

    G. Reflection on Classroom Culture

    Rate yourself on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 representing the goal of consistent application of this skill or idea.

    Each day I greet children with warmth and empathy.__
    We begin the day with a consistent routine.__
    Children have learned all essential procedures to mastery.__
    Each day I am conscious of the need to develop and maintain empathetic connections with my students, especially the neediest students.__
    Before I set a limit on student behavior or impose a consequence, I always pause to build the empathetic connection.__
    Sometimes I choose to delay consequences.__
    The children in my classroom absolutely know what good behavior in our classroom looks like and support this standard.__
    Sometimes I choose to offer students choices.__
    Usually I encourage students to solve their own problems.__
    I am very aware of the instructional levels and needs of my students and make adjustments in my lessons to allow each student to have three or four chunks of time at the correct instructional level each day.__
    Kids feel safe in my classroom.__
    I love the culture in my classroom.__
    Most of the time, I can smile when a child makes a poor behavior choice, knowing that he/she is about to have an important learning opportunity.__

    H. Reflection on School Culture

    Rate yourself or the staff on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 representing the goal of consistent application of this skill or idea.

    Each day I greet students with warmth and empathy.__
    Each day I greet staff with warmth and empathy.__
    Students understand all essential procedures in our school.__
    Our staff understands all essential procedures in our school.__
    Each day I am conscious of the need to develop and maintain empathetic connections with students, especially the neediest students.__
    Each day I work to build trusting professional connections with other educators in our school.__
    I consciously build relationships with parents.__
    Before I set a limit on behavior or impose a consequence, I always pause to build the empathetic connection.__
    Sometimes I choose to delay consequences.__
    Sometimes I choose to offer choices.__
    Usually I encourage students and staff to solve their own problems.__
    I choose to consider the individual situations and needs of each student when I deal with behavior infractions. Sometimes that allows people to question my decisions and creates more work, but I do it anyway.__
    Parents feel respected and valued every time they have contact with our school.__
    Kids feel safe in our school.__
    Staff demonstrates collaboration skills.__
    Staff recognizes that asking for support is both encouraged and respected.__
    I love the culture in our school.__
    Most of the time, I can smile when a child makes a poor behavior choice, knowing that he/she is about to have an important learning opportunity.__

    I. Reflection on Home-School Connections

    Rate yourself on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 representing the goal of consistent application of this skill or idea.

    Building trusting relationships with parents is a priority with me.__
    I ask parents to tell me about their children and any special hopes or goals they have for this year.__
    I quickly learn the names of my students and their family members.__
    I communicate frequently with parents.__
    I return calls/e-mails promptly.__
    I make 2–5 purely positive communications about my students’ learning and behavior each week.__
    I go out of my way to build relationships with struggling parents.__
    I invite parents to do meaningful volunteer work in my classroom.__
    I have a lending library available to parents.__
    I carefully prepare for meetings/conferences with parents.__
    In meetings with parents, I have learned to listen more than I talk.__
    I offer advice or solutions only after parents are in a calm, problem-solving state of mind.__
    I try to have interactions with parents in which they have a positive emotional experience that builds closer ties with our school.__

    J. Reflection on the Early Learning Success Initiative in Our School

    Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your school's early learning success initiative to date.

    Caring, Connected Classroom and School Culture
    • Each day staff members greet children with warmth and empathy.
    • Each classroom begins the day with a consistent routine.
    • Children have learned/are learning all essential procedures to mastery.
    • Before staff set limits on student behavior, or impose consequences for poor choices, they always pause to build an empathetic connection.
    • Children absolutely know what good behavior looks like in the classroom, hallways, lunchroom, playground, and support this standard.
    • Teachers are aware of the instructional levels and needs of their students, and plan lessons in keeping with this knowledge.
    • Staff reach out to parents, create positive emotional experiences for parents, and build trusting relationships.
    • Staff builds trusting relationships among themselves to support schoolwide collaboration, procedures, and positive culture.
    Use of Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring to Understand What Children Know and Are Ready to Learn
    • Teachers consistently use a simple, efficient progress monitoring tool, which allows daily consideration of progress toward all essential skills, including language, phonologic, literacy, numeracy, sensory-motor, behavioral, and social skills.
    • Essential data are updated weekly and lead to the design and delivery of classroom instruction that meets the needs of students.
    • Support is available to teachers who struggle to collect essential data.
    • Additional formative assessment tools are available when a more careful assessment of a specific aspect of learning is needed.
    A Team Is Available to Respond to Teacher Requests for Support
    • Teachers understand and support the idea that helping children experience early learning success is far preferable to allowing children to struggle in the early years of school. They are committed to developing a system that supports early learning success for every possible learner.
    • Teachers clearly understand the process of requesting support for student(s) who are not making optimal progress.
    • Response to a teacher request occurs quickly, within the guidelines of the support team process.
    • Case managers clarify teacher requests for support, and include other helping staff as needed.
    • A record-keeping system for instructional support is clearly defined.
    • Case managers follow a defined process for long-term collaboration.
    • Case managers respect the classroom teacher as the primary provider of service to the student, and the person who knows what interventions are possible within the classroom.
    • Support interactions are always professional. Meetings are on time. Staff members use available time and resources wisely.
    • Support plans are specific and measurable. 10. Successes are celebrated.
    Quality Classroom Instruction
    • Teachers use consistent routines in their classrooms.
    • Teachers have developed a culture of respect and safety in the classroom.
    • Essential early learning outcomes have been clearly defined in all aspects of skill development.
    • K–3 teachers monitor growth toward essential outcomes and use this information to plan instruction. The essential outcome inventories are updated weekly.
    • Teachers have developed a variety of skills to support differentiated instruction.
    • Teachers offer instruction at the level of student readiness for the development of all essential skills.

    K. Sample District Plan for Early Learning Success

    The ___ School District has made a long-term commitment to becoming a district that uses formative assessment and offers responsive instruction. We will help students establish deep understanding of essential content and will meet the needs of our students by designing instruction at their levels of readiness. To this end we will establish and implement a 3-year to 5-year plan to develop the teaching skills and systems that supports these goals.

    The plan described in this document focuses on the steps toward implementation at the elementary schools in our district and describes Year 1 of the long-term training commitment to early learning success.

    Outcome #1: We Will Have a K-3 System of Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring, Which Defines Essential Outcomes, in All Elementary Schools.
    Discussion

    The system should be simple, align with the report card, encourage us to take the time to help students deeply learn essential outcomes, help more students be successful, remind us to take time for social skill development, reduce anxiety, and increase joy. It should help us have fewer special education referrals and help us have more support time available for general education.

    • Training in the use of the Essential Skills Inventory will be given to K-3 teachers before the beginning of the school year.

      Action Plan: The Curriculum Director will arrange for dates and trainer.

    • Clarify how this information and process may be used.
      • Compliance with the protocol for data collection is expected of all classroom teachers and can be considered a factor in evaluation.
      • Essential Skill proficiency will be noted only after the student has demonstrated this skill at the proficient level on several occasions and in different uses or contexts.

      Action Plan: Principals will monitor progress in monthly data meetings.

    • A committee will develop a process to align the report card with the Essential Skills Inventories.

      Action Plan: A study team will be appointed in May and will review and report to the Curriculum Director by August.

    • A clear directive from central office will describe the district's commitment to using essential skills as a focus for responsive instruction.

    Action Plan: The District Superintendent and the Board of Education will pass a motion to this effect by August.

    • Teachers at each grade level (K–3) will develop a plan for integrating use of any typical assessment tools, that is, DRA or MLPP, with the ESI.

      Action Plan: A study team will be appointed in May and will review and report to the Curriculum Director by August.

    • A plan will be developed for keeping data on file within each school and sharing info with next year's teacher.

      Action Plan: Building teams will prepare a plan and report to the Curriculum Director by December.

    • Midyear follow-up training in use of the Essential Skills Inventory will be given to teachers in Grades K–3.

      Action Plan: The Curriculum Director will arrange for dates and trainer.

    • Addition training needs to help teachers learn skills to help more students achieve all essential outcomes will be specifically noted, considered, and planned.

      Action Plan: Building Principals will collect input on learning needs, and a long-term plan will be developed in conjunction with the Curriculum Director by March.

    Outcome #2: Teachers Will Develop Skills to Deliver Instruction Well Matched to the Learning Needs of Students.
    • Grade-level teachers will collaborate to support each other in the development of assessment procedures for essential skills and responsive instructional planning.

      Action Plan: Building Principals will offer support to grade-level staff and schedule time for them to collaborate.

    • Learning needs will be noted and professional development planned.

      Action Plan: Building Principals will collect input on learning needs, and a long-term plan will be developed in conjunction with the Curriculum Director by March.

    Outcome #3: An Accountability System Will Be Fully Implemented in All Schools to Support Proper Implementation of the Essential Skills Inventory.
    • The Protocol for Use of the Essential Skills Inventory will be followed in K–3.

      Action Plan: Building Principals will meet with teachers by grade level or individually monthly.

    • Progress toward quality formative assessment will be reported in quarterly reviews.

      Action Plan: Building Principals will offer a brief update on their progress at quarterly principal meetings. The Curriculum Director will place this on meeting agendas.

    • Support team referrals will include a review of the data from the ESI. Case managers will review this data with the referring teacher.

      Action Plan: Principals and case managers will ensure compliance.

    Outcome #4: A System of Instructional Support Will Be Implemented in Each Elementary Building, with Clear Procedures and Time Lines.
    Discussion

    Consistent procedures and paperwork will be developed to be used in all elementary programs. Teachers must be made aware of the opportunity to request support, have simple steps to receive help, and be encouraged to collaborate without waiting for students to become severely frustrated. Guidelines for when to refer to Instructional Support Team and when to refer to Special Education will be developed.

    • Support team members will be identified.

      Action Plan: Principals will identify staff and consider time available for instructional support by August.

    • Written procedures and related forms will be developed.

      Action Plan: A committee will be appointed in May and will complete a draft proposal to the Curriculum Director and Principals by August.

    • Implementation training will be given to each school's support team, with follow-up for the first 2 years, beginning September. Initial training will be followed by three coaching days in each school for each of the first 2 years.

      Action Plan: The Curriculum Director will arrange for dates and trainer by August.

    • Each school's support team will prepare a plan to communicate the process and procedures to classroom teachers.

      Action Plan: Support teams will construct a plan and begin this process in September.

    • End-of-year data will be collected, noting the number of referrals, of what type, cases that reached closure, open cases carried over to following year, special education referrals, special education placements, etc.

      Action Plan: Principals will collect info and report to the Curriculum Director by June 15.

    • Each school's support team will complete an annual reflection on the support process.

      Action Plan: Principals will collect and discuss at the end of the year and use this input to help plan for future needs.

    • Each support team will develop a procedure for informing next year's teachers about specific children who have received intensive support.

      Action Plan: A plan will be developed by May. Principals will supervise sharing information.

    • All schools will participate in an end-of-year meeting where they will share accomplishments and identify learning goals for future consideration.

      Action Plan: The Curriculum Director and Principals will plan and coordinate an end of year meeting, to be held in May.

    Outcome #5: A Culture of Professional Trust and Collaboration Will Be Explicitly Defined and Established in Each School.
    Discussion

    The collaborative culture includes clear group norms, time for communication, and the comfort to be open with staff both individually and at group meetings. Working toward this collaborative culture will include bonding and team building activities, development of Professional Learning Communities, building and district grade-level sharing, an emphasis on quality general education/special education planning, and a building and district-level commitment to this expectation. Professional trust and collaboration will help us create the problem-solving and learning environment that improves instructional planning, building the culture of learning for students, and building the culture of support for parents.

    • Each school will consider the importance of a collaborative culture and establish group norms for the collaborative culture.

      Action Plan: A survey of perceptions of school culture will be prepared and shared with staff at the beginning of the school year. Principals will have a discussion about the importance of collaborative culture at a staff meeting(s) early in the year and ask for commitment from each individual once group norms have been reached by consensus. This process will begin in September.

    • A reflection on individual teacher use of the group norms will be developed and used quarterly to support the development of the collaborative culture.

      Action Plan: A teacher leadership team will be selected by the Principal to develop this instrument. The building Principal will distribute the reflection to teachers quarterly.

    • Teachers will discuss the results of their self-reflection at building grade-level meetings.

      Action Plan: Teachers will schedule this discussion after each self-reflection quarterly.

    • The principal will survey perceptions of school culture at the end of the school year.

      Action Plan: Principals will review progress at summer council.

    Outcome #6: An Ongoing System of Professional Learning to Support Learning Success for All Children Will Be Developed and Implemented in All Schools.
    Discussion

    An effective ongoing system of professional learning will include a clear understanding of common learning goals for our students, and common teaching skills and strategies that can support the achievement of these learning outcomes. When we have identified core teaching skills/strategies that each teacher should have, we can identify teachers to serve as mentor teachers and can also identify teachers who need support to develop these skills. We strive to develop an ongoing learning process within our collaborative culture. Training opportunities should be differentiated and available based on the need of individual teachers in addition to recognizing group needs for whole group learning. At the district and building levels, important learning initiatives should be clearly identified and supported over time to achieve quality, ongoing implementation.

    • Learning needs to support districtwide initiatives will be identified annually, and a plan to train staff will be developed for the following year.

      Action Plan: A committee including the Curriculum Director, Principals, and teacher leaders will coordinate, with input from staff. A plan for the following year will be developed by March for implementation in the summer and the following school year.

    • The planning committee will do research and develop a set of teaching skills that support the full implementation of an early learning success initiative. These skills will be part of the focus of professional development.

      Action Plan: The committee will convene in October and begin work toward identifying common teaching skills needed for K–3 early learning success. Once identified, these skills will be incorporated into the long term training plan. The long-term training program will include considerations for training existing staff, training new staff, developing mentor programs within staff, and sharing materials to support this initiative. The Curriculum Director will convene the planning committee and oversee this process.

    L. Sample Support Team Procedures

    Tier 1

    The classroom teacher is responsible for delivering a rich and interesting curriculum, and for designing instruction to help each student become proficient in each of the essential skills. Teachers will adjust instruction and differentiate instruction to accomplish these outcomes. Informal collaboration among staff is encouraged.

    Tier 2
    Referral Process

    For students whose learning/behavior needs require additional services, teachers will follow these Instructional Support procedures. Teachers are encouraged to ask for assistance, including the following: short-term consultation; long-term collaborative problem solving; material or technology accommodation; developing an accommodation plan; constructing a behavior plan; behavior management coaching; short-term coteaching support; and other needs as determined appropriate.

    • Teachers will complete the Teacher Request for Instructional Support form and the Classroom Intervention Documentation form, and turn it in to the principal.
    • The teacher will receive confirmation that her/his request has been received, and the principal will assign a case manager.
    • Within 2 school days, the case manager will contact the teacher to set up an initial meeting with the classroom teacher or to plan service.
    • At this meeting between the case manager and classroom teacher, specific outcomes and steps toward these outcomes will be identified. Parents will be notified by the teacher before services begin.
    • The case manager is responsible for managing the paperwork and establishing a file for each case.
    Instructional Support Team
    • A corps of case managers will be selected, with specific time available to consult with teachers and provide follow-up services clearly identified.
    • Cases will be assigned by the principal, based on training and experience dealing with learning/behavioral issues.
    • Case managers will make contact with the requesting classroom teacher within 2 school days of the request, clarify the specific nature of the request, and begin consultation with the teacher.
    • Requesting K–3 teachers will have up-to-date Essential Skill data, and other information as needed, to establish baseline for progress monitoring that will be a part of the plan.
    • The case manager is responsible for managing the appropriate paperwork and establishing a file for each case.
    • Every meeting with the teacher and the case manager will include establishing a plan for follow-up until closure is achieved for that case.
    • Support team case managers will meet biweekly with the principal for a case review meeting. This meeting will be a brief review of the status of each referral, specifically noting the nature of the request, action taken, and progress noted. Case managers will ask for help from the team if warranted.
    • Additional Instructional Support Team (IST) members will be identified as available for consultation in certain cases, that is, if a sensory-motor screening is needed the Occupational Therapist may be consulted. These members will not attend the biweekly case review meetings unless specifically requested.
    Instructional Support Team Files
    • Case managers will maintain active files.
    • A file space in the office will be designated for all inactive/closed files.
    • A summary of results will be placed in all closed files, which will be stored in the office file.
    • At the end of each year, each case manager will give a summary of all cases, open and closed, to the principal.
    • The CA60 of each student referred to IST will be designated with a blue dot, indicating that the IST file is available for review by a subsequent teacher.
    • The IST file for all students moving to middle schools will be shared with the middle school principal.
    • A list of all students with active IST case files will be shared with the following year's teacher, who will review the file and observe student progress before reactivating the case or requesting closure.
    Tier 3
    • Tier 1 and 2 interventions will be reviewed by the Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team to support the decision regarding whether to move to formal evaluation.
    • For students whose learning/behavioral needs meet the threshold for special education referral/placement, district and county special education guidelines will be followed.

    M. Teacher Request for Instructional Support

    N. Prek–Grade 3 Essential Math Skills Inventory

    O. Building Essential Skills: Parent Support Request

    Dear Parent,

    We are committed to helping your child build all the skills in the early grades that predict long-term learning success. Attached you will find a list of Essential Skills that we are working on this year. During the year, we will vigilantly monitor your child's progress toward proficiency in every one of these skills. As soon as your child is proficient in a skill, we will move on to more advanced skills. But this list reminds us of the skills that must be carefully and fully developed.

    And we could use your help. Following, we have identified two or three skills we'd like you to help your child develop this marking period. By working on these skills, you will be helping us, and more importantly helping your child, reach these essential skills as soon as possible. By next marking period, we might have a different set of skills for which we will ask for help, but right now, these are the skills that need some extra practice time at home.

    Thank you so much for your support. Working together, we can help your child build a solid foundation of learning skills that will make learning fun and predict long-term success.

    Sincerely,

    _____ Date: _____

    P. Essential Skills Inventory: First Grade

    Q. In My Classroom

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