*from Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work pg 190-193
Dufour, Dufour, & Eaker, 2008
Diana, Se, Marie, and Amy, the second-grade team at Westlawn Elementary, began their collaborative process for improving math proficiency for their students by engaging in collective inquiry regarding the current results and practices in second-grade math. Their math achievement data from the previous year's summative district assessment indicated 78% of second graders met or exceeded the district's proficiency target in math. They agree to establish a team SMART goal to improve upon last year's results by at least 10% on that same summative district assessment. The goal was strategic in that it was aligned with the school's goal to increase the percentage of students meeting or exceeding proficiency in math as measured on local, county, state, and national indicators. The team goal was measurable because it asked for a 10% increase over the previous year. The team believed the goal was attainable because improved results (higher levels of student learning) were required to achieve the goal. It was time-bound because the goal was to be accomplished within the course of the school year.
Prior to developing strategies to achieve their goal, Diana, Se, Marie, and Amy had a candid conversation about how they had approached the math curriculum in the previous year. They acknowledged they had followed the same 4-step pattern for each unit:
- Step 1. Administer the pre-assessment from the textbook.
- Step 2. Teach the unit.
- Step 3. Administer the post-assessment from the textbook.
- Step 4. Move on to the next unit, repeating steps 1 through 3.
What Did They Do?
1. They clarified the 8 to 10 most essential student learning outcomes (skills, concepts, dispositions) in math for each semester by doing the following:
- Talking with the third-grade team to determine the skills and concepts most essential to student success in math for entering third graders
- Analyzing and clarifying their state and division second-grade math standards
- Consulting with school and division math specialists to clarify multiple interpretations of the same standards
- Analyzing the district assessment, and identifying where their students had struggled in the previous year.
- Developing a math curriculum map and common pacing guide they all agreed to follow
- Studying the language and format of the district's summative assessment of second-grade math
- Selecting appropriate items aligned to the essential math skills from math textbooks, individual teacher assessments, and state and national websites providing released math items
- Creating new items deemed by the members of the team to be valid ways of assessing the essential skills
- Including at least five items per skill on each common assessment to provide students an adequate opportunity to demonstrate their proficient
- Increasing the number and frequency of assessments so that only two or three skills were considered on each assessment
4. They collectively analyzed the results from each common formative assessment, identifying, skill by skill, the individual students throughout second grade whose scores exceeded, met, or fell below the team's proficiency target.
Through this collaborative analysis of common formative assessment data, the team was quickly able to do the following:
- Identify individual students who were experiencing difficulty on any skill.
- Identify individual students who were already highly proficient
- Create flexible groups of students across the grade level for the intervention/enrichment period each day based on skill-by-skill proficiency.
- Establish a protected block of time each day for the team, resource specialists, and instructional assistants to provide students with coordinated and precise intervention and enrichment based on students' personal needs.
- Identify the teachers whose students were experiencing the greatest success on each skill.
- Assign students who were struggling with a particular skill to work with the teachers experiencing the best results in that skill on the common assessments during their intervention/enrichment period.
- Explore and discuss the strategies being used in individual classrooms
At the completion of this skill-driven cycle, the team administered another form of the common assessment to students who had experienced difficulty on any of the essential skills. At that point, new student learning groups were formed. Students who demonstrated proficiency were moved to enrichment groups, while students who continued to struggle were moved to smaller, more intensive group interventions.
This intervention/enrichment process ensured that any student in second grade who was having difficulty understanding a skill would receive intensive, small-group instruction from the most effective teacher on the team for that particular skill. The process allowed the team to continue with new direct instruction during the regular math period each day, so the difficulties of a few did not adversely impact the opportunity for all students to learn new material. Meanwhile, the team continued to build shared knowledge of the best way to help young students acquire math skills through a collective study of the research on the topic. At the same tine, however, members were conducting their own action research on effective math instruction and learning from one another.