Calais Elementary School

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Principal's Report

Principal's Report April 2015

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Principal and Superintendent’s Report – April 16, 2015

Link to the current Continuous Improvement Plan:

  1. Literacy

At our All School Morning Meeting on Friday, April 3rd, the third grade class shared highlights from their animal reports. Students selected an animal to study and, after careful research, synthesized their learning into Google Slides presentations. Many students’ final products included scanned drawings, thus bringing together the hand-made and digital worlds. It was great to see the pride with which the third graders shared and the interest with which the rest of the school watched and listened.

The reading specialists are continuing to guide our work with the new 4th-8th grade reading assessment, the DRA-2. A question they are currently tackling is how we can use this tool to measure growth or shrinkage of proficiency gaps. They are also cross-checking the scoring tools with the common core standards and using this information to inform their work on student achievement non-negotiables in reading.

The CES Writing Committee is in the process of collecting benchmark pieces of each text type for all grade levels. The goal is to have a complete collection of pieces assembled by the end of this school year so that compendium can be used in whole staff curriculum and assessment work beginning in the fall of 2015. That work will focus on using protocols for looking at student work to analyze the features of good writing – both those that are universal and genre- or age-specific – and from there coming to consensus on a rubric and other assessment practices.

There are no new CIP indicators this month. The next set is due April 17th.

  1. Mathematics

We are in the midst of the administration of our “What does a good mathematician do?” assessment of student awareness and knowledge of the common core standards for mathematical practice (often more simply termed the “math practices”). Next year’s CIP identifies one key practice to focus on; the math committee will lead the work to develop and consistently use tools to monitor student proficiency with that practice. The current thinking is that this tool will be an observational assessment that can be completed quickly – by students and staff – while looking at or listening to a student’s work to solve a complex problem.

There are no new CIP indicators this month. The next set is due April 17th.

  1. School Climate

We are in the midst of this year’s administration of the now annual climate survey. We are looking forward to having data that is directly comparable to last year’s results and using results to inform the CIP development process. We are aiming for a return rate from families that is higher than last year’s total of 47 responses. A key change we made to help realize this goal was setting out hard copies during conferences earlier this month.

We have recently completed two PBIS assessments, the School-wide Assessment Survey (SAS) and Benchmarks of Quality (BoQ). The team is now working on analyzing these results and creating reports that can be shared and digested as an entire staff. We plan to more regularly engage the whole staff in conversations about successes and challenges we are experiencing with our PBIS programming. As noted last month the team has chosen to spend the rest of this year and all of next year focusing on ensuring high quality, consistent, and fully engaging Tier One and Tier Two programming.

The majority of our sixth graders have successfully completed the first assignment of the Sixth Grade Service Project (SGSP), the proposal. Students will be volunteering all over the area and completing tasks ranging from shelving books at a local library to cleaning trails and other outdoor recreation areas to supporting kindergarten reading instruction. Several students have already begun logging their hours. We are definitely learning a lot along the way about the ideal way to approach this kind of project in the future while also making it work this year! As noted last month, a key task in next year’s CIP will be maintaining or even growing the SGSP. We have already begun articulating some checkpoints for the end of this school year that ensure we will record our learning and ideas for next year before everyone forgets all those details over the summer.

There are no new CIP indicators this month. The next set is due April 17th.

  1. Other
  2. SBAC Assessment Preparation and Administration

Students have been working with their classroom teachers and our technology integrationist, Jill Abair, to become familiar with the online testing environment and tools – features like a highlighter, strikeout tool, calculator, notepad, and dictionary – that are available to them during all or part of the assessment. This work and all other phases of SBAC preparation have emphasized our mission to use this first year of a new assessment to learn how to best administer the exams while also ensuring that students enter the test with confidence and experience minimal frustration.

Teachers and support staff who will be test administrators will complete an online training and certification test at this week’s staff meeting. All teaching staff members have also worked through student training tools including practice test questions so they have a sense of what technology prowess and content knowledge and skills students will be asked to demonstrate on this assessment. In general, we are cautiously optimistic that our infrastructure and teacher trainings, coupled with our students’ knowledge and skills, will make for an ultimately successful first year. There will, undoubtedly be a few surprises along the way, but we certainly have capacity to calmly navigate those bumps.

  1. Teacher Search Processes Update

We plan to have a final nomination for our one-year 1/2 classroom teacher position at the April board meeting.

We posted an anticipated opening for a 1.0 FTE special educator a couple of weeks ago and just recently updated the status of that posting to a confirmed opening. We will assemble a search committee and begin an efficient yet thorough process as soon as we return from April vacation. Several staff members have already expressed interest in participating in the effort find an excellent educator to fill this incredibly important position.


Principal's Report March 2015

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Principal and Superintendent’s Report – March 19, 2015

Link to the current Continuous Improvement Plan:

  1. Literacy

On February 18th, our reading specialist and WCSU Literacy Steering Committee representative led a staff meeting during which classroom teachers and special educators looked through the official first version of student achievement non-negotiables in writing. Following that meeting, grade level teams (PK-3 and 4-6) had conversations at lunchtime meetings to discuss an ultimate vision for our CES PreK-6 writing program. We are excited to use this time as an opportunity to consider our vertical alignment and figure out where we will be tight and where we can be a bit looser.

The CES writing committee has finished writing conventions checklists that can be used by teachers and students to assess whether they are meeting the expectations set out by the non-negotiables. At our staff meeting on March 18th, we will discuss these as a whole staff and come to consensus on when and how often to use this new tool. This is a great opportunity to engage students in self-reflection and self-assessment, giving them more ownership of and responsibility for creating high quality work.

At our CIP Kick-Off meeting on March 11th, our small but mighty CIP team began thinking about the school-specific literacy work in which we might engage next year. Kelly Bushey and Jen Miller-Arsenault have done us all a great favor by entering into this year’s template the SU-wide work that will be occurring next year. This narrows the focus of our CES team to what small number of additional goals and projects we will take on. The thinking of the group thus far is to continue setting growth and proficiency goals in reading and to emphasize the writing side of literacy in our PD work.

There are no new CIP indicators this month. The next set is due April 17th. Two recently updated action steps are highlighted below.

Action Step


Engage   students in goal setting and reflection in both reading and writing;   highlight opportunities for student choice

9/14/14: Special   educators and paras identified this as an action step in which they can play   an active role during CIP scavenger hunt.

  3/17/15: We are behind   on this one. We will flag this in an upcoming Monday Memo and likely spend   time at a staff meeting discussing it. We will also consider carrying this   forward to next year’s CIP.

Create   an “Intervention Schedule Investigation Team” to research scheduling options   that would allow for at least one 30 minute true “double dip” period for all   kids each day; have this committee generate a list of possible models

11/10/14: Roster not   yet established. Need to start this step!!

  3/17/15: There are a   number of possible changes to the master schedule due to factors like   shifting toward Universal PreK compliance and increasing SU-wide   collaboration. This task is essentially tabled until we know a bit more about   those questions. Once we have clearer parameters, we will put a work group   together to sift through master schedule possibilities.

  1. Mathematics

WCSU Math Coach Ellen Dorsey spent the week of March 9th with our 5/6 math teachers. Ellen has created a blog post about her time here. Some highlights from the post include:

“In fifth grade, we focused on developing flexibility of thinking about how we define ‘one whole’ and multiplication of fractions at the Applications/Communications level.  In sixth grade, we focused on creating models for order of operations.  We decided that I would spend Monday and Thursday in the fifth grade class and Wednesday and Friday in the sixth grade class.”

As alluded to above, Thursday, March 12th was Pi Night! We had a great turnout, both in terms of families and pie diversity. It was particularly fun to see the problems arranged in a PreK-6 continuum on the gym walls. Kate Rob deserves many thanks for putting in the little bits of extra time required to keep the Pi Night machine running smoothly each year.

Our 2015-2016 CIP team also talked a bit about mathematics at our March 11th meeting. We are expecting that our math work will focus on implementing SU work, including administering and analyzing results of screening, benchmark, and summative assessments. Locally, we are considering looking at a single math practice to emphasize and continuing to bring our number concept and fact fluency trackers to routine use.

There are no new CIP indicators this month. The next set is due April 17th. The action steps highlighted in the literacy section of this report apply to mathematics as well.

  1. School Climate

We had a productive staff meeting on the first day after February break to review the most recent behavioral data and plan an upcoming All School Celebration. At that meeting we determined that our data indicate a need to re-teach the expectation of safe bodies during unstructured times like snack and line-up: by an overwhelming margin, the most frequent problem behavior reported to the office is minor physical contact. We implemented a booster week targeting safe hands and bodies during those looser times. As a result of that booster week, we saw improvements in behavior AND earned an All School Celebration much faster. On Friday, March 13th, we had a winter carnival featuring broomball, bobsledding, dog sled races, snow art, a campfire, and tunnel-making in the snow banks. It was a great afternoon with something for everyone. A big factor in the success of the event was the engagement of all teachers and classes in the planning and execution of the celebration. Staff members and students alike were excited for the fun days in advance.

We will be administering the school climate survey again this spring. We are looking forward to collecting and using this information on an annual basis. We made some fairly substantive changes to the surveys last year, so it will also be great to have directly comparable data this year and beyond.

Our Sixth Grade Service Project is in the very early stages of being up and running! We had a parent and student information session at the end of Pi Night. Nearly 80% of sixth graders attended with at least one parent in tow. Students are working away making phone calls and sending emails to set up projects. We hope to have placements and proposals finalized by March 27th. Students and parents are asking great questions about what counts as service, what kinds of projects will be most meaningful, and what the vision for this project is in the coming years.

Our PBIS Leadership Team has elected not to pursue a Tier Three training this year. While we may be eligible – we do not yet have final results from the surveys and assessments that determine eligibility – the team has agreed that with two key members leaving, it is not a good year to be planning new programming. Additionally, we, like almost all PBIS schools, have found that there is always room to keep focus on maintaining enthusiasm for and effectiveness of Tier One programming.

We have just begun conversations about this section of next year’s CIP. So far, we are sure that continuing and possibly even growing the Sixth Grade Service Project will be a priority. We are also beginning conversations about possibly targeting a key skill like problem solving or conflict resolution for explicit teaching and ongoing assessment/monitoring. The team is excited to deepen the conversation at our next meeting.

There are no new CIP indicators this month. The next set is due April 17th. Action steps for school climate were updated this week. Key information in those updates has largely been summarized in the paragraphs above.

  1. Other
  2. Teacher Search Processes Update

The 1-2 one-year leave replacement search committee is up and running. We met on March 12th to determine criteria and begin reviewing applications. We plan to hold first round interviews next week and then select a couple of candidates to invite in for demo lessons. We have a pool of 50 applicants and are looking forward to finding someone who is full of energy and a great fit!

Marissa and Kelly Bushey will finish gathering information and weighing options this week and have some form of posting up for the special educator position by Friday.


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