Principal’s Corner: Teachers using tools to improve practices

Published 8:00 pm Friday, January 13, 2023

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Principal’s Corner by Nicky Severtson

January brings fresh beginnings, a new year and a new semester for Sibley Elementary students and staff. One thing that is not new and will remain constant is the focus on our students and meeting their needs. We will continue to build on the framework of Marzano’s High Reliability Schools to promote students’ social-emotional well-being and academic learning.

Nicky Severtson

At Sibley Elementary teachers took the opportunity to use the first couple of days back to school after winter break to ease students back into the school routine, implementing classroom community building activities to reinforce expectations, in addition to the academics that we know are essential. Now as we look ahead to the second half of your child’s school year, teachers have used their recent planning time to dig into the math and reading data that was collected through weekly progress monitoring and benchmark assessments in December. We’ve identified growth in student learning, as well as focus areas to support students in building upon their current skills. These focus areas will be addressed throughout reading and math lessons, but specifically targeted during “What I Need” (WIN) time in each grade level’s math and reading blocks. WIN time is when most, if not all, students are working in small groups with an adult on the skills they need to be successful. We’re fortunate to have educational assistants, success coaches, intervention teachers and resource specialists who are trained in specific researched interventions to address remedial skills, as well as skills to enrich student learning. These adults push into most of the classrooms, and groups are adjusted frequently, so all students have opportunities to “get what they need” as they need it. This is all a part of the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) to ensure we’re providing well-designed instruction, closely monitoring all students’ progress and providing additional instructional support to all students.

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Albert Lea elementary schools have also added Learning Walks for professional development to support our MTSS model. During Learning Walks district administration, principals and teacher leaders visit classrooms using the school’s Instructional Model along with Marzano’s Elements of Effective Instruction to analyze tier 1 and tier 2 instruction, reflect on teaching practices and strategies that are being implemented and gather evidence on how students are interacting and engaging with academic content. Prior to a Learning Walk each schools’ instructional leadership team identifies a focus for discussion. During the Learning Walk team members enter the classrooms for a brief time collecting evidence and making notes about the decided on focus areas. After the visit the team members assemble and share observations, provide collected evidence and give an overview of what was seen. The school’s instructional leadership team collects notes from the feedback and presents findings to staff members. From this, discussions are held and next step plans are determined for the school as a whole to meet the school’s learning goals.

Through our study of Marzano’s High Reliability Schools framework, conducting Learning Walks and digging into student data via our MTSS model, teachers are continuously learning and improving their instructional practices and craft. This all supports our district’s goals of ensuring high quality core instruction and strengthening professional learning communities and data cycles.

Nicky Severtson is principal of Sibley Elementary School.