In the Spotlight: Huckleberry Hill Elementary, Brookfield

Translating and Transforming the Effectiveness of Core Instruction (ECI) Tool

Submitted by Jared R. Lancer, Ed.D., Technical Assistance Provider

Huckleberry Hill Elementary began participating in the State Personnel Development Grant in September 2012. From the outset, Principal Mary Rose Dymond and the School Leadership Team articulated two primary goals: Define what the school calls the “Huckleberry Way” and clarify the relationship between adult actions and student learning.

During year one, the Leadership Team established a collaborative process using dialogue with the entire staff to foster a shared understanding of and commitment to the Huckleberry Way. With greater clarity regarding the school’s purpose, the Leadership Team began year two focused on explaining the relationship between adult actions and student learning. A combination of facilitated data reviews and technical assistance targeted the school’s intervention procedure. This structured the dialogue in a way to move the Leadership Team forward with a focus on improving teaching and learning. In time, the vision and persistence of the Leadership Team led to transformation of the ECI Data Review Protocol. The school generated a set of Guiding Questionsand agreed upon a revised ECI structure for Grade Level Instructional Data Teams and Grade Level Community meeting dialogue. With an agreed-upon protocol, Grade Level Communities use the modified version of the ECI process to identify common problems of practice for the year and effective instructional strategies over time.

The ECI Process at Huckleberry

At Huckleberry, the ECI protocol has provided a structure and process resulting in greater consistency and coherence among Grade Level Instructional Data Teams to advance teaching and learning. The steps and process at Huckleberry include the following:

  • The protocol is transferred to a Google spreadsheet and shared via Google Drive so that the whole Instructional Data Team can review and reflect
  • Groupings are identified to support opportunities for designing targeted interventions
  • Instructional Data Teams are given a spreadsheet
  • A report is generated reflecting totals entered for the entire Grade Level Community  
  • Grade Level Team and Community dialogue is structured using the Guided Questions (see Figure 1, below)
  • Communities identify common problems of practice and effective practices over time
  • The ECI process occurs three times per year

Impact: Shifts in Dialogue and Practice

According to Principal Dymond, “At first, probably the biggest shift for us was looking at the whole community together versus individually.”  However, over time, “the process has helped us work much more collaboratively to look at common data together with individual accountability and group accountability.”  This has led to fostering a greater awareness, ownership and responsibility among teachers across grade levels and communities for ensuring that every child is learning.  “Teachers are now more vested in doing the ECI because they see the purpose…. It helps them see visually where the children are and what they need to do next,” says Dymond.

Guided by a shared purpose that defines the Huckleberry Way, the new structure has provided a way to talk about children, learning, and teaching.  Now, grade-level teams are meeting with greater clarity and consistency to identify common goals for improving teaching and student learning. Examples of goals developed for improving teaching include: supporting children in understanding the author’s craft as well as how to critically examine and make inferences from text; understanding effective strategies and approaches for engaging children in learning; and identifying effective practices and approaches for understanding what children are doing and why to make adjustments in teaching to facilitate learning.

The new structure has further supported productive shifts in dialogue among Instructional Data Teams and Grade Level Communities, resulting in focused sharing regarding specific strategies and resources around a targeted concern.  Teachers are starting to identify promising instructional practices and develop common tools.  These include new approaches and practices for conferring with children in order to assess learning and understanding, creation of Grade Level Community rubrics, and a greater focus on fostering strategic thinking among learners grounded in evidence.  Now, Dymond says, “Teachers are talking about all students in all of the classes, not just their own students…and we know where the majority of students need support across all classes in the school….We are starting to re-emphasize flexible groupings as a result because teachers are now looking at all children in a community as their responsibility and are now considering multiple options across classrooms for effective grouping practices to maximize student learning.”

In the final analysis, translating and transforming the ECI process in the school has provided a structure for improving teaching and learning.  “It’s helped us to focus on the impact of adult actions on student achievement: what do we need to get better at in order to make a positive change in student outcomes?” asks Dymond.  At its core, the structure and resulting shifts in dialogue and practice is based on a process to clarify as a school underlying perspectives and assumptions regarding children and learning to guide and refine instructional practice.  According to Dymond, “Through the discussion, teachers are digging more deeply into the data to identify elements that children need support in…. I definitely believe mindsets are starting to shift…. We are now thinking differently about children who are struggling and that they may need to be taught in a different way.”

  Figure 1. Revised guiding questions generated by school

How are students doing?

  • In thinking about your students, what do you notice about their learning?
  • What are their learning strengths?
  • In what areas do they struggle?
  • Are there any identifiable patterns across classes within a community or for particular student groups? If so, what are they?

What has worked in the past?

  • What 3-5 strategies have we used in the past that have been most effective?
  • Provide a descriptive summary describing the strategies implemented

What will we do moving forward?

  • If we could solve one thing about our teaching that would address needs reflected by student outcomes, what would it be?
  • How will we gather information and learn about best practices in this area?
  • What are 1 or 2 anchor standards from the Common Core Standards that this would most closely impact?
  • How will we measure progress in this area?