Voices From the Field: Outcomes from SPDG schools

Submitted by Anthony Brisson, Technical Assistance Provider

In 2013-14, there were 64 schools in three cohorts of the SPDG. One of the targeted outcomes for the SPDG is to have a proportionate representation of minority students with ODRs (office discipline referrals; only major referrals are counted). The SPDG Internal Data Team analyzed the PBIS Assessments to identify patterns and trends within each of the cohorts. Technical Assistance Providers received specific training on the triangulation of SWIS Data and other PBIS Assessments to help identify focus areas for improvement and were given procedural guides and tools to help with the necessary in-district technical assistance to address problems of practice.

In 2013, only 27% of the schools (9 of 34) met benchmark, but in 2014, 51% of the schools (22 of 43) had proportionate minority representation with ODRs.


12.c. Performance Measure Measure Type Quantitative Data
The % of CT SPDG participating schools with a proportionate representation of students of color with ODRs (majors only). Project Target Actual Performance Data
Raw Number Ratio % Raw Number Ratio %
/ 50% 9/34 27%


12.c. Performance Measure Measure Type Quantitative Data
The % of CT SPDG participating schools with a proportionate representation of students of color with ODRs (majors only). Project Target Actual Performance Data
Raw Number Ratio % Raw Number Ratio %
/ 60% 22/43 51%

Performance Measure 12.c: This measure seeks to determine if CT SPDG schools have a proportionate representation of minority students with ODRs (majors only). For the purposes of this measure, minority students are defined by the SWIS racial categories of Black, Hispanic, and Multi-Racial. Proportionate representation is defined to occur when the percentage of ODRs that are received by minority students is equal to or lower than the percentage of all students that are minority, within a 3 percentage point margin of error. In other words, if minority students comprise 25% of the student population, they should represent no more than 28% of the ODRs issued within a given school year. As is shown in the following table, 22 of 43 (51.2%) CT SPDG schools with available data demonstrated a proportionate representation of minority students with ODRs, slightly below the target of 60%. The 2016 APR target is also 60%.

PM 12.c: Schools with a Proportionate Representation of Students of Color with ODRs in 2013-14

Cohort # of schools # of schools with PM 12.c data # of schools with proportionate minority representation
Cohort 1 (3rd year of CT SPDG) 19 12 4(33%)
Cohort 2 (2nd year of CT SPDG) 28 22 14(64%)
Cohort 3 (1st year of CT SPDG) 17 9 4(44%)
Total 64 43 22(51%)

Published: June 26, 2015

Voices From the Field: Reflections on Climate and Culture at Winthrop

Submitted by Rob Travaglini, Senior Director of School and District Support, CT TIME Collaborative

pbis bulletin board As a part of our role in monitoring the progress of schools involved in the Connecticut expanded learning time initiative (the CT TIME Collaborative), we regularly assess the critical variable of climate and culture in our schools. Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School in New London is one of our participating schools.

We would like to commend the work completed this year in creating a vibrant, positive support system in this school. In the past, Winthrop School resembled so many of our schools in their understanding and implementation of a school-wide system of positive behavioral supports. We so often hear, “Oh, we do PBIS”, when upon observation and inspection, the school typically has at best a random, infrequently seen, inconsistently applied ticket system of some sort. These schools continue to rely on nagging and negative consequences as their primary systems, not of support, but of control.

The change at Winthrop school this spring is nothing short of remarkable. Visible throughout the school is the SPARKS framework (Self Control, Participation, Accountability, Respect, Kindness, Safety). In the upper grades, it is clear that the students themselves have created the working behavioral definitions of these attributes. Throughout the school, in every grade and setting, staff were observed systematically and unobtrusively appropriately recognizing students for demonstrating the behaviors of the framework. In many cases, the primary providers of reinforcement were the paraprofessional staff who quietly circulate while the teachers teach. In every setting observed this spring, students were engaged and focused, demonstrating the attributes of successful learners. It will be exciting to watch this good foundational work continue to develop.

[For more information about the CT TIME Collaborative please visit the website for The National Center on Time and Learning at www.timeandlearning.org.]

Published: June 19, 2015

Voices from the Field: At Jumoke schools, effective interventions and the implications for teaching

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

How do schools determine whether instruction is effective? And how is this related to whether the school has articulated a systematic approach to teaching? SPDG Technical Assistance Providers work with schools over time to help answer these questions, using an inquiry-based approach grounded in dialogue and mutual respect.

As a result, participating School Leadership Teams often find they need to clarify the school’s approach to teaching and develop supporting structures and tools to drive how educators talk about children, learning, and practice. This allows instructional teams to plan and facilitate meaningful and productive learning experiences for every child with greater consistency and coherence. From this authentic professional learning experience, schools generate universal teaching practices and instructional planning protocols to steer grade-level and intervention planning meetings.

Justin Pistorius, Principal of Jumoke Smart Middle School, describes universal teaching practices as “common practices we are implementing with fidelity in the classroom… to take students to higher levels of literacy achievement.” The reflective dialogue is an opportunity for educators “to examine the strategies we are working on as a school, and make explicit what was previously not explicit.”

For Dr. Michael Finley, Principal of Jumoke TED Elementary School, creating an instructional review protocol provided direction and a shared understanding of teaching and learning to guide grade-level meetings and the school’s intervention process. The protocol “promotes collaboration, creates purposeful dialogue, and provides the team with focus areas” for improvement, he said. “The agreed-upon questions create a focus on teaching and learning and have changed the mindset and our approach” to professional dialogue and practice.

Pistorius noted the purpose of creating a team meeting discussion protocol: “The protocol will help us facilitate focused discussion of implementation of universal teaching practices and their effectiveness in relation to student responses…. It will help us know how students are understanding and will promote a springboard to understand instructional practices and tasks and how they are implemented – what’s effective and not effective and why.”

According to participating School Leadership Teams, the opportunity to engage in open dialogue to create supporting tools and generate new structures is beneficial to improving student outcomes. “The value is that it will guarantee an in-depth analysis of instructional practices by teachers in the classroom,” Pistorius said. “It will guarantee quality analysis” of student progress “and lead to quality decision making about what is best for groups and individual students. This will support pedagogical habits of review and reflection on practice and how we operate as a staff.”

Finley said the experience was meaningful and changed perspectives in the school on teaching and learning.

“This has been an enjoyable and awesome learning experience for me as a new principal,” he said. “Through working with SERC, we have received support with our collaboration efforts that have helped us move forward in a positive manner with teaching and learning. The SPDG grant is supporting us in developing a solid foundation. We are creating structures and protocols to establish sustainability [of best practice] as a school.”

This fosters the conditions for shared participation, understanding, and investment among School Leadership Team members and staff. Pistorius found the process itself invaluable.

“It made us think about the importance of intentionality behind everything we do: Why we are doing this, and in what way will this impact our scholars?” he said.

“This has made us work better as a team,” he added. The team is developing tools collaboratively using the expertise and experiences of all staff. The process has empowered the school to create relevant resources to support the improvement of teaching and learning “as opposed to people who implement materials given to them,” he said. “There is value in that, and it is empowering.”

Published: June 12, 2015

Voices from the Field: Meeting House Hill School, New Fairfield

Submitted by Amanda Johnston, Technical Assistance Provider

pbis bulletin boardOn a recent visit to Meeting House Hill School, I entered a learning environment surrounded by positive supports for students. Meeting House Hill School has been participating in the State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG), offered through the State Education Resource Center (SERC), since 2012. The goal of this initiative is to build capacity and establish a continuum of academic and behavioral supports.

Meeting House Hill School has been focusing on positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) with support from SERC. The school’s commitment to PBIS is evident from the moment you walk into the school. Assistant Principal James Mandracchia has created a bulletin board that highlights the school’s expectations. The students contributed designs for the posters on the bulletin board, demonstrating their engagement in PBIS.

The MHHS Motto is “Make the Effort, Have Respect and Integrity, Help Others, and Stay Safe.” Students earn eagle tickets individually when displaying appropriate MHHS behaviors, and earn incentives together as a class and school. Currently, the students are working together for an outside concert headlining a teacher band.

My visit to Meeting House Hill School revealed that its hard work, commitment, and student and staff engagement has paid off and created an environment that is welcoming!

Published: June 3, 2015

From the Desk of: 2015-2016 Scope and Sequence

Submitted by Michelle LeBrun-Griffin, Project Coordinator

I am excited to share with you next year’s newly formatted Scope and Sequence (as of 5-13-15). It provides information regarding each Phase of Implementation at a glance (see tabs at bottom of Excel workbook), and includes details such as training dates and windows for data collection for the year. We hope this information is timely as you prepare your calendars for 2015-2016. Remember, reserving bi-weekly meeting time for your School Leadership Team is a key ingredient to successful implementation. If you have any questions regarding grant expectations as outlined here, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at griffin@ctserc.org.

2015-2016 CT SPDG Year At A Glance (MS Excel).

Something to Consider: Good Enough?

Submitted by Michelle LeBrun-Griffin, Project Coordinator

As I finalize the 2015 Annual Performance Report (APR) for CT’s SPDG, I am engaging in both personal and professional reflection regarding, what is “good enough”? For the 2014 APR, we reported 27% (9/34) of participating schools had proportionate representation of students of color with major office discipline referrals (ODRs). For the purposes of this measure, “students of color” is defined by the racial categories of Black, Hispanic, and Multi-Racial. Proportionate representation occurs when the percentage of ODRs that are received is equal to or lower than the percentage of all students of color. For example, if students of color represent 25% of the student population, then they should represent no more than 25% of the ODRs issued within a school year.

For the 2015 APR, we are reporting 51% (22/43) of participating schools with proportionate representation. At first, I was pleased to evidence that we had almost doubled the rate of last year, but my second thought was this isn’t “good enough”. We need to be doing something different to support the other 50% of schools who are experiencing disproportionate behavioral infractions being imposed on, particularly male, students of color.

As I did my research, this “trend” is not unique to CT’s SPDG, but is something districts across the state as a whole, as well as states throughout the nation are struggling with and being held accountable for. The attached article was shared with me by a colleague. It synthesizes what we need to consider as the rationale for the disparity in office referrals by race and suggests evidence-based strategies to “turn the curve”. I am hopeful that those who follow my blog will read it thoroughly and post your reflections/ promises here as to the actions you will take as a result of your new learning.

Article: How Educators Can Eradicate Disparities in School Discipline: A Briefing Paper on School-Based Interventions

From the Desk of: A Framework for Coherence

Submitted by Michelle LeBrun-Griffin, Project Coordinator

It’s been a busy two months with CT’s SPDG! As we all gear up for end of year activities and planning for next, I thought it would be timely to share the attached resource entitled, A Framework for Coherence: College and Career Readiness Standards, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, and Educator Effectiveness. It reiterates the importance of coherence to transform schools, and reminds us of the impact of our grant work in improving teaching and learning. Please take the time to scan and share as SRBI/MTSS continues to maintain its momentum, both locally and nationally, as a means for ensuring all students’ experience success.

Published: May 1, 2015

In the Spotlight: Whisconier Middle School, Brookfield

Submitted by Tom Foote, Technical Assistance Provider

During the fall data review, Whisconier Middle School drilled down into its reading data and noted only 56% of its fifth grade students were at goal in reading as measured by the DRP. The school’s Leadership Team set a yearlong goal to improve that metric.

Using a Root Cause Analysis fishbone, the Leadership Team looked at four potential causal areas: Learners/Curriculum, Teacher/Teaching Process, Content/Subject, and Context/Setting. The Technical Assistance Team from SERC worked collaboratively with the Leadership team to facilitate the process Whisconier Middle School would undertake for the year. This process involved a drill-down approach to each causal area, with a specific focus on students requiring targeted and intensive interventions. Areas measured were Effectiveness of Core Instruction, Effectiveness of Targeted Interventions, and Effectiveness of Intensive Interventions. Strategies were implemented using specific programs (i.e., Read Live, My Sidewalks, ReadWorks, and Quick Reads) with dedicated time to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of support for those scoring below the benchmark.

Ongoing progress monitoring occurred throughout the year. At a year-end data review, the Technical Assistants and Leadership Team reviewed the data and found that 76% of the 5th graders were now at or above goal in reading as measured by the DRP. This gain demonstrated how a laser-like focus on students with specific deficits in reading can yield positive growth and gains for struggling readers at the middle-school level.

This approach is worth replication in other SPDG sites in Connecticut.

Published: April 22, 2015

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?