A partnership with the St. Cloud Area School District 742
In December of 2017, through a Kellogg grant, the St. Cloud Area School District 742 and Class Measures began a close working relationship to address the low student achievement and rapid demographic change of two focus schools: Discovery and Talahi Elementary Schools. Within two years, both schools had transformed their classroom practices through Class Measures-guided ELOs (Effective Learning Observations) and the implementation of an effective/whole-school co-teaching model.
Building on the foundations of culturally and linguistically responsive teaching
Prior to 2017, District 742 had been engaged in a culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and family engagement initiative for three years.To build on these strategies,the St. Cloud Area School District selected Jo Cheadle (Vice President at Class Measures) as its District’s improvement partnerto continue support for student achievement through co-teaching. In two short years, this partnership resulted in the creation of Demonstration Hubs thatarebringing about transformational change focused on student learningand professional collaboration.
Fostering a culture of collaboration through Demonstration Hubs
Educational leaders at both Discovery and Talahi Elementary Schools (St. Cloud Area School District) intentionally chose the name “Demonstration Hubs” as shared language to describe the pilot co-teaching classrooms. This decision was based on the notion that these classrooms will exemplify and disseminate growing expertise in co-teaching strategies. Shifting away from primarily observing and learning from model—and often subjectively rated—teachers based on seniority and experience, Jo guided the St. Cloud District 742 in identifying teachers who embody characteristics like self-reflectiveness, openness to ongoing feedback, and willingness to collaborate. At first, like all change and work around shifting adult mindset, school leaders experienced natural push-back from educators. For example, some teachers questioned why a first year teacher would be chosen to be part of a Demonstration Hub. Again, guided by the belief that just because you have been teaching for less than 5 years, for example, should not disqualify an educator from sharing best practices. Class Measures anticipated this resistance and supported leaders to clearly message how we welcome any willing teacher as this directly supports the priority of strengthening a collaborative culture that celebrates continuous learning and aligns to the purpose of ELOs. For example, regardless of your years of experience, everyone is constantly adapting, developing, and capable of modelling best practices. Additionally, ELO focuses on evidence of student learning and not teacher moves. At Discovery Elementary School, Demonstration Hub co-teaching classrooms are in second and fifth grades; and at Talahi Elementary School, in kindergarten and first grades. Each Demonstration Hub includes a general education classroom teacher paired with an EL Specialist teacher
Co-teaching has become an educational buzz word. Many districts and schools are opting into co-teaching models as a way to better serve a growing diverse student population. Effective co-teaching, however, is easier said than done; and at Class Measures, we know fully executing effective co-teaching in a school takes strategic, ongoing support and time to effectively implement in order to yield the desired results of all educational stakeholders. To guide the implementation of co-teaching, Jo, along with a team of carefully selected specialized consultants supported both Discovery and Talahi Elementary Schools in their utilization of Demonstration Hub classrooms. This ensured they were used to exemplify strategies that create positive, results-driven, content-rich environments that improve achievement for all students. For example, school leaders were supported with designing schedules that efficiently and effectively leveraged capacity and resources to maximize learning time and coverage. Further, Demonstration Hub teachers were provided with on-going ELO implementation and feedback support that directly addressed evidence of student learning.
Additionally, Demonstration Hub teachers were provided regular, dedicated time for collaboration and co-planning. Class Measures’ consultant, Amy Proulx, worked with Demonstration Hub Co-Teaching teams to develop professional habits around maximizing co-planning time, aligning student tasks to Common Core State Standards and analyzing student work to differentiate lesson plans and provide in-the-moment feedback to students. One Demonstration Hub Co-Teaching Pair expressed appreciation for this focused work and attributed it to growing successes like being intentional with the process of learning. The partnership objective with these Demonstration Hubs was to support the transformation of classroom practice leading to rapid change in quality of student learning.
Based on a rubric of 1-4 (1=ineffective; 2=partially ineffective; 3=partially effective; 4=effective), all Demonstration Hub Co-Teaching Pairs were surveyed on their experiences as a Co-Teacher and Demonstration Hub Teacher for the 2018-19 school year. All Demonstration Hub Co-Teachers expressed their experience as a Co-Teacher as a 4.0 (Effective); and the average experience as a Demonstration Hub Teacher was a 2.9 (Partially Effective). Teachers who rated their experience less than a 4.0 (Effective) shared that they desire additional structured time for planning and more observations, and/or that this year implementing co-teaching demonstration hubs was a new learning experience.
Implementation and on-going support to ensure impactful strategies become embedded
With Jo Cheadle’s leadership, in just two years, the Class Measures’ team supported Discovery and Talahi Elementary Schools in focused work that engaged educators in:
- A two-day training on Effective Learning Observations (ELOs) that began a mindset shift from observing teacher moves and strategies to collecting and discussing evidence of student learning to improve classroom practices and advance student performance;
- On-going support with implementation of ELOs and leadership walkthroughs;
- Instructional cycles; and
- Building school-wide systems, processes, and protocols (e.g.,
One Demonstration Hub Co-Teacher articulated, “ELO changed at how I look at planning and the language we use [with students].”
Further, Julie Barkley, St. Cloud School District’s now K-8 Co-teaching Coordinator (previously Academic Coach at Discovery Elementary, St. Cloud, MN) is passionate about driving the co-teaching model forward. Together, Julie and Class Measures wrote a Co-Teaching ELO Handbook for the St. Cloud Area School District 742 to reference, as well as creating an ELO Overview online training for future on-boarding purposes.