Belle Plaine Public Schools is an outstanding district offering unique and high quality instructional practices for all learners. The development of literacy skills is foundational to the learning process. Starting in our Early Learning-Grade 2 setting at Chatfield Elementary, you will find some of the best literacy instruction in the state. For the last five years Chatfield teachers have been refining, developing, and modeling a daily five instructional practice. Staff implement this approach by dividing students into groups according to their proximal reading level. This individualizes and personalizes the learning experience for each child.
In 2016-2017 our K-6 staff focused their professional growth and learning on the implementation of the FASTBridge assessment tool that provides them real time data about how students literacy is developing. In conjunction with this, staff have been trained and continue to develop their skill using PRESS instructional strategies to meet the specific and individual needs of students.
Oak Crest Elementary, our 3-6 building, builds on the literacy development by continuing the work of balanced literacy and does a tremendous job finding students zone of proximal development and tailoring the instructions to meet students needs. Last year third grade saw almost 7 percent growth in literacy assessment scores and are 6 percentages points higher than the state average. As they continue to develop the balanced literacy approach, personalizing and individualizing the literacy instruction to meet the needs of all learners we expect continued growth of our students.
Oak Crest Elementary provides Flexible Learning spaces and times for student learning. In particular, we use the expertise of our 3rd, 4th, RTI, and Gifted and Talented Teachers to combine learners to best meet their needs.Together, the teachers flex their time and groupings of students to enrich, enhance, and engage student learning. Math and Literacy instruction are fluid for students in meeting their needs.
The Gifted and Talented Program, located at Oak Crest Elementary, also provides a multi-age, flexible learning time for our high ability students with math and literacy skills within their zone of proximal development, while engaging them in enrichment projects and activities that emphasize critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. Our Gifted and Talented program also provides these students with the social and emotional support they need to be successful in the world today.
Oak Crest has a strong commitment to developing the math and science skills of our students as well. The implementation of a blended instructional model in math last year in 5th grade met the needs of our students beyond what we could anticipate as a public school. Teachers know in real time the student’s level of understanding of concepts and can intervene right at the point a student begins to struggle. We saw an 18 percent gain on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment last year in 5th grade math as a result of all of the hard work by our staff.
Oak Crest also excels at the third grade level in math with 82.8 percent of our students meeting proficiency on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment. This is 23 points above the state average in mathematics.
In science at the 5th grade level Oak Crest uses a blended approach that includes classroom instruction and an application known as Study Island. Study Island is a highly engaging computer application that individualizes and personalizes the learning experiences for students. An additional reason we are so strong in Science is our student get one hour of science instruction at the 5th grade level everyday. This is not common in most schools.
Our secondary schools have been working diligently over the last couple of years to ensure that we are providing accurate feedback to our students and that feedback is used to encourage learning. When you look at the grading for learning work staff have been doing it's not as simple as taking a letter grade and marking it on a report card. The work is comprised of five important areas including: Five key areas, key learnings, instruction & curriculum, assessment both formative and summative, interventions, grading and reporting.
When we talk about key learning really we are starting from the macro level of our state standards then breaking it down into Essential Learning Outcomes (Power Standards) and Learning Targets making sure that we have an incremental steps. This includes both the big major steps with Essential Learning Outcomes (ELOs) and the smaller incremental steps of Learning Targets.
To help achieve our key learnings we have to provide quality instruction and curriculum and that includes best practices that support student learning and a curriculum that's viable and up to date while covering a range of topics standards and learning targets.
When we have covered all the information from our key learnings we have a way of determining the effectiveness of that instruction using both formative and summative assessments to do so. Our formative work drives our instruction on a daily basis. It serves two key points; First, it provides teachers with necessary feedback about how well students understood their instruction and activities; second, it provides individual students with feedback about what they know and are able to do as it relates to the learning targets the teacher is covering.
If only forty percent of the students performed well on the formative assessment this would indicate to the teacher that they may need to do some re-teaching because students did not understand what they had covered. If eighty percent of students learned the material than a teacher can assume the instruction and activities met the objective. Even in this analysis, there are students who need feedback to learn what it was they did not know.
Feedback has greater value than any other aspect of grading as it evokes a culture of trust and builds skill while also improving results. If the feedback is fair, accurate, specific, and timely feedback will help students predict their own grades and, in turn, their academic success and need for greater commitment to success.
This process moves the focus from sorting and ranking students to one that encourages risk taking and promotes learning. It helps students who are traditionally not good test takers because it allows them to take the assessment, receive feedback, learn what they did not know, reassess, and get credit for what they have learned. In the old model, grades were a final mark of success or failure. In this formative assessment process, they are indicators of the the student’s progress and growth as they learn and understand even more!