Puzzle of Practice

PS 60 Alice Austen School‘s “needed action” came by taking a deep look at several converging factors. One key factor was noticing that the scores for the school were down and continuing to go down. The programs in both Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) were new and changing. These factors further exposed the inconsistency of teachers not teaching the standards with uniformity and that they did not have the confidence and background to understand the full complexity of the high priority standards and what was really needed instructionally for students to solidly learn these concepts and skills.

Collective Goal

The school began its work by building teachers’ understanding and capacity of the standards in both Math and ELA. The school chose this approach because they landed on the logic that if the teachers get better and better at understanding the standards and expectations this will then transfer to students who can rise up to meet the targets. The goal in ELA was to deeply understand the reading and writing expectations in the standards by grade level that would then provide a solid fundamental foundation for all students. In Math the standards were examined through the lens of conceptual understanding in the key priority standards. The focus in Math was to shift the learning to move beyond procedural understanding to a deeper conceptual understanding.

Collective Action

The school chose a very strategic path and took the long view of building success for both teachers and students. That is, they chose to support the teachers and build a common and deep understanding and that would translate and transfer to students. The school chose to focus their work in the initial phases in digging deep into the standards, looking at and building model lessons, examining and identifying cohesive units of study, and most importantly, they worked hard to develop a common understanding of student expectations in the standards. This early work quickly exposed that the school had a wide variation class to class in the expectation of student performance. As expectations became more consistent, the school moved their work to focus on collaborative consistency so that the work expected from class to class was stable and that student ownership of learning could become the true center of the school’s effort.

The school and The Core Collaborative co-constructed seven steps to success:

1. Unpacking for Success
The school started their work by doing a deep study into the standards for both Math and ELA using the Unpacking for Success protocol.

2. Find Model Student Work
The school then looked at model units and model student work that showed the clear target that students should be able to produce in each unit or key standard.

3. Learning Formative Assessment
The teacher teams then learned about and began to practice the formative assessment process in their classes.

4. Use of Formative Assessment
The use of formative assessment and using student work allowed the teams to have deep discussions about what they see students doing and the reasons why they are doing the work that is observed. The teams used the Evidence, Analysis, Action (EAA) Team Protocol – Analysis of Student Work to thoroughly examine student work and the underlying reasons (root cause) of their success or challenge and to then identify targeted actions tailored to specific student groups.

5. Examine Standards and Expectations
These discussions allowed teachers to further examine the standards and expectations to en-sure that they are clear about the target and then seeing students reaching the targets they want them to hit.

6. Develop Student Voice
The teams were then able to put concerted effort into supporting students in being able to talk about their own learning. This emphasis on student voice and the value that students place on being able to describe their learning has been the most rewarding outcome for the years of work invested into this journey.

7. Student Centered Learning
The current state at the school is one where students are at the center of the learning. Students not only practice speaking about the learning but also are able to identify where they are in their own learning. Students routinely perform these actions to become more and more accurate about their learning progress and their ability to describe what they can work on next to improve.

Collective Impact

The data shows that P.S. 60 saw steady growth from 2018 to 2019 in key areas measured by state tests:

  • ELA – a 7% increase in the number of students scoring a 3 or 4
  • Mathematics – a 7% increase in the number of students scoring a 3 or 4
  • Shown against a comparison group of similar New York City schools, P.S. 60 performed higher in ELA.

The growth mindset we have embraced allows teachers and students to be more open and receptive to learning.
– Second Grade Teacher

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