Puzzle of Practice

Poudre School District (PSD) was searching for a teacher and student empowerment system for all schools, especially in the six Title 1 schools. This was in response to aggressive reform ideas and programs set out as expectations from the Colorado Department of Education. PSD was looking to create a focused system to be more intentional and effective at implementing and responding to these expectations. Although the goal was to create this focused system for all schools, explicit attention to creating consistency across the Title 1 schools was of primary importance. PSD also wanted to ensure that implementation of the system ensured efficient cross-school learning and collaboration. Opportunities were needed for principals and teacher teams from these schools to learn together to ensure success.

PSD believes ALL students thrive in a safe learning environment that creates the conditions to ensure that each student understands the relevance of the learning goal and where they are in the process of the learning. They also understood that success would be seen only when classrooms, and indeed individual students, were observed engaging in processes of self and peer assessment. PSD understood that in order to move ALL students to a place where they were owning and driving their learning, it would take the commitment of teacher teams to learn together, to share expertise, and innovation around the high impact strategies, techniques, and protocols that build student ownership. The District also knew from their preparation and careful study that they would know that these protocols were being internalized when they could see students do the work. In other words, the District knew that success wouldn’t be measured by simply reporting that leaders and teachers had participated in professional learning. Rather success was measured by hearing and seeing students (and teachers?) talk about their learning.

It is important to note that PSD had a district commitment to site-based learning even before their Impact Team journey began. This commitment and culture allowed the District to invite the teacher teams to engage in the Impact Team training because they could see the value of engaging in a site-driven process that supports deep teaching and student efficacy and empowerment.

Collective Goal

PSD’s learning goal was to create professional learning and systematic collaboration to empower teacher teams to be confident and prepared to increase student ownership of learning. While also striving for consistency across the Title 1 schools, PSD began its work by noticing that grade level teams would benefit from collective attention to ensure that all students had access to consistent expectations. The teams needed recognizable processes and actions to ensure consistency and clarity of standards-based expectations within and across schools. PSD was intentional in communicating that this work would be cyclical and require consistent revisiting to build depth of practice and layers of support. All actions were pointed towards gradual release and teacher ownership of school teams. This goal was operationalized by beginning the Impact Teams training processes in 2015-2016 with the first cohort of
Title 1 principals and teacher teams.

Collective Action

Together, The Core Collaborative and PSD outlined seven steps to success.

1. Engage in Collective Learning
PSD had been engaged in collective learning with all administrators around Visible Learning Research, Teaming, and Collective Efficacy. This content set the stage for deeper learning on instructional leadership including processes and protocols to help principals and assistant principals create the conditions for high impact instructional strategies.

2. Impact Team Training
The six Title 1 schools were then invited to select one teacher team per school to take on the deeper dive of Impact Team training. As these teams began their deeper training, each school was invited to consider inviting other teachers and teams to fishbowl to both gain exposure but also ideas in the training and how it might affect their practice.

3. Engagement in Training
PSD ensured that all administrators of the Title 1 schools were fully engaged in this training. Their involvement was critical to ensuring conditions existed for teacher teams to
be successful.

4. Maintain Presence with Professional Learning Team
As these initial trainings were taking place, the District was very intentional in maintaining a strong presence with the Professional Learning Team (PL Team), a District level cadre of trainers and administrators, to be a part of the learning at each step. The purpose was to build consistency and capacity in the PL Team so they would be able to provide support and even future training to the next wave of schools.

5. Professional Learning Team Train Future Teams
This analysis resulted in deeper work in understanding the standards and targets – which manifest in re-drafted Learning Intentions and Success Criteria.

6. Launch Impact Team Training
The school then focused on developing the voice of students to be able to name and identify the strategies they use and can use to aid in their learning.

7. End of Cycle
The steps above have been the blueprint and cycle used to bring any new team into the Impact Team training and provide them continued support “up” into the high school grades and “down” into the elementary grades.

Collective Impact

Poudre School District saw an increase in the percentage of students who exceeded or met performance expectations English Language Arts, and steady increase in Median Growth Percentiles Over Time in ELA in the six Title I schools.

“As the culture of my classroom grew, so did the collective culture of my school. We have always valued teamwork and collaboration, but through this process, we were given the gift of time to build clarity through discussion centered in specific standard language to guide our plan for future action. Impact Teams take on all students as their own and lead students to take ownership of their learning.”

– Emily White, Instructional Coach, Bauder Elementary

“Our experiences with the Impact Teams model helped transform our school’s thinking on instructional improvement, learning, and teaming. With teams leading instructional development at their grade levels, teachers at our school were empowered to make decisions that impacted student achievement.”

– Steve Apodaca, Principal, Putnam Elementary

Download the whitepaper to view the data sets.