The first thing I usually say is, "How much time do you have?" because I know that in order to reveal the "magic" of our school's approach, it simply can't be done in a sentence or two (or two thousand!).
Our school is indeed pretty unique. We are proud of our ever-increasing achievement as measured by state test scores. We are proud of our PBIS efforts and the work we have done to create a positive and safe environment for learning. We are proud of our history. We are proud of our professional staff and our para support. We are proud of our professional learning efforts. We are proud of how we integrate 21st century skills and technology. We are proud of our physical plant and the structures and systems that make learning comfortable. We are proud of our partnership with other schools in Spotsylvania and throughout the state in sharing best practices and learning from each other. We are proud of our professional learning communities, TRUE learning communities where our teachers work together to analyze and respond to student data to create respectful learning assessments, tasks and activities. We are proud of the partnerships we have built with parents and community organizations to support students. We are proud of our STUDENTS!! So, yeah, how much time do you have?
As I try to frame a response to the question (and notice the look of panic on the questioner's face when I take a deep breath and get what my own children call "crazy eyes" over my excitement to tell people all about our school) I realize that our "Secret" in actually very simple. We are focused on instruction. It's our product. Some organizations build widgets.. .some service your car... ours makes smarter kids. Find me at dismissal and you will likely hear me asking kids, "What did you learn new that you didn't know when you got here?" And a response of, "Nuthin," will get you a ticket back to class! "Yes, I know it's 3:30... you and your teacher need more time together... you had one job!" Immediately, I get a list of new things the student has learned as he/she makes a dash to the bus!
So, how do we do it? What is the secret? Let's see if these pictures can help explain it all..
Computer-based assessments, common and formative in nature. Teacher-developed based on standards and best practices. Used to INFORM instruction... makes smarter kids!
Small groups--GUIDED learning. The outcome of the data collected and analyzed during PLCs. Each student is on an individual plan, targeted instruction... makes smarter kids!
21st Century Learning, promoting 21st Century skills! Whether practicing learned skills in a station, participating in blended learning assignments in Google Classroom, or using technology to research and solve a real-world problem, we are making smarter kids!
Deep analysis of standards (our division uses the phrase unpacking the standards) during PLCs leads to rich and engaging student learning activities... this is a KG class working on ONE DAY worth of the standard to recognize and know the value of a penny... but they are also working on the standards associated with counting, problem-solving, and even doing some addition and subtraction... why? We are making smarter kids!
These two shots show what this looks like in our PE class... all of our ENCORE classes support academic skills while focusing on their own standards. Here, students work in brain-based movement stations while they say letters, make the letter sounds or even say words that start or end with that sound... KINDERGARTEN!! Increased retention of skills is the outcome! High standards everywhere in our building. Why... making smarter kids!
Yours in Learning,
D. Lann, principal
PS: Notice I used the phrase smarter kids to describe our product... what we do every day is make smarter kids. The implication of this is that