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Sustaining Systemic Change: A Middle School Perspective. Nevada Conference April 2007. Dan Johnson Thompson School District. Introducing Conrad Ball Middle School Loveland, Colorado. School Demographics. 804 students enrolled 262 8th Grade

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Sustaining Systemic Change:A Middle School Perspective

Nevada Conference

April 2007

Dan Johnson

Thompson School District

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School Demographics

  • 804 students enrolled

    • 262 8th Grade

  • 268 7th Grade 274 6th Grade

  • 15,000 in school district

  • 43% free and reduced Lunch

  • Rural and urban population

  • 17% English Language Learners

  • 74% White - 24% Hispanic - 2% Other

  • $5,900 per pupil spending

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What was happening 5 years ago…

  • Competitive culture – teams/teachers

  • Divisiveness between Core and “non”Core

  • Negative front office staff

  • Lack of school vision/mission

  • Known as the “north precinct”

  • Substitute avoidance

  • Unprepared to deal with increasing at-risk student demographic

  • Blame game

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Closing the Achievement Gap

8th Grade Math CSAP

We have had 3 consecutive years of closing the gap.

7th Grade Math

We have had 3 consecutive years of closing the gap.

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Closing the Achievement Gap

8th Grade Writing

We have made progress towards closing the gap in three years.

7th Grade Writing

We have had 3 consecutive years of closing the gap.

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Closing the Achievement Gap

8th Grade Reading

We have had 3 consecutive years of raising % of Hispanics proficient.

Colorado Designation as a “High Performing School”

This designation occurred after three years designated as an “Average Performing School.”

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Reflective Culture





Literacy & math with content focused skills and concepts



Temperament, Paul & Elder, Schools Attuned, RTI

Instructional Delivery

Decision Making Umbrella


























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For promoting transformational change

  • Purpose Making connections with people

Why is this important for students to know and

be able to do?

  • Parameters Managing your environment

What do we already have in place to accomplish our


  • Principles Aligning purpose and parameters

To what extent is it working, and what do we need to

change so that it works for each and every student?

  • Priorities Getting a good return on investment

Which change programs/strategies will give us the

greatest leverage given where we are at this time?

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Ask Quality Questions

  • Using a variety of Asset Maps to identify school strengths and weaknesses and create a critical conversation that would propel us forward.

  • Believing that the answer is in the room, and that the power to create great things lies within us.

  • Knowing that intensive and focused attention on student learning is critical to our success.

(Four Ps and PEBC)

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  • Why is this important for these students to know

  • and be able to do?

  • What do we have in place that is working for them?

  • How can we adapt instructional strategies to

  • increase the chances of their success?

  • Which change programs/strategies will give us

  • the greatest leverage toward their success?

The Four Ps


Response To Intervention

Significant needs


Struggling now


Successful now


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Paint the Target

By Involving The Student In Assessment

Students are the key assessment users. When they know their learning targets and where their current learning is in relation to the target, their likelihood of success increases dramatically. Teachers use models, examples, rubrics, and self-reflection to help students achieve their learning goals.

(Schools Attuned, Paul & Elder, PEBC)

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Connect Purpose and Practice

  • Purpose: Student Learning is Job #1

  • The teacher is not finished until the student learns the concept.

  • Parameters:Whatever it takes

  • Create a culture of trust and experimentation.

    • Principles: Make connections through thinking strategies

    • Narrow the focus by making connections.

    • Priorities: Concrete, written expectations

    • Paint the target.

(Schools Attuned, Paul & Elder, PEBC)

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What will students do to learn, and what will we do

if they’ve already learned it (or didn’t yet get it)?

Every student is unique. We work to understand each child’s knowledge, skills, and learning profile in order to meet their individual needs.

(Schools Attuned, PEBC, CELL, DMI)

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Presentation of Learning (POL)

All students maintain goal setting & learning portfolios. They present their struggles, successes, and future plans to their families and peers at the culmination of 8th grade.6th and 7th grade students give a classroom presentation of learning each year.Students are asked to reflect on their growth and learning continually throughout the year.Students have daily opportunities to write reflections, confer with teachers, conduct self-assessments, and participate in student-led conferences.

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Developmental Responsiveness

  • Small Learning CommunitiesApproximately 90 students are placed on an interdisciplinary team made up of a language arts, math, and a science/social studies teacher. 90 minutes classes are the norm.The goal of the team is to develop an understanding of each child as an individual providing a supportive environment that is consistent and integrative in its instructional delivery and organizational management.

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Engaging Learning Environments

Brain compatible instruction is our goal. Adolescents must be actively engaged in their learning. Opportunities for discovery learning through constructivist approaches exist throughout the school building. Meta-cognitive strategies are taught throughout the curriculum so that students can think and reflect on their own learning.

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Engaging Learning Environments

  • Behavior Support TeamWeekly Administrative Team Meetings to identify strategies to assist academically and/or behaviorally at risk students.

  • FLIGHT (Future Leaders Involved and Gaining Honor through Teamwork)45 minute social intervention class instead that replaces Health class (mental health) – Aggression Replacement Therapy, support group, family class, community service.

  • READ 18060 Students receive intensive readinginstruction via this Scholastic program. 15 ELL, 15 Resource, 15 Resource II, and 15 Reg. Ed. non-proficient readers.

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Social Equity

Family Outreach

Monthly ELL Family Night MeetingsUsing pubic transportation, accessing county health and other community resources. “Engaging the Mexican Immigrant Family” classes for staff and families.

Monthly FLIGHT Family Night MeetingsFamily Support Group, student leadershipopportunities, and individual reflection.

Parenting Classes run each semester.

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Organizational Support Structure

Thinking Strategies IntegrationBased on proficient reader research - making connections, visualizing, inferring, synthesizing, determining importance, and questioning are problem solving strategies used throughout the building. (PEBC/Pre-AP)

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Organizational Support Structure

  • Daily Interdisciplinary Team Meetings focusing on student learning needs.

  • Weekly Content Area Meetings

  • focusing on student achievement data.

  • Monthly Vertical Content Area Meetings focusing on department student learning goals.

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Site-driven Professional Development

Internal Lab Classroom Project

In-House staff development program

Monthly peer observations and debriefing

Research-based instructional focus

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Making Quality A Habit

AwarenessYear 1

AdaptationYear 2

PermeationYear 3

Developing the ability to visualize what it would look like and feel like when the goals are fully realized.

Becoming well informed about the key concepts, procedures and frameworks related to each building goal.

Beginning to try out or practice some of the new ideas and concepts.

Incorporating learned strategies and ideas into your instructional practice on a regular basis.

Discussing with colleagues the successes and failures of our attempts to analyze our progress

Continuing to process and modify our practice interdependently.

Reaching a level so that every part of our school is affected by the implementation.

Realizing a foundational change in the climate and the culture of our school.

Achieving the vision

Maintaining the vision

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Next Steps

  • All schools will set growth goals for closing the achievement gap

    • Individual

    • Level or team

    • Whole school

  • Principals coordinate goals by level

  • Principals set and coordinate goals throughout feeder system

  • Professional development transforms from training to

  • capacity building