Rose Valley Elementary School
The COVID - 19 pandemic came as a surprise to all of us. In the spring of 2020 school staff reimagined teaching and learning in response to the pandemic and subsequent need to support students and families remotely. The experience of remote teaching and learning resulted in increased home/school communication, intensified collaborative efforts, and accelerated professional learning. Negotiating remote learning, together, brought us closer together as a community. We have appreciated the support from our families and we are grateful for what we have learned during this time. It was the perfect opportunity for us to practice and model being confident learners!
With the intention of supporting students and families in a manner that best met individual needs and circumstances, the school invited feedback through survey. The results were positive and informative, and reinforced that school staff had been responsive to the needs of our students and families. The community response was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. Remote Learning also provided the opportunity for unique and fun school spirit days and learning activities, which brought our school together, provided a sense of belonging and purpose. Please see 'Our Learning Plan' for specific examples.
We are thrilled to be back with the majority of our student learners on campus. Our focus on safety and COVID protocols has been thorough and led to a sense of calm confidence. Our student, staff and parent community can once again now get back to developing the next steps in our learning journeys as individuals and as a whole community.
We continue our journey to gather information to inform our future direction. Our learning community, including students, parents and staff, ask these essential guiding questions:
Name two adults who believe you will be a success in life. What are you learning? Why is it important? What are the next steps in your learning? What is going on for your learners? How do we know? Why does it matter?
The Rose Valley Elementary School learning community collaboratively engage in a continuous process of inquiry and learning to narrow focus and determine how to best meet student learning needs. Our approach to determining where to place support is responsive to student needs. Our model requires inquiry into what is happening for learners now and, in turn, informs our direction.
Scanning - What is going on for our learners?
The Rose Valley School Community has experienced significant change in recent years. What was once a large school (600 plus students), became a medium sized school (300 students), and now continues to grow again. Rose Valley is currently a Kindergarten to Grade 5 school with approximately 320 students. Regularly engaging in the Spiral of Inquiry process for school improvement continues to positively influence growth in our learning community.
Our latest full community scan began in the Fall of 2020. Our results from questionnaires and conversations with students, parents and staff indicates much strength in the area of Social Emotional Learning. The sense of calm, focus and respectful collaboration in classrooms and hallways has clearly resulted from the past three years' emphasis on respect, responsibility, kindness and community. At our opening staff meeting in September, and at our first PAC meeting, we took a poll on what strengths were evident in our students at Rose Valley. Prominent in the results were: community, empathy, kindness, friendship, inclusion, respect and compassion. Knowing that all learning happens most effectively in the context of strong relationships, we have a firm foundation to grow upon.
In the end of October, we conducted a full school scan of all our students which confirmed what our staff and parents had recognized. Nearly every child was able to name two or more students who believe that they will be a success in life. Students indicated that they are generally very happy at school, are doing well with their learning and had many personal interests they would like to pursue.
Focussing - What will have the biggest impact?
Developing a Hunch
At our October Implementation Day, we used the Four Food Chiefs' story to frame our discussion of collaborative vision and next steps in our learning as a school community. It was a great opportunity to have the space and time to discuss as a team what learning we needed to prioritize, and what will have the biggest impact. The following week, the principal met one on one with every teacher on staff to further discuss their understanding of the best place to focus our efforts.
In these conversations, we discussed what is going on for our learners, and how we can best serve the needs emerging from the students in our classrooms. Several themes, or "hunches" came out of the data collected from these conversations:
- Student agency and ownership of their learning was a crucial area to focus on this coming year.
- Our students need to progress in their ability to speak to their learning, and the next steps in their learning.
- Our FreshGrade platform is a good way for students to document their growth over time
- We need to have a consistent, aligned approach to electronic documentation of learning through GROWTH and PROGRESSION portfolios.
- We need to give our students language to be able to self-assess, and speak to their growth over time.
- Our students have fallen back in their literacy and numeracy skills. We hunch that this is due to the COVID pandemic, and the inability to have in class instruction. There are greater gaps between students than normal.
- In response, we will need to focus on differentiating the curriculum and advance our work using structures like Daily 5. Lagging skills need to be targeted. Leveraging expert knowledge in this area through establishing collaborative connections between teachers in the school will be critical here.
- Our team is passionate about going deeper with our work in outdoor learning using inquiry methodologies as a lens.
- Our students need to learn more about our Indigenous roots in Canada. Our staff has a clear desire to Indigenize the curriculum and better understand the stories of our local Okanagan Syilx people also emerged as central to our direction for the year.
- Teachers are recognizing the incredible motivational power of inquiry based learning in motivating students and providing focus and deep engagement. Inquiry based storytelling, play based mathematics, writing structures and methodologies using loose parts are all emerging as areas that are inspiring our children.
Clearly these goals are large, and cannot all be completed in one year. So we asked ourselves, which goals are most pressing to accomplish in this year, recognizing the additional challenges surrounding COVID protocols, etc.? Which goals can we place on the horizon?
Our conversations about student agency in their learning showed us that we need to go deeper in our understanding of formative assessment and the connection to electronic portfolios. How can we better address our students' learning needs through formative assessment? It can look different in many educational environments, and we knew we needed to take next steps in aligning this work throughout the school.
For students to truly engage into their learning, the research shows that students must be at the center of choosing the specific evidence of their learning that demonstrates that they are growing. We know they are engaged in growth when they can speak to their learning over time. As a team we looked at many types of portfolios, and decided that we would use progression and growth portfolios. Here students show their progress over time, what they can do now, and speak to their future next steps and goals in their learning. They also learn to assess their own work based on criteria and comparing it to a continuum or progression of samples.
Our inability as both staff and students to speak confidently to our knowledge of local and national Indigenous culture led to our decision to make this a major focus this year. Our discussion of the Truth and Reconciliation document as well as our Equity in Action agreement furthered our sense of urgency in moving this curriculum forward. Numerous comments in our exit tickets at Implementation Day were telling about our need to focus on Indigenous Education. For example, one educator commented, "We are finally beginning to get our feet underneath us on the reconciliation curriculum. THE RESOURCE! Finally the resource!" We have discussed Truth and Reconciliation for many years, and had some "piecemeal" success. However, with the resources and experiences we participated in, we see the pathway forward much more clearly now, and can see that our work will be more effective than ever this year. Our learning about peacekeeping circles, storytelling and Indigenous culture has been inspiring!
So we decided to focus our collaborative efforts this year on two areas:
- Aligning our work in Growth and Progression Portfolios to promote student driven learning and agency
- Indigenizing the Curriculum
We also decided to set the following goals as "Horizon Goals," to dabble in this coming year, but to focus on deeply as a collaborative community in coming years:
- Inquiry Based Learning
- Play based learning through outdoor education, mathematics and writing structures
- Personalizing the curriculum to the individual needs and passions of our students.
- Differentiating the curriculum and targeting needs in literacy and numeracy
Learning - How and where can we learn more about what to do?
Taking Action - What will we do differently?
Through our partnership with the Indigenous Education Department, we have developed a work plan to guide our professional development. This work, as well as our work in assessment, will be anchored with professional development segments at each of our staff meetings led by a variety of educators: in house teachers/admin, educators from other schools and district level experts such as the ILT.
Aligning our work in Growth and Progression Portfolios
From the work of John Hattie (Visible Learning), we recognize that students taking the steering wheel in assessing their own learning is critical and at the top of the list of influences that propel learning forward. So to move our work forward, we agreed to align our FreshGrade portfolios around growth and progression. We will take our cues from the brilliant work of Anne Davies and Sandra Herbst. The principal, along with his mentor, will attend the 5 part webinar "Collecting Evidence and Portfolios: Engaging Students in Pedagogical
Documentation." Knowledge used from this series will be shared at each staff meeting this year, and staff will have time to discuss in grade groupings how to most effectively align our work to meet our students' needs.
Together, we will study the book, "Collecting Evidence and Portfolios", to learn more about how we can engage our students in pedagogical documentation. In addition, staff members will present their successes from their classrooms.
To accomplish our goals for Indigenizing the Curriculum,
- Indigenizing the Curriculum
Story is foundational to communicating values and culture in Indigenous Culture. To engage the hearts and minds of all our children, we need to learn the Okanagan stories. To do so, we will use the book "STORIES OF OUR squilxw WAYS" and share with each other ways we have used it in our classrooms.
At our October Implementation Day, we were all inspired by our activities and a wealth of resources focusing on Indigenous Education, and spent time developing our school learning plan in this area. Our Indigenous Advocate Stephanie Mason played a central role in putting the day together which we named: "RVE 2020-2021: "Who" is YOUR name? "Who" is OUR name? Sharing and Celebrating our Indigenous Syilx Okanagan Story." Our goal for the day was to find both our individual (YOUR name ) and collective (OUR name) purpose and direction in this coming years' learning journey. Each collaborative grade grouping of educators developed a unified overview for this years' journey in Indigenizing the curriculum.
Collaborative partnerships have propel the work in Indigenizing the Curriculum forward. At our Implementation Day, our library team laid out a wealth of books, videos, posters and other resources to use in class. Numerous web links from our Indigenous Education Department chalk full of stories, games and ways to integrate Indigenous Ways of Knowing into the curriculum are guiding our planning for the year. Already story telling circles, peace keeping circles, gratitude circles and Indigenous knowledge building circles are happening throughout our school.
Each classroom was gifted the book "Stories of Our "sqilxw" Ways". Stories are key to passing on Indigenous values and Ways of Knowing, and their use in classes will lead us towards truth and reconciliation, and celebration of Indigenous brilliance.
Collaborative work has seen much progress in many grade level groupings. For instance at our latest staff meeting, our grade 1/2 teacher shared the work her team developed on "Connecting the Four Food Chiefs Story with the Core Competencies." This resource will be used in classrooms throughout the school. This assessment tool is being used by our teachers to guide students in evaluating their progress towards the core competencies using the frame of the Four Food Chiefs story. Two of our Grade 4/5 teachers presented on "Two Eyed Seeing" and Indigenous ways of viewing the world, and the contrast with a Western Scientific model. Many more sessions are in the works.
Checking: Have We Made Enough of a Difference? How Do We Know?
We need to know the impact of the actions of teachers is having through assessment and evaluation. We need to be sure our work is making substantial differences for ALL learners. We need evidence of student learning to inform teachers, students and parents about the teaching and learning at your school.
Growth in many areas of our learning is being assessed and documented by both student and adult learners in electronic portfolios. We learned about using “buckets” for our electronic portfolios through the work of a district tech leader to hold our growth portfolio evidence. We also had an expert local teacher’s work in growth portfolios focus our language in the portfolios to help students understand their role in the “driver’s seat” of their learning. Our goal this year in assessment will be evaluated through listening to the language of our students, and how they can speak to their learning over time with more and more competence.
We will see evidence of student and adult learning through each person's ability to speak to values and stories from our local Indigenous community. Growth will be measured through conversations, observations and evidence created in class (products) which demonstrate respect for and knowledge of our Okanagan people and culture.
For our assessment goal, learning in both our student and adult learners will be demonstrated in their ability to reflect, set goals and talk about their own learning. We will continue to collect baseline evidence from all the students in the school by asking them the following questions:
1. Name two adults who believe you will be a success in life?
2. What are you learning?
3. Why is it important?
4. What are the next steps in your learning?
Adult learners were invited into learning conversations, or empathy interviews with the principal, or lead learner. We discussed the following questions:
1. What is going on for your learners?
2. How do we know?
3. Why does it matter?
Finally, the Lead Learner will have similar conversations to assess his own learning with the Assistant Superintendent. This whole process will repeat in Spring to evaluate our progress over the year. This data will inform our future goal development..