Deborah Henderson

Frank Wagner Elementary School
Monroe, Washington

Best Practices

1) One best practice that I use to foster teacher and student growth is to utilize data to create a picture of where we are, where we want to be and to empower staff to be innovative while coaching in on a path towards our next goal. Using data in this way has created a sense of urgency amongst staff to improve their practice in order to improve student learning. We used literacy data to create school wide school improvement goals. We have used data to drive structures in the building.  For instance, our data showed a great need in phonics and emergent literacy skills in the fall. Based on this data, we implemented an intervention block at every grade level.  This involved changing the master schedule, utilizing support staff in new ways and getting all teachers on board with a 40 minute time each day where multiple staff members would push into their classrooms.  We met with multiple teacher groups (leadership team, interventionist team, trauma informed leadership team), sharing the data and gathering feedback and support.  We used a google doc this fall and winter to collect feedback on our reading levels and this showed students are making good growth, with 37% of students reading on grade level in September and 45% of students reading on grade level in January.  Anecdotal data shared by other grade levels has shown that this new structure has not only improved students’ levels academically but has improved their attitudes towards reading and writing.  Students have shared that this is often their favorite part of the day. Use of this data has fostered a culture of positive staff efficacy, a belief in staff and student ability to reach higher levels of learning.  I have also used data to advocate for our school’s needs at the district level.  We have tracked our student behaviors and completed staff surveys identifying students who show high levels of externalizing/internalizing behaviors.  This data has created an awareness and sense of urgency in our district administration around the needs of our students.  This year we had increased staffing of a school counselor from one to two, we were made a part of a community grant providing on-site individual and group counseling, and classified staff was staffed at a higher number.  Utilizing data has provided opportunities for rich, productive conversations around student learning, professional development needs, and student advocacy for individual students and for our school as a whole.

2) Another best practice I use in leadership is to lead by example in order to create a community of learners. I believe that all staff members need to be learners, that we all have areas in our practice we can strengthen. We all need to have a guide to help improve our skills. Both my principal and myself have been open with our staff about the fact that we both have coaches to improve our leadership skills so we can better support staff and students.  Leading by this example has set us up to have coaching into professional practices a normal and expected part of teaching at our school.  We have modeled and  nurtured a culture of learning where staff are now willing to “open their doors” and share their ideas and practice with their colleagues.. Teachers seek out feedback from administration and each other.  They willingly participate in coaching cycles provided by the instructional coaches we have advocated to have within our school and from outside consultants.   When I attend grade level planning and data team meetings, teachers know that I am there to learn alongside them.  I make sure I voice when I have learned something or am seeing something in a new way because a member of the team has taught me in that moment.  Being vulnerable, showing that I learn from our staff,  has then allowed me to coach into staff members, encouraging them  to share their best practices in all areas (academic, social-emotional, and behavior teaching).  This has allowed us to leverage the expertise within our staff.  Through their sharing of their expertise and practice, other teachers are receiving building-embedded professional development, increasing the knowledge and strategies of all staff.  We have an optional professional development hour each week and this is now facilitated by various staff members around topics they have a depth of knowledge around.  Leading by example has allowed us to turn our school into a community of learners, which has in turn created educators that are teaching students at higher levels.