Becoming a school of innovation increased Stetson Elementary School's level of autonomy to make decisions that would positively affect student achievement. The barrier of needing to adhere to a district calendar was removed and Stetson Elementary School, along with the other schools in POWER Zone, developed a calendar with the input and buy-in of the POWER Zone community: teachers, parents, students, administrators and community members.
Our focus areas for academic achievement are outlined in our school unified improvement plan. Each innovation addresses an increase in quality teaching time in the classroom due to decreased assessment time on student contact days. We also address increases in teacher collaboration time to focus on essential professional learning community questions of:
- What do we want a student to know and be able to do?
- How will we know if a student has achieved these benchmarks?
- What will we do if students have not achieved these benchmarks?
- What will we do if students already have achieved these benchmarks?
Each innovative idea starts with a proposal at the grass roots level.
Proposals go to the affected or originating school principal. The proposer and the school principal present it to the school level innovation assembly and if it passes the assembly it goes to the school School Accountability Committee. Depending on the scope of the proposal it may need to go onto anywhere from POWER Zone leadership team, to other schools within the zone, to the District 49 Board of Education, to the State Board of Education. The more research and detail provided in the proposal template, the more likely a proposal will not need to be altered or sent back to other groups. An approvals for a proposal requires a 50-percent-plus-one vote at each level.
Our innovation plan currently addresses:
- The lack of literacy testing days. Without sufficient testing days, students are tested during instructional time.
- Increased quality instructional time increases student achievement. Quality instructional time is increased beginning-year, mid-year, and end of year through built in assessment days. The built in assessment days mean we don’t have to benchmark test kids during instructional time.
- Assessment days are built into proposal so differentiated instruction can start earlier and be more effective. In the proposed calendar, data will be collected and processed outside of instructional time.
- Timing of beginning of the year testing. Anxiety affects testing. Testing days after the start of school allows time to build relationships with students before testing, which decreases testing anxiety producing more accurate results, validity in testing.
- Conference days. Communication with parents is imperative to educational success. With more conference days, flexibility is increased for families’ differing schedules. For October parent conferences, we meet with all students and families. The Friday of that conference week is necessary to accommodate meeting times for all families. For March parent conferences, we meet with any families that want to meet and all students who are not meeting benchmark goals. March conferences can, in most cases, be achieved after school.
- Building respectful relationships. Beginning of the year time with students should be focused on establishing relationships with students and parents. Staff need PLC/PD time at beginning of the year to cultivate staff/team relationships.
- Improve attendance data. Low attendance the week of Thanksgiving skews attendance data; honor family time by changing the calendar.
- Proposed calendar changes honor and maintain the 10 minute addition to the school day and the two breaks (fall and spring break).