Lewis Central Receives Breaking Barriers Award

Titan Hill Intermediate Recognized for Student Achievement Subgroup Gains
Posted on 11/21/2011
This is the image for the news article titled Titan Hill Intermediate Recognized for Student Achievement Subgroup GainsEach year, the Iowa State Board of Education recognizes successful efforts to eliminate achievement gaps with improved instruction, curriculum and programs for students, as well as professional development for school staff by honoring districts with the Breaking Barriers to Teaching and Learning Award.

Districts are honored with the Breaking Barriers award if math or reading proficiency improves by 20 percent or more among specific subgroups of students without a decline of more than 5 percent in any other subgroup of students. Student subgroups include English Language Learners, minorities, low-income and special education students. This year Titan Hill Intermediate qualified for the award for dramatically increasing the achievement of students in the low economic subgroup at fifth grade in the subject area of mathematics.

The following questions are from a questionnaire provided by the Iowa Department of Education designed to gather information about improvement efforts at the recognized districts.

Titan Hill staff recognized by the State Board of Education1. Please provide a brief paragraph providing a basic description of your district. (Such as number of students, geographic location, number of schools, etc.)

The Lewis Central Community School District serves approximately 3200 students in the southern and eastern parts of Council Bluffs and southwestern rural Pottawattamie County and is contiguous with the Omaha Nebraska Public Schools, Bellevue Nebraska Public Schools and the Council Bluffs Community School District. The Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area has a population of 865,350 and is the 60th largest metropolitan area in the United States.

Lewis Central is organized in grade level attendance centers. Lewis Central High School serves 920 students in grades 9-12, Lewis Central Middle School serves 734 students in grades 6-8, Titan Hill Intermediate School serves 979 students in grades 2-5 and Kreft Primary School serves 556 students in grades PK-1. LC has a workforce of over 500 employees, of which 212 are teachers and 12 are administrators.

Nearly one out of every 5 students served by Lewis Central is open enrolled into the district (a net gain of nearly 500 students). The student population is 41.2% low SES, 13% ethnically diverse, and 11.9% have IEP’s.

Signing in at the Department of Education2. Describe what your district is doing in general to make a difference in student achievement both at the district and at the building level.

The driving vision for school improvement at Lewis Central is for the LC curriculum to be implemented with fidelity by teachers teaching conceptually around enduring understandings so that all students achieve deep understanding of essential concepts and skills in an intentionally aligned PK-12 curriculum. This involves shifting the collective mindset to begin instructional planning with the end in mind; identifying big ideas, enduring understandings, and essential questions. Teachers design instruction and assessment driven by those ideas.

Teaching for Understanding provides the overarching framework that connects all efforts in the district both for curriculum and instruction district-wide. District implementation efforts include:
  • District leadership team and Content teams focus on implementing Iowa Core PK-12 (with AEA content support). Teachers make up the majority of the membership of all of these teams.
  • District-focused professional development on teaching for understanding four full days annually supported through Teacher Quality and planned and implemented by the District Leadership Team members.
  • Building leadership teams provide professional development follow-up (and new learning) at two-hour early outs twice per month.
  • Collaboration time is built into expectations throughout the district (PLC’s at all levels).
  • Standards-based elementary report cards have been revised to reflect the Iowa Core.
  • District tools have been provided to support Iowa Core (Understanding by Design training/templates, Instruction Planner/Curriculum Mapper software, standards implementation in PowerSchool Gradebook, etc.). 

Specifically at Titan Hill Intermediate:

  • Inquiry-based instruction provides the foundation for all professional development decisions in the building.
  • Leadership teams strive to build efficacy both for teachers and students.
    • Covey’s Leader In Me training has been provided for staff and students and leadership opportunities have been greatly expanded for everyone in the building.
    • Content leadership teams support Math, Literacy, Technology and Leader In Me efforts.
  • Teacher understanding of math and reading content has been greatly enhanced (with support from the AEA).
    • Teacher leaders study math through the conceptual lens of Cognitively Guided Instruction.
    • All staff study inquiry-based instruction through the conceptual lens of Science Writing Heuristic.
  • “Data Wall” use at Titan Hill has greatly expanded and forms the basis of intervention decision making on a weekly basis for teachers.

Mr. Stopak accepting the award.3. Explain what you are doing at both building and district level to help teacher professional development.

As stated earlier, Teaching for Understanding provides the overarching framework that connects all efforts in the district both for curriculum and instruction district-wide.
  • District Leadership Team and District Content Teams act as “lead learners” and design professional development for the rest of the staff internally. We have provided specific advanced training in Concept-based Instruction, Understanding by Design and Curriculum Mapper/Instruction Planner for these teams using nationally recognized trainers.
  • Alignment of teacher growth plans with building and district efforts is required and monitored (most teachers depend upon the district and building professional development for their individual learning plans).
  • The use of substitute teachers captures additional time for collaboration for content leadership teams at both the district and building levels at least monthly.
  • Early release days (two hours) twice per month provide building level time professional development and the required consistency to make a difference.
  • Teacher understanding of math and reading content at Titan Hill has been greatly enhanced (with support from the AEA).
    • Core teacher leaders study math through the conceptual lens of Cognitively Guided Instruction
    • All staff study inquiry-based instruction through the conceptual lens of Science Writing Heuristic. 

Mrs. Kammrad looking at the award.4. How does data influence your decisions regarding improving student achievement?

The Board of Education annually adopts Achievement Goals that target more than one year of growth for all students on annual assessments. They also set goals that ask for more growth from subgroups that typically fall short to make up the gaps. This focus on growth rather than just proficiency ensures that all students are included in our intervention efforts.

This emphasis on growth data has caused us to examine practices throughout the system differently. Diagnostic tools are playing a more prominent role in designing interventions for students. Grouping and intervention decisions are more often made on the basis of diagnostic information and instruction is tailored to specific student needs. Teachers are becoming more comfortable with data that compare student performance between classrooms and the effectiveness of the instruction that they provide as individual teachers. At our elementary buildings, weekly “data wall” meetings (led by teachers) shape instructional decision making for students who struggle and provide short cycles to monitor growth in student learning.

5. What is the most important action the district has taken to affect theses changes?’

The creation several years ago of the District Leadership Team and the District Content Teams focusing on implementing Iowa Core PK-12 was a significant action to support change at Lewis Central. There is significant involvement of teachers - nearly 1 in 5 teachers in the district is part of a district-level leadership team either in a specific content area or the District Leadership Team. Many more are involved at the building level in leadership roles aligned with this district distributive leadership vision.

These structures have led to focused decisions regarding professional development and curriculum. When coupled with the Iowa Core, Understanding by Design and Concept-based Instruction, alignment of thinking across all levels of the system has strengthened. Teachers and administrators study significant content in a way they hadn’t before with traditional curriculum committees. Professional development across the district is more focused and aligned and ownership throughout the district has dramatically increased.

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