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Putnam Heights Elementary School

Grade Level
Elementary School

FOUR YEARS AGO, the leadership team at Putnam Heights Elementary School in Eau Claire reviewed their ambitious school improvement plan and found themselves at a crossroads. How could they best use their resources to have the most impact? The team decided to focus on deep understanding and alignment of the standards across grade levels.

Using their professional learning communities (PLC) to study the standards and data, a small group of staff across different grades learned and refined a process to unpack grade-level standards, practicing until each one was able to use it fluently and effectively. These individuals brought that process back to their PLC. Both special education and general education staff were included in PLCs as they continued to examine the individual standards at a deeper level, documenting their efforts. The teams worked to align practices, making sure students were succeeding.

The leadership team followed the progress of the PLC groups, continued to examine structures to allow the necessary time for the work, and provided tools to support their efforts. The intentional collaboration grew beyond grade-level teams. PLCs shared what was working across grade levels, resulting in increased alignment across the whole school. “Staff, as a whole, was really owning that process of what was happening in the classroom and across the building,” said Elissa Knight, instructional coach.

The school has seen positive outcomes for students over time, specifically in the percentage of Hispanic and Black students who are at proficient and advanced on the Forward Exam in mathematics.

Additionally, students with IEPs were also carefully considered. “One of the most valuable aspects of this was being able to collaborate with the general education teachers in unpacking the standards,” said Tyra Perine, special education teacher. “We made sure our IEPs and goals in our IEPs were also coinciding with what was happening in the classroom.” Additionally, the school utilized co-teaching in some of the classrooms to help with some of those standards.

As Putnam Heights Elementary examines their data, they continue to see inequities to address. The staff describe themselves as early in their journey towards equity. Three years ago, they assembled an equity core team and last year, the team did an equity audit. The school now has a building-wide, voluntary team with subcommittees to create action plans around the areas of school climate, professional learning, and staff. “The way that it’s grown speaks to how our staff wants to continue this journey,” said Melissa Greer, fifth grade teacher.

The school’s equity work demonstrates that their families and students are important. “That speaks volumes for Putnam,” Perine said. “They value their families.”