Is it possible to use the PLC structure in an early learning center with 3 and 4 year olds? This was a question I asked myself when I started my new position as the Director of Clark-Pleasant Early Learning Center in January of 2021. My goal was to create a high quality preschool and pre-k program for all children, both with and without disabilities. I knew this would only be possible if we focused on curriculum, instruction, and purposeful assessment.
Our program is 4 days per week. We have 3 full day classrooms for 4 year olds, 3 half day rooms for 3 year olds and 2 additional half day classrooms for 4 year olds. We have a special education classroom for 3 and 4 year old students with significant needs and currently operates as a level 33 LRE. In addition to this licensed special education teacher, we also have 2 resource teachers, 2 SLPs, an OT, full time school psychologist, and we share a PT with our district. Each classroom has at least 1 instructional assistant and depending on the needs within that classroom, some have 2. All in all, I have a staff of 30 professionals. We also complete approximately 115 evaluations per year as we transition students from First Steps and complete parent request evals. It is definitely a busy program and a busy school!
I share all of that information with you to help you understand what we are doing is being done with a large number of students. CPELC has an enrollment of 220 students. Approximately half of our students access special education services. This is not a small facility, and it’s not an easy task. However, we believe all children should be given the opportunity to grow and to reach their fullest potential.
I’ve been asked if a 4 day per week program is difficult for our families and if we are not seeing growth with our children because we only offer school 4 days a week. I do not believe this is a negative or a detriment to our students. In fact, I believe this schedule affords our staff the time that is necessary to plan effectively. Without that time, I do not believe we would be able to successfully implement the PLC process with fidelity.
During our planning time, teachers come together to share a specific area of the curriculum for the upcoming week. After each teacher has shared their piece, the teachers break off into smaller teaching teams and select the part of the curriculum they will be using that week. Our curriculum, Connect 4 Learning, is written for pre-k students who attend school five full days, so we know we are going to have to scaffold the activities and select what we believe are the most important parts of that week’s lessons. From there, teachers select the ISPROUT SKBs (skills, knowledge, and behaviors) we will assess. We document this on a shared Google Slide that is used by each teacher throughout the week.
We believe in creating a guaranteed and viable curriculum for our students, and the only way we can do that is to have a collective planning time as a staff. Prior to this approach, teachers were pulling their own materials, using their own ideas and creating their own assessments. During the week prior to the end of the quarter, teachers pulled students out to the hall to do one-on-one assessments, and meanwhile, the class was falling apart and students were not giving their best information to the teacher. So the data wasn’t a true reflection of what students were able to do. Therefore we went looking for a better assessment tool.
ISPROUT Was Our Answer
In the spring of 2022, I did a presentation on using ISPROUT for all students for Keep Indiana Learning. I would invite you to watch that presentation, as I think it will help you to understand the process that we use. There are also many documents attached to the presentation that you might find helpful.
We use the Indiana DOE’s ISPROUT document called, SKB Observation Guide, which can be found in the resource section of the assessment website. The first thing I did on this page was to number the SKBs. This helped us as we identified which we would consider to be the “Essential” ones. I will get to that in just a moment.
The learning progression levels are also very important to our process. You can find those linked to my presentation as well. I have this page printed out and tacked to the wall next to my desk. It is something I refer to often and is always a part of our data conversations. We want our preschool students to be at or above a level 2 when they finish their preschool year, and our pre-k students should be at or above a level 3 when they head off to kindergarten.
The adaptation document is also important. We always keep in mind that the accommodations listed in a child’s IEP can be used for ISPROUT, and this adaptation document helps us with that. For example, the SKB may say a student can say the numbers from 1 – 10, but with a student who does not use spoken language, we struggled to document that they didn’t have the skill when they could communicate with us through another form of communication (like an AAC device). Using these adaptations and remembering that we could put accommodations in their IEP to address this, we are able to give the student “credit” for knowing the skills.
We use the SKB observation guide to help write IEP goals for students. When we are sitting down to talk about students who we are evaluating, we listen for the most important area of concern that we learned from the evaluation. We find the SKB and decide where the child currently “sits” on the rubric and where we want them to be in a year’s time. That becomes the IEP goal and each individual box between those 2 points becomes our objectives. It’s been amazing to see our goals come together like this. It’s concrete and less subjective for the staff. They feel they have directly linked a child’s goal with what the teacher is doing in the classroom. The layering of services, adult support, and collaboration is amazing!
“They feel they have directly linked a child’s goal with what the teacher is doing in the classroom. The layering of services, adult support, and collaboration is amazing!”
If you know anything about ISPROUT, you know there are 28 SKBs to assess. This must be done for each student when they enter a program and when they leave, provided they have an IEP. When we decided to do all students, we knew that assessing 28 multiple times per year would be impossible. As we were reading, What About Us, a book on PLCs in the Prek-2 classrooms, we also learned about identifying “essential” skills that would become the focus for the year. We selected 6 SKBs for our preschoolers and 8 for our pre-k students that became our Essential Skills.
Teachers are then given time on Friday, during our staff meetings, to input their data into ISPROUT, ask questions about the language/words/meanings of upcoming SKBs and collaborate with their colleagues.
We assess all 28 SKBs at the beginning of the year and send home a skills report to parents. This parent discussion page explains to parents what they are receiving. This past year, we gave these out at parent/teacher conferences for the first time as we wanted to make sure parents understood their child’s report. For the 2nd and 3rd quarter, we only assess the essential SKBs. So this is the report that we send home at that time for families. At the end of the year, we do all 28 one last time.
“Having this data has changed everything for our school.”
Having this data has changed everything for our school. We now have a seat at the table when we talk with other administrators, teachers, and central office staff. We can present our data to our district, set goals for growth, and have true PLC conversations where we are answering the questions that guide student learning and growth. We do a presentation to our district 3 times per year called, “Systems to Systems.” This is a time when each school has a chance to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. We talk about our goals for the year and present data to show growth or to show what we need to fix. We talk about what we will adopt, adapt, abandon, and continue to do in our classrooms. Prior to this, we were just talking about things we “thought” were true. We are now able to share specific percentages of students who are on target and those who are not. We are able to share ideas on how we can improve as educators for our students, and maybe most importantly, we are able to see real growth and celebrate those things! It’s been a great process, and I couldn’t be more proud of the work that we have done!