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Extraordinary Educators

Empowering Academic Excellence: How three dedicated educators rose to the challenge

Alissa Christensen
May 14, 2024

At Carter Lake Elementary, three dedicated educators — Ryan Boege, Rebecca Haynie, and Halie Whitmore — recognized a challenge. Their students’ test scores weren't showing the growth they had hoped for in math and literacy. Rather than simply accepting the status quo, they decided to take action.

Data-Driven Collaboration

At the beginning of the school year, the team delved into the data from their students’ previous years MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) score data. “Part of the school improvement plan was to target math and reading, and we weren’t getting the scores we wanted with just teacher instruction,” says Boege. Together they decided to build a more robust approach through a partnership with their students’ parents and families. “It’s right there, who better to have on our side than families,” Haynie explained. They decided to host a “Breakfast of Champions” before school and use it as an opportunity to update families on scores and ways they can support their students at home. 

The team went into action mode, they created a flier to send home with students along with an invitation to a family breakfast before school. Plus, each family received personal calls and text messages reminding them about the event. The morning of the family breakfast, their PTO supplied donuts and juice for families and received packets containing their students' MAP scores, attendance from last year, and any behavior referrals (where a teacher needed outside assistance) to reference. “It was very black and white, the facts were all there for them,” says Haynie. The team dived into the presentation, starting with celebrations, moving to data-driven grade-level goals, and ending with learning games and a little fun.

Celebrate and Recognize 

“We first celebrated them and recognized them for their school mantra, LOVE (Lead by example, Observe safety, Value integrity, Encourage),” Boege shared. They also shared about school organizations that students can join to feel more connected and responsible. For example, Bumble Buddies, where they are paired up with a younger student, hallway monitors, or daily intercom announcements. 

Unlocking Potential

The team then presented common school expectations and gave examples of what they teach in class to grow their students’ learning. Boege noted, “We felt that we are doing everything we can while the kids are at school."

The team shared that there might be trends based on attendance or behaviors from their child, so they wanted to set some grade level goals. 

In hopes to increase attendance, the fifth grade team shared their “Strive for Five” goal. They encouraged students to have less than five office referrals and miss less than five days per quarter. “We hoped that if students were in the classroom more, we would be able to increase our scores, so sharing this with families was important to us.” 

Next, the teachers presented the data to the families. “We did our best to deliver it with a lot of optimism, but we had to throw a little tough love in there too. No data is bad data, just something to use as a tool,” says Haynie.  Since families had the data in their packets, they were able to see their students’ scores and growth. “We walked them through exactly what the data represented. For example, 40% means 4 out of 10 students can efficiently read. It brought a sense of urgency and reality to their families,” Boege shared. 

Keeping Connected

After sharing goals for their fifth graders, the team showed families learning games they can play at home for extra practice. They also described their monthly newsletter to keep families up to date on the fifth graders’ progress, weekly vocabulary words, and shared ideas for home success. 

The breakfast ended with students' favorite tradition, a dance party. “Every Friday we meet in Halie’s room and we jive to Cupid Shuffle and Cha Cha Slide together. So we had all the parents do it with us, it was fun,” Haynie shared. 

A Shared Journey

The fifth grade students showed growth from their fall to winter MAP scores, just shy of their grade level goal. However, they are on track to reach it on their spring MAP test! The team continued to follow up with their families throughout the year, ensuring that the partnership remained strong. The team’s successful idea didn't go unnoticed, other grades in the school invited their families to their own Breakfast of Champions. 

The team agreed that the planning, preparation, and communication was worth the time. Students showed growth and their families were more involved and engaged in their academics.  Boege shared, “this is a community building and we want to emphasize that everyone is welcome here, these are open doors. Everyone is part of our academic excellence conversations and we have to intentionally create avenues for welcoming them into our community.” 

In their journey to boost student success, this fifth grade team showed that when everyone works together, amazing things can happen.

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