Elementary school programs are improving education models

Elementary school programs are improving education models

Derek Carson

Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent Catherine McClure and two principals gave a presentation on Tuesday about the School Wide Integrated Framework for Transformation and Green Mountain Star programs, which Bennington schools are using to improve their education models.

"As you know, each of our school buildings, Monument, Bennington Elementary, and Molly Stark have school action plans in which they look at the data of the students both for achievement, their academic performance over time, and behaviors, the school climate and culture, in order to pass their goals for effectiveness," said McClure during the presentation, which took place at the Bennington School District Board of Directors Meeting. "We have two systems that we're using now at Bennington Elementary and Molly Stark."

One system currently in place at all three elementary schools is Green Mountain Stars, which, according to a document from the Vermont Agency of Education, is "a web-based continuous improvement tool for schools and districts that is based on a comprehensive list of indicators that have been researched extensively. These indicators are linked to the most sound and effective educational practices taking place in schools across the nation."

The other program, which McClure said the district had been recently invited by the State of Vermont to join, is a federally funded program SWIFT.

"That system is also researched-based," said McClure, "and actually provides professors from the University of Kansas who are professionals and experts in the fields of instructional effectiveness and behavior management. Those individuals will be able to provide support to the schools."

"I felt today that we really wanted to let you know how these two systems at Bennington Elementary and at Molly Stark overlap, because they really need to merge together so that we're not at cross purposes," said McClure. "Both of these programs are multi-year programs, but the effort is really getting started on SWIFT this spring," she said.

"The SWIFT resources will come in three waves," said McClure, "The first level of resource from the SWIFT consultants and the professors is articles and resources around issues of challenge to schools, goals that they're trying to reach, or it may be conducive toward new ways of organizing some of the management effort in the school. The second level is webinars, and online resources on specific topics. The third level is the consultants and professors actually coming to the site, helping with the school functioning. Basically, doing an analysis of all the resources that are available including looking at schedules, making sure that staff are fully utilized. It's a wonderful opportunity for us."

According to McClure, the schools have aligned the domains of the SWIFT program with Green Mountain Stars' effectiveness indicators, which are themselves grouped into categories. Those effectiveness indicators have been organized so that they fall under each of the five domains of SWIFT: Administrative Leadership, Multi-Tiered System of Support, Integrated Education Framework, Family and Community Engagement, and Inclusive Policy Structure and Practice.

"Its not just a case of doing something in the school to make it work better," said Bennington Elementary principal James Law of the SWIFT program, "It's really looking at transforming the schools so that we can be better providers for students in helping them to gain the skills that they need to gain to be successful."

"One of the fundamental pieces of it is teamwork," said Law. Law's integration of the programs starts with teams of administrators and teachers who each focus on different aspects of the program. The GMS/SWIFT Leadership Team focuses on addressing school improvement and effectiveness, the Behavior Support Team focuses on promoting behavior to maintain a positive learning environment, the Educational Support Team focuses on promoting and monitoring academic success, the Child Study Team focuses on social, emotional, and health needs of students, and the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support Team focuses on providing school-wide support for positive student behavior. "These are distributing the leadership in order to get everybody involved, so that it becomes more of a school-wide effort to make things better here for everybody" said Law. Each of those teams is directly connected to certain SWIFT principles.

Molly Stark School uses a similar team-based system, according to principal Donna MacKenzie King.

While Monument Elementary isn't participating in the SWIFT program, it won't be entirely left out. "The SWIFT program is only being applied at Bennington Elementary and Molly Stark, although I will say that there's a lot of colleague sharing, so Monument will benefit from that as well," said McClure.