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This large northern California school district was experiencing a culture of frustration. Hard working teachers and administrators were asking for guidance in developing a relatively simple, highly effective, and comprehensive set of supports for students at Tier 1, 2, and 3 in both academics and behavior.

We worked on developing, throughout the district office and at each school:

  • Beliefs and actions that communicated the expectation that ALL students will LEARN at high levels.
  • A culture of willingness to make changes to staff behaviors to make that happen.
  • Clearly defined and prioritized academic and behavioral outcomes that represent a viable quantity of content that ALL students can master.
  • Common (but flexible) pacing guides to allow for:
    • Collaboratively planning
    • Commonly assessing
    • Collectively responding

  • Common and frequent gathering of evidence to inform:
    • The extent to which teachers have ensured students master essential content.
    • Students requiring more time and different approaches.
    • The essential content with which students require more time and different approaches.

  • Tier 1, 2, and 3 academic and behavioral supports that are systematically organized and coordinated so that:
    • No matter the student
    • No matter the grade
    • No matter the course or content area

  • Teams are certain that students have access to the
    • Time
    • Staff
    • Resources

  • That they need to learn at high levels

Student learning across district increase by 5% in reading as measured by district benchmark assessments. Increases for students at-risk and students with IEPs was greater still.


Schools and the school district were experiencing difficulties balancing the increased rigor of next generation mathematics standards (the CCSS) with state-created curriculum as well as students’ present levels of understanding.

We worked to prioritize teaching and learning on the most critical concepts. We next unwrapped the most critical concepts into targets that were clearly understood by both teachers and students. These clearly-defined targets helped teams create common assessments from which instruction was planned, and when administered and analyzed, informed staff efforts at ensuring that all students achieved mastery. Finally, we engaged into a collaborative inquiry into the mathematical strategies required to help students learn more deeply and conceptually.

Stress felt by teachers and students was significantly diminished. Student performance on end of the year common assessments was nearly 40% higher than performance on beginning of the year assessments.


This high performing school district was striving to provide earlier, more proactive supports for students. Efforts at supporting students in Kindergarten through third grade were the focus of our work.

Once a culture of high expectations was solidified for early elementary students, most of whom were socioeconomically disadvantaged and entered Kindergarten with very limited English language abilities, and staff adopted an increased sense of urgency for early, preventative supports, we begin addressing the challenge on several fronts:

  • We enhanced the rigor of district preschool classes, increased professional development opportunities for preschool teachers, and improved the collaboration and articulation between preschool and Kindergarten.
  • We administered efficient and frequently assessments that provided specific feedback to teachers on student learning and informed timely supplemental supports.
  • We ensured that phonological awareness was taught early, with intensity, and through multiple modalities.
  • We integrated engaging fluency, phonics, morphology, and vocabulary tasks throughout the instructional day.
  • We built systems of support that guaranteed that high quality, intensive interventions were provided for any and all students in need, regardless of label.

Over 90% of students met end-of-year norms in reading as measured by curriculum-based measurements. Student performance on district-created benchmarks increased by over 5% across within K-3 at the 40+ schools in the district in the first year, and continued to increase in subsequent years.


At a school of hard working teachers, students and families, a lack of belief and low expectations had resulted in virtually no change in the number of students meeting state standards in four years. This school, with nearly 80% of students socioeconomically disadvantaged, English leaner, and Latino, was on the cusp of being placed in Program Improvement status.

Improvement started by nurturing a culture of high expectations for students and for staff’s abilities to ensure that every student learns at high levels. Next, the school designed individual learning plan for every student on campus. Lastly, the school instituted schoolwide systems of support that provided intensive and targeted interventions to all students-in-need.

This elementary school quite literally progressed from the cusp of Program Improvement to earning National Blue Ribbon School recognition within three years. The percentage of students meeting state standards tripled in those three years, from 25% to 80% of students meeting standards in both English-language arts and mathematics.

Collaboration could not occur at these K-8 schools within a major Midwestern city. Without flexible, common pacing guides and common assessments

  • Teachers had very little about which to collaborate.
  • Collaborative data analyses could not inform teaching and learning
  • The school could not collectively respond when students required supplemental supports

We started by a patient but deliberative process of collaboratively prioritizing the most essential standards for students to master. After unpacking and unwrapping prioritized content, these essentials were mapped in a pacing guide that represented a scope of content that was viable for all students to master at depth. Staff cognitively prepared for high quality instruction, backwards planning from collaboratively designed common assessments. Analyses of student performance on these assessments informed teachers’ practices, allowed teachers to learn from the evidence-based successes of their colleagues, and identified which students required more time and alternative strategies to master which prioritized content.

The percentage of students not meeting annual growth targets decreased by 20%; the percentage of students not meeting end-of-year college and career targets decreased by 10%. Gains by subgroups of students of students was impressive and widespread; there were fewer students performing far below grade-level expectations and more students far exceeding expectations than in years past.

© 2016. Chris Weber Education. Design by Cleverbirds.