It's Elementary!

         an online forum for information from the Director of Elementary Education, Kelly K. Cartwright, Ed.D.

March 15, 2011

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

Filed under: Elementary,K-12 — Kelly Cartwright @ 4:23 pm
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I read Rick DuFour’s article, Work Together But Only if You Want To, in the February edition of Phi Delta Kappan recently. Rick and his wife, Rebecca, are well known for their work with Professional Learning Communities.

In his article, Mr. DuFour tells us that we must embed professional collaboration in the routine practices of our schools. We must expect and require this professional collaboration or it simply will not happen universally. Some teachers will choose to continue to work in isolation, even though “time spent in collaboration with colleagues is considered essential to success in most professions” in order to reach common purposes and goals interdependently.

This collaboration among other professionals – attorneys, doctors, architects, engineers – is expected and required. When teachers collaborate, all students benefit from the collective expertise of the entire grade level, department, or building. When teachers collaborate, we engage in a coordinated and systematic effort to support our students. In addition, a core strategy for improving student achievement is building the capacity of teachers to work as members of a collaborative professional learning community. DuFour cites a wealth of research linking high levels of student achievement to educators working in a collaborative culture of a professional learning community.

Professional collaboration includes:

  • developing a guaranteed and viable curriculum that ensures that all students have access to the same essential knowledge and skills regardless of who their teacher is
  • establishing clear benchmarks
  • implementing agreed upon measures to monitor progress
  • instituting a comprehensive, balanced assessment process that includes common formative assessments
  • gathering and jointly examining ongoing data regarding student learning
  • making informed decisions based on evidence of the most promising strategies for meeting the needs of students
  • creating a systematic, multi-tiered process that ensures that struggling students receive necessary time and supports
  • identifying the right work and creating processes to support teams so they can focus on improving student learning
  • enhancing our practice, individually and collectively

DuFour quotes the president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF): “Quality teaching is not an individual accomplishment, it is the result of a collaborative culture that empowers teachers to team up to improve student learning beyond what any of them can achieve alone”.

At the elementary level, we are moving forward with a change to a four day cycle schedule for the 2011-2012 school year. We are striving toward creating the structure and culture and providing opportunities to ensure that professional collaboration and interdependence, with the purpose of improving our professional practice and improving student learning, become the norm.

To learn more about PLCs, visit and/or Google Rick Dufour.

The way organizations are now is a product of how we think and interact. We cannot change in any fundamental way unless we change our basic patterns of thinking and interacting so that learning can be a way of life. Peter Senge

January 22, 2011

Top Quintiles for Growth in Pennsylvania for Two or Three Consecutive Years!

Filed under: Elementary — Kelly Cartwright @ 3:02 pm
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Back in November, I shared that all six CVSD schools made the Top Quintile Schools list for growth and/or achievement in math, reading, and/or writing and in all but one of the tested grade levels for 2010.

This month we have additional news regarding Top Quintile Schools. The schools on this list have achieved in the top quintile, or 20%, in the Commonwealth for growth for two or three consecutive school years (2007-2008, 2008-2009, and 2009-2010). All schools were assigned to a progress group based on the rank of their estimated Mean NCE Gain for a grade and subject. A ‘5’ in this column indicates that the school placed in the top quintile. A school is listed if it was in the highest quintile for Mean Growth in both the 2009-2010 and 2008-2009 school years, and a ‘5’ is displayed for both years. If a school was also in the top quintile for Mean Growth in 2007-2008, a ‘5’ will be displayed for that year as well.

This list is much shorter than the one we received in November. In the state, fifteen schools in grades 6, 7, 8, or 11 achieved this in Math; sixteen schools in grades 2-8 or 11 in Reading; twelve schools in grades 7, 8, or 11 in science; and fifteen schools in grades 2-8 in Writing. This total of 58 compares to the 208 who made the list for achievement and/or growth for one school year. In CV, 14 grade levels made the Top Quintile for Growth and/or Achievement in the fall; 5 elementary grade levels in all four buildings, three in Reading and two in Writing, made the Top Quintile list for Growth for two consecutive years. It is quite an accomplishment to have achieved growth in the top quintile for two consecutive years, particularly given the numbers of students in the four subgroups listed on the charts.

Again, I congratulate every single person involved to make this happen. This success is a result of the hard work of many, many professional and support staff members from kindergarten all the way through the tested grade levels. Everyone contributes to this remarkable accomplishment!

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. Vincent “Vince” Lombardi (1913-1970); athletic coach


District Name School Name Grade Mean Growth Quintile


Mean Growth Quintile


Mean Growth Quintile


Percent IEP


Percent ED


Percent LEP


Percent Minority


Conestoga Valley SD Fritz Elementary School 6 5 5 8 31 5 27
Conestoga Valley SD Leola Elementary School 6 5 5 14 41 11 28
Conestoga Valley SD Smoketown Elementary School 6 5 5 9 37 5 31


District Name School Name Grade Mean Growth Quintile


Mean Growth Quintile


Mean Growth Quintile


Percent IEP


Percent ED


Percent LEP


Percent Minority


Conestoga Valley SD Brownstown Elementary School 5 5 5 11 21 5 20
Conestoga Valley SD Fritz Elementary School 5 5 5 8 31 5 27

January 8, 2011

Early Childhood Education

Filed under: Elementary,K-12 — Kelly Cartwright @ 1:53 pm
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An early childhood committee met monthly last year and made recommendations for a three year implementation of both full day kindergarten and pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) programs, beginning in 2010 and 2011 respectively. As a result of that committee’s recommendations, CV is piloting one full day kindergarten class at both Leola and Smoketown this year.

In preparation for our work this year, I attended a conference on The Kindergarten Year in State College for two days in July and joined the Kindergarten Advisory Committee through PDE’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL). In addition, a Pre-K Community Partnerships committee has been meeting monthly this school year to further our goal of establishing a Pre-K program in the coming years. Our committee has been studying both the reasons for and benefits of implementing a Pre-K program by exploring research from a variety of sources as well as visiting model programs in the local area.

Research indicates that a child’s chances of success in school and life depend more on family circumstances than on any other factor. A substantial achievement gap appears long before children reach their first day of kindergarten. By the age of three, children with professional parents are already a full year ahead of their poorer peers; they know twice as many words and score 40 points higher on IQ tests. By the age of ten, the gap is three years. By then, poorer children have not mastered math and reading skills, and many never will. This is the age at which failure starts to become irreversible.

James Heckman, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, contends that investing in early learning programs is the most efficient way to affect school and life success and to reduce social expenditures later. He further asserts that every $1 invested in early learning programs provides a seven dollar rate of return, or a 6-10% per annum rate of return. These returns are greatest for at risk children, and are actualized through lower special needs costs in K12 education, more students graduating from high school, more students pursuing a higher education degree, and a next generation prepared to enter the workforce.

At risk children are 25% more likely to drop out of school, 40% more likely to become a teen parent, 50% more likely to be placed in special education, 60% more likely to never attend college, and 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. Risk factors include low income/poverty (qualify for free or reduced lunch program), English Language Learner, special needs (developmental or academic delays), living with a parent or guardian with less than a high school education, living in a single parent household, teen parents, migrant status, and lack of access to a consistent source of health care.

Children who participate in public pre-school programs seem to surpass children who don’t participate in basic learning programs before they enter kindergarten. Specifically, some studies have shown that preschoolers perform much stronger in vocabulary. PA Pre-K Counts graduates perform on par with or better than their peers in kindergarten and first grade: 98% of PA Pre-K Counts graduates showed age-appropriate or emerging age-appropriate proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and social skills in 2009-2010.

Research reveals that those who attended preschool earn more, have better jobs, are less likely to have been in prison, are less likely to have been divorced, are less likely to be involved in criminal activity, are less likely to use drugs, are less likely to become teen parents, and are less likely to require welfare assistance as adults. Early interventions for disadvantaged children raise the quality of the workforce; enhance the productivity of schools; reduce crime, teenage pregnancy, and welfare dependency; raise earnings; and promote social attachment.

Change the first five years and you change everything. The Ounce

October 29, 2010

Report Cards

Filed under: Elementary — Kelly Cartwright @ 3:23 pm

Two groups of teachers have been working since last spring to make recommendations for revisions to our report cards. Our objective is to move toward a standards based report card over the course of this school year. Primary (grades 1 & 2) and intermediate (grades 3-6) committees have developed draft report cards that they will pilot for the 2010-2011 school year.

We intend to gather teacher and parent feedback on the pilot after the first and second trimesters, make necessary revisions for the second and third trimesters based on that feedback, and finalize the new report card by May 2011. Committee members will then share our work with their grade level colleagues during the early dismissal on May 25 so that all teachers are prepared to use the new report card beginning with the 2011-2012 school year.

With the new report card, we also plan to update the Elementary Grading Practices Guidelines with specific information regarding accommodations and modifications, how to grade a student who is not working on grade level, and other concerns that teachers face when assigning and reporting grades. In addition, we intend to provide a comprehensive list of assessments that teachers use to determine grades. This will provide consistency and equity across the four buildings. My goal is to have these documents ready for the May 25 meeting.

Find out who represents your grade level on the committee and discuss the proposed changes throughout the year. Please share your concerns and other feedback with committee members as we pilot the new report cards. We deliberately chose to take the entire year to work out the flaws so that when the final version is unveiled, it has been tried and tested and is a report card that is easily understood by parents and simple for teachers to use.

1st Trimester ends on November 24. Report Card Window is November 19-December 7. Report Cards go home on December 10.

Each day of our lives, we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.

Charles R. Swindoll

October 23, 2010

Common Core Standards

Filed under: Elementary — Kelly Cartwright @ 8:50 am

I attended a two day conference a few weeks ago, and two of the five speakers (in two out of six sessions) addressed the Common Core Standards.

One speaker was Gene Wilhoit, the Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, D.C. He has held positions in the Department of Education in two states as well as the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Richard Long is the Director of Government Relations for the International Reading Association and Executive Director for the State Title I Directors Association. He consults with USA Today, the World Health Organization, and several US government agencies and education groups. Both men were full of enlightening information and I enjoyed their sessions. The proportion of time spent on the Common Core resonated with me on the importance of understanding what is coming our way in less than three years.

There are still many details to work through as we make this transition. There is talk of a national test to replace the PSSA. There is talk of computer adaptive tests becoming more prevalent. The Keystones Exams must also fit in to this equation.

There are two state consortia that are working to develop assessments aligned to the new reading/language arts and mathematics standards. The US Department of Education, as part of the Race to the Top initiative, has awarded $33 million toward the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Washington-led SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium. The PARCC consortium will replace the current end of year test used for accountability purposes with a series of assessments administered at different points during the year. SMARTER will continue the annual test for accountability and create benchmark assessments to inform instruction.

The IU staff has been and will continue to be a valuable resource as we transition to the Common Core. Representatives from the IU have been working on state teams to compare the Pennsylvania Academic Standards to the Common Core and providing us with regular updates. Dr. Mann and I will be attending a four day conference in December to learn more about the Common Core in conjunction with PDE’s Standards Aligned System (SAS). We will continue to share information as we receive it.

Never underestimate the smallest of acts that keep a child from falling through the cracks, help another fit in, or turn a life around: a smile, a word of praise, a listening ear, a kind word, an act of caring…all have the potential to be a turning point in a child’s life. Leo Buscaglia

September 21, 2010

Common Core Standards

Filed under: Elementary — Kelly Cartwright @ 2:33 pm

Following a six-month review, the State Board of Education adopted the national Common Core standards for English/Language Arts (ELA) and Math in July. The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) then voted to approve those standards. 

The Common Core Standards were adopted by the State Board as an amendment to the existing Chapter 4 regulations (Academic Standards and Assessment) with a three-year transition to begin during the 2010-11 school year and full implementation by July 1, 2013.  (Learn more about the Common Core Standards initiative by clicking here.)

The three-year transition timeline established by the State Board is intended to help ensure clear, consistent expectations for students and educators throughout the implementation. To inform this process, the board has been holding a series of statewide roundtables to gather feedback from education stakeholders. The local date and location is Harrisburg on Monday, September 27, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Honors Suite (1st floor), 333 Market Street, 17126. To register to participate in any session, contact Adam Schott, the board’s Executive Director, at (717) 787-3787.

At this point, committees that include representatives from IU13 have been examining the Common Core standards in comparison to the PA Academic standards. Committee members are finding a strong correlation among the ELA standards; they are not finding such a strong match among the math standards. CVSD is following this development closely and will keep teachers informed as we learn more.

Whoever you are, there is some younger person who thinks you are perfect. There is some work that will never be done if you don’t do it. There is someone who would miss you if you were gone. There is a place that you alone can fill. Jacob M. Braude

September 8, 2010

Welcome Back!

Filed under: Elementary — Kelly Cartwright @ 4:48 pm

I hope you all enjoyed a relaxing and rejuvenating summer.

As I settle into my new role, I am enjoying beginning the school year in my position and looking forward to working with all of you. One of my goals is to maintain a blog from this office which will inform elementary staff members of the initiatives and developments at the elementary level. I encourage you to subscribe to my blog and to make comments, ask questions, and otherwise interact with me on these and other issues. The purpose of the blog is to foster open dialog.

Math Resources

Your principal and our math specialists and supervisor have been and will continue to share all of the outstanding new resources we’ve purchased and have begun using this year.  We were fortunate to be able to purchase Otter Creek, Star Math, and Smart Notebook with 2009-2010 budget monies. Training sessions will be offered on October 11 for those who were unable to attend the summer days for Smart Notebook, and as the initial training for first and second grade teachers on Star Math. With tightening budgets and dramatic increases in AYP targets over the next four years, we need to take advantage of all resources available to intervene early and address students’ needs in math as well as reading.

AYP targets:
















Congratulations and Thank You!

Each one of you deserves credit for your part in our district’s achievement of AYP for 2010. I know just how much time and effort this accomplishment has taken from each and every one of us. Many of our targets were met through the Growth Model, which indicates that our students continue to make progress and that this is making a significant difference!

We need to be able to take really good care of ourselves as teachers so we can take really good care of children. Mike Anderson, author of the ASCD book due out in September, The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Outon the August Whole Child Podcast


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