Becky’s Blog: Culture of Continuous Improvement Supports Gains in Student Achievement – Featuring Dr. Richard Patterson, Guest Blogger

Greetings Friends,
Within this blog, we are delighted to share about exciting gains in student achievement that our friends at School District 27J’s Otho E. Stuart Middle School are experiencing.
Former principal, and now Director of Student Achievement and Professional Learning for the district, credits these gains to the culture of Continuous Improvement developed within the school over the past year and a half.
In sharing the impact that Stuart Middle School is having with the Continuous Improvement process, we want to be sure and reiterate that the work and the success belongs to our partners. Our Team serves as a support to partners who are interested in collaborating, implementing Continuous Improvement, and aligning their work to outcomes we have set as a community. In this instance, Stuart Middle School took the Continuous Improvement process and ran with it. We are intent on sharing Stories of Impact like this, drawing attention to measurable impact that is being made.
Please read below as Guest Blogger Dr. Richard Patterson, School District 27J Director of Student Achievement and Professional Learning, shares more insight about their efforts.
Take it away Dr. Patterson…


Until next time,



Becky Hoffman
Executive Director
Adams County Youth Initiative

GUEST BLOG: Dr. Richard Patterson, School District 27J Director of Student Achievement and Professional Learning

Honing in on 8th grade Math, as one of six Cradle to Career indicators, we are very excited about the increase from 8% met/exceeded grade level expectations in 2016 to 23% in 2017 also showing growth in the cohort group of students’ data from the previous year.

This 23% also beat the State average of 21% in 8th grade Math.  Moreover, the median growth percentile for 8th grade Math was the highest of each grade, just missing the 50th percentile at 49.5.

Still more, Stuart’s 2017 School Performance Framework designates Stuart as a Performance school!!

Stuart Middle School Embracing Continuous Improvement to Impact Student Achievement 

As the principal of Otho E. Stuart Middle School in School District 27J (SD 27J), from July, 2014 to June, 2017, we took on numerous changes in systems, structures, and processes to improve overall student achievement by specifically focusing on adult learning.

In 2014, Stuart’s 3-Year School Performance Framework (SPF) was Priority Improvement and the 1-Year SPF had just crept over into an Improvement rating. Historically, Stuart was consistently below State grade level proficiency levels and medium growth percentiles on the previous CSAP/TCAP assessments.

Math was of particular concern because each year’s scores were significantly below State averages and fell each year students were in middle school.

 While we enhanced many facets of “how we do school” at Stuart, one important cultural shift organically grew through SD 27J’s partnership with the ACYI Partnership to improve the Cradle to Career outcomes.

Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement

During the past two school years, Stuart has created a culture of continuous improvement through data-driven decision-making, differentiated approaches to whole-school learning, monitoring progress, and making adjustments along the way. During this time there was a collective convergence of important aspects that collided to turn the corner in the creation of this kind of culture.
Stuart has staff members who have hunger and courage to become better in their practice… Stuart has a belief that, as a school, it can perform much better than it was… Stuart took high-quality tier one instructional practices head on in order to open the door to tier two of differentiating daily instruction… and Stuart realized that, while the adults were working very hard to improve student achievement, students did not own their learning or behavior.
Simultaneously, a few staff members joined a team from SD 27J and ACYI to visit the Menomonee Falls School District in Wisconsin to observe their district approach to continuous improvement through the process of Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA).  Last year, Stuart applied for and received an ACYI LIFT grant to send another team to observe the continuous improvement model in Menomonee Falls. This truly was a catalyst in organically fostering the culture of continuous improvement. .

Stuart Middle School Team’s Continuous Improvement Focus: Engaging Students In Their Own Learning

In using the Continuous Improvement Process, we identified low student engagement and a lack of ownership of their work as a root cause for low math achievement. Starting small, we tested having students own charting their own performance in the classroom and started to see results. One by one, we then started building capacity across all classrooms as teachers saw the power in involving students in monitoring the progress of their learning… to own their learning.

We allowed the freedom in how teachers made individual sense of the PDSA cycle and how they used it differently across the school.  We soon discovered that there was a variety of ways in which staff was involving students in goal-setting, charting and monitoring their progress toward the goals, and reflecting on their results. We had a laser-like focus on these results and had high hopes of students performing better on the State PARCC assessments.

Check out a video we made capturing some feedback from our students regarding performance data in the classroom, the intervention we administered using the Continuous Improvement process.


Gains in Student Achievement Worth Noting

As I mentioned above in our spoiler alert, we recently received the achievement and growth data from the Spring, 2017 assessments.  For the most part, there is cause for celebration in both Math and ELA results.

Learn More About Additional Efforts Taking Shape

The journey described here is one partner’s story.  To learn more about other great efforts happening and the purpose of the ACYI partnership, please join us at the ACYI Catalyst for Change Breakfast on the morning of September 15, 2017. LEARN MORE
Dr. Richard Patterson
Director of Student Achievement and Professional Learning
School District 27J


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