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Anderson County Schools

Productive Struggle and Growth Evident in Impact Survey Results, With Hopeful Outlook
Anderson County Schools principals recently received the results of the Impact Working Conditions Survey, which reflects the ways teachers feel about their professional environment (from their own abilities within it, to feelings concerning colleagues, to resources available in their schools, to school leadership). What we see when looking at the data from 2023-2024 is that Anderson County is on trend with what we expected to see based on various factors within in each of our schools as well as on the continued impact of our recovery from the pandemic and its affect on our teachers and students.

Let’s begin by using Robert B. Turner Elementary School as a model. During the pandemic, our teachers here in Anderson County were tired. They participated in in-person session far more than any of our surrounding counties. They continued by working during the summer with students to aid in credit recovery and to prevent summer learning loss. In addition to these district-wide initiatives, Mr. Jason Alexander, principal at Robert B. Turner, asked his teachers to do some additional hard work in terms of honing their individual craft during that time. Teachers at Turner began working on standards, on realigning the curriculum, and on analyzing and strengthening projects and assessments that had previously been strong but no longer met the changing needs of their students. And the school climate, as reported by teachers, took a dip in the 2021-2022 Impact Survey.

Educational leaders know why that dip happened. They know what hard work means-- the same thing it means for nearly every career: when someone is asked to do even more work than ever before, there is productive struggle/growth. When there is an increase as well, in terms of the Impact Survey, in “Feedback and Coaching” as well as “Professional Learning,” the “School Climate,” “Staff-Leader Relationships,” and “School Leadership” categories tend to take a dip. That’s what happened for Turner in the 2021-2022 survey.

However,  that hard work was soon reflected through student successes in the classroom and increased student mastery/learning, which created a rise in student confidence. Those two factors then resulted in rising test scores/student learning. When the chain of impact created by their hard work was obvious, the feelings about the work shifted from a focus on the struggle to excitement about the growth. That excitement reveals the growing confidence in a teacher’s belief in their own ability to guide students (e.g. teacher efficacy), which has long been proven to have the most significant impact on student growth, as shown in the research performed by world-renowned educational researcher John Hattie.

The impact on students is now on full display at Turner-- with being recognized by U.S. News and World Report and with their designation as a blue school based upon Kentucky Department of Education’s 2022-2023 Assessment and Accountability School Report Card data-- ranked in the top 9% of elementary schools in the state. This year, in the 2023-2024 Impact Survey, you’ll find Turner is now green in nearly every single area. The dip in scores happened while they were doing the foundational building and, now that it’s built, they’ve got the momentum, as the survey shows.

With that being said, there are some schools within our district that are currently completing the same foundational work that Turner completed in 2021-2022. Following with that trend, we are seeing some lower scores in predictable areas. Yet, looking ahead, we expect to see on-trend growth for the next survey as well. In order to ensure we are on-trend, Anderson County Schools plan to conduct in-house surveys in the meantime so a finger can be kept on the pulse of how our teachers are feeling. We also continually monitor proficiency levels using MAP assessment and have just completed the Winter Assessment. That data is already revealing the fruit of the productive struggle: more significant growth in several of our tested areas throughout the district than we have seen in quite some time.

During COVID, students faced prolonged periods with limited teacher-to-student as well as student-to-student interactions. Now that we have returned to in-person instruction, some students are struggling to adapt and increased student-behavior is a concern. Those additional stressors can impact how teachers feel on several categories of the Impact Survey. Those categories that suffer most are “Emotional Well-being” and “Belonging and Managing Student Behavior.”

Additionally, during the pandemic, teachers were provided what seemed unending free resources from educational companies trying to provide alternative versions of interactions and activities that would enhance virtual student learning. The possibilities were endless for educators because there was no price tag attached. Those same resources now cost districts anywhere from several thousand to upwards of tens of thousands for a yearly subscription that includes school and/or district-wide usage. As a result, schools across the country have had to tighten their budgetary belts, so to speak, and determine which programs are the essential ones-- which ones have a proven effect on student growth. The act of limiting such programs potentially affects the “Resources” category on the Impact survey.

Despite our lower scores in some areas, we are proud of our growth in several areas. The one category that has not taken a dip has been “Educating All Students.” While we will continue to work on raising that score, that number remaining steady shows our teachers’ dedication to their careers and their understanding of who all their hard work is for-- the students.  

We have also seen growth in the Professional Development category. This growth is due in part to work teachers have been doing aligning standards as well as work with programs like the University of Florida Literacy Institute (UFLI), Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative trainings in Core Systems work and in Deeper Learning, LETRS training, work with UK’s Office of Next Gen Learning on the development of a district Portrait of a Learner, as well as a district-wide summer conference where teachers are learning from one another about best practices and how best to utilize resources.

Overall, as a district our scores rose from the last survey on all areas. We’ve been doing hard work across the board. Schools like Turner that began earlier putting a focus on foundational work took a dip in the school climate and then, on trend with what data predicted, came back stronger. Guided by that same model, if other schools in our district continue on with the hard work they are currently doing, we expect they will increase as well. Despite some districts who may be afraid to do the hard work out of fear of teachers leaving when there is already a national teacher shortage, we know that the temporary dip is worth it to come out stronger on the other side. We believe in our teachers, want to meet the needs they have, and also remain sure that the way to success is remaining steadfast even through the inevitable growing pains.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t areas where we now know more work needs to be done. And, in the coming weeks and months, we will have to take a long look at those areas and ask some difficult questions. Being uncomfortable in a place you were previously comfortable is a hard place to be, but it’s also the space in which you learn. It’s where you begin to ask the hardest questions of all-- why and how. WHY did this score dip? WHY did this one increase? HOW will we improve this area? HOW will we continue to develop that area? The WHO is the one question that’s easy-- it’s for our students.

That’s what our administrators are beginning to do in their individual schools. With that in mind, here are some targeted questions they’ve been asked and their responses to them.

ACHS (response by Principal Chris Glass):
1) To what do you attribute your recent growth in staff-leadership relationships?

As an administrative team we are always willing to help out and assist in the classroom.  We pride ourselves on caring for our workers and treating them with the utmost respect.  We care about our colleagues as people and reach out when someone is in need.  I think that as a team we communicate well and value the opinions of all of our staff members.  We work hard to foster leadership within the building and provide the opportunity for educators to grow in their profession.

2) An area for growth seems to be Feedback and Coaching. What are you planning to implement or what conversations do you need to have in order to improve this area?

After getting the impact data and feedback from our CARS visit, this is definitely an area for improvement. We have already developed a weekly walkthrough sheet to hold ourselves accountable for more timely feedback and opportunities for coaching. We plan to be much more intentional with our coaching and work to set up follow-up visits/meetings with staff to make sure areas for improvement are being addressed. Our teachers and staff at the high school are experts in their individual fields of study; we hope the coaching and walkthroughs serve to support and strengthen what is already a strong faculty.

ACMS (response by Principal Jeanna Rose):
1) To what do you attribute your admirable growth in feedback and coaching (higher than district and state)? How do you expect that increase to improve other areas in the future?

I attribute the admirable growth in feedback and coaching to my administration team being laser focused on improving student learning. We have a walkthrough schedule and instrument in which we monitor teaching and learning and its impact on student learning through weekly observations in all classrooms.  Our teachers are provided an electronic copy of the observation which not only includes recognition of the high quality teaching strategies and rigorous learning tasks present during the visits, but also recommended strategies for continuous growth. Our administration team follows up with individuals, teams, or departments in meetings to further the coaching to use the strengths of our staff to improve the areas of growth.  Additionally, as an administration team we provide job-embedded professional development for our staff in weekly meetings to continue to grow our staff's pedagogy in best practices by using resources such as CKEC for examples and trainings. Furthermore, we look at student data weekly and discuss strategies to meet the needs of all our students. None of this coaching would have the positive impact it does, however, is not for teachers being willing to use the strategies and resources to revise their instructional delivery methods to meet the individual needs of our students, resulting in growth this year in their academic performance. I’m also proud of the way in which our teachers work hard to ensure that the weekly formative data drives the instructional decisions in our classrooms to differentiate learning opportunities for all students. This is a team effort and our administration team and staff work collaboratively to ensure our students' success.
 As to how to use this increase to improve other areas in the future, our administrative team will review questions with staff and students and use their feedback and ideas to develop similar plans to increase those areas as well. For example, “Resources” decreased 3% from the previous survey.  Administration will work with staff to create and review inventories of resources, survey staff for resources needed, and identify what resources are still needed to support student learning.  From there, administration will work within budgets to determine critical resources needed to support our students and work with staff to find additional avenues to secure the specific resources in a timely manner. We will have frequent communication and offer continuous support through our walkthroughs with staff in the follow up coaching sessions to help build their supply of resources.

2) Your biggest drop is in emotional well-being and belonging. What plans do you have to improve this category?

At ACMS, we love our staff and their emotional well-being and belonging is very important to us. Since returning to in-person school Post-Covid, teachers and students have had a transition period moving back into what we will call "normal" school.  For some staff, transitions have been easier than others. All schools went through an unprecedented time in school history and sickness and absences were at an all time high at ACMS as well as across the state.  We are committed to providing our staff with a safe working environment where they feel welcome and safe and this starts with the administration team focusing on the needs of the staff.  We will provide opportunities for staff to communicate needs and for administration to do their very best to meet those needs. We will also look for a systematic and structured way to add in more "team building" activities and ways to give our teachers the recognition needed for their tremendous work by publicizing the accomplishments of our staff and their successes with student growth within their classrooms.  

SSE (response by Principal Todd Wooldridge):
1) Looking at the six-year trend data, Saffell didn’t take as big of a dip during COVID (outperforming our other elementary schools on this Impact survey). Why do you think you were able to maintain pre-COVID levels during the pandemic?

Saffell focused on tailoring our needs to strategies based on specific challenges and needs of the school, students, and teachers.  At the time, we had a veteran staff.  The leadership team focused on academic support, mental health and well-being, technology integration, parent/community communication, data and regularly checked on teacher-, student- and community-needed resources.  The school continued to focus on home visits for students, staff, and community members throughout the Covid pandemic.

2) In the two years since the last survey, it seems that the two other elementary schools which took a dip during COVID (when you maintained higher results) have since rebounded. Do you expect your school to follow the same trend and rebound? If so, what do you have in place to aid that expected rebound?

At Saffell, we continue to focus on our Mission and Vision statement that directly impacts the climate of the building.  Since the Covid pandemic, we have shifted our focus on realigning our standards work and providing more specific coaching and feedback in all grade levels and content areas.  For the 2023-2024 school year we have also focused on Core Curriculum work, Trunk of the Tree, and narrowed the focus to the “Pieces of the Puzzle”.  This work has helped streamline our focus on grade-level core standards.  We have implemented new instructional strategies in both primary and intermediate grade levels.  This work did show a negative impact in our climate on the Impact Survey. Despite any negative impact on school climate, I want to highlight how resilient and student-focused our staff is here at Saffell. Since the Ky Impact Survey, we have recently analyzed our 2024 Winter MAP data showing great gains throughout the school.  In both reading and math, all grade levels increased proficient and distinguished students anywhere from 3% all the way to 18%.  These are numbers that you rarely see at a mid year benchmark.  We also had huge decreases in novice students in both reading and math.  This data is showing that both our alignment work and our intentional feedback work is showing great gains throughout our school.  

RBT (response from Principal Jason Alexander):
1) Your school leadership, school-climate, emotional well-being and belonging, managing student behavior, and staff-leadership relationships were your biggest growth areas. It seems like your staff feel valued and enjoy their jobs. To what do you attribute this positive shift?

As a school we have worked really hard over the last several years on building a strong positive climate.  We believe in the power of TEAM and that each person at our school plays a vital role in our positive culture and climate.  We spent some time in the summer working on team building and really getting to know each other.  I believe our strong relationships between staff and staff as well as staff and leadership have positively impacted our growth and success.  Our goal is to empower teachers and teacher leaders to feel safe to take risks and support each other in all that we do.  Additionally, we strive to celebrate growth, small wins as well as big wins.  We foster a sense of community and truly are a family at RBT.  We support and take care of each other and hold each other accountable.  We set high expectations and take pride in being Titans.  I am so grateful and proud of the teachers/staff at Robert B. Turner Elementary for their strong dedication and commitment to our school and Titans.  We pull together, support each other, and positively impact not only our Titans, but each other every day.

2) Even though you saw a small growth in Educating All Students, your score still falls a bit short of the overall Kentucky Elementary school average. Why do you believe this is, and what plans do you have to address it?

We continue to work extremely hard in utilizing assessment data to inform instruction.  I was very proud that our school scored 100% for favorable responses to how they use assessment data to inform instruction.  I am confident we do that well and I am proud of them for their continued work with this.  From the survey we are a bit short in regards to conversations about sensitive issues of diversity.  Those conversations can be difficult and uncomfortable with knowing the appropriate way to respond and how to best handle the situation.  Our plan is to continue listening to the teachers/staff to gather input and provide support and resources they need to be successful.  I’ve always said, when the teacher feels confident, supported and is successful, our students and families will be successful and happy.  The teachers/staff are the most important aspect to the success of our kids in the classroom.  I want to continue listening to their needs, receive their feedback, and then work to always support, encourage and help them be successful.  Confident and successful teachers directly impact the success of our kids in a positive way, and we will strive to continue doing that here at Robert B. Turner Elementary.

EBW (response by Principal Jeanna Slusher):
1) Your biggest growth was  in feedback and coaching, managing student behavior, school leadership, and staff-leader relationships. What elements have you put in place to which you attribute these growth areas?

There have been many things that have contributed to the growth in these areas. In the area of feedback and coaching, we have been fortunate enough to have a math coach in our building starting in 2022, this has provided our staff with more specific coaching and feedback related specifically to math. The math coach position has not only helped provide our teachers with more specific feedback and coaching, it has also helped to increase our students' performance in math. Leadership has been more intentional about getting into classrooms to provide support and leaving specific feedback in relation to congruency and student engagement.
Managing student behaviors has been a team effort to ensure expectations are communicated and consistency is provided. We have worked with our education partners at the Central Kentucky Education Cooperative (CKEC) to seek feedback as well as collaborating with district level administration and other school colleagues to assist in creating a solid plan for managing student behaviors. We know this is also an area that impacts our instruction and we are continuing to grow to ensure that we have high expectations, that the expectations are consistent, and that we are providing rewards and remedial opportunities to re-teach expectations.
School leadership has worked to build a positive work environment that values the staff within our building as well as stepping in wherever needed to provide support within the building. School leadership continues to seek learning opportunities to continue growing to improve.
The improvements in staff-leadership relationships is partially attributed to our work on focusing on the culture within our building to build leadership capacity, listening to feedback from staff, and continuously striving to improve together as a team. We continually strive to improve each year in these areas.

2) Even though you saw a small growth in Educating All Students, your score still falls a bit short of the overall Kentucky Elementary school average. Why do you believe this is, and what plans do you have to address it?

We continue to strive to ensure that we are prepared to educate all students by continuing to learn how to best serve our students through professional development and collaboration. The past couple of years have presented us with some behavior challenges that I believe is why we have not drastically improved in this area yet. We are working with our education partners at the Central Kentucky Education Cooperative (CKEC) to receive additional training and seek feedback to assist in moving forward in this area.  We have sought support from our district colleagues, master teachers within our building, and fellow elementary school resources/staff to help us learn more about how to better educate all of our students and meet our students' various needs to help all students grow.   We are also planning a school-wide professional development day this summer to focus on the impacts of a highly-structured classroom and assisting teachers in setting up their classrooms to meet the behavioral needs of individual students. This will also help us to work collectively as staff to create a school-wide plan to effectively meet the needs of all students and improve in educating all of our students.

ECC (responde by Principal Robin Ratliff):
1) Looking at the six-year trend data, ECC didn’t take as big of a dip during COVID . Why do you think you were able to maintain pre-COVID levels during the pandemic?

SECC was able to continue to deliver instruction during the pandemic similar to what we might be able to offer in the classroom due to the interactive style of teaching that is a strong part of what we do. The staff was innovative with the tools and technology that was available to them while still managing  to stay true to giving students developmentally appropriate instruction. Seeing the consistent and steady learning that was taking place created a sense of  normalcy and a sense of accomplishment during a trying time.

2) In the two years since the last survey, it seems that the elementary schools in our district which took a dip during COVID have since rebounded. Do you expect your school to follow the same trend and rebound? If so, what do you have in place to aid that expected rebound?

Our school has had an excessive amount of change in two years. A new principal, instructional coach, school psychologist, and special education team. We have had curriculum changes based on the latest Science of Reading which includes teachers taking an intensive literacy training program called LETRS and implementing the University of Florida Literacy Institute's phonics based skills program. We have also done hours of intentional work deconstructing our standards in preschool and kindergarten and creating and updating curriculum maps and pacing guides. With these types of changes and hard work there are growing pains. We are confident that we will see a rebound as we become more familiar with the changes and see the results of our hard work. Our data shows that our students continue to do well and we have received positive feedback from our families and community as they have been welcomed back to our school through family events and collaborative work with community entities such as the Chamber of Commerce. We are very excited to see what the future holds for our school.

As reflected in the responses from school administrators, they are already thinking about areas of celebration as well as areas of continued growth. We know from research that school climate, due to continued work directly related to students’ changing needs that there is a natural ebb and flow that comes with productive struggle. There will be years of growth and years when climate may impact scores negatively. However, our educators in Anderson County are here for our students through it all. More than anything, we know that our community is aware of one our our greatest assets-- that Anderson County Schools are brimming with teachers and staff who continue, day after day, to roll their sleeves up and build that foundation-- to be our students’ greatest ally on their individual journeys toward success. The staff’s dedication to students is unwavering and unmatched.

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