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Using CCI to Crack the Enigma of Initiative Fatigue or How Benedict Cumberbatch Will Save My Sanity

Alan Turing was a British cryptanalysis who helped crack the code of the German Enigma machine, a cipher machine, during World War II. By cracking this code, Turing helped turn the tide of the Second World War. 

 In the new film The Immitation Game, Turing is played by the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch (of Sherlock fame)

As educators, we have our own code to break. This year at Brookfield Central High School teachers were presented with a code, a cipher, an Enigma of our own.


How could we as teachers ever hope to crack this code? Well, I recently discovered the key to unlocking the code into its different pieces (educator effectiveness, student learning outcomes, professional practice goals, personalized learning communities, positive behavior intervention strategies, plan, do, study, act cycle, A3 forms, unit by design, and response to intervention). This new key not only decoded the enigma, it put them into a frame work where they made sense and could all be completed in an 8 step process. This process is the Continuous Classroom Improvement Model. It is currently being deployed in grades K - 12 in the Menomonee Falls School District. I attended a fantastic professional development opportunity there over the last 2 days and have seen the code of initiative fatigue cracked. I would like to walk you through the 8 step process briefly and show how CCI effectively ties all of the initiatives together.

Step 1: Standards Tie Directly to Your Unit by Design Document

The first step of the continuous improvement process is identifying course standards and unpacking them. By unpacking them, educators translate them into language which can easily be communicated to students and parent. These are the "I can ..." statements that many of us in the Elmbrook School District have been working so hard on in our UBD documents. These standards need to be communicated to both students and parents. So, creating thoughtful UBD documents is the key to this process. These documents can then be shared with all stakeholders. The form in which we communicate these targets unit by unit will be a little different. We'll get to that at the start of each unit.

Step 2: Setting a Class Goal Can Be Tied Directly to Your Student Learning Outcome

A class learning goal is a SMART goal in the sense that it is specific to a population, measurable in terms of results on an assessment, aligned to standards, results focused, and time framed. The class learning goal should always be phrased to include 100% of the class. This way, all students in your class are to be included. These goals should be written so that they measure growth. This encourages every student to achieve regardless of his or her entry point.

It is easy to turn a class goal into a student learning outcome, or SLO, by making it an attainable goal. This can be done by turning the 100% of students into an make reasonable figure using your unit pre-assessment as a guide.

Step 3: Charting and Analyzing Results Are a Part of Both the SLO and A3 Processes

As students progresses towards a class goal, you can't go about it blindly. And it's not enough for just the teacher to know where the class is at in the process. This is the reason that teachers need a visual representation of the class progress towards the learning goal.

Tracking this data ties directly to tracking the class's progress towards the SLO. A teacher needs evidence of progress towards your SLO. The data collected is the assessment data which will be used to plot class progress towards the learning goal.

This data collection process doesn't need to be specifically used for an SLO. If scaled up, perhaps school wide, the data can begin to apply this to larger school initiatives. These goals include literacy in the classroom. Tracking this progress occurs quarterly on A3 documents. There is no reason schools should not be using CCI to guide these larger initiatives.

Step 4: Crafting a Class Mission Statement Is a Reflection of the PBIS Work in the School

Students and teachers work together to craft a class mission statement that guides processes and behaviors in the classroom. I see this as the positive behavior intervention strategies, PBIS, work done within a classroom and as a school. This classroom mission statement is meant to be posted and referenced  when the mission is not being met as a method of redirecting problem behavior.

Steps 5 - 8 Follow the PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) Cycle

If there is a class goal that is met by the end of the course, one can imagine smaller cycles the class completes to take the required steps towards that goal. That is where the PDSA cycle comes in. The cycle is completed roughly every 5 to 10 class days and is recorded physically on a wall or board, or electronically in a form which is accessible to all students.

Step 5: Plan Is Taking the Objectives from the UBD and Communicating Them to Your Students

In this step, teachers communicate the unit "I can..." statements from the course UBD. Again, it is important that these learning objectives be communicated at the beginning of the unit so that the students know what is expected of them. These objectives also need to be unpacked from more dense standards to student-friendly language. In addition to knowing what the standard says, it is just as important for students to know what proficiency in this standard looks like so that students know when they reach the mastery.

Step 6: Do Adressess Both a Teacher's Professional Practice Goal, Authentically Engaging Students, and Response to Intervention

This is the time where it is determined what strategies the teacher and the class will use to reach the goal set in the plan. It is not a requirement for one's professional practice goal, or PPG, to be directly related to the SLO, but why not do that and make it more useful. In this step, it is useful to define what the teacher will do to help reach the goal and what students will do. The "do's" are specific learning strategies. The choosing of these strategies ties directly into response to intervention and students choosing their best mode of learning. Students and the teacher work together to identify which strategies will be most helpful to reach the learning goals. It is important in this step to seek input from students. Student ownership in the planning process is key. Student engagement will increase if they believe that their voice matters. In the past, these may simply have been viewed in the classroom as student complaints. Now, these are suggestions for what will help them learn better. It is usually very helpful to have a bank of strategies from which students and teacher can pick from to determine which will best help reach the learning goal.

Step 7: Study Is Data Collection and Analysis for SLOs, A3s, RTI and Authentically Engaging Students

In this step, teachers and students analyze the results of the learning cycle together. The data is used to help determine if the learning goal was met. At this point, students provide feedback on what strategies worked (+) and which ones need to be changed (Δ). When looking over the data, it is important to celebrate the successes seen. For those that did not meet the goal, this is a time for directed interventions to get those students to that goal. If this is a significant portion of the class, this would require a large scale analysis of what went wrong. After this analysis, the cycle would need to be repeated. Again, students have a voice in this process and it is important for the teacher to recognize and respect their voice and decisions.

Step 7: Act Incorporates RTI and PPG to Move Forward into the Next Learning Cycle

Once it has been determined what overall strategies worked and which need to be refined, it is up to the students and teacher to have a conversation about what strategies they will use in the next unit and what they will change based on the deltas determined in the previous step. At this point, the class can again define specific teacher and student "do's". Again, it is important to give students a voice in this process to increase engagement and meet their needs as individual learners. But at the end of the day, you are their teacher and should be willing to discuss and disqualify unreasonable ideas. These action steps are meant to directly inform the do's for the following unit.

But what about EE and PLCs

Educator Effectiveness, or EE, is the use of the SLO and PPG process. In addition, the CCI framework provides many pieces of evidence that fit the Danielson framework and can presented to an evaluator when an educator is in an on cycle year.

No teacher is working in isolation. Every teacher needs a group of peers who can provide support, solutions, and coaching. This is where an effective  personalized learning community, or PLC, comes in. No teacher is a born expert at CCI and every teacher implements it in a slightly different way. A PLC is a great place for these conversations to take place. These PLCs can be content specific so that discussions of learning goals and students progress can be discussed. There can also be very powerful discussions that could occur in cross curricular PLCs in which educators could share different learning strategies.

My intention in writing this piece was to let teachers know that CCI is not just another code for us to crack.  It is the code breaker, the Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring, if you will. It is a powerful tool we have available to us if we decide to use it rather than treat it like another initiative.  I ask you to be thoughtful and give it the chance it deserves.

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