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The academic success at Cherry Valley Elementary

Cherry Valley Elementary

Cherry Valley Elementary is 6 years new! We are seeing our first kindergarten class as 5th graders this year preparing to take the leap into middle school. Our focus is on building the student’s capacity to learn while incorporating communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking throughout tier 1 instruction. 

Overall, Cherry Valley students have shown both growth and achievement on state testing. We can visually see the shifts of student performance into the meets/exceeds range. Our 3rd grade students grew 8% on the ELA assessment and 5% on the math assessment from 2022 to 2023. Overall growth from one category to the next exceeded the state as a whole school and in several subgroups. 

Since our first year open, Cherry Valley has focused on looking at our student data to determine if something we are doing is working. Our first year was very “foggy” as teachers came to the “new” Cherry Valley from 12 different schools to make up our staff. There was not one instructional practice, support, or program during the first year that we could say was positively impacting student achievement. It became evident that we needed to focus on schoolwide tier 1 instructional practices. This was hard for some teachers! Step 1 was building a schoolwide schedule with common instructional and planning times by grade level and holding accountability to that schedule. We developed a positive culture of teacher collaboration with an expectation of planning together and sharing ideas. Teachers developed common lesson plans, had discussions about what was working, what wasn’t, and what they wanted to try. As the leader of the building, I worked closely with our instructional coaches and teachers to determine their instructional needs. Quickly, our focus was to incorporate “bite size” professional learning within the teacher’s day whether it was with their team or 1:1 coaching, voluntary after school sessions, PLC meetings, and institute days. Whenever and wherever we could, we provided teachers with exactly what they needed. We shared the overall vision of what best practice looked like and met teachers where they were to provide support.  We set up times where teachers could observe other teachers, engage in side by side coaching/teaching, and utilize peer models of differentiated instruction. As our professional learning continued, teacher confidence and efficacy grew. This is one of the biggest effects on student learning. Teachers have to believe in themselves and their practices to be able to help students feel like they can do it too. We created flex groupings within and across grade levels. During this time, we continued to use student data to drive instruction. If the data wasn’t showing growth, we pivoted. We never totally dropped anything we were doing, rather we shifted to meet our student’s needs. As I look back to where we started six years ago to where we are now, we are still focused on building solid tier 1 instruction but with all the pivots and shifts, it definitely looks different today.  

One key outcome we have noticed is that by having universal building expectations for scheduling, instructional practices, and instructional materials, students know what to expect right along with the teachers. Routines from year to year remain the same with few shifts. Both staff and students thrive on knowing what is expected of them and are able to live up to it. There is no magic recipe to make this happen, but it does come with clarity, communication, and accountability for everyone.  

Our future focus remains the same….. continuing to focus on intentional tier 1 instruction!

While building universal tier 1 expectations, we have realized attendance and a sense of belonging play a huge role in the student's success.  To be honest, this was not something originally on our radar. Currently our entire staff has circled around our students by initiating tier one ownership of supporting student attendance. For example, classroom teachers and other support staff reach out to families right away when the student is not at school.  In addition to our attendance focus, we have implemented a tier 1 SEL program called Leader in Me to explicitly teach students intrinsic personal habits and responsibilities for themselves. About 20% of our students are new to our school. Currently, 90% of the behavior issues stem from these new students. Our next step to support new students is to build a universal student onboarding program. This program will focus on providing new students with a welcoming experience to build their sense of belonging from day one.  This will be developed by staff incorporating both student and parent voice.

Cherry Valley Elementary Principal Carolyn Timm

 

I am very proud to represent Rockford Public Schools, staff, parents, and students as principal of Cherry Valley Elementary School. Our vision is for Cherry Valley to be a safe, welcoming, 21st Century learning community inclusive of all learners and families.