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As teachers and leaders we want to move our low performing students to middle- and high-performing and move middle-performers to high performers. This was the focus of Monday’s blog. It focused on consistent feedback and formative assessment; actions teachers take every day to become better and better teachers so that they increase student achievement.

Montclair Elementary School in Escambia County, Florida, moved from a low performing school to an “A” school during the 2010-11 school year. Its leaders, teachers, and school personnel are committed to the Five ALWAYS Teaching Principles which include consistent feedback and formative assessment. It is apparent that the teachers work together and that the focus of their work is always the students and making Montclair Elementary a great place to teach and learn.

One of our initiatives this year with Montclair was a weeklong summer teaching development institute (TDI) where we focused on 30 day plans and common planning. A major part of the TDI was writing measureable learning targets, aligning the targets with learning tasks for students to practice concepts, and outlining formative and summative assessments and consistent feedback strategies which creates a student learning/achievement feedback loop. Collaborations were developed within grade-level and student learning targets were identified across grade-levels. The active engagement of the teachers to the planning and assessment process during the TDI set expectations of excellence for them and for their students as they moved into this school year. We were again reminded of this last week during one of our visits to Montclair.

We spent the day with teams of teachers and teacher-leaders/coaches during their common planning period. We discussed learning targets and achieved learning goals for each individual student. That’s right! The teacher teams and the coaches addressed learning gains for each and every student, moving through the entire grade student-by-student. The following is an example of how each student conversation begins; led by the teacher-coach:

Xavier’s score on the practice achievement test (i.e., summative assessment of 60 day (8 week) plan targets for this quarter) is 77. At this time last year he scored 64. What success by learning target have you seen in your classroom? [Teachers respond.] Are there areas where you have noticed Xavier struggling in your classroom? As the coach is there any resource I can provide? Would the student benefit from one-on-one tutoring/instruction?

The following is an example of the exchange that followed the coach’s question:

[English teacher] Xavier struggles with the finding main points. I reintroduced the difference between main points and supporting details; he has been practicing this, but has not been consistent in my class. Have any of you seen this in your areas?

[Math teacher] He has success restating word problems using equation form. These are the scaffolded learning targets that I used for solving word problems with him and the class. Xavier is with me next period and since he has been successful with word problems, I will ask him to share with me and the class verbally and work through at the board how he goes about solving a word problem. Maybe from this we can figure out what is not transferring to English.

[Reading Coach] I will also focus on this with him in our group and one-on-one reading sessions.

[English teacher] That would be great. Thanks. I will follow-up with each of you in 3 days and at the end of next week to discuss improvements.

The Montclair teachers are committed to these conversations for every student. We see these teachers applying consistent feedback to their students, working together, and thinking reflectively about how to modify their practices to focus more on student learning rather than on the content they teach and the activities they do with students every day in class.

Good news! Through their commitment to applying the feedback loop actions (and the other Five ALWAYS Teaching Practices) in their classroom, their passion for teaching is evident. We see it. Each conversation ended with a summary assessment of individual student improvement plans; the teachers did not give up on any student. Their commitment and actions have created winners at Montclair Elementary School. Students are winners, parents are winners, teachers are winners, the school is a winner, and the school district is a winner.


Montclair Elementary School in Escambia County, Florida, moved from a low performing school to an “A” school during the 2010-11 school year. Its leaders, teachers, and school personnel are committed to the Five ALWAYS Teaching Principles which include consistent feedback and formative assessment. Check them out at http://mes-ecsd-fl.schoolloop.com/.

Studer Education works with institutions of higher education and school districts throughout the United States to assist leaders and employees with creating great places for people to work by achieving goals that help educational institutions achieve excellence.