RCE Reflector

April, 2017

GET STARTED GET BETTER Regional Centers of Excellence:

In partnership with the
  • Minnesota Department of Education,
  • Minnesota Service Cooperatives, and
  • Minnesota Schools

to close achievement and opportunity gaps for the children of the state of Minnesota.

Fast or Far

In the last Reflector, we opened with sharing the idea of having a mantra; something you repeat in your head over and over that might change your mindset. A search of other ways of describing a mantra lead to this definition; a seed for energizing an intention.

What is your intention as you enter your school's door each day?

  • What are your beliefs?
  • Do your practices align with your beliefs?
  • What action do you need to take to unite your beliefs with your actions?

Now step onto the balcony and see your entire school or district. Instead of "me," consider "we."

  • What are OUR beliefs?
  • How do OUR practices align with OUR beliefs?
  • What actions do WE need to take to unite OUR beliefs with OUR actions?

This leads to another mantra that is worth considering in your continuous improvement journey:

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

In this edition of the Reflector, you will read about Lowell Elementary School in Duluth. Lowell teachers understand the benefits to its students when they work from a "we" mindset. Ensuring a connected, carefully aligned K-12 school experience for the children of Minnesota requires collaboration. When you find yourself getting antsy, wanting to move forward, and taking the work into your own hands, remember that to go far, you must go together.


Leadership Implementation Teams: Part IV

The Leadership Implementation Team Rubric is a tool that helps schools assess their current status as a team and set goals to become more effective. The rubric has five structures including:

  • Organization,
  • Function,
  • Communication,
  • Focus on Improving Instruction and Learning, and
  • Data Driven Decision Making.

Let's look deeper at Focus on Improving Instruction and Learning by examining its Critical Features.

Alignment of Assessment, Instruction, and Curriculum:

  • Does your team lead staff efforts for scaffolding learning to align curriculum assessments and instruction with the Minnesota Academic Standards benchmarks to ensure learning at higher cognitive levels and transfer learning to real-life situations?
  • Does your team monitor usable interventions (instructional strategies or practices) for fidelity and impact of implementation using in-depth data analysis (including observation) within both short and long PDSA cycles?
Capacity Building
  • Does your team coach staff in deepening their content expertise by using both student achievement and implementation data from usable interventions to accelerate and maximize student learning?

If you answered yes to all of these, consider your LIT as being successful. More than likely, your team may be considered aware, or developing in these areas. As you seek to move your LIT to a point of having its greatest impact, remember to refer to the LIT Rubric. More importantly, refer to your designated Advocate. He or she is eager to work by your side to help you in all areas of your continuous improvement journey.

Leadership Implementation Teams: Tools and Resources

Usable Interventions - How does the LIT select one?

Consider using the Hexagon Tool. This tool is a terrific way to help your LIT examine and select an evidence-based tool to match your school's identified needs. It reviews six areas that factor into making this very important decision:

Needs of students; how well the program or practice might meet identified needs.

Fit with current initiatives, priorities, structures and supports, and parent/community values.

Resource Availability for training, staff, technology supports, curricula, data systems, and administration.

Evidence indicating the outcomes that might be expected if the program or practices are implemented well.

Readiness for Replication of the program, including expert assistance available, number of replications accomplished, exemplars available for observation, and how well the program is operationalized.

Capacity to Implement as intended and to sustain and improve implementation over time.

For more information, click on the links below:

The Hexagon Tool: A Streaming Lesson

The Hexagon Tool

The Hexagon Discussion and Analysis Tool


Keeping our partners informed of the current projects and on-going program development occurring within the Regional Centers.

Calvin Terrell

On January 27th, the RCEs were fortunate to host educator and community builder, Calvin Terrell. Participants came from over 30 Priority, Focus, and Continuous Improvement schools to engage in professional and personal reflection on equity.

If you would like to learn more about Calvin, you can check out his website http://calvinterrell.com or follow him on twitter @terrell_calvin.

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Participants collaborate to examine their beliefs and practices around equity.

Featured RCE Team: Reading Specialists

The purpose of the Reading Specialist team is to provide literacy specific school improvement technical assistance and support within the RCE. The Reading Specialists work with regional teams to coordinate literacy improvement efforts for all students in focus, priority, and continuous improvement schools.

The RCE Reading Specialists work with schools to implement effective evidence-based literacy instructional practices. This work includes focus on:

  • balanced literacy,
  • access to uninterrupted, quality core instruction for all students,
  • standards-based learning that utilizes data-driven instructional decisions,
  • provision of flexible, responsive interventions, and
  • best practices, which includes emphasis on ensuring student engagement and high levels of time on literacy tasks.

One of the team's current projects is developing and piloting assessment tools for districts and schools to reflect on current instructional practices for the purpose of action planning.

For research, professional development, and resources, educators are encouraged to access:

For tools and resources outside of Minnesota, educators can browse:

So what are the Reading Specialists reading? Here are some recommended titles:

  • Visible Learning for Literacy, Grades K-12: Implementing the practices that work best to accelerate student learning by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and John Hattie
  • Organizational Culture and Leadership, by Edgar H. Schein
  • A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, by Sun Yung Shin (Editor)
  • Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing impact on learning, by John Hattie
  • Rigorous Reading: 5 access point for comprehending complex text, by Nancy Frey and Douglas B. Fisher
  • Read, Write, Lead: Breakthrough strategies for school-wide literacy success, by Regie Routman

If you would like to learn more about literacy best practice or speak directly to one of the literacy specialists, contact your Regional RCE Director. They will put you in contact with the right literacy specialists.

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Members of the RCE Reading Specialist Team: Pam Tomasssoni, Lori Mack, Michelle Wang, Cory Stai, and Carol Swanson

Not pictured: Becca Neal

Recent Professional Development: Thanks for attending!

The RCEs recently hosted professional development opportunities for all Focus, Priority, and Continuous Improvement schools. RCE facilitators used an equity lens to examine best practice in standards alignment and PLCs. If you would like more information about the content of this PD, please contact your advocate.


Lowell Elementary School

Discovering that your school has been designated as a Priority, Focus, or Continuous Improvement school based on Minnesota’s MMR (Multiple Measurement Rating) accountability system can spark a lot of emotions, especially for a school staff that is working really hard. Cindy Upton and Nancy Gibson, reading and math interventionists at Lowell Elementary School in Duluth, described their experience of getting the news as “devastating."

“We were all sitting in our school’s Media Center when we got the news that we were designated as a Focus School. There was silence, tears, and pits in our stomachs. We had been working so hard, but now felt like we weren’t working hard enough.”

A few weeks later, a small group of Lowell teachers went to MDE (Minnesota Department of Education) where they met with their peers; other schools that had recently received similar news. Nancy and Cindy further recalled their experience: “We met in a big conference room. I remember tables where we all sat. There were people standing along all three walls, including the Commissioner. There were so many nonverbal messages. We felt like we were all in trouble.”

After introductions, members of Lowell’s staff listened to a panel of school leaders representing previously designated schools. “They shared that they had ‘sat where we sat’ and that it was actually a very positive journey.” Despite being anxious, they reflected with appreciation what the members of the panel had shared. The panel’s candid and positive reflection on their experience helped the representatives from Lowell breath a wee bit easier.

Lowell began their process of continuous improvement by putting together its Leadership Implementation Team (LIT). Structuring the LIT was challenging, as many people answered the call for the request to join the team. Unfortunately, it was far too big. With the guidance of the LIT Rubric, a team emerged that was manageable in size and represented equally by grade level and specialists staff. The team members are highly respected and strong listeners. These members are also PLC leads in order to streamline feedback loops. In addition to using the LIT Rubric, the team is diligent about using the Record of Continuous Improvement (RCI). The RCI is utilized as a planning tool as opposed to compliance.

Upon reflecting on the LIT meeting times, both Nancy and Cindy noted that, “Our meetings are intentional. We don’t just do things to fill up the time. We are always focused on instruction.”

Fast forward from fall of 2014 to fall of 2015. A transition in administrative leadership took place when Principal Jen Larva came on board. By then, Lowell had been engaged for one year with the Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) guiding the continuous improvement process. Larva indicated that she, “felt very lucky to have been hired, "and didn’t realize at the time that the school was a Focus School.

Larva grounds herself in the belief that leadership is a “we” and not a “me." She is not surprised that the designation is referred to as “Focus." “It’s all about good practice and having laser focus on people," said Larva. These adult behaviors start with Lowell’s strong LIT of “movers and shakers." This focus on people also included a mindset shift. This shift led to a common belief that everyone can learn, and not just certain kids.

One practice that helped to accelerate Lowell’s progress was the implementation of Learning Walks. “What gets monitored is what gets done,” said Larva. Although as principal, Larva does her share of Learning Walks, teachers do them as well. “This allows for teachers to not only see the practices in place, but to learn from each other,” said Larva.

To make sure everyone was on the same page (fidelity) with an effective practice, Larva created a Learning Walk form using Google. Because the tool was being used to evaluate implementation and not teachers, teachers welcomed other adults into their classrooms. Additionally, teachers were clear about what was being looked for because of collaboratively created Practice Profiles.

Practice Profiles created an avenue for teachers to put into operation the agreed upon classroom practices. The LIT started with something that most teachers had dabbled in, Daily 5. Grade levels were given a half-day training on the creation and use of the Practice Profiles. Data that was collected on Learning Walks was reported and analyzed by the LIT. The result of this analysis was then used to determine next steps for assuring fidelity.

At first, the teachers were a bit reluctant of engaging in the creation of Practice Profiles. They had to get over that hump of feeling that they were better off if someone just told them what to do. However with time, teachers really dug into the work and utilized Practice Profiles in conjunction with several initiatives including frameworks for the Daily 5, guided reading, and Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI).

So how will Lowell Elementary sustain the work that has been going on? Principal Larva knew one thing for sure, “They won’t let us go back to where we have been.” Teachers at Lowell have been empowered to be leaders. Larva is also confident because of the direction that the Duluth Public Schools is headed, such as requiring PLC time for all schools and having a more “boots on the ground” approach to school improvement.

Cindy and Nancy both agreed: “People are no longer quiet. People are confident. People are talking about what’s going on.” Lowell Elementary School seems to have mastered the art and science of school continuous improvement. They have attained a system, driven by a team. They are a better team because they are driven by their system.

Lowell Elementary School's efforts are reflected in their data.

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Get Inspired!!!


What's on your Nightstand?

The Reflector is eager to add a new feature called, "What's on your Nightstand?" This is an opportunity to share with our partners across the state, books that influence our professional learning.

Do you, or your team, have a "must read" book to share? Please consider contributing by writing a review for the Reflector. Contact Mary Jacobson, Director of the Western Lakes Regional Center of Excellence, for more information.

Implementing Change: Patterns, Principles, and Potholes, by Gene E. Hall and Shirley M. Hord

Hall and Hord’s text is a research-based guide that advances practical methods for understanding, evaluating, and facilitating implementation processes of a system’s innovation. This book was selected by the Central Lakes Team because it is grounded in the belief that successful change requires an understanding of the importance of implementation constructs. Three processes are introduced to think about and appraise a systemic change: Innovation Configurations, Stages of Concerns, and Levels of Use.

Innovation Configurations have a similarity of purpose with practice profiles though they are more expansive in their structure. As with practice profiles, Innovation Configurations address the idealized image of a change and the various operational forms of the change that can be observed when it is being implemented. However, Innovative Configurations have more columns than practice profile resulting in further details of the innovation, and unlike practice profiles include the role of others with responsibilities for the implementation beyond the teacher as students, coaches, or the principal. Stages of Concern is a survey for those implementing an innovation that measures participants concerns. Further, there is inclusion of effective and less effective ways to address the different concerns. Stages of Concern results provide information about adaptive concerns. Levels of Use is a survey that assesses how an innovation is implemented. Eight different constructs are provided that shed light on the fidelity of implementation. In combination, Innovation Configurations, Stages of Concerns, and Levels of Use provide a broad review of implementation efforts.

Submitted by Mary Janatscheck, RCE Implementation Specialist


Please spread the word about the information shared below. THANKS!

Save the Date: Regional Data Days!

The RCEs are excited to once again be offering Regional Data Days. Details and registration will be forthcoming. In the meantime, please save the dates for members of your Leadership Implementation Team to attend.

Monday, June 26:

  • MDE, Roseville

Tuesday, June 27:

  • Lakes Country Service Cooperative, Fergus Falls
  • Southeast Service Cooperative, Rochester
  • Northeast Service Cooperative, Mt. Iron

Wednesday, June 28:

  • Resource, Training and Solutions, Sartell
  • Northern Lights Casino Events Center, Walker

Thursday, June 29:

  • Mankato State University, Mankato

Title I, II, and III, ESSA-SERVS Overview Training

This workshop will highlights the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements for Federal Title Programs I, II, and III. Participants will also be provided with an overview of how the requirements are addressed in the updated 2016-2017 SERVS application. Resources and practical examples will be shared.

For information and registration to any of the sessions listed below, go to the MDE Calendar of Workshops

March 21: Lakes Country Service Cooperative, Fergus Falls

March 28: Southeast Service Cooperative, Rochester

March 31: MDE, Roseville

April 11: Southwest / West Central Service Cooperative, Marshall

April 12: South Central Service Cooperative, North Mankato

April 18: Resource, Training and Solutions Center, Sartell

April 21: MDE, Roseville

April 26: Northeast Service Cooperative, Mountain Iron

April 27: National Join Powers Alliance, Staples

May 2: Northwest Service Cooperative, Thief River Falls

May 4: MDE, Roseville

ESSA Updates

Please continue to monitor ESSA updates at the MDE ESSA page. This is the most comprehensive and thorough source for information. Committees continue to meet regularly and often and post their meeting minutes to the site. Thank you to everyone who is contributing to this important conversation.

For More Information.....

Our Partners: MN Service Cooperative

RCE Staff Contact Information

Toni Cox, RCE Program Manager

Minnesota Department of Education

218-416-2416 toni.cox@state.mn.us

Jane Drennan, Director Southeast-Metro

Southeast Service Coop

507-696-5572 jdrennan@mnce.org

Dr. Lowell Haagenson, Director Central Lakes

Resource Training and Solutions

320-492-9092 lhaagenson@mnce.org

Dr. Mary Jacobson, Director Western Lakes

Lakes Country Service Coop

651-338-8779 mjacobson@mnce.org

Tara Lindstrom, Director Northern Pines

Northeast Service Coop

218-410-8111 tlindstrom@mnce.org

Tyler Livingston, School Support

Minnesota Department of Education

651-582-8472 tyler.livingston@state.mn.us

Becca Neal, Director Northern Sky

Northwest Service Coop

218-686-9719 bneal@mnce.org

Melany Wellnitz, Director Southwest Prairie

Southwest West Central Service Coop

507-215-2044 mwellnitz@mnce.org