• Category 3

    Selected in 2018

  • Grades: pre k - 5
    School Setting: urban
    Town Population: 10
    Student Enrollment: 450
    Student Demographics:

    Black/African American: 1%
    White/Caucasian: 70%
    Hispanic: 2%
    Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 1%
    Asian: 1%
    Native American: 16%
    Other: 5%

    Teacher/Student Ratio: 1:25
    % Reduced Lunch: 48%
    % ELL Learners: 1%
    Founded: 1983
  • PRINCIPAL:
    Susan R Steele
  • CONTACT:
    5981 Eek Street
    Wasilla, AK 99854
    907-864-2200
    fle@matsuk12.us
Finger Lake Elementary School
Wasilla, AK
“Building relationships of trust, empathy, and grace has taken time but pays dividends."
Describe the most successful activity your school has initiated to strengthen ties to your community.
The most successful activities that have strengthened ties with our school community are Title 1 Activities, business partnerships, and extra-curricular activities. Since becoming a Title 1 school, family events have been structured with family and community relationships in mind. Each year, attendance increases at events. We believe families feel more supported and connected. We utilize parent feedback from online and paper surveys for scheduling and planning. Finger Lake also strives to build authentic relationships with families and community business partners. We value our partners and feel their investment of time, resources, materials, and talent are key factors in our ability to provide strong public service. Finally, we also believe our concerted effort to expand the choices of after school clubs has helped families and students feel connected building deeper relationships, bonds, and ties to our school. Each year, we use a portion of Title 1 funds to support our clubs.
Describe your school culture and explain changes you’ve taken to improve it.
School culture, as Randy Sprick defines it, is the sum total of all the interactions that occur within a school. It has been a priority of the team at FLE to build a culture of school spirit, support, kindness, positive energy, customer service, grace, and community-mindedness. The steps we’ve taken to accomplish this are to build school spirit, shared leadership, enhanced curb appeal, school-wide structures, and a strong professional development plan. We build school spirit during school-wide assemblies, morning announcements, and activities. We made an intentional effort to make physical changes to the entrance and lobby creating a welcoming space that was more inviting, friendly, and warm when guests arrive to school. Another large initiative was to begin implementing school-wide systems and structures that every staff member and student would benefit from such as recess supervisor trainings and meetings, bus driver meetings and teacher leadership team huddles.
Describe how data is used to improve student achievement and inform decision making.
Finger Lake Elementary builds a master schedule based on a three-Tiered RTI Framework. Staff use district adopted curriculum and supplemental materials to support instruction, interventions, and extensions. Teams at every grade level flexible group for reading and math using data to match instruction to student learning. Benchmark AIMSweb and MAP assessments are done three times per year to provide staff with information and confirm placement of students. These benchmark assessments, along with program assessments and teacher recommendations, are used to match students to interventions/extensions. Weekly progress monitoring for reading, and biweekly for math using AIMSweb and program data are used as formative measures to target specific skill deficits and measure growth. PEAKS data, or state assessment data, is used each spring to celebrate, identify areas for improvement, and build the fall master schedule.
Describe the program or initiative that has had the greatest positive effect on student achievement, including closing achievement or opportunity gaps, if applicable.
The consistent and transparent use of Title 1 funds to support school-wide goals and initiatives has had the greatest impact on student achievement and closing the gap. Title 1 funds are used for tutors to support grades with the greatest need, intervention program materials, technology and software licenses. The consistent and reliable use of Title 1 funds over time has made building a master schedule in the spring for the following year doable. It allows some flexibility for minor adjustments due to summer academic dips, new students, and/or changes to fall data. Flexible grouping and skills block structures at our school also allow for individual student needs to be met. Finally, building relationships of trust, empathy, and grace has taken time but pays dividends. Staff meet at work and outside of work to spend time together creating an environment of respect and rapport where staff beyond their own classroom and share a global vision.
Explain how ESEA federal funds are used to support your improvement efforts.
Title 1 funds have been used for professional development, technology (devices and software licenses), tutors, curriculum materials, family engagement activities and events, and club/sport stipends. Our school goals guide us to determine the best way to use our Title 1 resources. Our school coordinates with the MSBSD Federal Programs Department as needed to support other subgroups like Families in Transition, ELL, and Migrant populations. FLE ensures that staff are aware of current resources available and advocates, applies, and/or reaches out to district coordinators as needed to ensure students have necessary support at school.
Describe your philosophy of school change or improvement.
When something new is coming or a need is identified, staff need time to process the “why.” The most positive staff members need time to grapple with a new idea, initiative, or direction. Selling an idea or a new initiative is easy when yes is the answer to the following questions: Is it good for kids? Is it sustainable? Is there a plan for training and support? When a need for change is identified through data collection and/or observations, we ask more questions about the problem. We share leadership responsibilities by poking holes in the theories of why the data is what it is, and we hypothesize about what we need to do to fix it. By agreeing to monitor, assess, set goals, evaluate, and revise as needed, no one feels pinned in a corner with an initiative that they don’t like. A task force is generally assigned to dig more into the topic and seek solutions. Our school mindset is to be solution-oriented and keep decisions grounded in what is best for students.
Identify the critical professional development activities you use to improve teaching and student learning.
PD activities at FLE touch every person regardless of their role. Training for all core programs is a minimum requirement. Then we look at all staff, certified and classified, as critical contributing members of our school-wide plan. In order to build capacity with our teams and ensure students benefit from the structures in place, there are varies target audiences that meet regularly to discuss needs and professional development. Our school has special education huddles, data meeting huddles with school psychologist and instructional coach, recess supervisor huddles, office huddles, intervention huddles, leadership team huddles, behavior team huddles, etc. These meetings are generally 25 minutes every other week and allow us to stay connected and focused on the mission. We also look at other models of support when additional training is needed such as instructional tours, consultative services, contracted services, or staff book studies to meet needs.
Describe specific programs in place to ensure that families are involved in the success of your school and students.
Our Title 1 program requires family surveys at all family events and stakeholder input. We have four to five large Title 1 meetings annually including our fall school family meal/meeting where families are informed about school initiatives, how funds are used, how they can be involved, support their child at home, and school safety. We also communicate with families through email, text, Facebook, newsletters, and in person as often as possible. Our district has two dedicated times per year (October and February) for parent-teacher conferences. Gathering input through google survey forms is a common practice at our school. This year, we have surveyed all families on three occasions: safety initiative prior to locking our front door during the instructional day (not past practice in our district), their preferred method of communication, and their needs after the recent 11/30/18 Alaska earthquake.
What is the single most important factor in the success of your school that others could replicate?
Our trauma leadership team agreed on a trauma sensitive mission statement for our team which is “Building resiliency through relationship because every person has a story.” This is the single most important factor that all schools should replicate. Building a culture of trust through relationships yields high results. High trust environments produce outcomes, are student-centered, and allow for a positive continuous growth mindset. Staff members enjoy coming to work every day where great things are occurring.
What are your school’s top two goals for the next year?
Each year after fall MAP and AIMSweb Assessments, we look at academic goals for each grade level. At minimum, we want all students to achieve 1 year’s growth in 1 year, and we want students in intervention classes to obtain catch up growth.

Each spring, we also evaluate behavioral referral data and set goals for the following year.

Another goal that will occur during our spring planning session will be to identify professional development needs and make a tentative plan for delivery of content, target audience(s), and estimated time period.

Finally, building a DRAFT master schedule in the spring is a large undertaking that is always a priority for the following year. Based on spring scores, we look at groups, needs, and staffing and develop a plan.
Stats
  • Category 3

    Selected in 2018

  • Grades: pre k - 5
    School Setting: urban
    Town Population: 10
    Student Enrollment: 450
    Student Demographics:

    Black/African American: 1%
    White/Caucasian: 70%
    Hispanic: 2%
    Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 1%
    Asian: 1%
    Native American: 16%
    Other: 5%

    Teacher/Student Ratio: 1:25
    % Reduced Lunch: 48%
    % ELL Learners: 1%
    Founded: 1983
  • PRINCIPAL:
    Susan R Steele
  • CONTACT:
    5981 Eek Street
    Wasilla, AK 99854
    907-864-2200
    fle@matsuk12.us