Discover how one school team partnered with Focused Schools to drive student growth through collaborative data inquiry.


Located in southern Vermont, Windham Northeast Supervisory Union serves over 1,000 students in grades PreK through 12. With a commitment to partnering with their communities, WNESU’s mission is to “ensure growth and inspire lifelong learning for each and every student.” They recently began a districtwide effort to implement common interim assessments to measure student outcomes and inform instruction. However, when they received their initial rounds of assessment data, many teachers and leaders were unhappy with the levels of student achievement.

Westminster Center School, one of the district’s four elementary schools, had DIBELS assessments that revealed that, on average, 29 percent of students demonstrated proficiency in reading. In addition to their reading assessments, the WCS team also administered the Panorama survey, which provides schools with information about their students’ engagement and social-emotional well-being. At their beginning-of-year survey administration, 34 percent of students in grades 3-5 responded positively to questions about their engagement in school, and 64 percent responded positively to questions about their sense of belonging. The Westminster Center School team knew they had to do something to change these outcomes for their students–and do it quickly– but their question was how to begin.


A Districtwide Approach

As a district, WNESU had previously partnered with Focused Schools to support the development of its strategic plan. The following year, the district continued the partnership to implement professional development and coaching around executing Focused Schools’ Leadership Framework at all schools across the district. 

A Tailored Approach for Westminster Center School

In every partnership, Focused Schools tailors its program of support to the district and to its individual schools. Support at Westminster Center School included two key components:   

Educator Development and Support

  • Facilitated monthly professional development sessions for school teams to learn how to implement the Focused Leadership Framework
  • Provided differentiated support to school teams to help build or strengthen their Instructional Leadership Teams (ILTs)
  • Partnered with the ILT to identify a targeted learning focus (TLF) and then analyze data and research to identify a small set of evidence-based practices to support the TLF
  • Trained ILTs to use protocols for looking at student work and to engage in a collaborative data inquiry cycle to create short-term data-informed action plans


  • Conducted coaching sessions with the principals to support implementation, progress monitoring, and troubleshooting as needed
  • Served as a thought partner and process observer to ILTs

Through their data analysis, the WCS team identified a critical need to improve reading proficiency. As part of their plan, the principal and her team redesigned some of the teachers’ weekly collaboration time to ensure they had the time, space, and tools to consistently and collaboratively review student data, create plans to respond to the data and assess their impact. According to the principal, they also “had a few very uncomfortable conversations which resulted in creating staff agreements… and then it was my job to hold those agreements close…. I feel that these conversations promoted the fact that we have to take literacy instruction seriously, and we will be looking at student data and the quality of instruction. And my staff rose to the occasion!”

In addition to addressing low reading scores, the ILT also used what they learned about implementing a collaborative data inquiry cycle to respond to their students’ low engagement rates and sense of belonging as measured by survey data. Westminster’s principal shared: “Our entire PD cycle this year revolved around student engagement. …Each month, we had a half-day PD session. During this time, PLCs met to discuss the recent active participation strategy they had committed to trying in the past month. Then we met as an entire staff …to decide what they would try for the next month and discuss in their PLC at the next half-day. By the end of the year, we created a Student Engagement one-pager, which we will revisit as a whole staff in the fall and share with new staff. This will be added to our list of ‘how we do things here.’”

THE IMpact

After two years of implementing the Focused Leadership Framework, schools in WNESU are seeing an impact. Across the district, school teams have built systems and structures to ensure continuous improvement in their students’ outcomes by systematically and strategically gathering, analyzing, and acting on student data. They have aligned their efforts to build cohesion and maximize their resources, and this is leading to results. 

Educator-Owned Improvement Cycles

At Westminster Center School, all of their ILT meetings, staff meetings, professional development, and team meetings align directly with their continuous improvement efforts. Teachers have become so invested in this process that it is now led almost entirely by educators. In fact, when their principal had a scheduling conflict with one of their staff meetings, members of the ILT seamlessly led the meeting on their own. Looking at student work, making data-informed decisions, and implementing action plans in response to data are now common practices at WCS.

Improved Student Outcomes

In addition to their aligned efforts and shared leadership, Westminster Center School is also seeing growth in its students’ scores–in reading, engagement, and sense of belonging:

  • The percentage of students meeting or exceeding the reading benchmark climbed to 44% schoolwide (an increase of 15 percentage points).
  • The percentage of students in grades 3-5 responding positively to questions pertaining to student engagement rose to 57% (an increase of 23 percentage points).
  • The percentage of students in grades 3-5 responding positively to questions pertaining to their sense of belonging rose to 75% (an increase of 11 percentage points).

Next year, the team at Westminster Center School plans to continue leveraging the systems, structures, and agreements they have developed to further improve outcomes for their students.

Could your district benefit from support in analyzing student data? Let’s collaborate! Contact us to learn more.