Elementary Bright Spots throughout the Network

March 28, 2017

Three NTN elementary schools, Katherine Smith, Napa Junction, and Washington Discovery Academy, have been meeting periodically to learn, share, and think about the NTN elementary model. This week, they gathered “bright spots,” or practices that had been successful at their schools. Read more about their “bright spots” below.


Katherine Smith Elementary
San Jose, CA

Bright Spot: Circles

Establish a safe environment so that students and adults feel a sense of  equality, safety, trust , responsibility, connection to each other,  and ownership to support social emotional growth. The result be a school community that is empathetic and responsive to the deeper issues we face.


The group in the room forms a stand-up or sit down circle.  The circle leader states the circle norms and uses a talking piece to facilitate the conversation.  Some circles are simple one-word check ins, other reflect on the learning process, others are designed to repair harm when students and adults find conflict.

  • Step 1:  Establish Circle norms
  • Step 2:  State questions or response topics.
  • Step 3: Use the talking piece to either sequentially or non-sequentially share ideas, reflections, feelings, solutions, questions etc. to participate in the conversation.
  • Step 4:  Adjust purpose of the circle as needed-opportunity to be responsive


Napa Junction Magnet School
American Canyon, CA

Bright Spot: Building Leadership Capacity
  • To build leadership to ensure sustainability of the work and school model
  • To build a system of action-research, driven by interests and needs of staff
  • To build teachers’ knowledge, voice and confidence in facilitation skills

At our site, teachers have a role on one of two committees: culture or PBL.  Each committee meets monthly to research a specific topic based on input from staff and/or outcomes of data (surveys, student outcomes, etc).  Committees plan thoughtful agendas for professional learning, which they facilitate on a monthly basis with the whole staff.  


A school defines its top 2-3 needs and divides staff to serve on a committee that addresses one of the needs.  The committees are facilitated by school leaders who understand the dual purpose of each committee- deepen knowledge and build leadership.  The committees meet regularly to define specific needs and plan a professional learning activity for staff.  Each committee takes responsibility for a specific PL and plans accordingly.  On the day of the PL, the entire committee has a shared responsibility in leading the training.  The committee members then play a key role on their grade level team for applying and extending the PL.


Washington Discovery Academy
Plymouth, IN

Bright Spot: Building Capacity in Support Teachers

To build a unified culture that celebrates the professionalism and value added benefits of all staff members.


Classified staff has time to meet. Initially they gave feedback on school challenges and their role. Then they shifted to identifying adult learning needs and adaptive problem solving.

  1. Regular time to meet with aides
  2. Survey to identify needs-based learning of team
  3. Time for classified staff to meet with NTN coach to build background knowledge and connection to the Network
  4. Shift of language to “support teachers” instead of “aides” or “classified staff”
  5. Evolution of meetings from feedback/listening to active learning and problem solving
  6. Shift to give ownership of their own role and schedule to support student needs