• Category 2

    Selected in 2014

  • Grades: k - 6
    School Setting: rural
    Town Population: 1,095
    Student Enrollment: 71
    Student Demographics:

    Black/African American: 0%
    White/Caucasian: 92.8%
    Hispanic: 1.4%
    Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0%
    Asian: 0%
    Native American: 5.8%
    Other: 0%

    Teacher/Student Ratio: 1:18
    % Reduced Lunch: 39%
    % ELL Learners: 0%
    Founded: 1962
  • PRINCIPAL:
    Tori Brannan
  • CONTACT:
    520 Fifth Avenue
    Fairbanks, AK 99701
    907-488-3267
    tori.brannan@k12northstar.org
Salcha Elementary School
Fairbanks, AK
“The story of our little school is a love story. Staff, parents and community come together because we love these mercurial children, our complex northern community and our beautiful state, Alaska. We grow together because we have a vision of childhood. "
Describe the most successful activity your school has initiated to strengthen ties to your community.
The story of our little school is a love story. Staff, parents and community come together because we love these mercurial children, our complex northern community and our beautiful state, Alaska. We grow together because we have a vision of childhood. Our parents work hard and often cannot afford to get our children to the wide range of enriching activities available in Fairbanks. We resolved to bring those experiences to them, their siblings and the community. We partnered with the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival to bring high quality entertainment to our children and community, both during the school year and in the summer. Our parents work co-operatively to provide a preschool experience with support from the school. We invite homeschooled children into our school to utilize the library because no child should be without access to books. We collaborate with our local rescue squad and churches to gather and deliver Thanksgiving dinner boxes to new and struggling families in the area.
Describe your school culture and explain changes you’ve taken to improve it.
Our philosophy of “all our children are all our children” extends not only to the teachers and aides, but also to the nurse, lunch man, library associate, behavior specialist and other adults involved in our children’s school life. Therefore, all staff are trained to be instructional leaders in their daily interactions with the students, whether the instruction is in behavior and social norms or formal reading skills. We've accomplished this through professional development of all our staff members and school wide data team meetings.

Salcha kids serve. Our community is know for taking care of each other. We want our children to follow this example and have begun voluntary service projects for children in Honduras and providing the gift of music to the very young and very old in our and the neighboring community.
Describe how data is used to improve student achievement and inform decision making.
The Salcha staff made a commitment four years ago to use multiple measures when collecting student data. We adjust our teaching based on our children’s response to instruction (as determined through total response techniques) throughout each subject lesson, formative and summative assessments, and weekly, bimonthly, and monthly progress and strategic monitors. When skill deficits are noted, academic intervention is begun immediately. We teach our children over multiple years, discussing their data at least four times a year as a school-wide data team. Student Support Team Meetings are held weekly to discuss academic and behavior concerns. Data is collected and analyzed and a plan formulated. We use AIMSweb universal screen for reading and math, and the Fountas and Pinnell reading Benchmarking Assessment System with all our students. A school-wide writing assessment is given three times a year, based on 6 Traits +1. We even collect data and assess summatively in physical education.
Describe the program or initiative that has had the greatest positive effect on student achievement, including closing achievement or opportunity gaps, if applicable.
We begin core subject instruction the first day of school and targeted intervention within the first two weeks. Targeted, scientifically research-based interventions are delivered to students in an “all hands on deck” approach. Our highest skills deficit students are ‘double and triple dipped’, receiving intervention instruction from their teacher, highly trained paraprofessionals, and a reteach/review session with an additional classified staff all in the same day. We do not necessarily target subgroups, we target students who are struggling and focus on what skills they need next. We utilize flexible grouping, multiple opportunities to practice reading, and offer narrow and deep content study. We provide access to the general curriculum for all students. Special Education students are offered an alternate core math and reading program that focuses on skill repetition to mastery. All teachers keep student contact time sacred.
Explain how Title I funds are used to support your improvement efforts.
We have found that integrating our Title I funds with successful instructional-based strategies and programs already in place has granted us the best use of this limited resource. One such successful integration has been the funding of tutors in our primary classes, such as extending our half day kindergarten program to all day. We have seen extended day kindergarten address our attendance concerns as well as give our youngest students precious time to learn school so they can be better prepared to read and write.

Another major focus is our Summer Science Camp. The camp is two fold in its purpose: promoting science and decreasing summer reading/writing regression. Children arrive by Title I funded transportation (bus) for a 1-2 week adventure. The camp is like your typical day camp with humorous unit and counselor names, hands on STEAM projects, singing, hiking, and games, but also includes multiple opportunities for reading and writing.
Describe your philosophy of school change or improvement.
The cure for much of what ails us is just outside the window. Salcha Schools success is based on a four prong approach that focuses on the whole child through academics, physical fitness, immersion in nature and science, community and global citizenship. The school is the heart of the community where children from birth to adulthood begin and continue their connection, resulting in generational and community pride.

We have high academic expectation for all of our students despite social-economic or academic barriers. All our students are benchmarked and progress monitored throughout the year and early intervention leads our instructional practice. Our school’s philosophy is that “All our children are all our children”. Students are gently merged together as a cohesive unit regardless of age or ability. This is encouraged through multi-age classrooms, flexible grouping, school-wide Professional Learning Communities, and our community’s cultural expectations.
Identify the critical professional development activities you use to improve teaching and student learning.
Salcha staff meet weekly in a school-wide professional learning community (PLC). While a small school may lack the grade level teaching peers and specialists to collaborate with (which could be considered a disadvantage), our staff sees it as our strength. Though the expectation is that teachers must come to PLC meetings, our paraprofessionals join us too, as well as parent volunteers. We are committed to being a lifelong learning school. As part of our commitment to learning we voluntarily participate in professional book studies and discussions as a group. We’ve read multiple articles about reading process and reading instruction. We moved on to reading and discussing many books together, using Title I funds to purchase books for the staff. We also try to travel to conferences and professional development in pairs or groups, allowing attendees to reflect, discuss and plan for implementation in our school.
Describe specific programs in place to ensure that families are involved in the success of your school and students.
Salcha is a place where families are welcome. Teachers invite parents and siblings to visit the school anytime, often including them in their lessons and activities. The positive influence of bringing parents and family members into the school is also well-known and encouraged. All parents are invited to attend free Parenting Partner classes, with childcare provided, where they can learn techniques and receive support. Family members of students are brought into the school and honored for their work, service, and skills they provide.

The local parent group is tireless in its support of the school. They organize events, find speakers for classrooms, assist with benchmark testing, offer tutoring help and more. Four years ago most of our children couldn’t swim. They raised funds to transport our students to the nearest pool twenty-five miles away and together with the staff, formed a squad of volunteers who first taught themselves how to teach swimming, then, taught our children to swim.
What is the single most important factor in the success of your school that others could replicate?
When the ASPI Star Ratings were published for the first time at the beginning of last year, we were not satisfied with three stars. Having prided ourselves on making AYP as a Title I school every year, we accepted the challenge of the new rating system and strove to improve our scores in order to showcase the great school and students we know we have. It soon became apparent that although improving our attendance rate would improve our rating the quickest, it was the area we had the least amount of control over. So we set our sights on an area we could greatly influence, academics. We read, studied, reflected, discussed, implemented, adjusted and repeated the process throughout the year focusing on best instructional strategies. Our dedication to our profession and our children was evident in our movement from a Three Star school to a Five Star school with 100% academic growth for all students in one year’s time.
What are your school’s top two goals for the next year?
Our goals at Salcha School are to continue the forward momentum our students and staff have worked so diligently to obtain while still serving the whole child and preserving the magic of childhood. That challenge will be increased as we prepare our students for different expectations including timed, computerized assessments. Crucial to continuing the forward momentum will be the ongoing professional development and mentoring of new staff members, enveloping them into the fold of our community and school culture while assisting them with developing best teaching practices in a supportive environment. As our school moto states, we are "A good place to grow".
Stats
  • Category 2

    Selected in 2014

  • Grades: k - 6
    School Setting: rural
    Town Population: 1,095
    Student Enrollment: 71
    Student Demographics:

    Black/African American: 0%
    White/Caucasian: 92.8%
    Hispanic: 1.4%
    Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0%
    Asian: 0%
    Native American: 5.8%
    Other: 0%

    Teacher/Student Ratio: 1:18
    % Reduced Lunch: 39%
    % ELL Learners: 0%
    Founded: 1962
  • PRINCIPAL:
    Tori Brannan
  • CONTACT:
    520 Fifth Avenue
    Fairbanks, AK 99701
    907-488-3267
    tori.brannan@k12northstar.org