Academic Year 2008 - 2009 Team Report

Onondaga Nation School Team Report


Team Members: Chris Homer, Simone Thornton, Mackenzie McElhannon, Abigail Storrier  


Team Name (e.g. Delaware Elementary):      


Onondaga Nation School      

Write the number of Teacher participants for each period.

Academic Year number

Summer Institute





Team Location and Focus (e.g. Delaware-ESL literacy)

The team location is the Onondaga Nation School---

The focus: Undoing racism in Cultural and Institutional settings- Multicultural Exchange

During this year's course we have focused on creating strategies to help undo racism. Our initiative is to involve the Onondaga Nation students and parents with other institutional settings (SUNY Oswego, Delaware Elementary, and Blodgett Elementary).  

Given the opportunity to participate in a Multicultural/Institutional Exchange, the learner will develop the ability to enhance their prior cultural and educational knowledge through communicating and interacting with outside community members throughout the school year.

Goals: Undo Racism through the following planned activities

  • Create multicultural encounters with participating institutions
  • Students will embrace and share their own culture
  • Parental involvement
  • Support ELA skills
  • Motivate students to challenge their social boundaries (look outside the box)
  • Encourage the pursuit of higher education
  • Strengthen Bridges Program


  • KWL Chart relating to school visits or cultural encounters
  • Reflective writing based on pre and post observations and experiences
  • Observations of behaviors and social interactions
  • Email and journal writings
  • Bridges participation  

There are many advantages to this Multicultural Exchange, including fostering English Language Arts knowledge as well as sharing cultural differences. We are optimistic that this cultural experience can create and sustain parent support into the schools, and to continue to teach students, parents, and teachers about the larger community in which they live and learn.

Children typically feel anxiety as they make transitions throughout their lives. The Bridges Program is designed to help ease the transition from the Nation School to a high school environment. Students get together through various activities and events throughout the year to establish friendships and trusting bonds that will last a lifetime

It is our hope that the Bridges Program and the Multicultural Exchange will compliment each other to positively impact student behavior by increasing their ability to express themselves and increasing their expectations in society.

Next year we also plan on continuing our literacy discussion on best practices for the classroom.  This proved to be successful this year.  We would like to implement our learned strategies into the classroom setting.


Data analyzed on teacher learning and results (e.g. Faculty surveys, teachers reflective journals)

To be completed by Dr. Jen Kagan

Data analyzed on student learning and results: (e.g. annual literacy assessments/NYS report card disaggregated data for 4th grade ELA, analysis of rubric scores on students writing samples each quarter for students in v.s. not in the program):

To be completed by Dr. Jen Kagan

Revised May 2008

Data analyzed on teacher learning and results (e.g. Faculty surveys, teacher reflective journals)

The nine teachers in the 2007-2008 Inquiry Group at the Onondaga Nation School were reflective, perceptive, and active learners. Each member of the group took initiative to express their own learning in a variety of ways.

We all decided that it would be a good idea to write our ideas down in a reflective journal.  This reflective journal was unique to the individual, but often contained questions, brainstorms of ideas, and discussion topics. The book that we based many of our discussions on, Best Practices in Literacy Instruction by J. Guthrie, L.B. Gambrell and L. Mandel Morrow was a great choice for the eclectic group because it allowed the group to talk about what they were doing in their classrooms and the text gave them ideas to implement. Many people in the group wrote down interesting questions that they had for discussions of the chapters. Because the book had a wide variety of chapters, from early literacy to adolescent literacy, we sometimes would break off into small groups and teams would report back about what they learned.

One member of the group, Chris Homer, was instrumental in getting us to blog on a Blackboard site through BOCES. I asked a series of questions and posted the questions online for the group to submit responses to. What was great about this use of technology is that this was a "place" that we could "meet" (cyberspace) and discuss challenges faced during the week when we weren't meeting physically in the Inquiry Group.

I would often play the role of moderator of the discussions online, and I would try to synthesize what occurred in the commentary.

For example, I said, "Great comments. Interesting that Marie's response, then Denise's response, then Pat's response kinda fits developmentally if you think about it." Here I'm trying to show how the comments from a diverse group of faculty all fits in together and makes sense.

I also received commentary about how much people liked the blogging. From art teacher Chris Homer: "Right on Jen! I think this collaborative effort and thinking is what helps us figure out ways to explore and hit on the multiple intelligences that makes up all of the classes." Kathy Gosh a second grade teacher exclaimed, "Great discussion friends!"

Through blogging, the whole group thought their work would best be accomplished in teams. Simone Thornton, kindergarten teacher stated, "I would love to work in teams again, this was a great tool for summer work" Pat McCoy, the T.A. for fifth through eighth grade said, "We're having great discussions, but I think we'd come away with more tangible results in teams." Marie Hayes, the speech pathologist said, "Teams are great especially if you can fins someone interested in the same subject or grade levels."

At the end of the Inquiry Group, members wrote to me what they found most relevant to them and their classes. Joy Gregg, a teaching assistant for kindergarten wrote about how four members of the Inquiry Group participated in an introductory Yogakids and Reading Comes Alive with Yoga workshop sponsored by The Central New York Reading Council (I was co-president of the organization last year). She wrote, "Personally, I was quite impressed with what I had learned at the Yogakids workshop and was anxious to try it out with my Kindergarten class." Joy wants to continue learning about kinesthetic movement to help kids with comprehension, transitioning from one subject to the next, and active involvement.

Pat McCoy wrote about the Inquiry Group and how beneficial it was to him.

"Inquiry group has been beneficial to me because I lack an academic background in the field of education. Sure, I have lots of classroom experience and can deal with behavioral issues, classroom management, and the like, but my educational knowledge is only that: experiential. So this was somewhat of a new thing to read about education and discuss it with professionals. In fact, I often found myself simply sitting back and listening to others and synthesizing what was being said. And I was really able to reflect on my own teaching much more than I ever have. That in itself is a huge positive." Pat also felt empowered enough with the knowledge of the Inquiry Group to suggest a strategy that would help the kids that he was assisting in the sixth grade. "Because of our text (the best practices book we read in Inquiry Group) I suggested to the instructor that we just reverse the order so they were listening first and reading second and their scores improved on their comprehension assessment at the end of the week." He also said that Inquiry Group, " . . . as a whole is leaving marks in all areas of the school." Kathy Gosh stated that, "The time we met caused a much more intense ripple effect into our effective teaching. It is something that I find doesn't end when our group ends."

Data analyzed on student learning and results (e.g annual literacy assessments/NYS report card disaggregated data for 4th grade ELA, analysis of rubric scores on student writing samples each quarter for students in vs. not in the program).

I have looked at the overview of school performance, the report card summaries for 2006/2007 as well as Onondaga Nation School's accountability student detail report 2007/2008 to look for trends in the data. It is important to understand that the size of the classes varies (for example population can vary from 4 students to eleven students from year to year).

Therefore, it is difficult to look at percentage pass rates due to this variability. In the NYS report card summaries there is a caveat that comparisons cannot be made because most differences in subgroup performances were suppressed for confidentiality.

Grade 4 ELA scores have improved over the past couple of years. In 2006-2007 the percentage that passed was 85% and this year 2007-2008 the 4th grade ELA pass rate was 80%. This rate remains virtually unchanged. The math pass rate for grade 4 was 100% this year. 5th grade ELA scores have a 75% pass rate.

Third grade scores did drop, but there were 5 students last year and eleven students this year. Many had difficulty with the ELA.

What is worrisome is that the eighth grade students all received two's for ELA. Not one passed. We do have more teachers that teach those students in the Inquiry Group this year so hopefully this trend will change. Often in the Inquiry Group we just have primary and elementary teachers.

I've looked at some of the writing samples from the third grade assignments "What I like about school" and pourquoi tales. The "What I like about school" papers were very structured and had a clear beginning and ending. The students were allowed to use clip art and any font that they wished. Some examples were very sophisticated in the use of language, while others were a bit more simplistic. The pourquoi tales were really creative. Some examples of the titles "Why the tiger has stripes" "How a horse went wild" and "Why dogs slobber." The students came up with unique reasons for the traits of the animals. It seemed that on most the attention to detail was better, and they didn't seem as "forced" into a precise paragraph structure. I feel we need to get back to writing that isn't so formulaic, and I feel this will help students to write more freely and with higher quality.

There is a new principal this year who is very interested in how the Inquiry Group operates, and who wants to be involved in some of the discussions. She views this group as a great source for professional development. It seems that we are making a difference with the students K-2 and this is where many of the faculty in the Inquiry Group are from.