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    Building Integrated Support Systems at South Shore PreK-8 School
    Posted on 10/22/2019
    Two teachers greet students as they walk into the school building

    Building Integrated Support Systems at South Shore PreK-8 School

    One goal of the district’s new Strategic Plan, Seattle Excellence, is ensuring that students, particularly those furthest from educational justice, feel safe and welcome in school. For students to learn effectively, they must feel healthy, supported, and receive developmentally-appropriate instruction that challenges them academically.

    South Shore PreK-8 is committed to supporting all their students and recognizes that providing safe and welcoming environments is crucial to student success. Staff at South Shore understand the urgent need to change systems that do not serve students, rather than changing students themselves.

    During their summer professional development days, staff studied their school discipline data to ensure equitable system-wide practices that focus on decreasing missed instruction time for students are in place.

    Kayla Bishop, a South Shore elementary special education educator, also led a staff conversation to wrestle with the questions: “What are high-quality services?” “For whom are they targeted?” “How are they delivered?”

    These questions encourage staff to consider how to build integrated support systems for every student, regardless of past behavior, experience, or whether students qualify for special education services. This involves building a team of adults who are student-focused and build strong student relationships.

    A student talks with three students in the hallThe leadership team at South Shore shifted school scheduling practices, which in the past were designed for the convenience of adults, to focusing on the impact schedules were having on students and create schedules that reduced the number of transitions students experience day-to-day. The team understands that it is crucial, especially for students furthest away from educational justice, to have a reliably consistent staff who are deployed to support students based on their strengths and skills.

    South Shore leadership also recognizes the significance of having a diverse educator workforce and are committed to partnering with Seattle Teacher Residency and the Academy for Rising Educators to grow their classified staff to fill educator positions.

    Currently, about 60% of the teachers in the elementary grade levels at South Shore are educators of color, which supports authentic engagement and promotes identity safety. South Shore teachers know that “they aren’t teaching content, they are teaching students,” and students are the center of all decision-making in the building.

    Staff regularly practice asking the questions: Are we serving our students appropriately, according to what they need? Are we providing those services fully and meaningfully? Staff focus on serving the needs of the whole child, consider their individual strengths, and commit to seeing each child for who they are, not what they might have done.

    “If we are going to talk about a kid, we are going to talk about everything,” says Bishop.

    Teams use data to improve transparency around outcomes, as well as the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) process to monitor students and ensure they are setting up all students for success. For these systems to deliver on Seattle Excellence, a school culture and climate must exist in which staff share a strong commitment to disrupting implicit bias through authentic racial equity work. South Shore has a robust racial equity team that has been facilitating this work for the last three years.

    The staff at South Shore recognize that adult belief and behavior has an immense impact on student experience and outcomes. As Principal Hendrickson says, we have to “tuck kids in,” so they know there is an entire community of adults that care about them and believe in their ability to succeed.

    Read more about Seattle Excellence, the district’s Strategic Plan.