Thermopolis Middle School

  1. PLC Story
  2. PLC Practices
  3. Achievement Data
  4. Awards
  5. Resources

The Hot Springs County School District #1 administrative team has been to the PLC Conference in Las Vegas for the past five years in a row, each year taking several teachers and at least one school board member.  We are known for sitting in the front row at Caesars Palace and taking in many of the keynotes. As a team we were saddened by the passing of Dr. DuFour, but we were impressed with the grit of the Solution Tree team that stepped up and kept the light alive. 

Thermopolis Middle School has been on the PLC “right” journey for five years. Prior to 2012-13 Thermopolis Middle School had been on the PLC “light” path for several years.

A quick recap of the past five years include a shift in year one to a focus on student learning, this was a cultural shift for the adults and some people chose to get “off the bus.”  

Year two (2013-14) was all about forming teams and norming.  Our master schedule began to change to allow for daily grade level team collaboration time built into the schedule. The primary shift was in getting the right people in the right seats “on the bus.”  Our fifth and sixth grade teams began to build and implement common outcome assessments.

During the summer of year two we had our first taste of success with Thermopolis Middle School being named “Exceeding Expectations” by the Wyoming Department of Education.  A formula based on percent of students proficient in reading and math, growth as calculated by a formula indicating whether students were moving in proficiency levels in comparison to peers, and equity based on the number of students moving from basic or below basic to achieve proficiency.  Our strength that year was in the category of growth. At that time we were in top 18% of K-8 schools in Wyoming.

In year three we began to see noticeable changes in data as we monitored our fall, winter, spring, MAP (Measurement of Academic Progress) results.  Teams began to be data driven at all levels of classroom assessment.  Fifth grade piloted weekly “probes” which we now call “checkpoints” (mainly to reduce giggling in team meetings) as common quick formative checks for understanding. Our sixth grade team modeled the strongest norms, allowing them to create common practices for behavior and academic expectations across content areas. The combined seventh and eighth grade team struggled to find common ground even though they were in their second year of collaboration. They each were isolated in their content areas and could not clearly see what they had in common.  The strongest work was taking place in identifying our essential learnings by grade and content area and beginning to build rigorous outcome assessments aligned to the Wyoming Performance Standards (common core).  

In year four (2015-16) it all began to come together.  Not only did we have daily grade level collaboration built into the school day, we added twice a week vertical collaboration.  For vertical collaboration our grade level teachers broke into math, language arts, science, social studies, and PE/health teams.  These teams were highly engaged in identifying essential learnings, unpacking those standards into vertical alignment (How does this standard look different in student learning by grade level?), creating vertically aligned outcome assessments, agreeing on common pacing across 5th-8th grade for essential learning units of instruction that all four grade levels have in common. And not only sharing data but analyzing student work across grade levels as a peer review team to establish grade level academic expectations for each outcome assessment. All of the teams, horizontal and vertical, worked the work in collaboration, focused on by student, by skill data. All teams would now agree they would no longer know how to teach without this process.

In the summer of 2016 our PAWS (Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students) results came in and we knew we were gaining ground.  One of our goals was to be ranked as a “top ten” school (out of 48 districts) in Wyoming.  This type of data had been tracked in our district for some time simply by taking the percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in comparison to the other districts across the state.  As a middle school we have nine data points on the Wyoming PAWS.  The nine data points are grades 5-8 reading and math, and eighth grade science.  

How many times each year have we been a “Top Ten” PAWS school?

2011-12 = 0

2012-13 = 1

2013-14 = 2

2014-15 = 3

2015-16 = 5 (6th grade math and reading; 7th grade math; 8th grade math and science) 

Year 5 of our PLC Journey: the 2016-17 school year culminated in our school being one of three middle schools/junior highs in Wyoming (out of 48) labeled "exceeeding expecations" by the Wyoming Department of education.  Our teachers and students earned this amazing honor by working hard and growing ALL students in reading, math and science above and beyond their peers across Wyoming.  

Being a PLC school means that we “work” our ten collective commitments every single day.  Our PLC focus is high levels of learning for ALL students.  We are mutually accountable to each other and we know we can continue to grow as educators. 

I would define our teachers and staff at Thermopolis Middle School as “gritty.” As described by Angela Duckworth they have Passion + Perseverance with a commitment to achieve long term goals!   

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

PLC Question #1: What do we want our students to learn?  This question drives our instructional decision making.

The teacher driven process of "selecting" essential learnings is truly inspired by the keynote addresses at the PLC Conference each year.  It is made clear that we  can hand teachers curriculum and in the privacy of their classroom they will sort through it and make individual decisions about what is most important for students to learn.  A highly functioning Professional Learning Community shines a light on this process and at Thermopolis Middle School we use summer curriculum and assessment professional hours for our core content teams to collaboratively make critical decisions about student learning for the upcoming year.

 Our vertical content teams meet for formal curriculum and assessment work for one week in the summer with a clear focus on identifying the essential learning standards that will be taught with fidelity. These essential learnings are then placed in teacher created pacing guides with vertical input on how each standard will build from year to year across the grade levels to advance student skill levels and rigor. 

PLC Question #2: How will we know if students are learning?  This question drives our Weekly Checkpoint and Outcome Assessment process. 

As a rural school with grade level singletons in the 6th-8th grade core content areas the power of common assessments has taken place through vertical collaboration.  As core content teams each teacher brings their knowledge to the table to build quality teacher created outcome assessments clearly aligned to the essential learning target in a collaborative environment.  The essential learning standard is broken down by skill, so that the vertical team can clearly assess by skill and analyze student learning by skill.  

During the school year content team vertical collaboration is scheduled into the school day twice a week.  Vertical teams create weekly checkpoints, continute to build, tweek and peer review outcome assessments, share student exemplars, calibrate grading practices, analyze student data by skill and share instructional practices.  At times vertical teams co-teach, share students for interventions and enrichments across grade levels, and even introduce or review key concepts in another teacher's classroom at another grade level to create consistency in academic vocabulary and to trigger prior knowledge for students with key concepts. 

At Thermopolis Middle School we now have "quick start" expectations for all students.  Using the previous year state assessment and MAP data students are placed in I/E groups for flex time each week by skill. Flex Time is used to quickly bridge known skill gaps prior to students struggling with new learning.  This quick start process lasts for about 3-5 weeks.  After that weekly Flex Time built into the schedule becomes time for reteaching and/or differentiating instruction for students struggling with specific skills.

The fifth grade team functions as an elementary transition and students follow a homeroom model with all teachers involved equally in teaching language arts and math.  This team agrees on the essential learnings, builds common assessments and works through data analysis together as equal decision makers in a collaborative environment.  The fifth grade team provides a solid curricular base for our 6th-8th grade teams to launch from in their vertical collaboration. 

As a result of a pilot by the fifth grade team we have implemented weekly "checkpoints" as a school wide protocol.  The weekly checkpoint is common for the fifth grade team and the vertical collaborative teams scaffold the skill level and rigor as they build their own checkpoints 6th-8th.  The weekly checkpoint drives I/E time for the following week. Each grade level team handles this a little differently but the commonality is that each team builds a GoogleDoc and students are placed in thier I/E group for one week at a time, by student, by skill.

PLC Question #3 & #4: What will we do if students don't learn?  What will we do if students already know the content?

The system of academic interventions is built into the school week.  We have an expectation that learning is the constant and time is the variable.  We also honor a philosophy that ALL students deserve to learn at high levels, even students that are out performing their peers.  

Student placement in Flex Time and I/E time is constantly shifting based on PLC questions #3 & #4.  A variety of data as well as common outcome assessments drive placement in interventions and enrichments, expectations are that common outcome assessments happen every 12-18 days in each content area. But, if interventions are timely within the learning unit and directly aligned to instruction, few students need the re-teach opportunity following outcome assessments.

At Thermopolis Middle School grade level teams meet twice a week in logistical meetings to plan how students will be shared for interventions and enrichments across content areas.  Different weeks have different priorities with teachers trying to offset math versus reading versus science interventions. Grade level teams are knowledgable of all students and can negotiate the best opportunities for each student, each week.  Grade level teams also plan a variety of enrichments or "accelerations" for each course, to be taught opposite of interventions.  This allows each teacher to plan an intervention cycle and an enrichment/acceleration cycle within the week as part of the I/E system of support for all learners. 

In our small school grade level team collaboration and vertical content team collaboration are equally important within each week.  Each serves a different role in the perspective or lens through which they apply the 4 PLC questions. 

 

2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.

Our PLC trainings have created a focus on interventions and innovations.

Interventions at TMS

Innovations at TMS

  • No Opt Out - Every Lesson - Every Day "Teach Like a Champion" Instructional Strategies

  • Required Core Blocks - Math and Language Arts (90 min class periods) with built in independent practice with teacher present.

  • Weekly Flex Time Interventions/Honors

  • Zeroes Aren’t Permitted - ZAP Lunch

  • Essential Learnings - Reteach and Retake Opportunities on Outcome Assessments

  • AO - "Academic Opportunity" After School Tutoring

  • SIT (Student Intervention Team) Weekly Meeting - All Grades Represented

  • Refocus Room - Academic and Behavior Intervention - open all day and provides time for students to de-escalate and practice a better solution next time.

  • Weekly Warning List Letters to Parents

  • Attendance Warning Letters to Parents

  • Saturday Breakfast Club (12x per year) - voluntary with certified teachers present. Fours hours each Saturday.

  • Alternative Classroom Placement - Choice of principal/student/ parent as temporary solution to de-escalate behaviors and get back on track academically.


 
  • Weekly Monday Morning Meeting & Celebrations

  • Friday Family Time (grade 5-8 families with one adult leader)

  • Voices -  20 minute Assembly Every Friday (100% student focused)

  • Parent Power of an Hour - Three weeks each year when parents are invited to drop in and watch a class anytime of day. The protocols are clear for parents and teachers and the focus of the observation is on their child only.

  • Farm to School: PBL, Charlie Cart, School Garden, Chickens - One staff member dedicated to this initiative.

  • Math Lab: manipulatives, 360 degree whiteboards on walls. *Minecraft in 5th Grade Math

  • Real World Guest Speakers - Community Partners in Education Weekly

  • Refocus Room - Teaching Better Choices vs. Discipline Only

  • Makerspace - Complete Remodel of Library with a technology focus

  • Bring Your Own Device (iPhones, iPads, laptops, etc)

  • Model PE Program: Biking, Hiking, Camping, Swimming, Snowshoing, Fishing, Ropes Course, and more within the school day. 

  • Growth Mindset & Student Academic Goal Setting

  • Assessment Reflection Cover Sheets with Teacher Feedback prior to Grade

3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.

The PLC Journey at Thermopolis Middle School has had it's ups and downs. At times it seemed like the work would be impossible and we would continue to operate in isolation.

Now our collaborative teams truly focus on high levels of learning for all students.  This work drives the team forward.  When the mission is clear, the work is easy to see.

Teachers have become highly aware of individual student learning goals and there is really nowhere for students to hide.  Teachers literally hunt them down for each intervention and take ownership in student learning of every skill.  

The most amazing part is that every student has a growth goal and our efforts include maximizing academic growth for every student, across all learning levels.  One of our key Collective Commitments is "All students are OUR students."  This means that students go to the teacher that can best meet their learning needs when they are struggling or when we are seeking a challenging enrichment. 

Our high performing collaborative teachers are constantly seeking each others' professional advice on instructional strategies.  It is a pleasure to watch a team that is so focused on how to deliver lessons to achieve results that they don't have time to talk about mundane issues like individual student behaviors or the upcoming field trip.  

Our teams are focused on results.  The data paints the picture and all staff has bought into our protocols and expectations.

We drank the PLC Kool-Aid and we like it!

 

Thermopolis Middle School is one of only three middle schools and junior highs (out of 48) in the state of Wyoming to achieve the "Exceeding Expectations" performance rating in 2016-17. (top 6%)

Schools in Wyoming fall within one of four performance levels based on their pattern of performance on FOUR indicators: Achievement, Growth, Equity, and Participation Rate.

The FOUR Performance Levels Are:
*Exceeding Expectations
*Meeting Expectations
*Partially Meeting Expectations
*Not Meeting Expectations

Thermopolis Middle School Performance Level Past 5 Years:
2012-13 Performance Level: Partially Meeting Expectations
2013-14 Performance Level: Exceeding Expectations
2014-15 Performance Level: Meeting Expectations
2015-16 Performance Level: Meeting Expecations
2016-17 Performance Level: Exceeding Expectations

Only students enrolled at the school for a full academic year were included in Wyoming data. Full Academic Year is October 1st through the midpoint of the state assessment window.

2016-17 School Performance Report For Elementary and Middle School Grades

School Name: Thermopolis Middle School
Grades Served: 5-8
Enrollment: 193

2016-17 School Indicator Performance:
Indicator: Growth
Performance Level: Exceeding Targets

Growth is a median student growth percentile (MGP) in reading and math combined for all students in grades four through eight as measured by the PAWS.

Indicator: Equity
Performance Level: Exceeding Targets

Equity is the median student growth percentile (MGP) in reading and math combined for a subgroup of students who had low reading and math test scores in the prior year. *51 out of 181 students in our assessment cohort in grades 5-8 fell into this subgroup of typically low performing students that had to outperform their peers across the state. Many of these students had been at our school for at least one year, but are transient due to oil and gas work in Wyoming.

Indicator: Achievement
Performance Level: Met Targets

Achievement is the percent proficient or above on state tests in reading, mathematics, and science.

The 2016-17 State Growth & Achievement Report illustrated that Thermopolis Middle School fell into the Higher Achievement and Higher Growth Quartile! 

Link to this report: https://portals.edu.wyoming.gov/Reports/Public/wde-reports-2012/public-reports/waea/2017-public-elementary-and-middle-school-report

In year two of our PLC Journey  (2013-14) our performance level can be attributed to a sharp rise in student achievement/growth in comparison to past years. This quick burst of growth was specific to PLC Question #1 - creating clear learning targets through the PLC process and establishing what was "tight" in classrooms. We knew that the implementation "spike" would be impossible to recreate. After that we had to maintain all students at new performance levels and continue to grow each student in all cores through data driven instruction in a strong collaborative culture.

The repeat as an "Exceeding Expecatations" school in 2016-17 was a phenomenal accomplishment attributed to a culture firmly committed to the work surrounding "ALL students will achieve at high levels." Due to economic conditions in the oil and gas fields, 20% of our students come and go from our small town at some point in their four year enrollment. Our teachers are constantly providing interventions based on data to help our students accelerate learning. The Equity and Growth data is what we are extremely proud of as educators, our students are bright and capable but economic conditions are often a barrier to stable learning. We take every student, the day they walk through our door, and we provide individualized goals to maximize their learning potential.

There has not been one school with the demographics our school represents on the All Things PLC website in the past three years, since our school began looking into this process, that is searchable in the "See the Evidence" list of schools. We would love to be that school!

Our achievement data is strong, but our growth data is phenomenal. We take the middle schoolers as they are when they come through our door as 5th grades and by the time they exit as 8th graders they are achieving grade level targets or above. One of our SMART goals in 2016-17 was for at least 35% of our students to score in the high achievement range in reading, math and science, and perform in the top 20% defined by MAP as the 80-99th percentiles. Here are the results:

Higher Achievement ~ NWEA MAP Defines as "On Track ACT 22+"
*NWEA MAP uses terms Low, LoAvg, Avg, HiAvg and High to define data ranges.
GOAL 2016-17: 35% of students will score in the high achievement range.
Thermopolis Middle School:
24% of 5th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Reading
26% of 5th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Math
26% of 5th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Science
38% of 6th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Reading
34% of 6th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Mathematics
57% of 6th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Science
33% of 7th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Reading
37% of 7th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Mathematics
52% of 7th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Science
31% of 8th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Reading
33% of 8th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Mathematics
49% of 8th Graders Scored in the High Achievement Range in Science

In addition to high levels of growth for our top performers, our IEP and Free/Reduced Lunch students outperformed their "subgroup" peers across the state by 2 to 3 times.  The data charts provided by the state are PDFs with district to state comparisons.  Those will be uploaded as attachments to our application.  Please note that our school is specifically 5th-8th when looking at our district data reports provided by Wyoming Department of Education. 

Thermopolis Middle School: Wyoming Principal of the Year 2017

*National Distinguished Principal Class of 2017 (NAESP)

Thermopolis Middle School has had the Hot Springs County School District #1 Teacher of the Year 2016-17  & Teacher of the Year 2015-16. 

Wyoming (K-6) STEM Educator of the Year 2014.

TMS Model PE Program featured at the 2016 National School Boards Conference in Denver, Co.  Focus on hiking, biking, snowshoing, canoing, fishing, ropes course and more - all during the school day.

TMS Farm to School Program featured in statewide newspapers, TV and radio programs throughout 2016-2017.  Including a write up in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. 

Wyoming Department of Education chose Thermopolis Middle School as a Model School for Curriculum and Assessment in 2016-17 and conducted multiple site visits with state leaders, principals of other schools and education consultants for the state of Wyoming accountability system.  

One of our goals at TMS has been to achieve “Top Ten” rankings with student achievement data in math, reading and science.  There are 48 districts in the State of Wyoming participating in our state assessment and each grade level is notified of the percent of students proficient and advanced.  Students scoring as proficient or advanced met the grade level standards and achieved the learning goals.  The state ranking includes all students that took the Wyoming assessment in spring 2016 and 2017.

6th Grade Students - Ranked #2 in Math (2016 & 2017); Ranked #7 in Reading (2016); Ranked #8 in Math (2017)

7th Grade Students - Ranked #10 in Math (2016)

8th Grade Students - Tied for the #6 Ranking in Science (2016); Ranked #1 in Math (2016)

A top ten ranking is an indicator that our students scored at a high achievement level in comparison to their grade level peers around the state.  Thermopolis Middle School students set academic goals every year and work extremely hard to achieve their goals.  The teachers and staff at TMS are very proud of the efforts of our students!

 

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