Pioneer Middle School

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

In 2008, Dr. Richard DuFour recognized Pioneer as a national model professional learning community--only eight schools in the nation, three of which are middle schools, received this honor at that time. Also in 2008, Pioneer presented at the Professional Learning Communities State Summit, which was attended by over 2000 state educators.  Nationally, Pioneer was one of eight schools selected by Dr. Richard DuFour to be featured in the video, “The Power of Professional Learning Communities at Work: Bringing the Big Ideas to Life”.  Additionally, Pioneer has been featured in the books Revisiting PLCs at Work and Pyramid Response to Interventions:  RtI, PLCs, and How to Respond When Students Don’t Learn.  PLC practices are at the very core of Pioneer’s learning community.  Pioneer’s intense PLC focus from 2008 to today has been devoted to continual growth as a result from learning from our students, responding to results through lesson design, becoming experts in research based instructional practices, building common formative and summative assessments for every course, integrating technology through one to one devices, taking risks, and stretching the boundaries of our traditional public school model. The examination and identification of essential standards for all courses is an ongoing practice that requires many hours or planning, collaborating, and consensus building.  Our intense focus on the results of these assessments is used to monitor student learning and drives Pioneer’s Tutorial and Pyramid of Intervention (POI).  Every three weeks, teachers effectively communicate to parents and students the learning expectations and tailor support that students need to ensure mastery of essential skills. 

Following a 2014 PLC Communities at Work Institute, Pioneer teachers were committed to maintaining fidelity within each PLC. As a result, Pioneer formed a PLC Leadership Team, which meets once a month to continuously reflect, refine, and investigate the current systems and structures within Pioneer’s POI to meet all students’ needs.  Each month the PLC Leadership Team discusses current issues and new research in education. Pioneer is committed to the practice of being better for our students today than we were yesterday.  This deep cultural belief drives our decision making and direction for our school. For example, Pioneer's 2016 summer read, Fast Grading, by Doug Reeves, along with Cathy Vatterott's Rethinking Grading, is preparing our teachers for the shift to middle school standards based grading.  As a result of reading Dr. Carol Dweck’s research in Mindset, Pioneer’s PLCs embrace a “growth mindset” throughout our campus.  In addition to professional readings, professional development with Capturing Kids Hearts (CPK) is improving the school climate with an emphasis on building personal relationships with students and creating safe environments for learning.  The Pioneer faculty embraces Flip Flippen’s belief that, “You must capture a kid’s heart to get to his head.”  With all of these new learning opportunities, Pioneer’s nationally recognized Pyramid of Intervention continues to respond, reflect, change, and improve for our students. 

The Pioneer community is a host for schools across the country.  Last year alone, Pioneer had 12 middle schools visit the campus to learn how effective PLCs and POIs can be created, implemented, and sustained:  Pioneer has trained over 250 educators in the PLC process, the establishment of tutorials, the creation of intervention systems such as a POI, and the review and sharing of common assessments.  Pioneer continues to grow and respond to our students’ needs and remains current and in instructional best practices.  Recently, Pioneer was one of three schools selected in TUSD to be a “lighthouse school” for TUSD’s Connect Institute: Technology and Learning Conference.  Over 150 visitors’ observed Pioneer teachers and students participating in a most highly engaging and interactive educational experience.  Following this showcase, Pioneer was named an Apple Distinguished School.  As a result of our visionary leadership, Pioneer is annually invited to present at the California League of Middle Schools conference and the CUE National Conference.  In addition, the administration was invited by the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) in 2015 to serve as panelists on Multi-tiered System of Supports, where over 200 leaders in education were provided insight into Pioneer’s best instructional practices for middle schools.    

Steadily, we are making our mission a reality and we have maintained National Model PLC status since 2008.  Pioneer has since been named a 2015 California Gold Ribbon School, a 2015 Apple Distinguished School, and both a 2015 California and National Schools to Watch-Taking Center Stage School.  We know that the only way we can meet the academic, physical, and developmental needs of all students is by working together. Every individual in our school community is essential, every resource is vital, and every minute is precious.  Our success comes from our singular dedication to fulfill our mission: Maximizing every student’s academic potential and personal responsibility

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Each year, our staff analyzes state, teacher, and district common assessment data as well as qualitative information from annual student, parent, and staff surveys.  With this data, we identify program strengths and weaknesses, and create school-wide and departmental SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, results-orientated, and time bound) to improve student learning.  Additionally, the administrative, counseling, and leadership teams use this data to individually create student class schedules, providing all students with the support, enrichment, and rigor needed to maximize their academic achievement. To guide our site-based assessments, PLCs identify essential learning standards for every course, then create and administer common assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of our instructional practices.  Tustin Unified School District (TUSD) has designed their middle school “Banking Minutes” program as a late start Wednesday.  Every Wednesday PLCs meet for approximately 80 minutes either as a department, an entire staff or leadership team.  Well established PLC norms guide collaborative team discussions regarding disaggregated data, student progress in mastering essential learning standards, students in need of additional time and support, and targeted interventions.  Every Wednesday, PLCs identify students in need of additional time and refer students to Pioneer’s Pyramid of Intervention (POI). 

When a student is referred to the POI, the following occurs:  Tutorial:  A teacher who is concerned with a student’s progress will stamp the student’s binder reminder (“Tutorial Required”),  to attend their tutorial, which is offered on Tuesday and Thursday during the school day.  This is time dedicated to re-teaching and re-testing essential standards, or providing enrichment or acceleration.  Rotating “Priority” weeks for course-specific tutorial sessions are planned and published on a Google Doc.  For example, if it is a Math Priority week, and a student is stamped by multiple teachers, the student must attend the math tutorial.  Attendance stamps with room numbers ensure that targeted students who are not performing at the proficient level are held accountable for attending assigned tutorials.  These tutorial sessions are closed for re-teaching and re-assessing.   Priority and tutorial schedules are posted every Monday afternoon on the Pioneer website so students and parents can plan for their weekly support.  Student Administrative Conference:  If a teacher is concerned that the classroom support provided in tutorial is not enough, the teacher will recommend additional POI help.  Every three weeks, teachers may identify students currently “at-risk” to the administrative/counseling team by tagging them in AERIES (student data system). This information is collected by queries and used to place students in our POI, ensuring that all students receive timely and effective intervention support.  This support includes ongoing monitoring, one-on-one meetings with the counselor/administration, goal setting, review of Parent Portal, and recognition of improved GPAs, or dismissal from level 2 or 3 interventions.  Each additional time a student is referred for support, the conversation and plan of action becomes more specific to the student’s individual needs, progressively moving through levels 1, 2 and 3. The counselors and administrators are assigned to one particular grade level and work with those same students throughout their three middle school years. 

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

In order to ensure all Pioneer students achieve at their maximum potential, we have designed a Response to Intervention process through a Pyramid of Interventions (POI).  This pyramid now consists of 25 different forms of support for students on three levels that become more targeted, intensive, and focused as students’ needs increase.  Level 1 of the pyramid is our Core Program, which consists entirely of classes that meet/exceed Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Teachers identify essential standards and then differentiate and/or accelerate instruction, using a variety of research-based methods and strategies to ensure the learning needs of all students are met.  If students need more time to learn or demonstrate mastery of a standard, teachers request these students attend weekly Tutorials which are offered on Tuesday and Thursday (two 27 minute blocks of time per week).   This level of the POI is static but the support within levels two and three is dynamic and is determined each year by the needs of the students and is revisited annually. 

As teachers and administrators analyze the results of teacher made CCSS common assessment data through Illuminate (data system), students who need extra support are identified for our Level 2: Supplemental Program of Intervention.  Pioneer offers mandatory tutorial and homework help, one-on-one mentoring, designated/integrated classes for EL students, and meetings with the administrative/counseling teams to support students in mastering essential standards in the core program.  For our students requiring a more intensive approach to realize success we have our Level 3: Intensive Program.  Here we focus on very specific, targeted support for students who require individualized attention to maximize their academic potential.  A flexible master schedule is paramount upon initiation of this model. We offer classes in our master schedule that are designed to support students with their specific area of need. 

In order to ensure that Pioneer’s POI support classes are relevant and effective, ongoing professional dialogue and collaboration occurs. As a result of weekly PLC dialogues, annual changes to the master schedule are made in August and at the end of the first semester.  Every three weeks, teachers identify “at-risk” students and refer them to the administrative and counseling teams.  This information is used to place students in our POI and/or check on student progress.  This system ensures that all students receive timely and effective intervention support.  It must be noted that there is a fluid movement between all levels of support.  Ongoing analysis and discussions of student progress during weekly PLCs is an integral part of Pioneer’s systems and structures. Students who demonstrate success through these interventions are “advanced” and placed back into electives (we make a conscious effort to align support classes during the same periods as electives in the master schedule for easy transitions).  This systematic response to instruction ensures that every child receives the instructional practices and time needed to succeed.

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

Working collaboratively, establishing and revisiting PLC norms, setting team collaboration outcomes biannually, creating and monitoring SMART goals, identifying and publishing essential standards, and examining results from common assessments are expected actions that keep our laser focus on student learning.  These activities are the foundation of Pioneer’s effective PLCs.  Following every assessment, new program, or instructional practice, Pioneer PLCs meet every Wednesday morning to answer these questions: What do we want our students to learn?  How will we know if they learned it?  How will we respond when they do or don’t learn it?  The answer to our third question is the force behind Pioneer’s Response to Intervention-Pyramid of Interventions (POI).  In order to examine our instructional practices and our resources to support all students, Pioneer teachers meet weekly (during Tuesday and Thursday tutorials) with at-risk students to monitor progress and provide them with additional help if needed. Because our mission is to maximize every student’s academic potential, our focus extends beyond assuring grade-level proficiency and challenges students to master more rigorous curriculum.  To ensure high levels of learning for all students, we believe we must be abundantly clear on what we expect all students to learn. To this end, our faculty works as a PLC to clearly define the essential learning standards/outcomes for every course taught at Pioneer.

At Pioneer, all teachers believe that if we want all students to learn at high levels, the staff must continually learn. One hundred percent of Pioneer’s teachers have been trained in ERWC, Marking the Text, Thinking Maps, Academic Vocabulary, and TUSD Writer strategies; 57% are AVID trained; 69% are trained by Rick DuFour in PLCs; 45% are currently Digital Fellows; 56% are GATE trained; four teachers are specialty STEAM trained through Project Lead the Way (PLTW); and four teachers are CTE Certified in coding, game and graphic design. The administration consistently encourages teachers to take risks and explore new ways to actively engage students.  To ensure that next generation leadership continues to grow and sustain, Pioneer has formed a Technology Leadership Team (TLT) that provides ongoing training through weekly 30 minute JOTs (Just One Thing) on technology and a student Tech Genius Club, that provides ongoing training and troubleshooting assistance to students.  Pioneer’s late start schedule provides teachers with weekly collaboration time to ensure that all students and teachers meet the demands of CCSS and technology integration.  Pioneer’s TLT ensures that TUSD Connect’s Initiative of rigorous standards, engaging lessons, supported by technology, is reflective in all professional development and student learning.  Currently, Pioneer has 20 Digital Learning Fellows (teachers who applied to become trained in technology by district Digital Learning Coaches and attend CUE Conferences) who are currently, or have been previously, coached by content Digital Learning Coaches (DLCs), and who model new technology that supports increased rigor and/or motivates student learning. 

 

At Pioneer, we assess our effectiveness on the basis of results rather than intentions.  The driving factor behind Pioneer’s mission statement pushes the faculty to further examine our strengths and areas needing improvement.  Each time we look at data we celebrate our numbers of students moving toward meeting/exceeding standards and then put an intense focus on those students who have not met/nearly met standards.  Steadily, we are making our mission a reality.  From 2008-2013 Pioneer Middle School has seen significant, sustained, and continuous improvement in student achievement. Pioneer’s school wide Academic Performance Index (API) grew 31 points from 915 to 946.  Our Hispanic/Latino subgroup demonstrated the largest growth with 60 points from 810 to 870.  All other subgroups showed double digit growth in API.  Due to the transition from The Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program, California schools did not participate in 2014 state wide testing.  The STAR program was replaced by the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP).  After reviewing 2016 CAASPP results, 73% of Pioneer students met or exceeded California Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in ELA while 67% of Pioneer students met or exceeded CCSS in math.

 

California Standards Test CST)

Science
(grade 8)

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

 

Advanced

69

73

73

79

79

72

86

74

69

 

Proficient

21

18

16

15

12

20

9

15

21

 

Basic

7

5

8

5

5

5

4

7

6

 

Below Basic

2

2

2

1

1

2

1

2

3

 

Far Below Basic

2

2

1

1

2

1

1

2

1

 

Average Yearly Progress (AYP)
Percentage of Students Proficient and Advanced

 

English Language Arts CST

2007-

2008

2008-

2009

2009-

2010

2010-

2011

2011-

2012

 

All Students

84.5

85.8

86.2

86.1

87.4

 

Asian

89.2

90.8

90.8

90.4

93.7

 

Hispanic or Latino

67.3

70.0

70.0

70.3

71.2

 

White (not Hispanic)

84.6

87.3

88.6

88.8

89.0

 

English Learners

68.9

67.4

63.2

59.8

70.5

Average Yearly Progress (AYP)
Percentage of Students Proficient and Advanced

Mathematics

2007-

2008

2008-

2009

2009-

2010

2010-

2011

2011-

2012

All Students

84.3

80.2

80.3

79.8

82.8

Asian

93.8

91.4

91.6

90.4

92.3

Hispanic or Latino

56.8

50.9

58.9

56.4

61.6

White (not Hispanic)

81.7

78.7

77.0

79.3

82.9

English Learners

79.3

69.1

72.9

66.1

69.8

Pioneer's State Academic Performance Index (API)

 

2007-2008

2008-2009

2009-2010

2010-2011

2011-2012

Over-All

938

933

939

939

949

Asian

976

972

975

979

985

White

931

932

937

937

945

Hispanic

818

814

855

852

878

 

2014-2016 CAASPP Student Achievement Distribution

 

English Language Arts

 

Mathematics

Year

2013-2014

2014-2015

2015-2016

Growth

 

2013-2014

2014-2015

2015-2016

Growth

State of California

N/A*

44%

49%

5%

N/A*

33%

37%

4%

Tustin Unified School District

N/A*

56%

63%

7%

N/A*

49%

53%

4%

Pioneer

Middle School

N/A*

64%

73%

9%

N/A*

64%

67%

3%

  • National Model Professional Learning Community at Work, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2011, 2009, 2006
  • Project Tomorrow Speak Up National Recognition, 2016
  • Apple Distinguished School, 2015
  • National and California Schools to Watch-Taking Center Stage School (STW-TCS), 2016 and 2015
  • California Gold Ribbon School, 2015
  • AVID Highly Certified School, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011
  • First Place in TPSF’s Robotics Team Competition, 2015
  • Highest Average Daily Attendance in Tustin Unified School District (TUSD), 97%, 2015
  • National and CA STW-TCS School, 2013 and 2012
  • California Distinguish School, 2013, 2007, 2003
  • Milken Education Award, 2013
  • Pioneer’s Science Olympiad, First Place, 2013-2009
  • Orange County AVID Standout “Angels Award” recipient, 2012
  • Named one of the top ten of Public Middle Schools in Orange County, 2013 and 2010
  • Named Number One Public Middle School in Orange County, 2011 and 2009
  • NCLB National Blue Ribbon Award, 2008
  • Pioneer’s Concert Band, Unanimous Superior Rating, 2014–2005
  • Pioneer’s Chamber Orchestra, Unanimous Superior Rating, 2014–2005
  • All-Southern California Middle School Honor Band, String Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra, 2015-2007
  • Pioneer students performing as soloists in Carnegie Hall, NYC, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2009, 2007
  • Pioneer Advanced Chorus, Best of Festival, 2015-2008
  • Pioneer Yearbook, CSPA Silver Crown Award, 2009-2010; CSPA Gold Award, 2007, 2011-2012
  • Pioneer Yearbook, National Scholastic Pacesetting Award, 2011-2012, 2006-2009
  • Tustin Public Schools Foundation Grant Recipient of over $33,000, 2015-2008
  • Rotary Club “Good Ideas” Recipient, 2015, 2012, 2011, 2009
  • “Fuel Up to Play” Grant Recipient, 2010 and 2011
  • Featured in Orange County Register in article called "Pioneer Middle School sets the bar high," 2008
  • Highest API of all Orange County Middle Schools (API: 938), 2008
  • Featured in the resources: Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work™, Pyramid Response to Intervention, and The Power of Professional Learning Communities: Bringing the Big Ideas to Life video series
  • Selected by Dr. Richard DuFour to participate in a video series that focuses on how to be a professional learning community. Nationally, only eight schools received this recognition, 2006

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