- Number of Students: 362
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 32%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 0%
- Percent of Special Education: 9.3%
- White: 94.6%
- Black: 1%
- Hispanic: 2.7%
- Asian: 1%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 0.7%
- Other: 0%
The staff at Pleasantville Elementary has consistently craved more knowledge on how to better educate our students. Years of professional development and new initiatives kept piling up over the years with new idea after new idea. It seemed to staff that the plate kept getting fuller and fuller, and our arrows were all pointing in scattered directions. When our endeavor into professional learning communities came along, finally we were able to clear our plates a bit with something more nutritious, and our arrows suddenly pointed in the same direction - one direction only, becoming the best PLC imaginable!
By building collaborative teams that could focus on the four big questions of a PLC, setting norms to shape our behaviors during this collaborative time, and creating systemic approaches to intervening when kids weren't learning and enriching when kids already knew the material, we have witnessed firsthand the impact following tried and true methods of a PLC can have on not only the academic success of a school, but the cultural impacts as well.
Our collaborative teams meet 90 minutes per week at minimum thanks to a late start on Mondays. Each team also has a common planning time during their specials courses, duty free lunch and recess to further facilitate collaborative opportunities, and an additional hour per month built into the schedule to analyze data or meet as vertical collaborative teams when necessary. Teams typically include three to five members and utilize an agenda and specific goals to help drive their work. The school building is committed to meeting the needs of all learners (all means all!), including staff, so we have even begun moving toward professional development that is personalized by the needs of individual teachers and collaborative teams.
When we started, we thought the work would be hard. What we found out though, is that by using the simple but effective techniques utilized in the professional learning community framework, we have lightened our load by working collaboratively, meeting our student and school needs as a team and not in isolation, and we are seeing the fruits of our labor by working smarter not harder.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Pleasantville Elementary utilizes common formative assessments on a daily basis in each and every curricular area. These assessments are driven by our collaborative process. By knowing clearly what it is we want our kids to know (targets), we use that understanding to craft team-developed formative assessments and success criteria. Results on these formative assessments helps drive the work that needs to happen in whole-group and in small-group teaching. Additionally, Pleasantville teachers craft and use pre- and post-tests over these targets. Armed with the information pre-tests can provide allows us to take kids who already know the material well and accelerate or enrich their learning further during a WIN (What I Need) time. Post-tests allow us to determine levels of proficiency and react accordingly and appropriately.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Pleasantville Elementary uses a framework of intervention found in most high-performing schools. When a student demonstrates on a common formative assessment that they are struggling to learn what has been determined to be essential, the classroom teacher and his/her colleagues meet to discuss how to respond within the classroom (Tier 1). If strategies within the classroom fail to meet the student's needs, then Tier 2 interventions take place in small group instruction facilitated by a reading or math interventionist. If that system fails to meet the student's needs, then Tier 3 support at an even smaller group size, possibly even 1:1, kicks in. Pleasantville teachers are fully aware that learning does not always happen for every student at the same time; therefore, we have implemented a WIN time (What I Need) that occurs four days a week, or as needed by student and standard. Students that have demonstrated early mastery of essential learnings can have his/her WIN time differentiated by accelerating or enriching the learning. Those that are demonstrating some struggles with learning can have remediation during WIN time with another teacher, and those with significant gaps may receive their WIN time support in much smaller groups with a third or possibly fourth teacher as needed.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
We utilized the most recent edition of Learning by Doing (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many, Mattos) to gauge our effectiveness as a PLC and as collaborative groups. Such documents as "Critical Issues for Team Consideration" (p. 69-70) and "Cultural Shifts" (p. 258-260) helped us reflect on our progress on building high performing, collaborative teams focused on improving student learning. The results of these helped us craft SMART goals that solidified our work and focused our efforts on how to improve and take the next steps. This process has been invaluable.
Collaborative teams typically consist of three to five members at each grade level. Each member is a part of at least one committee - one centered on academics (curriculum, instruction, assessment), another on behavior, another on our culture, and finally one that helps develop internal leadership capacity and foster a team-based approach to making improvements and positive changes within ourselves and our students.
Iowa Assessments: % Reaching Proficiency (state of Iowa average listed in parenthesis when available)
Year 3rd 4th 5th
2016 96 84 88
2015 92 78 79
2014 86 (77) 78 (78) 78 (78)
Year 3rd 4th 5th
2016 90 93 75
2015 94 82 85
2014 84 (76) 88 (74) 73 (75)
FAST Reading Assessment: % Reaching Proficiency Benchmarks in Spring (state of Iowa average listed in parenthesis when available)
Grade 2015 2016
K 87 (70) 90 (70)
1 89 (69) 94 (70)
2 86 (69) 78 (64)
3 86 (63) 88 (66)
4 67 (54) 84 (63)
5 74 (69) 78 (66)
Pleasantville Elementary received a "Commendable" ranking in the 2015 Iowa School Report Card, ranking it within the Top 35% of schools in the state. In 2016, Pleasantville Elementary moved up to a "High Performing" rank, placing it in the Top 11% of schools in the state. The biggest reason for this performance was due to our school's performance in closing the gap in our students most in need (IEPs, low socio-economic status). In 2014, the gap in proficiency between those with IEPs, ELL designations, or free/reduced lunch was 33.9% from their non-designated cohorts. By 2015, that gap had closed to a 20.5% difference and in 2016 it closed even further to 17.1% (94.6% to 77.5%)
Pleasantville Elementary was recently observed by a superintendent in a large, urban school district in Iowa writing his doctoral dissertation. The reason for this observation was to see what made Pleasantville Elementary "so special", as the building has shown to be an outlier on high-stakes tests, as our students have consistently outperformed their expected performance (due to poverty levels).
Pleasantville Elementary has begun implementation of The Leader In Me framework as well, utilizing the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey) as a model to help develop leadership capacity within our students.