Kenneth Cooper Middle School

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

The process of creating a successful Professional Learning Community (PLC) at Kenneth Cooper Middle

School (KCMS) began in the fall of 2014 with a proactive commitment to create a building wide culture

focused on learning for all.

“I had watched another school struggle to rebuild their culture after receiving failing scores from the state,” said

KCMS Principal, Mark Lebsack.”I decided that we weren't going to wait - we needed to start now.”

The administrative team established the importance of the PLC process and provided resources such as a

dedicated PLC room, a block of time, a full time Instructional Coach, and the “why” behind the process.

Another proactive step was to bring a school improvement coach, Dr. Sharon Kramer on board to help us

navigate purposeful conversations regarding student achievement.

“I applaud our staff for being open to taking this step,” Lebsack added. “People were nervous and it was painful

at times. However, they stayed open minded and over time, began to trust the system and realized it was best for

kids.”

During our first grade level collaborative teams in 2014, we established norms for our meetings and wrote a

social contract that demonstrated our commitment. The data conversations began with state test scores and soon

each teacher knew their students’ needs. Once unit assessments were given, our Instructional Coach guided staff

as they broke down that data and planned lessons for remediation or enrichment. Grade level collaborative

teams met formally with their administrator and Instructional Coach twice a week and informally the remaining

days.

Dr. Kramer stressed the importance of “staying ahead of the pitch count” so collaborative teams began taking

the unit tests to clarify exactly which standards and skills the students would need to know before starting the

unit. This information helped the collaborative teams create effective common formative assessments which

were given approximately every 10 days. The CFA data was analyzed and teachers planned remediation or

enrichment based on student needs. This instructional cycle allowed teachers to reflect on their own methods

and share strategies in a non-threatening way because it was based on student performance and data, not

personalities or teaching styles..

The 2015-2016 school year began with a strong PLC commitment already in place and continued with staffing

decisions that ensured “the right people were in the right places.” The climate and culture of our school began to

change as instructional staff trusted the process and adopted a growth mindset that was reflected in student

growth. Teachers no longer labeled students as “my Pre-AP kids” or “your kids”, but began to refer to students

as “our kids” which had a dramatic effect on the ongoing conversations about data and reflection on providing

first best instruction.

Principal Lebsack reflects that, “I saw one of the most vocal ‘naysayers’ become a strong advocate for the

process because, although painful at times, they had seen it work and began to trust the system.”

The work with Dr. Kramer and the collaboration within the building continued with fidelity as staff were

purposeful in using data to make decisions about instruction and reflecting on best practices. This resulted in the

mindset that all students can learn at a high level which is reflected in increased student achievement.

Not every change at KCMS is quantified in our testing data. The biggest change at our school has been in the

culture of the teaching community. Our teachers were able to commit to the collaborative process, and through

this we have become a school that supports each other across grade levels and content areas. Despite the

constant changes facing education, including the moving target of cut scores, new Oklahoma standards, and the

state budget deficit, KCMS has created a culture that is about growing our students and helping them achieve at

high levels. A KCMS teacher, present from the beginning of this process, summed it up perfectly: “It’s hard to

imagine doing this any other way now.”

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

To monitor student learning, teachers begin with the end in mind. As a collaborative team, they take the unit

test and build calendars to map out the instructional cycle for that unit. The teams also build CFAs with

predictive value of the unit assessment, and in turn the state assessment. CFAs are given a minimum of every

two weeks, and after giving an assessment, teams analyze data to determine what needs to be retaught, which

students need remediation, and plan enrichment opportunities. Data conversations give teachers the chance to

reflect on different instructional strategies and to learn from each other to improve their instruction. Another

important aspect of monitoring is done by the students as they track their own progress towards mastery of a

standard. This gives students immediate feedback, visual representation of their progress, and a high level of

ownership of their learning. In addition to the formal common assessments, teachers use a variety of informal

methods to determine the effectiveness of their daily instruction.

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

We have learned that the key to effective interventions is improving first best instruction. This results in fewer

students needing remediation, allowing our teachers to be proactive instead of reactive. However, as additional

systems of interventions are needed, collaborative teams at KCMS use the following to provide additional time

and support for learning:

1. Classroom interventions within first best instruction

2. The KCMS master schedule has allowed us to build in a daily remediation period called WIN Time

(What I Need); this provides each core teacher with thirty extra minutes per class each week. Students

rotate through their core classes, which allows teachers to work with students in small groups or

individually to support current learning. Teachers also use their plan time to bring in students for Focus

Time, which is dedicated to help students with the “backfill” skills needed to bring them up to grade

level.

3. During the spring push towards testing teachers voluntarily give up plan time to work with students that

are nearing mastery.

4. Title 1 reading and math classes deliver direct instruction to students on foundational skills to bring

them up to grade level. Initially, we place these students by the previous years test scores.  Once we begin the year and have had the opportunity to assess the students several times, we can make adjustments to their placement.  These classes follow the elective schedule and are pretty much a mandatory elective for these students.  Yes, these students are actually double blocked so they receive the foundational support as well as their grade-level content.  Our entire school is Title 1, however, we do our very best to provide the proper support to every student in need.  

5. Spiral review in all content areas help our students maintain mastery throughout the school year

6. Math and reading bootcamps at the beginning of the year refresh basic skills

While our system of interventions can be credited with helping our students learn and grow, a large part of our

success is in the shift of student mindsets at KCMS. Before we committed to the PLC process, our students had

very little buy-in for their learning. Most would not return assignments or work outside the classroom, and

were not motivated to master any standards. Now, the majority of our students choose to work hard in and out

of the classroom and are not satisfied until they have mastered everything presented to them. The culture shift

at KCMS started with our administrators, transformed our faculty, and is now influencing our students to

choose to learn at high levels.

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

KCMS built our collaborative teams on the foundation of our culture change, starting with putting the right

people in the right places. We know that there is no greater impact on student learning than the classroom

teacher. Starting with the hiring process, the message was clear that we were changing the way we looked at

students, data, and instruction. Like any new skill, building high functioning collaborative teams took practice

and dedication from teachers and administrators. Some teams were able to hit the ground running, while others

required frequent modeling and accountability as they learned what true collaboration looked like. KCMS

brought Dr. Sharon Kramer on board and conversations began to focus on the four PLC questions. Teachers

began not only looking at student data, but using it to drive instruction. They knew their classes by student, by

standard.

Our teacher teams are organized by content/subject area and grade level.  For example, in our 6th grade, we have 2 teachers in each content.  In 7th/8th grade we have 3 teachers in each content that teach sections of both 7th and 8th grade.  Our teachers have 2 planning periods every day.   One is a personal plan and the other is set aside for PLC work.  We require them to meet every Tuesday and Friday in what we call the “Cougar’s Den.”  This is a time that we as administrators work with them side by side.  A great thing about our faculty is that they see the importance of this collaboration time and meet on their own the other 3 days of the week.  This time is protected and we do our very best to not to interrupt their work.

Part of improving student learning at KCMS was learning to remove labels from our students. Our teachers

used to talk about “my kids,” “the sped kids,” or “honors students.” Teachers were reluctant to share

responsibility for their students, and were letting labels determine the level of instruction given. Now they are

all our students,” and our students can all learn at high levels. Learning is not an option, and to this end

KCMS teachers share resources, instructional methods, and even students amongst the teams.

Student Achievement Data

                              13-14                 14-15                15-16

6th Grade                

 Math                        68                       64                    67

Reading                     66                       63                    65

 

7th Grade

Math                          50                       68                      78

Reading                      65                      79                       77

Geography                  N/A                    73                      70

 

8th Grade

Math                          42                      50                        68

Reading                      69                      77                        76

Science                       N/A                    41                       51

History                       N/A                    63                        65

 

The following data demonstrates the growth of our current 8th Grade students beginning with their 6th Grade year.  It is broken down into our 4 largest demographic groups.

Reading                                            14-15                     15-16

African American                                52                          66

White                                                 70                          93

Hispanic                                             68                           70

Economically Disadvantaged               52                            73

 

Math                                               14-15                       15-16

African American                              49                            56

White                                               71                            92

Hispanic                                           68                            78

Economically Disadvantaged             51                             66

 

 

Not yet...I really hope to add this recognition to our school's successes. 

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