Kenneth Cooper Middle School
- Number of Students: 629
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 82.3%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 4%
- Percent of Special Education: 17%
- White: 30%
- Black: 45%
- Hispanic: 14%
- Asian: 6%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 4%
- Multiracial: 0%
- Other: 1%
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
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
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
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
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
Math 68 64 67
Reading 66 63 65
Math 50 68 78
Reading 65 79 77
Geography N/A 73 70
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.