Solon Middle School

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

The Solon Community School district started its professional learning community journey during the 2007-08 school year. At the recommendation of the principal, a group of elementary teachers read Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work (DuFour, DuFour & Eaker, 2008).  District staff then read a chapter from this book about “Peter Miller” a fictitious high school social studies teacher and his transformational experience as part of a PLC.  Through reading this book, a grassroots movement started to develop a philosophy of fewer independent contractors and a more collaborative community of adult learners.

In the summer of 2012, a team of teachers and administrators from Solon Middle School attended the PLC Institute in Minneapolis.  The teachers shared their new learning and perspectives with their colleagues.  Soon, 5th-8th grade teams began to feel energized and excited about the opportunity to improve their practice and ensure the success of all students by systematically working together in a collaborative unit.  As a result, district professional development focused on DuFour’s four questions:

  1. What is it we want our students to learn?

  2. How will we know if each student has learned it?

  3. How will we respond when some students don’t learn it?

  4. How can we extend and enrich the learning for students who have demonstrated proficiency?

(DuFour et al., 2010)

During the 2012-13 school year, each teacher completed a self-audit rubric to determine their team’s strengths and weaknesses based on principles identified in Learning by Doing (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many 2006).  District goals included:

  1. 100% of SCSD teachers will document power standards for at least one course during the 2012-13 academic year.

  2. 100% of SCSD teachers will create and implement at least four common formative assessments based on course/grade-level power standards.

  3. The SCSD will have a curriculum based on vertically articulated standards and benchmarks including defined assessments for determining student learning needs and supportive staff development.

At this time Solon Middle School implemented a standards based grading philosophy, in which grades are calculated on essential standards for the course.  Behaviors such as attendance, participation, and homework were removed from grading calculations to provide a better reflection of student learning.  The Solon Board of Education adopted the following grading guidelines for use in all classrooms.

  1. Entries in the grade book that count towards the final grade will be limited to course or grade level standards.

  2. Extra credit will not be given at any time.

  3. Students will be allowed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of classroom standards in various ways. Retakes and revisions will be allowed.

  4. Teachers will determine grade book entries by considering multiple points of data emphasizing the most recent data and provide evidence to support their determination.

  5. Students will be provided multiple opportunities to practice standards independently through homework or other class work. Practice assignments and activities will be consistent with classroom standards for the purpose of providing feedback. Practice assignments, including homework, will not be included as part of the final grade.

Through the use of Collaborative Learning Teams (CLT's), teachers focused their learning on the development of common formative assessments centered on identified power standards.  These common formative assessments allowed Solon Middle School teachers to analyze student work, identify students that needed additional time and support as well as adjust core instruction. Through these initial efforts, the need to create a system wide structure of interventions became evident.  As part of our Pyramid of Intervention, the first major change was to revise our bell schedule to include daily Tier II and Tier III intervention time for students in reading. We called this “Spartan Time.”  Teams identified students, grouped them with specific teachers, and provided targeted and structured support in reading during Spartan Time.  We also redefined the role of our Reading Interventionist, removing any classroom responsibility, and dedicating the entire day to Tier II and Tier III small group instruction.

Throughout the past five years, collaborative teams at Solon Middle School have continued to use common formative assessment data to plan and guide instruction. We have also found it necessary to make revisions to our intervention time. Not only have we shifted our focus to both reading and math, but now utilize our most highly qualified teachers in those areas to be providing instruction and supports during Spartan Time.  Solon Middle School has also developed a Building Intervention Team (BIT) comprised of instructional leaders such as the principal, counselor, reading strategist, instructional coach, and AEA staff to help monitor, review data and put instructional supports in place.  Our BIT, as well as any collaborative team or teacher within our system, operates with the principles of collective responsibility, guaranteeing a systematic response, through our Pyramid of Interventions, to every student in our building and the opportunity for each student to learn at the highest level.

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Solon Middle School teachers use a variety of tools to systematically monitor and track student progress throughout the school year.  All students are provided a district identified screener in the areas of reading, writing and math at the start of the school year.  All data from these assessments is captured and saved in district data logs which follow students from year to year.  These screeners help us immediately identify students in need of Tier II and Tier III interventions.  Collaborative Learning Teams (CLT) also analyze the data to identify gaps in our Tier I core instruction and individual student needs.  This process repeats itself in the winter and spring.

 CLT monitor and discuss student progress during weekly meetings throughout the school year.  Teachers use this time to develop quality common formative assessments such as skills checks, conferring sessions, student think pair shares, quizzes, and exit slips, aligned to common core standards.  Data from these assessments not only drives core instruction, but identifies students in need of Tier I interventions.  CLT create a shared document (see "Reading Data Log" attachment at the end of application) to collectively capture individual teacher’s results.  With these results teachers are able to know which students are proficient and which need additional learning experiences or extensions.  Teachers reflect and document what instructional strategies were effective as well as changes needed to core instruction in the future.  Students failing to demonstrate proficiency through formative assessments or end of unit tests are provided reteaching and reassessment opportunities during the school day as part of our standards based grading practices.  Students who consistently need Tier I interventions might be looked at with a Benchmark Assessment, Basic Reading Inventory or other screener to determine individual needs.  

 In an effort to best support CLTs and individual teachers, our Building Intervention Team, which consists of our Principal, Instructional Coach, Reading Interventionist, School Counselor and AEA staff,  meets weekly to review grade level intervention logs and monitors students receiving Tier II and Tier III interventions.  Once an identified student makes appropriate progress in a Tier II intervention group, the intervention ends.  Students continue to be monitored in core instruction and are reevaluated again during the next screening period.  Students who fail to make adequate progress through Tier II interventions either continue for a longer duration or are provided an additional level of Tier III support through our Reading Interventionist in an individualized and more frequent setting.  We refer to this as “Triple Dip,” where a student is provided Tier I, Tier II and Tier III services.  These identified students are also reevaluated again during the next screening period.  This process ensures a systematic response to our students academic, social, behavioral and emotional needs (see "Intervention Log" attachment at the end of application).  

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

Prior to the 2013-14 school year, interventions at Solon Middle School were limited to those provided by our Reading Interventionist, after school tutoring provided by any middle school teacher, and parent volunteers who read with students.  After attending the Minneapolis PLC Institute, a book study was formed on Simplifying Response to Intervention: Four Essential Guiding Principles (Buffum, Mattos & Weber 2012).  As a result, we realized that our current system was not in line with the RTI Pyramid.  While we were effectively using our screener data to identify students, it became clear that we needed to revisit our building schedule and create a period within the school day where students were guaranteed access to a targeted literacy intervention with a specialized teacher (TAG, Reading Interventionist, Special Education).  We believed that this would allow us to provide our neediest kids with our best resources during the school day.

After many revisions, a new schedule was developed that allowed for a 25 minute intervention period known as “Spartan Time.”  (See Lunch Schedule" attachment at the end of application)  Spartan Time places students in need of interventions with specialized teachers and requires a collective responsibility among all other middle school teachers to supervise the remaining student population while interventions occur.  In this initial effort, we began assigning non-core teachers (PE, Art, Band, Choir) to grade level teams. The number of student groups involved with interventions varied between each grade.  Students not identified for targeted intervention were assigned to a group during this time which worked on a variety of Tier 1 literacy skills and activities related to core content instruction, such as text coding, research projects, and free reading.

By the end of year two, we realized our initial efforts were not closing the gap, but instead widening the literacy gap.  A major adjustment needed to be made.  Even though we were identifying the right kids, we were still not able to provide intervention opportunities to meet their needs.  The involvement of our core language arts and math teachers was essential in providing systematic Tier II interventions.  This allowed for a greater number of Tier II and Tier III interventions at all grade levels and expanded our scope to include both reading and math.  

There was an urgency to fine tune our efforts for Spartan Time.  We formed a committee to align our Spartan Time practices with the RTI pyramid.  The committee’s work resulted in new Spartan Time guidelines and beliefs.

 Tier II = Spartan Time

  • More intense small group instruction 3-4 times weekly for students identified by screeners; targeted reading and/or math intervention for students who struggle during whole class core instruction;

  • Provided by classroom teacher(s) and Reading/Math Specialist

  • No new material presented

  • TAG is possible, but Tier II trumps

  • For students NOT in a Tier II intervention Spartan Time may include (see table below):

 

What it can look like...

What it can’t look like…

  • Free Reading with self selected text

  • Service Learning Projects

  • Additional Targeted Practice (ex: typing)

  • TAG

  • Tier I

  • Flexible Grouping

  • Student Choice

  • Unstructured

  • Study Hall

  • Homework

  • Scripted Lessons or Activities

  • New Skills Taught

  • Extension of Classroom Instruction

 Tier III = Pull Out

  • Intensive individual or small group instruction provided on a daily basis by our highest trained experts; targeted reading or math intervention for students who have struggled through Tier I and Tier II interventions;

  • Provided by our highest qualified educators in identified skill area and Reading/Math Specialist

  • Provided outside of core instructional time for identified skill deficiency

Spartan Time was reprioritized on Tier II reading and math interventions.  As a result of these changes, we were able to create and utilize a Building Intervention Team that monitored and provided support for teachers working with Tier II and Tier III interventions.

In 2016-17, we hit the ground running. We had a systematic approach for identifying students, our most highly skilled teachers were planning and providing focused instruction as well as monitoring student performance, interventions were consistently documented, and the BIT team was meeting weekly to monitor progress. Due to some shifts in our district literacy philosophy, curriculum and screeners, new resources became available allowing us to more clearly align student needs with classroom materials.

Our current building’s systematic response to intervention is attached later in the application.

 

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

While Collaborative Learning Teams were already a district focus, following attendance at a 2012 PLC Institute in Minneapolis, Solon Middle School staff passionately attacked the four questions: What is it we want our students to learn?  How will we know if each student has learned it?  How will we respond when some students don’t learn it?  How can we extend and enrich the learning for students who have demonstrated proficiency?

During the 2012-13 school year district goals included:

  1. 100% of SCSD teachers will document power standards for at least one course during the 2012-13 academic year.

  2. 100% of SCSD teachers will create and implement at least four common formative assessments based on course/grade-level power standards.

  3. The SCSD will have a curriculum based on vertically articulated standards and benchmarks including defined assessments for determining student learning needs and supportive staff development.

At this time our collaborative time was balanced between vertical (ex: 5-8 math) and horizontal teams (ex: 6th grade).  Horizontal teams focused their attention on coordinating our Spartan Time interventions, which focused on providing reading skills to the majority of the students and intensive interventions for those in need of additional support.  Vertical teams spent the majority of their time focused on the district goals identified above.

During the 2014-15 school year, the amount of district provided collaborative time quadrupled thanks  to the School Board’s approval of a school calendar that included weekly early dismissals.  Collaborative teams were now meeting weekly, sharing agendas and minutes with team members and district administration.  Work focused on what has become known as the “Four Questions,” and a SMART goal was established by each team.  A menu of discussion topics was provided to help guide teams, including the creation or revision of power standards and common formative assessments, analyzing common assessments and/or screeners, instructional strategies, planning, and brainstorming ways we can collectively embrace the “Peter Miller” vision.  (See "SCSD CLT Tight/Loose Framework" attachment).

In 2015, we began to move away from the balance between vertical and horizontal collaboration time.  The majority of our CLT time was spent in vertical content teams.  This shift allowed for more attention to the four questions and the refinement in power standards and common formative assessments.

While meaningful work was being done, we recognized that not all content teams were functioning at the same level.  One particular team was at a distinct advantage and was having deeper conversations.  Their advantage was simply that they taught the same content in the same grade level.  Their conversations focused on shared data, planning and instructional strategies.  Teachers embraced the idea that together they could support and learn from each other and most importantly identify ways to better meet the needs of their students.  They viewed students as “our kids” not by individual teachers. 

In order to insure quality collaboration time for all staff, teachers were assigned an identified teaching partner with whom they would pair with for the 2017-18 school year.  (See "SMS Master Schedule" attachment).  This change would result in all teachers teaching multiple grade levels or content areas, but all would have someone with exactly the same assignment.  The schedule change would eliminate any singleton in core content areas.  Teaching partners spent time throughout the year revising standards and common formative assessments, co-planning, and discussing how they will share student data with each other.

In 2017, all Solon Middle School teachers in a core content area began collaborating with a teaching partner.  Weekly collaborative time focuses on sharing common formative assessments data analysis, planning, and instructional strategies with each other.  Our commitment to the new collaborative structure is resulting in higher performing collaborative learning teams and an increase in student performance in the classroom.

Additional Achievement Data

       
           
             
             
             
             

Iowa Assessment – Historical Data

Percent Proficient

 

Reading

Math

Science

2012

2017

2012

2017

2012

2017

5th Grade

82%

93%

89%

86%

86%

93%

6th Grade

71%

90%

82%

87%

88%

86%

7th Grade

73%

87%

90%

88%

83%

90%

8th Grade

70%

90%

78%

86%

87%

97%

 

Iowa Assessment – Historical Data

Percent Highly Proficient / Advanced

 

Reading

Math

Science

2012

2017

2012

2017

2012

2017

5th Grade

26%

44%

36%

35%

13%

28%

6th Grade

15%

36%

23%

39%

17%

21%

7th Grade

18%

30%

20%

27%

18%

18%

8th Grade

8%

41%

14%

31%

4%

19%

 

Iowa Assessment – Historical Data

Percent Proficient – I.E.P. Students

 

Reading

Math

Science

2012

2017

2012

2017

2012

2017

5th Grade

33%

55%

33%

36%

17%

70%

6th Grade

11%

36%

25%

27%

38%

64%

7th Grade

17%

60%

67%

60%

25%

60%

8th Grade

8%

17%

17%

33%

42%

100%

  

Iowa Assessment - Reading

Percent Proficient

 

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

Solon

State

Solon

State

Solon

State

5th Grade

84%

77%

90%

76%

93%

75%

6th Grade

85%

74%

87%

74%

90%

73%

7th Grade

88%

75%

89%

75%

87%

75%

8th Grade

80%

75%

93%

75%

90%

75%

 

Iowa Assessment - Math

Percent Proficient

 

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

Solon

State

Solon

State

Solon

State

5th Grade

82%

76%

86%

76%

86%

74%

6th Grade

87%

77%

88%

76%

87%

75%

7th Grade

91%

83%

93%

83%

88%

82%

8th Grade

87%

75%

90%

74%

86%

74%

 

Iowa Assessment - Science

Percent Proficient

 

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

Solon

State

Solon

State

Solon

State

5th Grade

86%

81%

92%

80%

93%

78%

6th Grade

89%

76%

83%

75%

86%

74%

7th Grade

84%

80%

90%

79%

90%

79%

8th Grade

91%

83%

94%

83%

97%

82%

 

 

Iowa Assessment – Free/Reduced Lunch

Percent Proficient - Reading

 

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

F&R

Non F&R

F&R

Non F&R

F&R

Non F&R

5th Grade

86%

84%

67%

93%

88%

91%

6th Grade

100%

84%

100%

86%

67%

92%

7th Grade

64%

90%

89%

89%

100%

86%

8th Grade

88%

80%

67%

96%

78%

91%

 

Iowa Assessment – Free/Reduced Lunch

Percent Proficient - Math

 

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

F&R

Non F&R

F&R

Non F&R

F&R

Non F&R

5th Grade

71%

84%

78%

87%

81%

87%

6th Grade

73%

89%

88%

88%

67%

88%

7th Grade

73%

94%

89%

92%

75%

89%

8th Grade

75%

88%

89%

90%

89%

85%

 

Iowa Assessment – Free/Reduced Lunch

Percent Proficient - Science

 

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

F&R

Non F&R

F&R

Non F&R

F&R

Non F&R

5th Grade

86%

86%

89%

93%

81%

94%

6th Grade

91%

89%

67%

84%

83%

86%

7th Grade

73%

85%

89%

90%

88%

91%

8th Grade

75%

92%

100%

93%

100%

97%

 

Iowa Assessment – I.E.P.

Percent Proficient - Reading

 

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

IEP

Non-IEP

IEP

Non-IEP

IEP

Non-IEP

5th Grade

43%

87%

40%

96%

55%

94%

6th Grade

12%

91%

40%

89%

36%

98%

7th Grade

62%

90%

38%

93%

60%

88%

8th Grade

17%

84%

20%

97%

17%

94%

 

Iowa Assessment – I.E.P.

Percent Proficient - Math

 

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

IEP

Non-IEP

IEP

Non-IEP

IEP

Non-IEP

5th Grade

43%

85%

50%

90%

36%

91%

6th Grade

38%

91%

20%

91%

27%

94%

7th Grade

25%

97%

38%

96%

60%

89%

8th Grade

67%

89%

40%

93%

33%

89%

 

Iowa Assessment – I.E.P.

Percent Proficient - Science

 

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

IEP

Non-IEP

IEP

Non-IEP

IEP

Non-IEP

5th Grade

71%

87%

60%

96%

70%

95%

6th Grade

71%

90%

60%

84%

64%

89%

7th Grade

75%

84%

71%

91%

60%

92%

8th Grade

83%

91%

60%

96%

100%

97%

 

 

Data Shared:

  • Historical Data – We chose to compare our current data with that of 2012, the year we began our PLC journey, as baseline data for Reading, Math and Science.
  • Proficiency – Solon Middle School data is compared to state data for each of our grade levels in the areas of Reading, Math and Science for the last three years.
  • Sub Group Proficiency – Comparison data is provided for our two notable subgroups, Free & Reduced Lunch and student on Individualized Education Plans.

 

 

 

     
           
             
             
             
             

 

 

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