- School District: Jefferson County
- School Address: 7840 Carr Drive , Arvada, CO 80005, US
- School Phone: 303 982-0950
- Principal: Matt Hilbert
- Contact E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Number of Students: 310
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 34%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 5%
- Percent of Special Education: 7%
- White: 66.2%
- Black: 0%
- Hispanic: 28%
- Asian: 1.1%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.8%
- Multiracial: 3.9%
- Other: 0%
Warder Elementary is a K-6 suburban school located in Arvada, Colorado. Four years ago, we noted that our demographics were changing, and we began to see a decline in student achievement. Many of our students were entering kindergarten without preschool experience, and as a result, they had fewer foundational skills. Choice enrollment impacted our mobility which more than doubled during the past five years from 5% to 12%. Prior to PLC implementation, our School Performance Framework (SPF) from the state indicated we were approaching rather than meeting or exceeding with student achievement in both English Language Arts and Math. It was clear that our teachers needed to think and teach differently.
Three years ago, our school made the choice to engage in deeper learning around Professional Learning Communities. The collaborative PLC structure had already shown success in several of our district’’s neediest schools, and we were excited to learn more! We began our PLC work focused on our greatest area of need which according to district and state assessments was reading. As a staff, we created action steps to collaboratively build systemic practices during all components of the reading block as well as structures to drive our PLC work. This work began with the development of a master schedule which included additional time for grade level teams to collaborate regularly during the school day. During whole school professional learning, we focused on rewriting our very outdated Mission and Vision statements. This work was very meaningful. We included parents and teachers in the year-long creation of a mission and vision, choosing every word carefully. We were intentional when we said we wanted, “To prepare ALL student for a successful future by having high expectations and promoting independence”. We have revisited this mission numerous times throughout our journey to keep us all focus on WHY we are doing the work of PLCs. We started to focus on the three BIG ideas: a focus on learning, collaborative culture, and RESULTS! Teachers began to recognize that THEY were their students first and best intervention, not a kit and not a paraprofessional down the hallway. We progressed monitored our instruction and our interventions using data from multiple sources.
In year two, Warder’s PLC work began strong! As a staff, we revisited our Mission and Vision and caught new staff members up to date on our purpose of increasing student learning. Many of our teams took off, working collaboratively creating and using forms and templates to document our work, focused on the four questions. Teams used a systematic process to identify essential learnings for reading standards. Teams created common formative assessments to collect information about student learning and analyzed data to plan appropriate interventions and extensions. We discontinued the use of interventions that were not supporting mastery of essential standards. Warder hosted a School Improvement Review (SIR) and was provided feedback that gave our guiding coalition the opportunity to reflect on our current practices and consider what professional learning was needed to move our teams forward. As a result of our actions, students showed significant growth on district and state assessments. Further, we earned the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award for our exceptional growth!
In year three, Warder started with a new principal who continued to support the work of the three big ideas of professional learning communities. While we had seen success in reading, we identified that our math data was not as strong. In order to add a second content area, we conducted some professional learning focused on mathematical instructional practices. In addition to a weekly 90 minute collaborative time, we added an hour of collaboration time for teachers to use as they saw fit once per month. For many, it was time to collaborate with other stakeholders in our building such as mental health providers, special educators, and the instructional coach. This year our district-led school improvement review (SIR) indicated that we were ready to solidify our pyramid of effective interventions for both academics and social/emotional needs. It also indicated that we needed to reflect deeper on changing teacher practices to support ALL students’ growth. Our guiding coalition helped to once again revise our systemic documents by adding guiding questions for teachers to consider while they were analyzing data. We dug deeper into the ways in which we extended students’ who already mastered the essential standards and more than doubled the number of students with Advanced Learning Plans moving from 14 to 31.
As we begin year four, we know that our PLC journey is not over, but we have a clearer picture of the work that we need to commit to in order to support our students’ growth and achievement. At this time our district recognizes Warder as a model PLC school. this year we will host two site visits for other schools in Jeffco to learn about our journey.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
After four years of refinement, our teachers are analyzing multiple data points including common formative and summative assessments. Teams use a common spreadsheet that organizes data by student and by skill. Data is collected and organized by teacher and grade level, which allows teachers to compare and discover which teaching practices or strategies worked best for most students. The data also informed our teachers about which students needed extensions based on mastery of specifically identified skills. By analyzing and organizing the data on a regular basis, teachers better adjusted the level of support they offered students. In the past, we set SMART goals for entire units based on percentages. Now,teams are beginning to track more meaningful goals based on specific skills and/or students to target progress and the effectiveness of our interventions and extensions. These SMART goals are progress monitored on a timely basis and our students are making growth as a result of these practices.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Presently, after a couple of years of trial and error, we have several structures in place to meet the needs of the students at Warder. First, teams have gained a stronger understanding of what it looks like to provide intervention during core instruction (Tier 1). This includes Pause Days, reteaching, and replicating instructional practices that have shown success. We also have a master schedule with an embedded WIN (Whatever I Need) intervention block for each grade level and aligned paraprofessional support. This structure is used for students who have not mastered prioritized standards (Tier 2). Finally, our Tier 3 support is provided through a building-wide collective effort that includes members from our special education team, our intervention team and our general education teachers.
In addition, our guiding coalition crafted a pyramid of intervention system. This document came to life in our MTSS school-wide problem solving group. We considered both resources and instructional strategies that supported student growth and achievement for both academics and social/emotional needs. This document is a foundational tool for Warder’s staff to have multiple pathways to support student needs.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Collaboration is the heart of Warder’s PLC success. As a whole staff, we crafted our collective commitments, pledging to be prepared and actively engage in collaborative conversations moving through the four questions on a weekly basis. While our principal has set tights, teams chooses which of the four PLC questions they are prepared to engage in a collaborative conversation. Each year, we have increased collaboration time for ALL teachers including support staff. Our teachers treasure the time to collaborate and focus on how we can collectively support student growth. Over the years, we have used a variety of ways to improve our PLC team’s work. We have captured and analyzed videos of teams in action. Both the principal and instructional coach attend most PLC meetings. Then, they provide written feedback to teams pushing on their thinking and encouraging next steps. We have also invited the district PLC coach to conduct side-by-side observations providing feedback to support the coach and principal’s deeper understanding of the PLC process. Our guiding coalition takes on a collaborative role too, planning for professional learning that engages vertical teams and the analysis of school-wide data to ensure that what we’re doing is making a difference. Next year, we have restructured our master schedule once more to provide weekly opportunities for more stakeholders to attend our PLC discussions to ensure that we are meeting the needs of all students. We know that high-performing collaborative teams are the key to increased student achievement for ALL.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
Warder uses a progress monitoring tool called MAP. For the past two years, we have given this assessment K-6 & K-5. In most cases our grade level teams are able to match or exceed both National means or District means. We have also collected perceptual data via surveys. Our teachers are very proud of their colloborative relationships. During professional learning opportunities, we often conduct vertical conversations to push on one another's thinking. As a result of K-6 common formative/summative assessments we have established a high level of expectations throughout our building.
Warder has been recognized with the Goveronr's Distinguished Improvement award for high levels of academic growth in reading or math each year that we have used PLC practices.
This year Warder was chosen to be a site school (model) for other schools in our district. This year we will host two days of Learning for others.