Mountain Vista Elementary School

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

Our PLC journey began with a focus on “cultivating the soil” at Mountain Vista Elementary School by building a positive climate that supports teams to work collaboratively in support of learning for all students, seeking a school where all educators have an unwavering belief in the ability of all students to achieve success (Muhammad, 2018). The school climate is built on always doing what is best for kids. It is the grounding phrase teams turn back to as they work together to make decisions for our learners.

The master schedule was designed to build common plan times for all teams, support their collaborative work, and to give time to build common grade level curriculum maps in support of our guaranteed and viable curriculum. Our current master schedule accommodates common team plan times of forty-five minutes and sixty minutes. Teams meet twice weekly to focus on student learning in literacy and math, with a trained grade level facilitator supporting the team analysis of the four essential questions in a PLC. Teams worked together to plan common instruction units throughout the school year with a focus on the most important standards being taught. At the end of the year, teams reflected on the success and challenges of their curriculum maps and adjusted them based on classroom qualitative and quantitative data.

We built a guiding coalition to help drive us deeper into team analysis of the four essential questions in a PLC. Our guiding coalition (made up by one representative from each grade level, our principal, PLC coach, SPED teacher, and G/T teacher) worked together to identify strengths and next steps in our instructional program, supported by Dr. Tom Many and the school district. This work allowed us to identify the need to develop a strong foundation in formative assessments and to respond to student needs based on the learning targets identified by teams. The guiding coalition, along with staff members throughout the school, worked together to build common formative assessments into units of instruction, with team analysis undertaken frequently in order to understand the student learning, especially around student strengths and next steps. Team reflections built our understanding that we needed to be intentional around a way for teachers to work together and use all of our strengths in support of student learning.

Schoolwide teams began utilizing a common notecatcher created on Google Docs software to facilitate the organization of meeting agendas, analyzing priority standards/learning targets, and looking at student growth around the manageable targets designed to support student understanding of the overall priority standard. A new notecatcher is created for each instructional unit K-5 and shared schoolwide; all staff members have the ability to observe the team focus, add notes/comments about discussed agenda items, observe the CFA used to assess learning, and connect/respond to student learning in real-time. Staff members throughout the building, including a PLC Coach, school psychologist, SLP, ELA specialist, special education teacher, G/T specialist, etc. joined teams to further connect instruction K-5 and worked together to plan for the learning of all students in the school. Our guiding coalition, using the texts Learning by Doing (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many and Mattos, 2016) and It’s About Time (Buffum & Mattos, 2015), decided to isolate specific learning time in each grade level’s schedule, WIN Time (What I Need Time) was designed to further respond to student learning needs around the learning targets connected to priority standards. WIN Time allows all students multiple opportunities to master a target. Groupings are built on the most recent common formative assessment given by the team within 48 hours, with instruction also being planned during weekly team meetings. The PLC journey undertaken by the school has driven great relationships between all stakeholders. Staff members report high levels of trust, transparency, vulnerability, and appreciation as we continue working together to support learning for all of our students.

Our culture of continuous improvement is built upon working with/at four different levels to identify ways to improve: team level, school level, district level, and outside district.

Teachers at Mountain Vista work together weekly in grade level teams to build up  their understandings of a guaranteed and viable curriculum, success criteria for priority standards, common formative assessments, and a variety of ways to respond to student learning needs such as WIN time or other intervention/extension opportunities. Time is also scheduled monthly for teachers to discuss standards, instruction, and successes (or challenges!) in vertical teamings. These vertical conversations support the connection of K-5 best practices regarding instruction, data analysis protocols, creation of formative assessments, and learning progressions, among other topics. Vertical conversations also helps build shared responsibility for every student in the school K-5.  We select new professional reading to undertake as a staff annually, with our focus being a text to challenge our current thinking. Professional articles, videos, and blog posts connected to work in the building are shared weekly among staff members to connect with what individuals or teams are currently exploring.

Within our school district, we meet quarterly with our sister schools to share what has been working in each school as we support learning for all of our students. This time we spend with other schools, along with a variety of district resources, allows us to celebrate success of students and our sister school network. Sister school days occur multiple times during the year and encompass a wide variety of methods that allow schools to share best practices, including: observing live or videotaped PLC meetings, sharing coaching practices in schools, meeting in job-alike groups with teachers from other schools, and sharing artifacts. We meet with other guiding coalitions to identify ways we can leverage our own successes and begin to include successful work of other schools into our own learning community. We have been fortunate to host a number of district specialists to support our staff as we sought additional ideas for the development of formative assessments as well as ways to analyze student mathematical thinking to understand where they are performing on a progression of learning within a priority standard. Our guiding coalition has been fortunate to attend a variety of workshops presented by Dr. Tom Many, Dr. Luis Cruz, and Dr. Anthony Muhammad to challenge our thinking and support our PLC journey.

We also seek ways to connect with other schools from outside our school district that are modeling exemplary practices in their own PLC journeys. Members of our guiding coalition have been fortunate to be able to hear best practices highlighted in a number of visits to Model PLC schools, including Stevenson High School (IL), Country Meadows Elementary (IL), Kinard Middle School (CO), and Prairie Elementary School (IL). The ability to connect with these other exemplary schools continues to push our thinking and find ways we can become more effective as an organization seeking to continuously improve the learning of our students.

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Teams work together to identify priority standards, learning targets within those standards, and when the priority standards will be taught. Learning targets are a main focus of each instructional unit. Breaking standards into manageable chunks helps to focus classroom teachers’ work around students’ abilities to master each priority standard. The curriculum map created by each team is reviewed at the end of each year. During this time teams evaluate successes and next steps for student learning and work together to make improvements, much of this work takes place on a common virtual data wall used and shared building wide utilizing Google Sheets. This software allows teachers to simultaneously place students into instructional groups for WIN time or track student growth by inputting a new data points based on the common formative assessment. K-5 virtual data walls, along with the PLC notecatchers which are collaborated on using Google Docs, are shared building wide to support a seamless ability to evaluate and respond to student learning on an on-going basis. This process is especially supportive of our interventionists and specialists as they seek to connect their instruction with that of the K-5 classrooms.   The curriculum map allows for teams to agree upon what standards will be taught and when assessments, especially formative assessments, will be given during the instructional unit (which we call a PLC cycle). Priority standards, and identified learning targets within those standards, are the focus of instruction, with supporting standards also being taught during an instructional unit where they compliment the priority standard that has been determined by the team. Curriculum maps are shared building wide. This practice allows all staff members to connect their instruction and allows for teams to dissect learning progressions between grade levels. This reinforcement has been a powerful connection that our PLC journey has allowed us to leverage to support the learning of our students.

Student learning is monitored through the use of common formative assessments as well as summative assessments. Assessment for learning takes place multiple times per instructional unit as teams create formative assessments to understand how students are progressing on specific learning targets within a priority standard. These formative assessments are reviewed by teams to ensure inter-rater reliability. Agreed upon success criteria for students to meet mastery and consistent team expectations are set. Teams utilize a virtual data wall to organize students into groups. Groups are then either retaught or offered extended learning experiences during regular classroom instruction or during WIN time. The virtual data wall is updated after each formative assessment to ensure all students are growing in their understandings and responding to instruction. Teams meet weekly to ensure formative assessment results used to inform instruction and respond to student learning needs in a timely manner, especially during WIN time.

Summative assessments (assessments of learning) take place at the end of instructional units and are used to determine how students have been able to master the overall priority standard. These assessments allow us to reflect on student learning as well as to define what adjustments might be made as we continue improving our future instructional units around the priority standard. The virtual data wall is kept for each unit and utilized when reporting student growth, strengths, and next steps.

 

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

Our PLC journey, as well as resources from the allthingsplc.info website and It's About Time (Buffum and Mattos, 2015) guided us to the creation of WIN Time (What I Need) as a way to respond to student learning needs. This time is set aside on our master schedule to allow reteaching and extension opportunities related to the priority standard being focused on in classroom instruction and assessed through common formative assessments. WIN time blocks take place in reading and mathematics three to five days per week, with the amount of time dedicated to the blocks varying depending on student needs in each grade level (15-35 minutes per block). We consider WIN Time an extension of our Tier 1 instruction, provided for all students in the school in an effort to maximize their targeted learning opportunities and work to get all students to mastery.  No new instruction occurs during this time, which allows students to be supported or extended on a specific target without missing any new learning happening in their homeroom teacher's classroom. Teachers group students that have similar needs on the virtual data wall according to their common formative assessments. Students join the classroom focusing on their current learning need, oftentimes interventionists are utilized to create additional groupings and decrease the number of students in each classroom. Coteaching (adding another teacher into the classroom to support a specific WIN time) has also been commonly used as a method to provide additional support to maximize student learning. This allows each teacher to focus instruction specifically to the reorganized group of students sitting in front of them, while also allowing students to be grouped heterogenously during the rest of the school day. WIN Time allows students multiple opportunities to be successful when working with a standard, and it allows teachers to collaborate in the planning of specific and targeted instruction for all students in a grade level.

Teachers reflect on student learning weekly in their PLC meetings. Common formative assessments based on specific learning targets are utilized weekly or biweekly to evaluate student learning, with students taking a similar formative assessment multiple times to determine progress towards mastery of targets. This progress is tracked on our virtual data wall, with student progress towards mastery being broken down into four categories: needs more time (1), approaching (2), mastered (3), or extending (4). Teachers determine student learning growth, effective classroom instruction practices, and regroup students for WIN time based on the assessment results.

Students needing additional intervention are referred to a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) team that works to identify additional ways to support student learning. The MTSS team determines next steps in a problem solving session between the classroom teacher and various stakeholders throughout the school community. The MTSS system connects students with targeted interventions as well as extended learning opportunities outside of WIN time in continued support of their learning. These learning opportunities represent our Tier 2 interventions/extensions, providing small group opportunities for students to learn targeted material. Interventionists utilize the grade level virtual data wall and PLC notecatcher to connect Tier 2 learning experiences with high quality instruction occuring in classrooms.

 

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

Our guiding coalition, made up of classroom teachers, interventionists, the PLC Coach, and the principal, works together to build facilitative leadership practices. Our facilitators spend time each month connecting with each other to leverage practices happening throughout our school, district, or the Model PLC community to support their team’s ability to focus on student learning. Facilitators read articles, books, and blog posts supporting the building of shared leadership in teams and collaborate around best PLC practices seen in schools from across the district and country.

Teams spend time each year developing norms to guide conversations and have specific jobs (facilitator, time keeper, note taker, etc.) to drive team conversations forward. Our PLC notecatcher, with meeting agendas written by facilitators, help meetings stay focused on team generated items to be discussed and evaluated to drive student learning. Our PLC meetings cultivate teams working together to evaluate their effectiveness, which in turn maximizes student learning.

Our specials team, consisting of art, music, physical education, and STEM, share a common planning time and collaborate to plan learning experiences to support our students. Each specials team also has a district facilitated PLC, either virtually or in person, where they join other art, music, physical education, or STEM teachers from across the school district to plan a guaranteed and viable curriculum as well as generate discussions around classroom instruction and best practices for student learning.

The PLC cycles organized around priority standards encourage teams to work together towards discovering best practices, apply them in classrooms, and evaluate their success in increasing student achievement at Mountain Vista Elementary. Our staff learns from each other by doing, which has been a powerful shift as we focus on improving student learning for every child that enters our school.

 

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Mountain Vista has shown a considerable amount of growth across multiple measures as we work on improving our practices with a focus on maximizing learning for all students. We use a variety of assessments to track student progress, including: common formative assessments, iReady data, Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA2), ACT Aspire, and the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS). Students have consistently shown growth, in many cases entire grade levels average well over one year's growth based on our iReady and DRA2 scores.

When grade level results don’t match our expectations, teams work together to identify where the breakdown in student learning, and therefore our instructional practices, occurred. Our fifth grade team has worked tirelessly this year to reevaluate their guaranteed and viable curriculum to ensure that our students are responding to instruction around the district and team defined grade level priorities. We anticipate significant progress this year on state CMAS results based on team level formative assessments as well as district level summative assessment results.

Another measure we use to analyze end of the year student learning is our School Performance Framework (SPF) scores. The SPF provides information regarding where our students are performing relative to other Colorado elementary schools by providing which percentile our school performed in compared to the state of Colorado. Our annual overall English/Language Arts and Math scores listed below. We are proud of our school's continued improvement on these measures!

 

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

English/Language Arts

75

71

79

Math

72

66

76

 

School Student Achievement Data

State Accountability: CMAS

Percentage of Students Meeting or Exceeding Proficiency

   
 

2014–2015

2015–2016

2016–2017

SUBJECT

School

State

School

State

School

State

English

40

38

32

37

52

40

Mathematics

45

37

40

39

64

40

Science

           

History

           
   
 

2014–2015

2015–2016

2016–2017

SUBJECT

School

State

School

State

School

State

English

73

42

61

44

64

44

Mathematics

39

30

31

33

45

36

Science

           

History

           
   
 

2014–2015

2015–2016

2016–2017

SUBJECT

School

State

School

State

School

State

English

56

41

53

41

41

43

Mathematics

36

30

39

34

33

34

Science

           

History

           

Mountain Vista has hosted a number of schools throughout the district sharing our PLC practices, our application of WIN time, and "fishbowls" of PLC meetings.

Our principal has shared Elementary PLC practices at a number of district level meetings, highlighting the learning of our students and the way we breakdown the four essential questions of a PLC.

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