Festus Elementary School
- Number of Students: 955
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 41%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 0.001%
- Percent of Special Education: 9.8%
- White: 89.22%
- Black: 2.83%
- Hispanic: 0.94%
- Asian: 0.52%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.31%
- Multiracial: 6.18%
- Other: 0%
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are and have been a foundational part of the Festus R-VI School District for over eighteen years. We did not participate in formal PLC training because we were really a pioneer in the implementation of the PLC process. Early in the process, Rick DuFour presented to our district a two day training; one day with the entire staff and the second day he met with each individual building. During that time, there was a unified book study of Professional Learning Communities at Work by Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker. This inspired the staff to start the collaboration and exploring options for consistent and protected PLC time. One idea that became the cornerstone of the Festus R-VI School District PLC process was the implementation of the late start Wednesdays. During these days, classes start an hour later than usual so that teachers can meet in their different collaborative teams. These teams continue to meet weekly, usually in horizontal teams of grade levels and special areas. Occasionally, vertical meetings occur, especially in curricular conversations. The main teams are grade level teams or special area teams. At each of these regular meetings the grade levels, for example kindergarten, meet and discuss whatever is on the agenda for that week. Generally, Title 1 teachers and special education teachers who work with that grade level also attend those meetings. The special area classes also meet weekly. Sometimes they meet as a building special area collaborative team. This team is made up of PE, music, art, library, and STEM. This team also will meet vertically with K-12 teachers in their respective departments. Finally, they meet with their fellow subject area teacher each month, for example the two building art teachers meet. Each week, the collaborative team facilitators develop agendas, share those agendas with fellow team members and the administration, and meet on Wednesday. These agendas are reflective of the four corollary questions of PLCs-
What do we want them to learn?
How do we know they learned it?
What do we do when they don’t learn?
What do we do when they do learn?
Administrators visit different collaborative teams each week and make sure that they see all of the teams each month, if not more often. Detailed minutes are collected by each collaborative team and are shared with the team almost immediately after the meeting concludes. These minutes include attendance, the roles of various team members, and other pertinent information. These documents are shared and are many times referenced in later years as teams are working through issues and are trying to remember past decisions.
In the beginning, the Festus R-VI School District staff had no idea the journey they had set in motion for the future students and staff members, who would carry on the PLC vision. Even with the changes in administration, teachers, and students, the PLC culture has continued to thrive and drive every process throughout each building. At the state level, the Festus R-VI School District has been recognized for their efforts and been awarded multiple Exemplary and Sustaining Exemplary PLC Model School honors. The PLC process is not something we do, it is who we are.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
At Festus Elementary we monitor student learning in a wide variety ways. Each are designed to collect useful data, in as easy a manner as possible, so that teachers can spend more time teaching students. A sampling of data includes: MAP data, Star testing data (3 benchmarks yearly and weekly progress monitoring on struggling students), Benchmark Reading Levels, Common Assessment data, Office Referral data, attendance data, parent involvement data, common assessment data (Pre/Post test data), Title 1 data, and many other things.
Data collection and analysis has grown and evolved over the years at Festus Elementary School. These changes have occurred as the building PLC has matured. Collaborative teams utilize this common data as points of discussion. They look at how the data is reflective of quality curriculum or highlighting problems in the curriculum. They also use the data to answer the Four Guiding PLC Questions: What do we want students to learn, how will we know when they have learned it, how will we respond when they do not get it, and how will we respond when they already know it?
On an administrative level, student learning is monitored through a variety of methods. First is the collection of the student learning data itself. This shared system of data collection allows for all teachers to input their data and see the formulas and interpretations whenever needed. Additionally, the administrators can utilize this data to make decisions affecting the whole building. Other data collected that feeds into the student learning data is office referral data, attendance data, and parent participation data. These all factor into the building improvement plan.
Festus Elementary's monitoring of student learning starts in its tier 1 programming. Tier 1 standards and monitoring starts with a strong adherance to the essential and priority standards as defined by the state of Missouri in its Grade Level Expectations (GLEs). Curriculum leaders, made up of teachers from each grade level, worked to determine what standards were to be considered priority standards and what standards are considered supporting to those priorities. These curriulum leaders present materials to the grade level and take their ideas back to make adjustments to the overall curriculum and supporting assessments and other materials. This material is taught to all students and forms the basis of what is expected for all students. We believe that at Festus Elementary all students have the right to recieving the same high caliber education taught by teachers in a variety of ways, but founded and supported by a standards based, locally produced curriculum. To determine if students are mastering or have mastered concepts, common formative assessments (CFAs) were developed to measure student learning. These assements were developed as a part of the curriculum writing process. When students aren't showing understanding, as determined by the wide variety of CFAs, they will experience tier 2 supports. These supports come in a variety of forms, but at their core they are reteaching moments, mostly small group, that are designed to make sure struggling students learn the concepts. For example, in the area of math, we utilize a program of guided math teaching to take concepts and teach and reteach them in a variety of ways and in a variety of settings to ensure mastery. The collaborative team works together to develop activities for these tier 2 supports. Finally, when studetns are requireing more intensive tier 3 supports, teachers will use the CFA data and other data sources to develop and implement focused individual or very small group targeted intensive instruction. All of this work is continually reviewed and updated through the collaborative teams. Students fluidly move from tier to tier as needed.
The monitoring of student learning at the level it is conducted at Festus Elementary would not be possible without PLC culture. The collaborative team and late start Wednesday structures make it possible to actually utilize the data to make decisions that affect student learning.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Festus Elementary School has a solid core curriculum that allows for students to receive the best education they can possibly get. We primarily focus on creating good readers, writers, and students strong in foundational math skills. With that in mind we know that not every student will find success after their initial instruction in the core curriculum. As a part of this core curriculum, our teacher curriculum leaders read the state standards and determined which of them should be considered a priority/essential standard and which would be supporting standards. These decisions were shared with grade level/area teachers and decisions were made about any changes needed. From these standards the curriculum was written, always at first with the curriculum leades and then with followup input by fellow teachers. This process was repeated over and over until we had a viable curriculum written. A basic part of this curriclum is the common formative assessments. Once again, curriculum leaders developed CFAs with the input of fellow teachers. These CFAs had scoring guides developed at the same time. Once implemented the CFAs are constantly reviewed and changed as necessary to be more effective and reflective of the taught curriculum. The results of these CFAs are used by teachers to determine student understanding and are broken down by standards and skills. This information is used by the individual teacher for classroom instructional choices, by the grade level for larger curricular and instructional conversations, and by administration for builidng wide resource, curricular, instructional, and personnel decisions and professional development decisions.
Special area teams have also developed their own curriculums. These teachers have also looked at state and national standards and then conducted the same process as the grade level teams did to write and develop their own curriculum. There is a great deal of vertical alignment converstations kindergarten through 12th grade so that our special area classes align very closely. One exciting area that has changed as a result of the collaborative teaming is the transformation of art from a traditional elementary art classroom to a Choice Art environment. Students are taught the curricular standards and then allowed to make choices as to how they demonstrate mastery of the various standards. Students can recieve remediative help from the teacher or can have their undestanding and mastery of a standard enhanced all in the same classroom.
Festus Elementary School has an extensive system of interventions that have been put in place for all students to gain support for their learning. These supports come in a wide variety of systems and levels. They start in the individual classroom in guided reading and the newly established guided math groups. Teachers are able to provide basic instruction to small groups that are fluid and are formed on the basis of extensive classroom assessments and grade level common assessments. These groups are constantly changing and can meet each student where they are. They are the first step and answering the third and fourth questions posed by Dr. Rick DuFour, what do we do when they don’t learn and what do we do when they do? As a part of guided math, first and second grades have utilized collaborative team discussions of data to form leveled groups. These groups move between classrooms so that a teacher can still differentiate to the needs of the various students; now the teacher is only focussing on the kids who didn’t understand the concept or the students who understood the concept at the time of the pretest. These groups are also fluid and change every couple of weeks.
We also have a system of Title 1 interventions at each grade level. These teachers serve the lowest performing students in reading in grades Kindergarten-third grade and math in third grade. Students are determined by an extensive system of assessments and receive daily extra instruction in these subjects.
A final, and crucial element of academic interventions is our Response to Intervention program. This has been one of the most important elements of student interventions to occur in this building. It allows for teachers to talk about specific students, their difficulties, possible solutions, progress or lack of progress, and instructional adjustments that should be tried. This focused discussion takes place every six weeks with a team of administrators, counselors, and teachers all working with the individual teacher about the individual student. All of these interventions are possible only through the basic realities of the collaborative teams at FES.
Additional supports we have in place at FES address areas outside of academics. These include Positive Behavior Supports, Attendance checks, model guidance programs, and relationships with local counseling, mental health organizations, and medical/vision/dental providers.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
The Festus Elementary PLC and the supporting collaborative teams have been in place for almost two decades. We have a system of grade level teams, Special Education teams, Special Area teams, Title 1 teams, RTI and PBS teams, and the building leadership team. Additionally, temporary teams form as needed throughout the school year. These collaborative teams have grown and matured over the years to become data and instruction focused teams that have the common goal of improving the educational, social, and emotional experience of the students at Festus Elementary School. These teams are constantly sharing quality instructional ideas, data from common assessments, and concerns and difficulties they might be having with a student or group of students. The discussions of CFAs and sharing of instructional practices has lead to a culture of support for all teachers in each of the collaborative teams. Teachers feel safe to show data that might show that a teacher is struggling with things. The team supports that teacher with ideas, professional development, and other things to help the teacher(s) improve their practice. Some of the best professional development occurs each week during the collaborative team times.
The concept of the PLC has transformed the culture of Festus Elementary School from a business meeting every Wednesday morning into a place where the PLC mindset extends into every aspect of the school. We have truly become an institution of professional learning for all students, staff and parents. As new members join our school community, the existing members quickly begin the work of making them a full member of the collaborative team and the building PLC in every sense of the word.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
Festus Elementary places a high value on collecting data, but more importantly interpreting and using that data. Unfortunately, the data collected from the state MAP assessment comes to us after the students have moved on to the next building in the district. That data, while useful, is not useable by us to change what we are doing for specific children. It does, however, help us make curricular decisions based on long range trends. For example, number sense and place value have shown up in the past as weaknesses. With that in mind, our curriculum leaders looked at the K-3 curriculum and placed more emphasis on those concepts starting in Kindergarten.
More important to our building is the the STAR Data and the Benchmark Reading Level (BRL) Data. These pieces of data are immediately beneficial to us as they are produced as soon as students complete each assessment. We utilize these assessments and the data to make decisions regarding RTI interventions, Title 1 placements, and curricular issues. We recognize that these data pieces are just snapshots in time, but they do show important markers of student learning and are consistent vertical and horizontal assessments.
The data also showcases an evolution in the collection of data, the adoption of new assessments (BRLs in 2014-15), and the deepening interpretation of that data. It also demonstrates a commitment, with the MPI scores, to measure the activity of not just the proficient and advanced students, but also those students who are not succeeding. We also spend time looking at how we do with SSG students and how that work compares to students who don’t belong to the SSG. We are expanding this year with analyzing how we address students based on gender in addition to other areas.
The collaborative teams take all of this data, plus data produced on Common Formative Assessments, to discuss at the team meetings and make decisions regarding students and instruction.
A final, but important piece of data that we look at is our annual APR (Annual Performance Report) from the state of Missouri. This is our school's report card and encompasses attendance, academic performance on the state test, and performance of subgroups on the state test. Each year we have received a score of 100% since they began issuing the state APR for individual buildings.
1999- Missouri Gold Star School
1999- National Blue Ribbon School
2011- Missouri DESE Bronze Award for PBS implementation
2012- AdvancED Accredited
2013- Missouri DESE Bronze Award for PBS implementation
2013- Missouri DESE Exemplary PLC School
2014- Missouri Gold Star School
2014- National Blue Ribbon School
2014- St. Louis Post-Dispatch Top Workplace
2015- St. Louis Post-Dispatch Top Workplace
2016- St. Louis Post-Dispatch Top Workplace
2017- St. Louis Post-Dispatch Top Workplace
2017- AdvancED Accredited
2018- St. Louis Post-Dispatch Top Workplace
2018- Missouri DESE Sustaining Exemplary PLC School