Alcott Elementary

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

Our improvements are attributed to staff more fully engaging in the PLC process to improve their instruction. Guided by our District Office, our teachers’ work in collaborative teams to build shared knowledge regarding state standards to create district curriculum guides. They work to understand the content and format of high-stakes assessments, as well as the expectations of teachers at the next level to clarify the specific knowledge and skills all students must acquire to advance.

These collaborative teams have clarified the specific proficiency standards students must achieve on each skill and the criteria they will use in assessing each student’s proficiency. They have practiced applying the criteria to ensure consistent, reliable assessment of student learning—especially in regard to performance-based tasks in reading and writing. They help students understand the criteria by putting Essentials and Key Concepts into student-friendly language and then have processes in place to assist students in using the criteria to monitor their own learning.

Collaborative teams are organized by grade level as Similar Responsibility Teams (e.g. 3rd grade teachers plus Special Education). Each of these teams establishes at least two of their own SMART Goals at the beginning of the school year for which they work interdependently to achieve and for which they are mutually accountable. These SMART goals, one for reading and one for math, align with the building School Improvement Goal of improving literacy and math discourse through cooperative learning strategies, which are aligned with the District Improvement Goal of increasing college and career readiness. These teams meet two to four times a month during the contract day, and notes of meetings are monitored by members of the leadership team to ensure that they are engaged in collective inquiry regarding issues directly related to student learning.

Alcott’s participation in a research project out of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s National Center for Research on Rural Education (NCR2ED) provided additional momentum towards the implementation of an authentic Professional Learning Community. In this research study (ProjectREADERS), teachers were involved in intensive trainings on the use of DIBELS data, the implementation of research-based interventions, and on-going follow-up in the form of coaching to ensure effective implementation of intervention and the use of data. Classroom teachers and specialists (e.g. English Learners, Special Education, and support staff) are expected to understand and use DIBELS data to monitor the progress of students, and to adjust their instruction to improve student learning.

Even though ProjectREADERS was focused on one teacher in each grade-level K – 3, the leadership team used the principles of ProjectREADERS with all K – 5 staff over the course of the 2011 – 12 school year. The following year, 2012 – 13, these principles were implemented with all teachers in all grade-levels. These principles, though focused on reading for ProjectREADERS, have carried over to other content areas. Teachers now use these principles in their PLC work—either in Reading or Math.

Although the work done through the ProjectREADERS study occurred six years ago, the principles learned remain current and supported by research .  As such, the main principles carried over to additional professional learning opportunities through the RTI Consortium during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.  Like ProjectREADERS, the RTI Consortium was begun by NCR2ED to develop a RTI framework in participating schools that included progress monitoring through quality assessments, data analysis, adjusting instructional practice, and educator self-assessment and reflection.

During the 2016-17 school year and continuing to the present, Alcott Elementary began to adjust the RTI framework to develop a more inclusive Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework by including academics and behavior, focusing on a proactive response to all students by emphasizing direct and explicit core instruction, monitoring student and instructional data to inform instruction, and emphasizing coaching and training.  The training also aligns with established practices found throughout the district such as the Marzano Instructional Framework and strategies from Anita Archer.     

To summarize the principles: 1) Teachers use quality assessments based on our Essentials. 2) The data from those assessments are systematically examined. 3) Instructional staff change their practices based on student and instructional data. 4) Staff self-assesses and reflects upon the effectiveness of the changes to their instructional practices. As can be seen by this listing of principles, ProjectREADERS, RTI Consortium, and MTSS principles are nearly identical to the four critical questions and the 3 Big Ideas of a Professional Learning Community.

Anecdotally, PLC meetings are more focused on instruction and informed by quality assessments than ever before. Teachers are modifying their instruction and holding each other accountable for improving their instruction. Charts with data are a regular part of those meetings.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Teachers understand the critical role that ongoing data analysis provides in improving the teaching and learning process. These sources may include building and district assessments in reading, writing, and mathematics.  As such, they gather regular evidence of student learning from a variety of sources to inform and improve both their individual and collective practice. As such, each teacher receives feedback—as frequently as once per week—regarding the success of students in achieving Essentials. This feedback comes from common assessments so as to see how students compare in different classes on the same standard.

Depending on the skill-level of students, students are progress monitored weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly using DIBELSNext. This continues based on student growth. When a student hits benchmark five continuous times in a row or eight times intermittent, they are moved to the next prioritized skill or lower-level of intensive progress monitoring.

Additionally, students are involved in the monitoring and tracking of their own learning. Students are provided with goals based upon their performance and the level of proficiency they must attain. Critical to this process is that students are told their goal. Students are then involved with charting their progress and seeing their growth based on aim-lines.

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

The Master Schedule was adjusted in 2011 to best meet the needs of our students. In 2012 – 13, we created a schedule that allows students to have interventions up to three times per day, as well as differentiated small group classroom instruction. These schedule changes continue to date.  There are some students who go to ELL, Special Education, and Title during the course of the day. However, given the focus of all staff on what students need to be proficient or better, such “pull-out” is not viewed as “pull-out programming.” Given that this programming is focused upon what students need, it is simply considered to be another way for the school to intervene with particular students with more intensive interventions—in addition to core whole group and small group instruction. These interventions have not removed the responsibility for student learning from the regular classroom teacher and support staff, but has expanded the responsibility to all teachers and support staff throughout the building. Teachers remain very much involved in the learning of students and monitor student progress towards what is essential, regardless of the intervention strategy being used as well as the MTSS level of support.

Any staff member who has a student that is not making adequate academic or behavioral progress takes the concern to the building MTSS support team.  This team consists of a variety of student support staff that meets on a weekly basis to analyze data, determine instructional approaches, or needs for specific academic or behavioral interventions. Student concerns are also shared with the Principal and Instructional Coach during bi-monthly grade level meetings. Additional instructional or behavioral strategies may be implemented and tracked prior to meeting with the building MTSS team.   

Students at Alcott Elementary can receive multiple opportunities during the day to receive support based on their individual literacy or math skill levels. Students’ first opportunity in the day is quality classroom instruction in both whole group and small group reading and math. During whole group reading, students are taught vocabulary and concepts presented by the district’s reading materials (Journeys 2014).  In math (HMH Expressions), students receive background information of skills and vocabulary prior to whole and small group instruction.

During small group reading instruction, students are grouped based on their individual literacy skill levels. This is determined by a thorough analysis of DIBELSNext and district benchmark data throughout the year. Each student at Alcott Elementary is assessed in the Fall. This includes finding the correct reading level of each student by “DIBELing back” in order to gain a true picture of the student’s reading level and skill base. Students who do not benchmark are then validated by using multiple assessments that include DIBELSNext and district benchmarks.

Based on the data and the composition of the groups, teachers then work on the skills with students in which they are deficient. Additionally, students are progress monitored based on their skill level(s) by the classroom teacher. Progress monitoring includes assessing students’ skill levels with DIBELSNext, charting scores on individual graphs that include individual goals, and conversations with students regarding their personal goals. Some students may be progressed weekly or monthly based on their skill levels.

The second opportunity for students to receive support is during scheduled blocks for Title I support. During this block, students of similar skill levels are grouped and provided research-based reading interventions. Alcott Elementary utilizes a variety of reading interventions that are based on students’ skill levels and needs. These interventions may include Early Interventions To Reading (either EIR K, I, or II based on their skill level), Corrective Reading, Road To the Code, Sound Partners, and Stepping Stones. Students then must show mastery of skills prior to moving to the next lesson in the intervention.

Some students, dependent on whether they qualify, will also receive support through either Special Education or English Learners. This occurs through both inclusion and pull-out. The SPED and EL staff meet with the grade level teachers no less than every other week to discuss students, their data, and specific skills that need to be addressed. Additionally, they collaborate on aligning students’ skills with the curriculum that is utilized in either SPED or EL. Finally, students who qualify under Migrant may also receive support in the Migrant Program after school.

The SPED and EL scheduled blocks are separate and distinct from the Title I block in the daily schedule. These blocks in the daily schedule were created to provide students with multiple opportunities for support as needed. Students who do not qualify for SPED or EL, as well as those who do not need Title I support, remain in the classroom to participate in independent learning, expanded learning of core content, literacy centers, or Self-Selected Reading.

Title I interventions are primarily pull-out. We have created a schedule that has a 30-40 minute block each day to accommodate each individual grade level. During this time, students are provided support through research-based reading interventions.

We have also created 40-45 minute daily blocks for SPED and EL. SPED and EL operate by both pull-out and inclusion. During the assigned blocks, students go to either SPED or EL depending on their qualifications. Additionally, grade levels are served in the classroom by SPED and EL staff during reading and/or math. SPED and EL staff serving upper elementary also team teach during math instruction.

Students who do not qualify for SPED or EL, as well as those who do not need Title I support, remain in the classroom to participate in independent learning, expanded learning of district Essentials, literacy centers, or Self-Selected Reading. Additionally, teachers are allowed some flexibility to adjust instruction based on student needs.

General education classroom teachers are involved in progress monitoring and utilizing research-based classroom instructional strategies and interventions in whole and small group instruction. This would include differentiated instruction, error correction procedures, and cooperative learning strategies.  General education classroom teachers are also involved in the process to assess students, analyze the corresponding data, and collaborate with the Title I staff to determine if more intensive interventions may be appropriate for a particular student.

In addition, the general education classroom teachers provide differentiated instruction in whole and small group reading based on students’ needs. They do so by utilizing explicit instruction based on the work of Anita Archer, engagement strategies from Robert Marzano, analyzing the data from their assessments, and adjusting instruction based on current data.

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

There was an extensive amount of external training that was involved with ProjectREADERS. Training was then brought back to staff on-site during staff meetings. These were led by teachers in the building who were participants in ProjectREADERS. The trainings included a thorough understanding of DIBELS data, and the use of the data to inform instruction. Training has continued during subsequent school years—using the flow charts to guide initial assessments, using an instructional coach to train staff in analyzing the data, focused staff meetings on data and instruction, and the alignment of school improvement initiatives with this work. With the support of the instructional coach and the MTSS team, classroom teachers are provided additional resources as needed to provide differentiated instruction for Tier II and Tier III students.

During the 2012 – 13 school year, the District re-organized the schedule of PLCs on the weekly Wednesday early-outs. As part of this, one time per month is dedicated to building-level staff development focused on professional learning of the staff to implement the School Improvement academic and behavioral plans based on the current needs of students and staff based on student and/or instructional data.  For example, professional learning may focus on engagement strategies, explicit instruction, behavior management, building relationships with students and families, or deepening our understanding of students with trauma.    

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data


Alcott Elementary

Percentage of students meeting End of Year benchmark: Alcott/District Scores

       
 

DIBELS Kinder

DIBELS 1st

DIBELS 2nd

 

Year  12 – 13

85/74

64/65

63/62

 

Year  13 – 14

89/79

81/65

69/73

 

Year  14 – 15

89/85

81/74

64/72

 

Year  15 – 16

91/84

63/75

70/73

 

Year  16 – 17

88/77

67/69

50/71

 

Year  17 – 18

84/78

71/67

64/70

 

Percentage of students passing: Alcott Scores/State Scores (**Reading tests changed to Eng/Lang Arts with a new standards in 16-17. *Math tests changed to new, higher standards in 17-18).

Please list source of comparison data:

     

Grade:  3       

Math

Reading

Writing

Science

English Language Arts

Other             (DIBELS compared to District)

Year  13 – 14

70/76

74/79

No Test

No Test

No Test

62/65

Year  14 – 15

85/78

89/82

No Test

No Test

No Test

81/78

Year  15 – 16

67/78

72/84

No Test

No Test

No Test

59/73

Year  16 – 17

70/75

No Test

No Test

No Test

**50/53

58/65

Year  17 – 18

*31/50

No Test

No Test

No Test

38/53

49/70

             

Percentage of students passing: AL Scores/State Scores (**Reading tests changed to Eng/Lang Arts with a new standards in 16-17. *Math tests changed to new, higher standards in 17-18).

Grade:   4

Math

Reading

Writing

Science

English Language Arts

Other         (DIBELS compared to District)

Year  13 – 14

76/78

85/78

71/69

No Test

No Test

82/72

Year  14 – 15

87/77

78/81

74/69

No Test

No Test

75/72

Year  15 – 16

82/78

93/85

Changed Test

No Test

No Test

69/74

Year  16 – 17

81/76

NA

No Test

No Test

**39/56

65/63

Year  17 – 18

*13/50

No Test

No Test

No Test

33/56

58/66

             

Percentage of students passing: AL Scores/State Scores (**Reading tests changed to Eng/Lang Arts with a new standards in 16-17. *Math tests changed to new, higher standards in 17-18).

Grade:   5

Math

Reading

Writing

Science

English Language Arts

Other         (DIBELS compared to District)

Year  13 – 14

78/77

70/77

No Test

68/72

No Test

72/72

Year  14 – 15

83/76

91/83

No Test

80/73

No Test

68/67

Year  15 – 16

80/77

85/85

No Test

68/73

No Test

71/71

Year  16 – 17

77/76

NA

No Test

73/72

**52/51

81/71

Year  17 – 18

*24/50

No Test

No Test

55/69

24/51

63/68

Our data from the 2017 - 18 school year saw a concerning decrease. In addition to the changes in the actual tests, the testing platform was new and encountered problems too numerous to mention. Statewide scores did not see increases, and Science across the district decreased significantly. Given all of this, as well as the physical move back to the original building of Alcott after two years in a temporary structure, the staff have re-doubled their efforts at improving student learning. Alcott has a new principal for 2018 - 19, and the school has re-committed to the PLC principles through sending multiple staff to a PLC Institute in Iowa, the 15-day Challenge in Dallas, and another Institute in Las Vegas. The school has reconfigured the daily schedule, used PLC time to focus on “Power Essentials,” and organized time for the administration of state testing to better accommodate individual student needs.

While we always hope to improve, we believe that our small school of approximately 35 - 45 students per grade-level and our mobility rate of between 10 and 20% (depending on the year), may make swings of 10 - 20% occur more often than we would like.  

National Model School for AllThingsPLC-2013 to present

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