Pioneer Middle School

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

To ensure high levels of learning for all students, we believe we must be abundantly clear on what we expect all students to learn. To this end, Pioneer provides a balanced, comprehensive, standards-aligned core curriculum to all students. To successfully implement our mission to maximize every student’s academic potential, our faculty works as a professional learning community (PLC) to clearly define the essential learning standards/outcomes for every course taught at Pioneer. When selecting essential learning outcomes, decisions are based upon Dr. Douglas Reeves’s research on learning leverage and endurance, as well as state content standards and frameworks, district curricular guides and performance levels, input from our vertical team partner schools, and student assessment data. These student learning outcomes are compiled each semester in our Pioneer Learning Notebook, which includes examples of content rigor, SMART goals for all subjects, common assessments and course curricular pacing guides.

At Pioneer, we assess our effectiveness on the basis of results rather than intentions. The motivating factor behind Pioneer’s mission statement; Maximizing every student’s academic potential and personal responsibility, drives the faculty to further excellence. Following every assessment, new program or instructional practice, Pioneer PLCs meet every Wednesday morning and answers these questions: What do we want our students to learn? How will we know if they learned it? How will we respond when they do or don’t learn it? The answer to our third question is the force behind Pioneer’s Response to Intervention-Pyramid of Interventions (POI).

By examining our instructional practices and our resources to support all students, Pioneer teachers meet weekly (during Tuesday and Thursday tutorials) with at-risk students to monitor progress and provide them with additional help if needed. Because our mission is to maximize every student’s academic potential, our focus extends beyond assuring grade-level proficiency and challenges students to master more rigorous curriculum. It must be noted that over half of our students take accelerated level coursework, including honors language arts, social science, geometry, foreign language and science. At Pioneer, it is “cool” to be smart, to help others, and to take pride in our school. Last semester, almost half of our students received Principal’s Honor Roll (3.5 GPA or higher) and over 900 students were recognized for their school achievement.

While academic success is a priority, Pioneer also believes that middle school should be a place for all students to explore new disciplines, to experience new opportunities, and to connect fun with learning. Our R.E.A.L. Wildcat program supports the personal/social development of all students. This acronym stands for Respect, Explore, Achieve and Lead—the traits we teach and expect from all students. Students set annual, “R.E.A.L. Wildcat” goals for academic achievement, extra-curricular involvement, exploration, leadership and service. Pioneer offers over 55 periods of electives that support all academics. Sixth grade students participate in an “elective wheel”, which exposes students to art, music, drama, computers and AVID. In 7th and 8th grade, students may select at least two electives. Pioneer has an exceptionally strong visual and performing arts department and we offer a yearlong foreign language program in both 7th and 8th grades. Other elective choices include culinary arts, fashion design, computers, video production, ASB, PAL, AVID, STEM and yearbook. Currently, over 700 students participate in our visual and performing arts program, over 400 students in our sports programs, over 100 students in ASB, over 90 students in STEM, over 60 students in Video Game Design, over 400 students participate in 22 clubs, and over 100 students in academic competitions. To ensure all students have equal access to elective courses, Pioneer offers a zero period PE and Math support program, which in turn allows students enrolled in intervention classes to keep their exploratory electives. It must be noted that all students are enrolled in grade level courses. All intervention classes are designed to specifically address the gaps in student learning determined through formative and summative assessments.

Pioneer’s PLC late start Wednesdays also allow our teachers time for vertical teaming and planning with elementary and high school teachers. Pioneer facilitates a seamless transition for all students and families from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school, both academically and socially. Grade-level programs transition our students from the nurturing attributes of elementary school to the flexible and age-appropriate expectations of future high school students. The first visit to our campus is through Pioneer’s Electives Extravaganza, which includes an introduction to our elective program. The second visit is a Sixth Grade Orientation. The third opportunity is during student registration with Pioneer’s Sixth Grade Boot Camp. During this visit, eighth grade mentors conduct tours to familiarize new Wildcats with our campus and procedures. During the school year, eighth grade mentors meet weekly with our sixth grade students to teach them the “Wildcat Way” helping to prepare them for success at Pioneer, in high school and beyond. Also, during the first six weeks of school Pioneer hosts its annual “Club Rush” providing opportunities for students to join a multitude of campus clubs promoting diversity and interests; these clubs meet during the course of the school day. Counselors and teachers are committed to sponsoring students.

We know our programs, systems and structures have had a positive impact on student attendance, student learning, and improved student performance, as Pioneer has the highest student attendance rate (97% ADA) and highest secondary API (946) in our district, and the second lowest suspension rate (5.57%) of all secondary schools in Tustin. Pioneer also knows that we cannot rest on our laurels and we must plan for our student’s future. On that note, Pioneer has developed a four year staff development plan for the integration of technology and Common Core which targets specific planning time (4 days per year) for teachers to engage in collective inquiry resulting in the creation of project based lessons across multiple content areas.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

To begin each year, our staff analyzes our disaggregated state assessment data from the previous year. Because this data is only a “snap-shot” of student progress, we supplement this information with district and site common assessment results, as well as qualitative information we gain from teacher comments, student, parent and staff surveys. With this data, we identify program strengths and weaknesses and create school-wide and departmental SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, results-orientated, and time bound) to improve student learning. Additionally, the administrative/counseling team uses disaggregated assessment data to individually create every student’s class schedule, thus providing all students with the additional support, enrichment, and rigor needed to maximize their academic achievement. To guide our site-based assessments, PLCs identify essential learning standards for every course, then create and administer common assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of our instructional practices. Tustin Unified School District (TUSD) has designed their middle school “Banking Minutes” program as a late start Wednesday. Every Wednesday PLCs meet for approximately 80 minutes either as a department, an entire staff or leadership team. Well established PLC norms guide collaborative team discussions around disaggregated data, student progress in mastering essential learning standards, students in need of additional time and support, and design targeted interventions. It is important to understand that being referred to POI is not a punishment! We are passionate about student success and do our best to offer our students the individualized support they need to be academically successful.

Throughout the school year, individual students at each level are continuously re-evaluated. To ensure that all students learn, Pioneer offers course-specific tutorial sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays for students who need additional time and support and use a weekly “Priority Schedule” for tutorials to target students who are not performing at the proficient level within specific content areas. These tutorial sessions are closed and used for re-teaching and re-assessing. Not only has Pioneer increased the numbers of students jumping bands from basic to proficient, but we have increased the number of students jumping bands from proficient to advanced. One example is ELA 7 increased the number of advanced students by ten percent (approximately 50 students). Geometry students increased the number of advanced students by eight percent. Pioneer continues to do an excellent job at increasing the levels of performance for proficient students by increasing the rigor. Despite timely referrals to tutorial and the POI, Pioneer identified 130 students who had one or more failing grades within the first quarter of the 2012-13 school year. During November’s faculty meeting we met within grade like interdisciplinary teams and discussed each student. This provided all teachers with a well-rounded perspective on each at-risk student’s strengths and weaknesses across multiple content areas. It was agreed during this meeting that every teacher would mentor 3-5 of these students to ensure connectivity, monitor academic progress, and build positive teacher/student relationships. Today, Pioneer has 96 students failing one or more classes. This is a testament to the commitment that Pioneer’s PLCs have for attaining its mission; ensuring that all students acquire the necessary skills and knowledge.

Pioneer Middle School

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

Pioneer shares an unwavering belief that all students will learn at their maximum potential. This conviction expands our emphasis beyond grade level proficiency to encompass mastery of rigorous curriculum for all students. In order to ensure all Pioneer students achieve at this level, we have designed a Response to Intervention process through a Pyramid of Interventions (POI). This pyramid now consists of 25 different forms of support for students on three levels that become more targeted, intensive, and focused as student support needs increase. Level One of the pyramid is our Core Program, which consists entirely of classes that meet/exceed state standards. Teachers identify essential standards and then differentiate, accelerate, and compact instruction, using a variety of research-based methods and strategies to ensure the learning needs of all students are met. Through age-appropriate experiences in all curricular areas, our students’ learning is supported by the use of hands-on exploration and real life experiences, which offers students universal access to the essential learning.

Pioneer Middle School

As teachers and administrators analyze common assessment data, students who need extra support are identified for our Level 2: Supplemental Program of intervention. This level offers more targeted support in each child’s identified areas of need. As a site, we offer mandatory tutorial and homework help, one-on-one mentoring, sheltered classes for EL students, and frequent meetings with the administrative team to support students in mastering the essential standards in the core program. For most students, this support proves to be sufficient to foster success in the core program. However, we do have students who require a more intensive approach to realize success in their academic program. For this, we have our Level 3: Intensive Program. This is where we focus on very specific, targeted support for students who require individualized attention to maximize their academic potential.

Pioneer has successful systems and structures in place which ensure that all students are given access to all courses. At the beginning of each year and before the second semester, Pioneer administrators, counselors and teachers schedule a “POI Day” to discuss each at-risk student’s individual progress. Lists of students by names and grade level are identified and posted around a conference room. Students are identified as either a “failed learner” or an “intentional non-learner”. From this list of student names, the administrative/counseling team develops specific courses to be integrated into the master schedule such as; Strategic Reading; Sixth Grade Flexible Reading; Strategic Math; and Study Center. It is not uncommon to see changes in course offerings at the second semester to support the shift in student’s needs.

Every six weeks, teachers identify “at-risk” students and refer them to the administrative and counseling team. This information is used to place students in our POI and/or check on student progress. This system ensures that all students receive timely and effective intervention support. It must be noted that there is a fluid movement between all levels of support. Ongoing analysis and discussions of student progress during weekly PLCs is an integral part of Pioneer’s systems and structures. Students who demonstrate success through these interventions are “advanced” and placed back into electives (we make a conscious effort to align support classes during the same periods as electives in the master schedule for easy transitions) and recognized at our monthly Student of the Month Assemblies. This systematic response to intervention ensures that every child receives the instructional practices and time needed to succeed.

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

In order to ensure that continued professional dialogue and collaboration are occurring, Pioneer’s weekly Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) guarantee that the best teaching practices are used to deliver high levels of curriculum. For example, the sixth grade core team, after analyzing reading comprehension CST cluster scores and formative assessment test data, generated an action plan for closing identified gaps through flexible reading groups. The master schedule was designed to give all sixth grade core teachers a common prep period and a common reading period to allow for five flexible reading classes in the morning and afternoon. In order to reduce the student teacher ratio in our most struggling reading classes, single strategic reading classes were added to the master schedule to support four smaller classes for intensive support. This structure allows for daily rigorous instruction in reading on a more individual basis.

Strategic Math courses are designed to support students who need remediation in mastering math standards. After reviewing the 2012 math CSTs and multiple measures assessments as a PLC, it was discovered that these support classes would better meet the needs of incoming sixth grade students and seventh grade students scoring basic and below rather than waiting until the 8th grade for intensive intervention. PLC discussions regarding sixth grade students potentially losing an elective were also deliberated and consensus was reached to add these support classes during a zero period. The administration and teachers implemented a master schedule change for 2012-13.

By examining our instructional practices and our resources to support all students, the Pioneer community of learners continues to take risks and implement new practices to ensure that our students succeed. Pioneer’s site implementation plan for Common Core includes ongoing staff development in the Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC). All teachers are implementing explicit rhetorical pre-reading, reading and post-reading tools and implementing reading to writing connections with pre-writing, writing, revising, editing and publishing. Connections to AVID reading strategies and the implementation of Common CORE Standards (CCS) are currently being made school wide. In August, 2012 AVID and ERWC Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) Coordinators introduced AVID Critical Reading Strategies and ERWC connections to CCS. In October, 2012 the OCDE ERWC Coordinators trained teachers on the first Middle School Writing Modules and connected them to CCS. By the end of this school year, sixty four percent of Pioneer’s sixth grade students will have participated in a quarter of instruction around both AVID and ERWC strategies. These newly acquired skills will bring a new level of rigor for our 7th grade teachers. To ensure that these strategies are being implemented consistently across all departments, each teacher utilizes AVID Weekly articles to implement and practice teaching the Five Critical Reading Strategies in their content areas.

Staff development on the CCS has inspired teachers to collaborate on the development of interdisciplinary project based performance tasks. Teachers are even taking risks with technology through “flipping” classroom instruction and allowing students more opportunities to use technology for posting work and conferencing with teachers. Five teachers have committed to implementing this type of instruction so that there is an increase in the amount of time teachers can work with students in guided practice and project based activities. Multiple days of staff development in Haiku and video recording and uploading have taken place to ensure teacher success.

At Pioneer, we are fortunate to learn from many outstanding schools throughout the nation, and in return we have created partnerships and opportunities to share our experience with others. Over the past three years, we received so many requests to visit our school that we have dedicated one fall and one spring day for site tours. Pioneer recently presented at the California League of Middle Schools as a National School’s To Watch-Taking Center Stage school, which was attended by over 1,500 secondary educators and we will present again in Washington DC at the National League of Middle Schools conference in June, 2013. In 2008, Pioneer presented at the Professional Learning Communities State Summit, which was attended by over 2000 state educators. Nationally, we were one of eight schools selected by Dr. Richard DuFour to be featured in the video, “The Power of Professional Learning Communities at Work: Bringing the Big Ideas to Life”. Additionally, Pioneer has been featured in the books Revisiting PLCs at Work and Pyramid Response to Interventions: RtI, PLCs, and How to Respond When Students Don’t Learn.

Steadily, we are making our mission a reality. Pioneer was recently named both a 2013 California and National Schools to Watch-Taking Center Stage School and a California Distinguished School. Pioneer's state assessment results consistently rank in the top 10% of all middle schools in the state of California, while in 2011 Pioneer’s state assessment results captured the number one ranking for public middle schools in Orange County for the second time in three years. In 2008, Dr. Richard DuFour recognized Pioneer as a national model professional learning community--only eight schools in the nation, three of which are middle schools, received this honor at that time. We know that the only way we can meet the academic, physical, and developmental needs of all students is by working together. Every individual in our school community is essential, every resource is vital, and every minute is precious. Our success comes from our singular dedication to fulfill our mission to, Maximize every student’s academic potential and personal responsibility.

Pioneer's State Academic Performance Index (API)

  2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Over-All 915 923 938 933 939 939 946
Asian 950 953 976 972 975 979 983
White 909 918 931 932 937 937 943
Hispanic 824 830 818 814 855 852 870

Average Yearly Progress (AYP)Percentage of Students Proficient and Advanced

English Language Arts 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
All Students 79.9 81.9 84.5 85.8 86.2 86.1 87.4
Asian 86.7 85.8 89.2 90.8 90.8 90.4 93.7
Hispanic or Latino 56 61.4 67.3 70.0 70.0 70.3 71.2
White (not Hispanic) 79.3 83.5 84.6 87.3 88.6 88.8 89.0
English Learners 58.9 58.1 68.9 67.4 63.2 59.8 70.5
Mathematics 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
All Students 81.7 82.8 84.3 80.2 80.3 79.8 82.8
Asian 91.9 93.3 93.8 91.4 91.6 90.4 92.3
Hispanic or Latino 59 60.7 56.8 50.9 58.9 56.4 61.6
White (not Hispanic) 78.5 78.6 81.7 78.7 77.0 79.3 82.9
English Learners 73.3 74.2 79.3 69.1 72.9 66.1 69.8

California Standards Test (CST)

Mathematics 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
All Students 81.7 82.8 84.3 80.2 80.3 79.8 82.8
Asian 91.9 93.3 93.8 91.4 91.6 90.4 92.3
Hispanic or Latino 59 60.7 56.8 50.9 58.9 56.4 61.6
White (not Hispanic) 78.5 78.6 81.7 78.7 77.0 79.3 82.9
English Learners 73.3 74.2 79.3 69.1 72.9 66.1 69.8
PreAlgebra 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Advanced 36 47 29 42 27 39 29 32
Proficient 34 37 46 38 37 38 44 49
Basic 24 13 19 15 26 16 19 16
Below Basic 6 3 7 4 9 5 7 4
Far Below Basic 1 1 0 2 2 1 1 0
Algebra (grade 7) 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Advanced 9 23 46 78 76 86 87 78
Proficient 63 60 53 22 23 14 13 21
Basic 26 15 1 0 1 0 1 0
Below Basic 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Far Below Basic 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
General Math (grade 8) 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Advanced 2 9 6 4 2 0
Proficient 21 26 16 24 22 24
Basic 53 30 35 45 44 40
Below Basic 23 28 39 21 20 29
Far Below Basic 2 9 4 6 11 7
Algebra (grade 8) 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Advanced 13 39 41 36 41 45
Proficient 60 52 48 44 40 41
Basic 25 8 11 16 15 12
Below Basic 2 1 0 3 3 3
Far Below Basic 0 0 0 1 0 0
Geometry (grade 8) 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Advanced 47 72 81 75 76 82 90
Proficient 50 28 19 24 22 16 10
Basic 4 0 1 1 1 2 0
Below Basic 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Far Below Basic 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Language Arts (grade 6) 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Advanced 44 45 47 51 55 57 57 63
Proficient 31 31 34 31 30 27 28 22
Basic 19 18 14 14 11 12 14 12
Below Basic 3 4 5 3 3 4 1 2
Far Below Basic 3 1 1 1 1 1 0 1
Language Arts (grade 7) 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Advanced 39 48 42 58 53 58 54 64
Proficient 37 32 38 27 31 30 29 25
Basic 19 15 14 10 13 9 12 10
Below Basic 3 3 2 4 1 2 4 1
Far Below Basic 2 2 1 2 1 2 1 1
Language Arts (grade 8) 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Advanced 38 46 48 47 59 63 70 68
Proficient 32 31 30 34 26 22 20 19
Basic 20 18 18 14 11 13 8 10
Below Basic 7 4 2 2 3 2 1 2
Far Below Basic 3 1 2 2 1 1 1 1
Science (grade 8) 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Advanced 54 58 69 73 73 79 79
Proficient 28 26 21 18 16 15 12
Basic 12 10 7 5 8 5 5
Below Basic 5 4 2 2 2 1 1
Far Below Basic 1 1 2 2 1 1 2
History (grade 8) 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Advanced 32 36 47 47 62 65 68
Proficient 32 38 31 30 20 21 16
Basic 28 21 17 18 14 9 12
Below Basic 6 3 3 3 2 3 2
Far Below Basic 3 1 2 2 1 2 2
Students in Advanced Math 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Algebra (7th) 124 199 227 253 136 162 89 140
Geometry (8th) 82 107 119 125 137 110 143 71

English Language Learner Re-designations

  2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Number of students re-designated 20 10 10 15 19 11 15
Percentage of EL population re-designated 24% 16% 15% 27% 31% 21% 27%

Pioneer utilizes multiple types of assessments to monitor student learning of essential standards, evaluate program effectiveness, develop school achievement goals, prioritize resources, differentiate instruction, validate best practices, and guide student intervention services. It should be noted that Pioneer’s growth in student achievement is not due to stressing remedial skills, nor by focusing our improvement efforts solely on students below grade level. Because our mission is to maximize every student’s academic potential, we believe passionately that all students must have access to rigorous curriculum, and when students demonstrate grade level proficiency, we must push them farther. To this end, over the past four years the percentage of students jumping bands of achievement from proficient to advanced in English language arts classes has increased 10%. In mathematics, 26% percent of 7th grade students consistently take algebra, while 28% of 8th grade students are taking geometry. With more students taking advanced courses, one would expect our state assessment scores in these areas to drop, but the opposite has been the case. Last year, 100% of our accelerated math students scored proficient or advanced on the state standards tests for algebra and geometry. The driving factor behind Pioneer’s mission statement; Maximizing every student’s academic potential and personal responsibility, pushes the faculty to further examine our strengths and areas needing improvement. Each time we look at data we celebrate our numbers of students moving to proficiency and then put an intense focus on those students who are still not achieving proficiency. Over the past four years, Pioneer Middle School has seen significant, sustained, and continuous improvement in student achievement. Pioneer’s school wide Academic Performance Index (API) has grown 13 points from 933 to 946 over the past four years. Our Hispanic/Latino subgroup demonstrated the largest API growth with 56 points from 814 to 870. All other subgroups have shown double digit growth in API over four years. Furthermore, Pioneer’s Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) has seen growth across all subgroups in ELA and mathematics.

In addition, for the past four years Pioneer’s EL subgroup met AMAO 3 targets for percent proficient in ELA and Math. Three out of 53 CELDT EL students are currently at the Basic Level. Fifty EL students are proficient and/or advanced. Decreasing the number of students who are performing in the Basic, Below Basic and Far Below Basic performance bands is a continual focus for the Pioneer faculty. Twenty-six students have been moved from non-proficient to proficient over a course of two years. Forty students in mathematics have been moved from non-proficient to proficient over a course of two years. Pioneer still has 81 students not proficient in ELA and 218 students not proficient in math.

  • California Schools to Watch-Taking Center Stage (STW-TCS), 2013
  • National STW-TCS, 2013
  • California Distinguish School, 2013, 2007, 2003
  • NCLB National Blue Ribbon Award, 2008
  • Named Number One Public Middle School in Orange County, 2011 and 2009
  • Named one of the top ten of Public Middle Schools in Orange County, 2013 and 2010
  • Featured in the resources: Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work™, Pyramid Response to Intervention, and The Power of Professional Learning Communities: Bringing the Big Ideas to Life video series
  • Selected by Dr. Richard DuFour to participate in a video series that focuses on how to be a professional learning community. Nationally, only eight schools received this recognition, 2006
  • Featured in Orange County Register in article called "Pioneer Middle School sets the bar high," 2008
  • Selected as a pilot school for Achieve Data Solutions common assessment program, 2005
  • Certified AVID Site, 2000-12
  • Orange County AVID Standout “Angels Award” recipient, 2012
  • Pioneer’s Science Olympiad, First Place, 2009-13
  • Pioneer’s Concert Band, Unanimous Superior Rating, 2005–2013
  • Pioneer’s Chamber Orchestra, Unanimous Superior Rating, 2005–2013
  • All-Southern California Middle School Honor Band, String Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra, 2007-13
  • Pioneer students performing as soloists in Carnegie Hall, NYC, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013
  • Pioneer Advanced Chorus, Best of Festival, 2008-12
  • Highest API of all Orange County Middle Schools (API: 938), 2008
  • Pioneer Yearbook, Columbia Scholastic Press Award, 2006, 2007, 2009
  • Pioneer Yearbook, CSPA Silver Crown Award, 2009-10; CSPA Gold Award, 2007, 2011-12
  • Pioneer Yearbook, National Scholastic Pacesetting Award, 2006-09, 2011-12
  • Tustin Public Schools Foundation Grant Recipient of over $23,000, 2008-13
  • Rotary Club “Good Ideas” Recipient, 2005, 2011, 2012
  • “Fuel Up to Play” Grant Recipient, 2010 and 2011 and “Fit-4-Life” Grant Recipient, 2004