Northwestern Middle School

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

A survey is given to our teachers each year and one of the questions is related to their PLC's. We have seen some significant differences in their answers over the last 2-3 years. The answers have gone from "our creativity is being killed" to "working as a team in the PLC's …is a positive. There is positive support for all members of the team. In 8th grade, we have students succeeding in Math that previously have not succeeded. The same holds true in other subject areas." The most recent survey had some of the following statements from teachers with regards to PLC's.

"I feel that I have been pushed to step outside the box and create new ideas to help my students learn and perform better."

"PLC's have improved the quality of the lessons."

"Working closely within our PLC's has been very beneficial in that it provides an opportunity for conservation. Conservations are taking place that examine class averages and strategies in how we can improve them. We are also doing a great job in creating high rigor tests and removing basic recall questions."

"Working and planning together in PLC has been wonderful. Everyone is so supportive and helpful. I feel that we are all better teachers because of the collaboration."

"Common planning in PLC has provided an excellent opportunity to share and strengthen the activities and delivery of material."

"PLC's are working well. Helps ensure ALL of our students are getting what they should be. There is no way to hide if teachers aren't doing what they should be doing."

With our PLC's, we are collaborating more than ever which is ultimately leading to greater student success. Because our teachers in each content area and grade level are one team, there is better consistency and communication which has helped not only our students, but parents as well. For instance, we have grade level calendars posted on our website where each PLC posts their tests and assignment due dates. Once a PLC publishes their test or assignment on the calendar, the other PLC's have to keep that in mind when creating their deadlines so our students are not faced with multiple tests and assignments on the same day. This is only possible because our teams are collaborating and working together as one entity (6th grade math team) instead of individual teachers.

Communication has been another asset at Northwestern Middle School. Our teachers communicate with parents every Monday with an email entitled "Monday Notes." This gives parents information as to what is coming up for the week and what their child will be expected to learn. In our annual parent surveys, the "Monday Notes" have received numerous compliments as parents have said it helps them stay involved in middle school – a time where students typically stop sharing information with their parents.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

One of the first tasks we implemented was common assessment. We started with only having 10 questions the same on every assessment and then the following year. This allowed teachers to begin the process of coming to a consensus on the questions, and then becoming comfortable sharing the data for those questions. The following year, we implemented true common assessments where every assessment was the exact same. This allowed for data sharing and conversations about students who did not meet the standards. This also allowed for conversations about what one teacher was doing that was working versus another teacher whose strategies may not be working. Because these conversations are held on a weekly basis, student learning is being monitored much more frequently.

A part of monitoring student learning frequently, is becoming comfortable with sharing data. We start the school year off by sharing every teacher's test scores and throughout the quarter, we share all the teachers' failure reports. This allows teachers to see that the sharing of the data is not personal, but about student learning. We are creating a culture that promotes collaboration and dialogue so we can help all our students learn, not just the students on a teacher's roster and transparency and honesty is key.

Administrators are a part of monitoring student learning as well. They meet with each PLC at the end of every unit in a formal meeting where student data is discussed. The PLC shares with administration how many students mastered the material, versus how many who did not and whether or not the PLC met their SMART goal(s) for that unit. A plan is then discussed to help the students who have not yet mastered it. A part of that meeting is also sharing SMART goals for the upcoming unit. Next year, we will change these unit meetings to quarterly meetings where every PLC will be met with at the end of every quarter.

In terms of teacher strategies to monitor student learning on a timely basis, our teachers use various tools such as activotes, iphone or just simple white boards that students each have and write their answers on and then hold up for the teacher to see. This gives teachers a quick indication of what the students know or do not know. We also implemented ticket out the door activities. Every teacher ends the lesson with a ticket out the door which also gives them an indication of whether or not the students learned the concept.

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

Our responses for students are outlined in the pyramid below (with a detailed description of each of the strategies).

Northwestern Middle School

Tier 1 Strategies

All students at Northwestern Middle School will benefit from the interventions described in tier one. Tier one will increase the students and parents opportunity to build stronger relationships at school as well as the background knowledge needed to succeed at NMS.

Pass AM
Students are referred (self, parent, teacher or counselor) to Pass AM where they receive support before school by a member of our counseling staff.

Lunch Bunch
Tables and laptops are set up in the cafeteria atrium where students can bring their lunch and work on school assignments. A member of our counseling staff is present to provide support.

Study Sessions
Every teacher offers a publicized help session at least once a week. Because teachers collaborate, what they are teaching and how they are assessing is all the same so students can go to different teachers for study sessions if they are not understanding from one particular teacher.

Test Practice
Resources are made available to all students and parents to help students with the standardized test.

Systemic communication processes (report cards, progress reports, agendas, blogs, websites, Monday email notes and conferences will increase parents' knowledge concerning progress, behavior and achievement of their son/daughter.

Grade level students are divided into small groups called PRIDE. PRIDE groups meet daily to work on academic progress monitoring, study skills and teambuilding.

Binder Busters
A program designed to help students stay organized. A member of the counseling staff helps organize students and their binders and notebooks.

Transition Programs
A comprehensive transition program for rising 6th grade students and 8th grade students going to high school.

Curriculum Quarterlies
Every 9 weeks, a formal meeting is held where each content PLC presents to administration and counselors and reviews students who are meeting standards and who are not. Plans of action are discussed for how to challenge and how to provide students.

All students are eligible to participate in recovery for tests if they want to improve their grade. Students have to go through a series of events (complete any missing assignments, participate in help session, test corrections etc.) and then they can re-take any test.

One way teachers differentiate is to provide multiple choices for students to show mastery of standards. Students are able to pick based on their interest.

Ticket out the Door
Teachers conduct a quick mini assessment at the end of every lesson to check for student understanding.

Tier 2 Strategies

Students who are moved to Tier 2 are in need of interventions beyond regular classroom and school support. These students are ones who would benefit by shifting away from traditional practices, an increase in communication and/or an increase in classroom interventions. Students at this level will receive supported services that are documented and measured.

Students are recommended by their teacher for assistance in math. Students enrolled in this program are provided 4 hours of mathematics instruction per week from October to March.

Graduation Coach Referral
This allows students who are struggling to learn what they are working towards and the benefits of post-secondary education.

This program allows for a student to have a significant relationship with an adult and allows for students to have an advocate.

Counseling Referral
Counselors become more involved with students and their parents and develop significant one-on-one relationships.

Study Hall
Students are put in small group study halls that offer no more than a 15:1 student to teacher ratio.

Additional Math Class
Students are placed in a remedial math class during their connections time. This allows students to have an additional math class to help support their math classroom.

Progress Monitoring
Teachers bring a collection of data when a trend develops that concerns the student academically or behaviorally. There are several steps; documentation, record review by team, collection of data, problem identification, parent communication/survey.

Tier 3 Strategies

At the third tier level, the student has been referred to the Student Support Team (SST). The student support team will conduct a needs identification, conduct a student assessment as needed, write an intervention plan detailing how the student will be instructed with interventions, implement the plan, follow up and support throughout implementation and conduct continuous monitoring and evaluation to determine if desired outcomes are occurring.

Tier 4 Strategies

At the fourth tier level, the student has been referred for either an alternative placement/program or for special education services. In the case of a student being referred and qualifying for special education the student will have an individualized education plan (IEP) developed and implemented for him/her. At this level the greatest amount of resources will be provided to support the success of a child.

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

Teachers have common planning every day for a block of 102 minutes. They formally meet on Thursdays with their content teams and have discussed centered around the topics listed below.

  1. What do the students need to know (outline the standards, essential questions and objectives)
  2. How do we know the students learned it (create common assessments, rubrics etc.)
  3. What do we do when students don't learn it (what are the steps we can take for those students)
  4. What do we do when students do learn it (what are the steps we can take for those students)

We physically moved all teachers so they are located by content area. This allows teachers to informally collaborate daily as they step outside in the hallway during transition, before and after school to just talk, reflect and share. The close proximity has also allowed teachers to swap students when needed. For instance, one of our PLC's had a systematic way to move students depending on the teacher's strength and student's strength. Students in the entire grade level who were struggling with a particular concept went to Teacher A or B who were champions at teaching it (as demonstrated in their data). Students who were doing well with that same concept went to Teacher C or D who provided opportunities for enrichment. The close proximity also allows students who are being disruptive to change their environment and go to another class for some time, and still receive instruction (on the same standards because of the teacher collaboration and similar planning), instead of being sent to the office where they end up missing instruction.

Each PLC creates SMART goals at the beginning of every unit. This keeps the focus on meeting those goals and therefore student learning. This encourages teachers to look at all the students in their grade level, and not just the ones on their rosters. For instance, on the 8th grade social studies team, there are 4 general education teachers, 1 gifted teacher and 1 special education teacher. The SMART goals reflect that all 6 teachers are responsible for all the 8th grade students and their learning in social studies.

In addition to moving teachers, and identifying and following up on SMART goals, we looked at our curriculum and teacher certifications. We have a significantly high number of students who score very well on standardized tests, but did not qualify to participate in the gifted program. As a result, we created advanced classes for these students. This furthered the collaboration amongst our teachers, especially our gifted and on level teachers because they were all teaching the advanced classes. In addition, over the past two years, we have been encouraging our teachers to become certified in teaching gifted students. At this time, we have 90% of our teachers with that certification. This will allow all teachers to teach gifted classes next year instead of just one teacher in each PLC.

Student Achievement Data Percentage of Students Passing the CRCT School Scores/County Scores/State Scores

Grade: 6 Math Reading English Language Arts Science Social Studies
2009-10 93/77/75 99/94/91 99/94/92 94/74/70 91/71/64
2010-11 96/80/76 99/96/94 99/93/91 94/76/71 95/78/71
2011-12 96/82/80 99/97/96 99/93/92 94/76/73 96/77/73
2012-13 96/83/83 100/97/96 100/94/92 95/77/74 97/80/78
Grade: 7 Math Reading English Language Arts Science Social Studies
2009-10 96/88/85 98/93/89 98/95/92 94/85/80 94/79/71
2010-11 100/91/89 99/93/91 99/96/93 97/88/82 96/81/75
2011-12 98/91/91 100/96/94 99/95/93 97/88/85 96/82/78
2012-13 97/90/90 99/96/95 98/94/93 94/87/85 95/85/83
Grade: 8 Math Reading English Language Arts Science Social Studies
2009-10 97/79/74 100/98/95 100/95/92 91/72/65 95/70/75
2010-11 97/86/78 100/98/96 98/95/93 91/76/68 95/73/78
2011-12 95/80/77 100/97/96 100/97/95 94/77/74 97/81/77
2012-13 97/84/83 100/98/97 100/95/94 92/76/74 98/81/78

Percentage of Students Exceeding on the CRCT School Scores/County Scores/State Scores

Grade: 6 Math Reading English Language Arts Science Social Studies
2009-10 49/30/19 67/46/38 60/36/27 37/22/16 69/38/28
2010-11 51/32/21 66/45/37 69/41/31 50/24/17 77/46/34
2011-12 52/34/23 78/54/43 68/41/31 54/30/21 80/49/38
2012-13 61/37/28 77/55/48 67/43/34 48/29/23 81/49/42
Grade: 7 Math Reading English Language Arts Science Social Studies
2009-10 68/43/35 59/35/24 67/49/36 63/43/34 69/46/34
2010-11 69/47/36 49/33/24 69/53/41 67/49/38 77/53/43
2011-12 67/49/42 47/36/27 78/56/46 71/52/44 84/56/47
2012-13 67/45/37 60/43/34 75/56/47 74/51/45 84/57/50
Grade: 8 Math Reading English Language Arts Science Social Studies
2009-10 54/35/24 60/42/31 67/47/36 42/23/16 55/32/25
2010-11 58/41/26 65/47/37 74/55/42 45/30/20 62/37/28
2011-12 50/38/26 68/50/41 69/51/39 45/29/21 67/38/31
2012-13 56/40/31 72/53/45 72/51/42 47/29/22 68/40/34

Our pass rate on the state standardized tests have always been very high, which is why changing anything can be difficult as it is met with resistance. When we began focusing on our exceeding scores, we realized there were some changes that needed to be made because so many more of our students are capable of scoring in that category. As a result of our work with PLC's, our exceeding scores have consistently increased over the last 4 years. For instance, all 5 areas show an increase in exceeding over the last 4 years in 6th grade – math increased from 49% to 61%, reading increased from 67% to 77%, language arts increased from 60% to 67%, science increased from 37% to 48% and social studies increased from 69% to 81%. All 5 areas show an increase in exceeding over the last 4 years in 8th grade as well – math increased from 54% to 56%, reading increased from 60% to 72%, language arts increased from 67% to 72%, science increased from 42% to 47% and social studies increased from 55% to 68%. In 7th grade, 4 out of the 5 areas showed an increase in exceeding over the last 4 years – reading increased from 59% to 60%, language arts increased from 67% to 75%, science increased from 63% to 74% and social studies increased from 69% to 84%. Math in 7th grade has remained pretty consistent with an exceeding score in the high 60's – it has gone from 68% to 69% and now to 67%.

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