Southmoreland Elementary School

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

In 2007-08, Southmoreland Elementary was placed in School Improvement, meaning that adequate yearly progress was not achieved in consecutive years. During 2008-09, Dr. Richard DuFour’s Professional Learning Community model of school improvement through collective capacity building was implemented. In 2008, 73% of Southmoreland Elementary students were proficient or advanced in math, 61% in reading, and 82% in science. Today, SES is one of the most improved schools in the Commonwealth. In 2012, 93% of students were proficient or advanced in math, 82% in reading, and 98% in science. Additionally, when examined against other schools, SES compares very favorably. For example, Southmoreland’s fourth grade studentsrank 46th in achievement out of 300 elementary schools in the five-county Pittsburgh region (Pittsburgh Business Times’ 2013 Guide to Western Pennsylvania Schools).

This is an improvement from 48th the previous year.

The notion that socioeconomic status was a predictor of student learning went largely unchallenged throughout most of American history. Robert Marzano’s research concludes, however, that not only do schools have significant impact on student achievement, but “schools that are highly effective produce results that almost entirely overcome the effects of student backgrounds” (What works in schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 2003, p. 7). Although 49% of the students are economically disadvantaged, SES still outperformed 81% of all schools in the Commonwealth last year.

In 2008-09, SES implemented Dr. Richard DuFour’s Professional Learning Community model and began to build a collaborative culture with a focus on learning for everyone within the organization. Teachers embrace high levels of learning forallstudents as our fundamental mission. To this end, team meetings consisting of teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors occur as a routine, regular way of conducting business. This way of behaving is now embedded in our culture. These team meetings are the engine that drives the improvement process at Southmoreland Elementary School. Teachers adhere to the “Big Ideas” of a Professional Learning Community with fidelity. The essence of the process is threefold:

  1. Belief that the purpose of our school is to ensure that all students learn at high levels.
  2. Ensuring high levels of learning requires a collaborative effort.
  3. Using results—evidence of student learning—to inform and improve our professional practice and identify students who need intervention or enrichment.

For the past five years, student achievement as measured by the PSSA has increased dramatically. The percentage of advanced and proficient readers in Grade 5 increased from 50% in 2008 to 81% in 2012. Similarly, in Grade 4, reading proficiency increased from 57% in 2008 to 82% in 2012 and in Grade 3, reading proficiency increased from 79% in 2008 to 84% in 2012.

In mathematics, a similar pattern of improvement is evident. The percentage of advanced and proficient math students in Grade 5 increased from 57% in 2008 to 91% in 2012. Similarly, in Grade 4, math proficiency increased from 80% in 2008 to 95% in 2012 and in Grade 3, math proficiency increased from 87% in 2008 to 92% in 2012.

Since 2008, SES has strong evidence that students are learning at higher levels. In reading, from 2008-12, the percentage of advanced readers in Grade 5 increased from 12% to 41%. Grade 4 showed improvement from 22% to 43%, and Grade 3 increased from 13% to 34%. A comparable pattern exists in Math. In 5th grade Math, from 2008-12, the percentage of advanced math students increased from 31% to 64%. Grade 4 showed improvement from 41% to 74%, and Grade 3 improved from 36% to 67%.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Teachers on grade level teams begin the team learning process annually by identifying the essential outcomes for each of the content areas. They select several “power standards” from our current state standards which are then unpacked, reviewed, and established as benchmarks for student growth and learning during the semester or school year. The teams map the curriculum and pacing for those skills is established and followed to allow for reliability and comparison in results. Based upon those power standards, teachers write common formative and summative assessments together and then share their student results data with their peers during weekly curriculum meetings. It is here that teachers can share best practice, select students for Intervention and Enrichment (I/E), and discuss how nonproficient students will be supported and evaluated using our Individual Student Learning Plans (ISLPs). This process ensures that students receive the guaranteed, viable curriculum that our teachers agree all students must have to be successful in their coursework going forward.

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

At Southmoreland Elementary School, it is important to give extra support to our struggling learners through the Intervention/Enrichment block. Each grade level has a 30-minute block of time built into the daily schedule to work with students who need extra time and assistance in learning essential skills, especially in reading and mathematics. The teachers meet once per cycle to plan strategies for implementing the intervention process for struggling learners and enrichment activities for those who have mastered identified skills. Teachers utilize Individual Student Learning Plans for all non-proficient students. ISLPs allow teachers to see at a glance the skills in need of reteaching and list interventions that have been implemented with the student. These forms are shared within the grade level and with those teachers who work with the students during our after school tutoring sessions.

Students recommended by their teachers attend after school tutoring two times per week during the school year. This gives students in need an extra opportunity to become successful.

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

The culture of Southmoreland Elementary School has changed drastically over the past five years, from a school characterized by teacher isolation to a school where constant collaboration is the norm today. Teachers have embraced this transformation toward shared leadership and have enthusiastically accepted the challenge of becoming a true learning organization dedicated to high student achievement.

Please list source of comparison data:

% students at or above Proficient for School vs. State

Grade: 3 Math Reading
Year 2009-10 96/84 83/75
Year 2010-11 91/84 85/77
Year 2011-12 92/80 84/74

Percentage of students passing:

School Scores/Comparison Scores

Grade: 4 Math Reading Science
Year 2009-10 95/85 83/73 99/81
Year 2010-11 96/85 88/73 98/83
Year 2011-12 95/83 82/72 98/82

Percentage of students passing:

School Scores/Comparison Scores

Grade: 5 Math Reading Writing
Year 2009-10 83/74 54/64 77/61
Year 2010-11 91/76 76/67 85/67
Year 2011-12 91/73 81/65 72/64
  1. Keystone Achievement Award from the Pennsylvania Department of Education 2004-06, 2011-12
  2. Recognition from Pennsylvania Department of Education for Special Education students making progress equal to or better than their non-disabled peers over a three year period.
  3. Southmoreland Elementary School is one of 13 schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania nominated in 2013 to apply for National Blue Ribbon recognition.
  4. Ranked in the “2013 Pittsburgh Business Times” as follows:
    1. Grade 3-21st out of 105 school districts in the western region of Pennsylvania
    2. Grade 4- 9th out of 105 school districts in the western region of Pennsylvania
    3. Grade 5-29th out of 105 school districts in the western region of Pennsylvania
  5. Southmoreland School District is ranked by the “Pittsburgh Business Times” (2013) as the 8th most overachieving district of 500 districts in Pennsylvania.