Hastings Middle School

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

Over the past several years, our PLC teams have had a renewed focus of working diligently to adjust instruction and find ways to immerse students in the educational process. The results have been steady growth in most areas and some large increases in the number of students reaching the “exceeding standards” category. Through the collaborative efforts of our PLC’s, our staff have learned to work together, to focus on learning, and to use assessment results to improve student achievement and our own practice. Although standardized tests are an important piece of information, our PLC efforts maintain focus on the collaborative process and rely on the recommendations of Rick Stiggins. He makes the point that standardized tests are an important piece of information and a great accountability piece, but that the main focus should be on a balanced assessment plan that is supported and developed using a collaborative approach.

Our improvements are attributed to staff more fully engaging in the PLC process to improve their instruction. Teachers who have been identified as leaders in our building have attended PLC Conferences put on by DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker. These teacher leaders have been able to share their understanding and enthusiasm for the PLC process with other teachers in their Learning Teams. This process has allowed us to analyze where we are as instructional leaders and lay out a plan of where we want to go.

Each subject area Learning Team studied the State Standards and identified key concepts that students need to know. We call those key concepts the “Essentials” and have built formative and summative assessments around those essentials. From the Essentials, every Learning Team also creates their own SMART goals. The SMART goals further direct the focus of the group and must be measurable. Most importantly, these Essentials and SMART goals have been discussed with students so they know the learning targets and can monitor their progress towards mastering those goals.

Guided by 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 such as 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 and subject area (e.g. 6th grade Math, 7th grade English, etc). Each of these teams establishes one or more of their own SMART Goals at the beginning of the year for which they work interdependently to achieve and for which they are mutually accountable. These SMART goals align with the building School Improvement Goal of improving literacy and numeracy, which is aligned with the District Improvement Goal of increasing college and career readiness. These teams meet four to five times per week during the contract day, and notes of meetings are monitored by the building principal to ensure that they are engaged in collective inquiry regarding issues directly related to student learning. The schedule has been re-aligned to allow for all collaborative teams to have common planning time daily. This is built into the daily schedule, in addition to the other times set aside for PLC work. Additionally, the building principal meets with Learning Teams on a regular basis.

The District provides contract time to meet as Learning Teams. Every Wednesday, the entire District dismisses school at 2:30 so staff can be ready to meet from 3:00 to 4:00 in Learning Teams. The school board, community members, and students were included on our school improvement teams to help build buy-in and understanding of what could be accomplished with Learning Teams and why we needed the weekly early dismissals. These connections helped build momentum for the Learning Team time and also got information out about the positive results the PLC process can have on student learning. Our Learning Teams spent considerable time during the 2010 – 11 school year looking at the Essentials and answering the first question of “What do we want students to know or be able to do?” This was not something that could be done thoroughly in a short amount of time, and student assessments had to be adjusted to truly support the Essentials.

By the Fall of 2011, most Learning Teams at HMS were ready to take on the second PLC question of “How do we know if they have learned it?” More frequent formative assessments were developed and data was used to make adjustments in instruction for individual students. As the collaborative culture spread, the Learning Teams started to move naturally into the third question of “What do we do if they don’t know it?” Teachers started identifying why students weren’t learning the material and one area that became obvious was that students were not always engaged in the lesson. Learning Team time was used to study Dr. Kevin Feldman’s and Dr. Anita Archer’s strategies for increasing student engagement. As teachers shared results of new strategies, student engagement increased and so did student performance. Select Learning Teams were seeing so much student success, they began to request time at staff meetings to share what they were doing with the rest of the staff. The culture of the entire school began to shift to one of sharing ideas and learning from each other. As one specific example, a veteran teacher who was not usually receptive to new ideas began to invite other teachers into his room to see the way he was getting students to be engaged in a lesson.

Question 4 of the PLC process, "What do we do when students already know it?" has been addressed by teams and in classrooms along the path of our PLC journey, but we recently took a further step in changing our program and schedule to more systematically address this important question.  After the first semester of the 2014-2015 School Year, the Math PLC  became aware through the study of data that a good number of 8th grade Algebra students knew the material and were ready for a bigger challenge. The question of what to do and how to do it with limited staffing was not going to stand in the way of a determined PLC group. The math teachers wanted to offer not only Algebra, but Geometry to those students who were ready for the challenge. Key data pieces, including state test scores, formative assessments, class grades, and teacher recommendations were used to determine that 11 students were ready for the challenge. Through work with the District Curriculum Director and Building Principal, a formal review process was also put into place for parents who thought their child should have the opportunity as well. These 11 students would take Algebra on an accelerated pace and then an entire year of 9th grade Geometry in less than a semester as an 8th grader. At the end of the semester, students would also be required to take the same final exam the 9th graders take and pass it to be able to move on to an advance math class as 9th graders. These 11 students all completed the challenge and passed the 9th grade exam with a higher average score than the 9th grade students who took the class.

On November 15, 2013, we were notified that Hastings Middle School has been named a MetLife/NASSP National Breakthrough School. Recognition as an NASSP/CSSR Showcase School has continued in 2014, 2015, and 2016. We contribute much of this recognition to the collaboration and improvement that has occurred because of the focus on creating a professional learning community culture within our Middle School.

 

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. As such, they gather regular evidence of student learning from a variety of sources to inform and improve both their individual and collective practice. 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.

In the past year, the focus of monitoring student progress has been largely to immerse students themselves in the learning process that allows them to monitor their own learning, under the direction of the teacher. The core area Learning Teams have developed individualized objective cards for each student based on the Essentials that were developed from the State Standards. Students know the target goals and keep a running record of where they are on the journey to mastering all of the objectives for the course. The teacher also keeps a master list of where students are at with their learning. Students who are not achieving mastery are called in during ELO (extended learning opportunity) time for re-teaching of the subject matter. We call this getting “ZAP”ed (zeros are not permitted). Students are then given another opportunity to show mastery of the material.

We have built this extended learning opportunity into our schedule so the subject area experts can work with struggling students during the school day. This takes a lot of planning and is done during the daily interdisciplinary planning time that is built in earlier in the day. Specific subject areas have priority days and get first chance at students who need the extra support. For example, Mondays and Wednesdays are math priority days and the math teachers get to request specific students who have not met certain math objectives for that week. Tuesdays and Thursdays are language arts priority days and they get first chance to work with the students who are struggling. Students who are not “ZAP”ed are working on assignments in more traditional ELO’s.  Through the use of the objective cards, students know what they are expected to know or be able to do, and they feel like they are more a part of the learning process.

The Learning Teams have also worked hard to monitor student learning through the use of L to J charts. All of our staff has received training from Dr. Lee Jenkins on the L to J process, but how they have adapted it is different based on discussions in their respective Learning Teams. This process consists of pre-testing, weekly monitoring, and post-testing. An integral part of this system is that each time a new concept is introduced and a quiz or test given, previous concepts studied are also included. There is constant reinforcement of what has been learned as well as the introduction of new material. Students record how they are doing individually and classroom charts are kept to show how the entire class, team, or grade is doing. Students are very involved in the learning process and want to achieve personal bests. Students and classes are recognized for their personal bests and Tiger paws are placed on the walls describing the accomplishments.

Finally, the District has acquired an electronic assessment management system, eDoctrina, for use on District-level assessments, and teachers are also using it for classroom-based assessments. This electronic assessment administration, scoring, and data-compiling tool provides quick feedback to teachers on how students are performing. This data can then get put back into students' hands so they know what they need to work on and have clear targets.

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

The two school improvement goals for HMS are improving literacy and building problem-solving skills in students. Following our pyramid of interventions, there are many classroom strategies that are implemented for students before they reach the next level of the pyramid. Some examples include partner work, small group interventions, re-teaching, and differentiated teaching styles.  Even with these classroom interventions, our Reading Learning Team realized that we had too many students who were falling between the cracks and we needed an intervention plan. This Learning Team took the initiative to ask for a “reading audit” from a group of experts from outside of our building. These reading specialists came in and analyzed what we were offering and made several suggestions. One suggestion was to visit schools that were similar to us demographically and had strong academic scores. Another suggestion was to get a system in place to screen students and identify what types of interventions students may need and then research best practices and find a way to get those interventions in place.

We sent the entire Reading Learning Team to several successful schools and they asked questions and took notes. They came back with some great ideas and worked as a Learning Team to put a proposal together to present at the District level. The District provided the financial support we needed to get a screening tool in place as well as reading interventions that address a variety of student needs. By hiring another SPED teacher to go into core classes and help differentiate the curriculum, we were able to provide many interventions within the general education classes. This has been extremely effective because all students are then able to remain in classes with high expectations and content-specialist teachers. Another key component of this process is frequent formative testing to see how each student is progressing while receiving reading interventions. Students are tested weekly and progress is charted. If there are no significant gains, then the Learning Team will decide the next level of intervention for the student. Through the implementation of an extended learning day with more class periods, students are able to get appropriate interventions in addition to their regular instruction. An intervention/enrichment period has been included into the daily schedule. We call this period ELO (Extended Learning Opportunity). During this time, all teachers are available to assist students. Teachers prioritize student needs during team meetings and align students with the subject area teachers that can assist them in areas they are having difficulties. This becomes an extension of the regular classroom with the core area teacher available to assist students with a smaller student/teacher ratio.

The Math Learning Team was also pro-active in seeking out interventions for students who had gaps in their learning. Several of the students identified had moved into the District and missed key pieces of basic math foundations. Through some research of best practices and some searching, the math Learning Team landed a free pilot program called ALEKS math. We were able to implement this for a semester free of charge. We started with a pilot group of 10 students who were selcted based on frequent formative data. This online intervention individualizes instruction based on the areas in which the student needs help. It constantly adjusts the level of questioning and the focus based on how the student progresses. Nine of the ten students showed incredible gains and the tenth student showed small growth. This year, the Math Learning Team met on their own time (keeping that contract time focused on the four questions) to work on a grant to fund the ALEKS intervention program. They received the grant and this year the interventions will be available to all grade levels and to all students who show they have math deficiencies. With the creation of the new schedule in the 2014-2015 school year, the students in this intervention do not have to give up any other classes in order to be part of this intervention. The ALEKS math program has also been used to push high ability students to new levels since it adjusts the program to the ability of the student. Several high ability students are given this opportunity as we continue to pursue the PLC question of, "What do we do when students already know it?"

Another way a PLC has helped shape student interventions at HMS is with the creation of a STEM class before school. The Science Learning Team wanted to be able to go beyond the core curriculum and provide students with some STEM activities that would support the school improvement goal of increasing problem-solving skills in students. It also helps answer question four of the PLC process, “What do we do if they already know it?” Every math and science class was already doing one STEM project each quarter in class, but there was never enough time or money to do some bigger projects. The Science Learning Team had some great projects in mind, but didn’t have a way of doing them during class time. The Science Learning Team worked collaboratively with the building administration to find a way to get it done. The money that had been used to support the school newspaper (which had gone electronic), was shifted into a STEM class that meets before school. This group will do four large projects during the school year. An example of this is the 7thgrade science teacher taking a group of students out to the middle school garden and showing them some beetles that are eating the cucumber plants. Students have to identify the beetles, do research on them, and try to find an organic way to control the beetle infestation. Another STEM focus has been the creation of a Robotics class. This class is offered each semester as an elective and is taught by an engineer from the community who donates his time since there were no teachers on staff able to teach the class. This Robotics class gives students an opportunity to learn about coding and using Robots to perform tasks. At the start of the 2016-17 School Year, another section of Robotics as well as a year-long Manufacturing Class that includes drafting, welding, transportation, and construction was added. We were previously turning away 50% of the students who wanted to take these Career Pathway classes, and now we are able to accomodate them all. The number of girls taking the STS classes has doubled. This exploratory opportunity is giving all interested students a chance to explore some career areas, while also supporting the District goal of ensuring that all students are "College and Career Ready".  The STS teachers have also partnered with local manufacturers to provide insight into career fields and what kind of training is needed to get those jobs. Several local manufacturers are also providing needed consumable supplies for the STS classes. These community connections help the STS PLC function at a high level.

The Science Learning Team at HMS came to a realization that has made a significant difference in how much information students are able to retain. Through a study of the requirements for the state test, they realized that some of the concepts that students were tested on in 8th grade had not been mentioned since 6th or 7th grade. This was largely due to the science curriculum being driven by the textbooks that were being used. The 6th grade textbooks covered Physical Science, the 7th grade textbooks covered Life Science, and the 8th grade textbooks covered Earth Science. The problem was that the state test covered all areas of science and was given at the end of 8th grade, so students were not remembering concepts taught previously. After looking at the State Standards and breaking them down to the Essentials, the Science department started teaching parts of all Science strands at each grade level, even though the primary focus at each grade may still be one strand. By aligning what they were teaching, they now have a vertically aligned plan to build student knowledge in all areas from year to year. The teachers also switch students when teaching certain concepts so they can put the most knowledgeable teacher in front of students for every lesson. After using this approach, there was a significant improvement in state Science scores.

The PLC’s have been instrumental in seeking out ways to meet the needs of all of our students. With all of these  interventions in place at HMS, every Learning Team kept in mind that any interventions are “in addition to” solid classroom instruction. 

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

Keeping an open and honest line of communication in an effort to do what is best for kids is another driving factor at HMS. We have developed a culture of being transparent in what we do, and to admit when something isn’t working so we can move on and find something that does work. A key component of work in this area is looking at student scores from common assessments and targeting areas of deficiencies. We use ITBS scores, DIBELS, CoGAT test scores, and state test results, as well as common assessments based on our Essentials. The SMART goals that Learning Teams generate further break down what we want students to know or be able to do and give us a way to measure success. All staff members do academic goals as well as goals tied into strategies included in Marzano's Instructional Framework. Each teacher chooses a minimum of two Elements and develops Action Steps to accomplish those goals. Our staff has been able to put aside their egos and get to the core of what is working with students and what is not.

We have an Advisory that meets every Tuesday morning to discuss curriculum concerns, needs of the building, indoor climate issues, improvement ideas, etc. This group is made up of a representative from each team in the building and is all about improving the quality of the educational experience for students. 

Our teacher schedule has been massaged to allow for core teachers of the same subject to have daily time to meet and discuss curriculum and teaching strategies. Several times a week during the school day, there is also time built in for SPED teachers who team-teach with core teachers to meet and discuss the weekly plans.

In an effort to share good teaching strategies, Learning Walks for all teachers were first implemented in 2014-2015. Teachers visit other teachers’ classrooms and learn from each other at a minimum of once per month. Each visiting teacher fills out a triplicate form, developed by the School Improvement Team, that gives feedback to the hosting teacher. After the visits, teachers share strategies they observed and discuss their effectiveness. This is not an evaluative tool but rather a tool used to learn from peers and discuss the observations during PLC time. Teachers who need ideas or a fresh perspective on how to reach students are able to pick up new ideas. This entire process is accomplished by hiring floating subs who cover different periods for teachers all day long so each teacher has a full period that day to observe another teacher. During the 2015-2016 school year, we have expanded our Learning Walks to other buildings in the District and other nearby Districts as a way to observe teaching strategies and develop them into what can work in our building. As part of Marzano's recommendations, we also have staff members videotaping themselves and doing self-observations for the sole purpose of seeing growth in their teaching and in student learning. During the 2016-17 School Year, teachers will also share clips of their classes at PLC meetings to get feedback from other teachers. These video clips will not just focus on teaching, but also on student engagement, responses, and reflection that is happening during class. Although this is a bit intimidating for some teachers, the process has allowed teachers to share and be open to improvement ideas from trusted colleagues.

The District supports paid positions to be liaisons between the District Curriculum Department and the Building Learning Teams. The liaisons meet at least quarterly and often monthly, and this creates dialogue about what is happening in Learning Teams throughout the District. This is a great way to bring up questions and share celebrations. The core teams also recognize students each week at a celebration in their hallway. Every teacher recognizes at least one student who had a personal best score or who did an outstanding job on an assessment. Once a semester, the entire District gets together and individual Learning Teams are recognized for going above and beyond what is expected.

The driving force behind all decisions at HMS is always, “How will it benefit students?” Our Learning Teams have adopted the mindset of the book Whatever it Takes (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Karhanek) that says the best way to solve problems in a school is to harness the power of collective intelligence that already resides there.

Percentage of students passing: School Scores/State Scores

 

Please list source of comparison data:

 

 

 

Grade:   6                

Math

Reading

Writing

Science

Social Studies

Other                

Year 09-10

 NA

 62/68

 NA

 NA

 

 

Year 10-11

 72/63

 78/74

 NA

 NA

 

 

Year 11-12

 71/68

 76/75

 NA

 NA

 

 

Year 12-13

 65/67

 74/77

 NA

 NA

 

 

Year 13-14

 71/72

 77/79

 NA

 NA

 

 

Year 14-15

 71/72

 83/81

 NA

 NA

 

 

Year 15-16

 65/73

 85/83

 NA

 NA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Percentage of students passing: School Scores/State Scores

 

Grade:   7     

Math

Reading

Writing

Science

Social Studies

Other  ()

Year 09-10

 NA

 62/69

 NA

 NA

 NA

 

Year 10-11

 60/61

 72/74

 NA

 NA

 NA

 

Year 11-12

 76/68

 80/78

 NA

 NA

 NA

 

Year 12-13

 75/70

 78/80

 NA

 NA

 NA

 

Year 13-14

 74/72

 80/81

 NA

 NA

 NA

 

Year 14-15

 68/73

 84/82

 NA

 NA

NA

 

Year 15-16

 70/71

 89/85

 NA

 NA

NA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Percentage of students passing:School Scores/State Scores

 

Grade:   8   

Math

Reading

Writing

Science

Social Studies

Other

Year 09-10

 NA

 62/70

 Old Test

 NA

 NA

 

Year 10-11

 66/61

 73/71

 Old Test

 NA

 NA

 

Year 11-12

 73/62

 64/73

 79/63

 62/67

 NA

 

Year 12-13

 84/66

 80/78

 79/66

 76/69

 NA

 

Year 13-14

76/66

80/78

No Test

74/70

NA

 

Year 14-15

78/68

77/79

84/70

67/70

NA

 

Year 15-16

78/68

80/81

74/70

69/68

NA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the state of Nebraska, 44% of students are on Free and Reduced Lunch, compared to 60% at Hastings Middle School. Fifteen percent of students in Nebraska are Special Education, whereas our population has 23% verified Special Education students. Hence, our demographics provide more of a challenge than the typical Nebraska school. Our staff has never used these statistics as a barrier to expecting students to achieve at a high level.

Hastings Middle School is showing a trend in improvement in Reading and Math Scores, as measured by the state test. In 6th, 7th, and 8th grade reading, scores have increased an average of 14 percentage points over the past five years—going from below the state average by almost 7 percentage points to above or near the state average. In 6th,7th, & 8th Mathematics, scores have increased an average of 10 percentage points during the past five years—staying consistently at or above the state average as it too has continued to rise. What has been the most rewarding for the math Learning Team is to see the “bubble” of students that is normally in the middle of a bell curve move to the top level of achievement to create a J curve. Our 6th math data is the only area that has not shown the adequate growth over the past five years, and our math Learning Team is pulling together to assist and support that area. A detailed and specific plan is being implemented that includes training in classroom differentiation, team-teaching lower level classes, re-teaching concepts in a different manner for struggling students, and intense interventions for students still requiring additional support. The 2014 year was the first year of implementing the new strategies and a 7% jump was accomplished only to see a plateau in proficiency at that level the next year.

Regarding state writing, our scores are consistently above the state average. In 2011 – 12, the state created new cut scores for proficiency, and the average proficiency across the state dropped significantly. While our writing scores fell also, our scores for writing remained 12 percentage points above the average for the State. Although our 2014 writing scores were strong, the state discarded all results because of technical problems with the online test. In 2015, our 8th graders were 14% above the state average, having 84% of students proficient compared to 70% at the state level. The State Writing test will be changing again in 2016-17 and will now be a Text-Dependent-Analysis (TDA) piece added into the State Reading Test. Through the PLC process, Reading and Language Arts teachers are currently looking at formative assessments to focus in on what specific skills students need to improve on to become proficient with TDA writing.

Named a National NASSP/CSSR Showcase School in 2016 and asked to present at the National NASSP Ignite 16 Conference in Orlando, FL.

Hastings Middle School teacher Jayson Stoddard named Nebraska State Finalist Teacher of the Year in 2015

Named a National NASSP/CSSR Showcase School in 2015 and asked to present at the National NASSP Ignite 15 Conference in San Diego, CA.

Named a National MetLife/NASSP Breakthrough School for 2014

Building Principal David Essink named the Region Principal of the Year for 2013, Nebraska Principal of the Year in 2014, Finalist for National Principal of the Year in 2015

Building Assistant Principal Brooke O'Neill named the Region Assistant Principal of the Year for 2013

Ranked in the Top Quartile by Gallup in the area of Student Engagement

Hastings Middle School has had more Educators of the Year than any of the other eight buildings in the District

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