James Bowie High School

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

The Bowie administrators and instructional coaches returned from the Los Angeles PLC’s at Work Institute in 2009 eager to introduce the faculty to the various PLC beliefs and practices. The Bowie principal, Stephen Kane, provided the teachers with common planning periods and tasked the assistant principals with overseeing the formation and activities of PLCs. This initial effort failed to gain traction or significantly impact student performance, however, as few teachers understood or recognized the need for collaborative planning; the PLCs accomplished little more than the development of common testing calendars and the occasional sharing of lessons.  By 2011, recognizing the lack of teacher buy-in and the high stakes concerns of looming new state standardized tests and stagnant AP scores, and believing that the PLC model was the key to success, Mr. Kane began sending sizeable groups of teachers to the Simplifying RTI Institute and PLCs at Work Institute.  By immersing the teachers themselves in the PLC philosophy and practices, Mr. Kane gained the momentum needed to transform Bowie into a school with high-functioning and successful PLCs.

Of the approximately 160 Bowie staff members, 57 have attended a Simplifying RTI Institute and 33 have attended the PLCs at Work Institute between 2011 and the summer of 2015. Because the first group of students who would take the new STAAR End-Of-Course Exam in 2011 were 9th graders, the 9th grade teachers who work with the most at-risk students were the first to attend the Simplifying RTI Institute. These teachers began to work collaboratively using the PLCs strategies they had learned to develop effective interventions, including support classes and mandatory tutoring.  The results were apparent when the Bowie 9th grade students outperformed the district and the state in every subject on the standardized tests.

When five of Bowie’s instructional (department) chairs attended the Simplifying RTI Institute in the fall of 2012, a new understanding emerged among the faculty that PLC practices could benefit all students, not just those at-risk. This occurred because the department chairs, drawing upon their experience at the Institute, collectively advocated for the restructuring of the school day to provide tutoring and interventions. As more Bowie teachers attended the Simplifying RTI Institute in 2012, support for Flexible Instructional Time (FIT) began to grow. Many of the PLCs practices, such as the development of non-negotiables, the creation of common assessments, and the analysis of student work, became more meaningful with the implementation of FIT as the PLCs finally had a way to systematically respond when individual students fail to master a concept or just need more time.

There now exists at Bowie a spirit of collaboration and collective ownership that is enhanced by academic gains that have occurred in the past three years. Bowie’s standardized test scores in writing, for example, have increased each year as the PLC teams in every subject targeted writing.  PLC efforts have paid off for high-achieving students, too, as evidenced by the four-year increase in the percent of AP students with scores of 3 and higher. The goal now is to maintain and grow the effectiveness of the PLC teams in order to sustain student achievement. In this regard, Bowie teachers continue to attend the Simplifying RTI Institutes and PLCs at Work Institutes, participate in on-going campus professional development focused on PLC practices, and are paid stipends to work with their PLC team over the summer to identify non-negotiables and develop common assessments. There is also an emphasis on leadership development as the department chairs and PLC team leaders are being trained by the instructional coaches and administrators to serve as instructional leaders throughout the campus.

It’s taken six years to transform Bowie into a successful PLC school. Necessary to this transformation were a reason to change, a critical mass of teachers who have been adequately introduced and trained in the PLC beliefs and practices, and a willingness to restructure the school in a way that allows teachers time to collaborate and allows students extra time to learn.  

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Student learning hinges on quickly determining whether students have mastered a concept and providing immediate remediation.  The first step in this process is identifying what the students should learn. The Bowie PLC teams agree upon a manageable number of learning targets or standards, and then determine which of those are non-negotiable, meaning the learning target must be mastered by the student prior to their advancing to the next unit or level. The next critical piece is knowing, by student and by standard, what weaknesses exist and to remediate before a summative assessment is administered or a grade is finalized.  To accomplish this goal, each PLC team develops common formative and summative assessments, analyzes and compares student assessment data, and organizes and plans remediation.

The expectation at Bowie is that PLC teams develop common formative and summative assessments based on their non-negotiable learning targets. Common assessments ensure that teachers are prioritizing learning, the assessment tool is of the highest quality, and there is equity in grading for the students. For timely monitoring, many PLC teams at Bowie use the GradeCam application which uses digital cameras to score assessments and create item analysis reports. Because GradeCam can also code each question, the teachers and students know instantly which learning targets require remediation.  PLC teams also use the Turnitin application which enables students to submit work electronically for immediate teacher feedback and gives them the opportunity to resubmit corrected work.  Speeding up the grading process, means that teachers can quickly analyze those results with their PLC team to determine the best course of intervention for each student.  These resources eliminated a major sticking point by making data available instantly.

Rapid grading and easy analysis allows the PLC teams to develop timely remediation plans. Many of the PLC teams embed whole class remediation time within the classroom, but they also have the ability to assign specific students to remediation sessions offered during Flexible Instructional Time (FIT). FIT is a 33-minute tutoring and enrichment period that is offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week.  Teachers can electronically assign students to FIT sessions using a special portal designed by the district’s computer programmers.  Students and parents are immediately electronically notified with when these assignments are made.

By working collaboratively to develop and analyze assessments, the Bowie teachers are finding ways to maximize their time in order to monitor student learning in a timely manner. 

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

After attending a Simplifying RTI Institute, it became clear to us that we had a gap between classroom interventions, tutoring outside of class time by invitation, and interventions that occurred after a student had failed a course.  It was clear to us that we needed to build a systematic intervention that occurred within the school day for students who needed additional time and support for learning.  We continued to send groups of teachers including our department chairs to the Simplifying RTI Institute.  Those groups then met and began building a plan, which included research and a visit to a local school who had already implemented a similar plan.  The entire plan was proposed and vetted by teachers.  Administrators contributed in the discussion when it dealt with the administrator role.  Developing this plan took more than a semester. 

After a trial run in May 2012, the plan was reviewed by the core department chairs, the instructional support team, and our administrative team. Feedback was gathered from all teachers and various student groups.  The FIT plan was tweaked to reflect the will of the stakeholders.  We now meet in Flexible Instructional Time, or FIT, twice each week for 33 minutes.  All teachers post FIT sessions in a portal designed by one of our district programmers.  If a student is not assigned to a teacher by Monday morning, that student can sign up in the FIT portal for a session that best suits their needs.  Teachers can assign students to their FIT as needed, but the FIT time is reserved for re-teaching non-negotiables.  Teachers can assign a student to FIT on any FIT day, however each teacher has a rotating “trump” day every three weeks in which they have priority.  When a teacher assigns a student to a FIT session, an email is sent to the student and the parent.  As we add FIT days to our week, teachers will have more opportunities to guarantee that a student attends their FIT in a more timely manner.  The implementation of FIT has also improved the PLC focus.  Teams now spend time analyzing data to determine students have or haven’t learned, and what the next steps are for all students based on that data.

In addition to our FIT, we have added support classes for our incoming 9th graders who have failed a course in the 8th grade, or been unsuccessful on a STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) in the 8th grade.  With one of those two strikes against them, it is highly likely that these students have gaps in their learning that will negatively affect their transition to high school.  In these support classes, students receive math and/or reading and/or writing support, instruction on “how to do high school,” and a junior or senior mentor from our Student Leadership classes. 

We have kept in place our Delta (computer lab based credit recovery) and Summer School Now (teacher taught credit recovery during the current school year) programs which help students stay on track to graduate when other interventions have failed.  

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

By 2010 Bowie was seeking ways to improve student achievement in the midst of teacher lay-offs and a move from a traditional schedule to a block schedule. In addition, new state standardized tests were looming and the student population was changing, with the at-risk groups growing in size.  What had worked in the past was no longer working.  Efforts were made to build teams that could address these challenges, but it’s fair to say that these teams, initially, were far from high-performing or collaborative.  Expectations that the teams begin identifying common learning targets or developing lessons better suited to the longer class periods, for example, were met with teacher resistance and little progress.  Undaunted by initial set-backs, the Bowie leadership began to provide the structures, training, and resources that have allowed high-performing collaborative teams to emerge, yielding measurable  improvements in student learning.

Several key structural changes were made in support of the teams. Teams were provided common conference periods, as well as blocks of time during eleven “late starts” school days, to collaborate.  There was a concerted effort to minimize the number of courses each teacher was assigned in order to focus their attention on the work of only one or two PLC teams.  Principal Stephen Kane also re-allocated resources to allow for the creation of three instructional coaching positions and filled these positions with master teachers who possess a strong understanding of the PLC beliefs and practices. Leaning on their training from the PLCs at Work Institutes, the instructional coaches worked to center the teams on the Four Guiding Questions:  What do we want students to learn?  How will we know if students learned it? How will we respond if students do not learn?  How will we respond if students have learned? These four questions became the foundation of each team’s work and have helped them continually improve.

Extensive training was also essential in the building of high-performing, collaborative teams. While the administration had a deep understanding of the PLC process, it did not become a shared vision until 2011 when groups of teachers began attending the PLCs at Work Institutes and the Simplifying RTI Institutes.  To date, over 25% of the Bowie professional staff has attended either a Simplifying RTI Institute, a PLCs at Work Institute, or both.  Sending over 90 staff members to these trainings is a significant investment, but has been essential to the cultural shift that has occurred and the development of effective teams. Knowing that not all of our teachers could travel to one of the institutes, Solution Tree’s PLC consultant Mike Mattos was invited to personally work with the entire staff, so that everyone would have an understanding of the the role of the content teams in improving student learning.  On-going training is also provided on the Bowie campus by its staff. Some of this training targets the leaders of the various content teams. In 2014, the team leaders participated in an all-day training and then met several times as a group throughout the year.  Equipping these leaders with specific tools to use, as well as providing them  time for reflection, sharing, and goal-setting, has empowered them to better lead their respective teams.  The entire staff benefits from campus professional development days each year that are dedicated to improving the PLC process and showcasing the strategies of some of the most effective teams. Without such intentional, thoughtful training, our teams would not be as high-performing or collaborative.

Bowie teams have also become more effective because Principal Kane has dedicated significant funding to resources that help make the PLC process run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.  For example, the purchase of a campus GradeCam subscription allows for timely data analysis, the development of the Flexible Instructional Time Portal enables teachers and students to easily schedule needed tutoring, and the TurnItIn subscription helps teachers promote academic integrity and give more in-depth feedback to students.  The school budgets also include stipends for curriculum writing, so that teams can work on things such as refining non-negotiables or building common assessments during the summer months, establishing the foundation for collaboration before the school year ever begins. Efforts such as these illustrate to the teachers that their time is valued and their contributions to their teams are essential to improving student learning.

The establishment of high-performing, collaborative teams have resulted in significant improvement in student performance in all of our student populations whether they be at-risk, mid-range performers, or high-achieving students. Bowie has outscored the district and the state on state-mandated tests, has improved its attendance and graduation rates, and has experienced consistent improvement in performance on Advanced Placement tests. Bowie overcame the challenges of teacher lay-offs, new state tests, a transition to block schedule, and a shifting student population by making key structural changes, providing extensive training, and dedicating funding to support resources, in order to build high-performing, collaborative teams focused on improved student learning. 

 

State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) End of Course Exam Performance

 

­­­­­2011-2012

2012-2013

2013-2014

2014-2015

 

Bowie

District

State

Bowie

District

State

Bowie

District

State

Bowie

District

State

English I Reading/ Writing

90%/83%

69%/54%

68%/55%

92%/80%

70%/55%

69%/55%

89%

68%

67%

92%

71%

63%

*Reading and Writing scores combined beginning with the 2013-2014 ELA I and ELA II STAAR EOC administration

English II Reading/ Writing

ELA II STAAR EOC phased in beginning 2012-2013

 

 

94%/79%

 

79%/58%

 

79%/55%

 

92%

 

72%

 

69%

 

93%

 

73%

 

66%

*Reading and Writing scores combined beginning with the 2013-2014 ELA I and ELA II STAAR EOC administration

Algebra I

95%

84%

83%

94%

80%

78%

94%

82%

80%

94%

83%

81%

Biology

97%

84%

87%

97%

83%

84%

99%

91%

89%

99%

94%

92%

US History

US History STAAR EOC phased in beginning 2013-2014

99%

93%

92%

99%

93%

91%

Advanced Placement Exam Performance

 

2010-2011

2011-2012

2012-2013

2013-2014

2014-2015

 

Bowie

Texas

Bowie

Texas

Bowie

Texas

Bowie

Texas

Bowie

Texas

Total # of AP Students

514

199,997

496

208,671

443

219,517

501

239,705

542

270,099

Number of Exams

1081

363,545

944

376,589

824

400,391

928

437,148

1034

508,569

% of Total AP Students with 3+ scores

78.6%

48.7%

72.8%

51.3%

73.8%

50.5%

81.8%

52.2%

83.2%

49.9%

2010 & 2011:  Texas Education Agency Recognized High School

2012:   E3 Alliance recognition for growth in Math and Science

2012 & 2013:  Texas Education Agency Acceptable High School

2014:  Texas Education Agency Distinction:  Top 25% in Closing Performance Gaps

2015:  A+ rating from Children at Risk  (2014: A-, 2013: B+)

2013, 2014, & 2015:  US News & World Report Silver Award

2015:  Texas Education Agency Distinctions:  Top 25% in Closing Performancy Gaps, Academic Achievement in Mathematics, and Academic Achievement in Social Studies

Faculty Awards Include: National Tandy Technology Award Winner; Presidential Teaching Award Recipient; Tracor Teacher of the Year Award; AISD High School Teacher of the Year; National Forensic League Diamond Coach Award; Milken Educator Award; AISD Leadership Over the Expectation; Nationally Certified Teachers (6)

 Student Awards Include: International Science Fair Competitors; Regional Science Fair Sweepstakes Winners; International Sustainable World Project Olympiad Silver Medal Winner; UIL Speech & Debate 1st Place Sweepstakes Winners; Model United Nations International Debate Winner; Presidential Point of Light; National Grammy All-Star; Robertson Scholars; Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Medal for Yearbook; VASE (Visual Arts Scholastic Events) Gold Medal Recipients; McDermott Scholars, Minnie Stevens Piper Recipients,  Central Texas Excellence in Theatre Awards, Jostens/Wolfe Camera National Photography Awards, WGI World Champion Finalists, Austin Energy Science Festival Finalists, and numerous others.

 Nationally Recognized Programs: Bowie Silver Stars Dance Team; The Starlight Theatre’s Theatre Production Company; Bowie High School Outdoor Performing Ensemble—2013 Sudler Shield Recipient; AP Studio Art Program; The Lone Star Dispatch student magazine.

 

 

Top