West Middle School
- Number of Students: 910
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 71.7%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 18.5%
- Percent of Special Education: 17.9%
- White: 46%
- Black: 6.6%
- Hispanic: 33.9%
- Asian: 4%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.8%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 5.9%
- Multiracial: 2.8%
- Other: 0%
Our PLC journey began in 2011. Student achievement data was low and stagnant for years so as an administrative team we knew we needed to hone our focus on student achievement. We were aware of the benefits of the high functioning PLC concept and so our work began. At that time our staff met daily during a common planning time. They used this time to meet as a grade level team, discussing students and on occasion achievement. The conversations were not focused and clearly not making a difference with student achievement. We selected one day during this common planning period to shift our focus from grade level team meetings to grade level content partner meetings. This initial shift incorporated a loose interpretation of the PLC concept. Teachers met for one period one day each week working mostly on lesson plans and creating well-written learning targets. Teachers kept a learning log that was monitored by administration. As administrative team we aligned with our building leadership team, asking them to share the good news that was PLC’s, and this approach appeared to work. Looking ahead to the next school year the teachers asked for more time with their content partners.
In 2012-2013 we honored the faculty request and structured their Tuesday and Thursday meetings for PLC work. Leading up to the start of the school year a team of teachers and administrators attended a PLC summit in San Antonio and came back energized and ready to formalize the PLC process within our building. We created a PLC agenda template with the intention of keeping conversations focused. We spent our opening week focused on creating quality norms and defining roles within the PLC structure. We also changed our verbiage and began to call those Tuesday/Thursday content meetings, teacher collboration meetings. As an administrative team we linked ourselves to a small number of teacher teams so that we could be an intregal part of the conversations. One administrator worked with math, one with ELA, etc… This held our teacher collboration teams accountable to high quality work and allowed us to keep our finger on the pulse of their functionality. We also made a shift in how we met as an administrative team. We created a teacher collaboration team format for our weekly meetings and made sure our meetings remained student focused. We used names and data to model what we were expecting from teachers. We centered our professional development on teacher collborative teams and formative assessments. We asked our teacher teams to create common learning targets and common formative assessments to be given midway through each quarter. Each teacher team created, utilized, scored, and analyzed the data from their common formative assessments within their collaborative team. Buy-in was growing. We felt we were gaining momentum so once again we raised the bar going into the 2013-2014 school year.
The new school year brought a narrowed focus on data analysis at the student level. We revisited DuFour's four guiding questions and created a notepad for each teacher that listed the questions. We asked that these questions be the agenda for each collaborative meeting. Teachers used teacher collaborative time and professional development time to create common, specific, direct, student-friendly learning targets. Then, in their classes, assessed these learning targets with common formative and common summative assessments. They used their teacher collaborative time to analyze the results of the assessment to uncover gaps. Meanwhile, as an administrative team, we continued to monitor the groups though they appeared to be functioning at a much more independent level.
When planning for the 2014-2015 school year we knew we needed to continue our momentum. We developed a common assessment philosophy called, "The Wildcat Way". We refer to this as "the way we do business". Our teacher collboration teams continue to meet, at minimum, for one period two to three days each week where they create common learning targets, develop common assessments, analyze results from the common assessments and now this year create re-teaching plans. For the first time ever our teachers are sharing students for re-teaching and reassessing. They are working smarter than ever and our students are achieving at a higher rate because of it.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Historically most of our teachers were assessing at the end of a unit or the end of the term using only summative assessments. Over the course of the last three years this practice has changed. With the implementation of a common assessment cycle teachers are now assessing as often as necessary, but at minimum every two weeks, using both formative and summative tools. The teachers analyze, in their job embedded teacher collaboration time, the results of these assessments (student-by-student) to determine who has mastered the standard and who requires re-teaching. Students are given immediate feedback on their progress. Those who require re-teaching are grouped in a small flexible group for re-teaching, are offered re-teaching before or after school or over lunch, and/or are given additional practice. After re-teaching students are given the opportunity for re-assessment. This allows for immediate monitoring of student progress. Students also monitor their own progress as they prepare a portfolio for student-led conferences. They track their growth towards meeting the standards and conference with teachers to prepare for their parent conference.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Three years ago there was a glaring need for reading intervention in our building. We adopted a reading intervention program called, "Whole To Part." We assigned three teachers to manage the program which focused on a small group of 8th grade students. The next year we grew the program to encompass the entire building. As the program grew every teacher, secretary, building assistant,coach, and counselor in our building was assigned a small group of students to work with for 30 minutes four days each week. The 30 minutes were built into a separate period in the schedule to prevent class time from being sacrificed. The students were grouped based on their specific need. The needs range from basic pre-primer vocabulary to advanced proficient readers. It was our first step into an organized intervention program. Our Whole To Part interventionists continue to manage this program. They've also opened their schedule to act as interventionists in other disciplines. As our teachers have become more data driven they have found a growing need for more adults in their classrooms. Through the collaborative structure teachers identify students who are in need of re-teaching. They utilize one another, consulting teachers, reading interventionists, instructional assistants and volunteer teachers to assist in this process. Our teachers are now eager to place students into flexible groups based on their individual needs. A perfect example is in our science classrooms. We have a three teacher team who strategically plans during their teacher collaboration time. One teacher teaches vocabulary to our struggling learners while one does classroom instruction and the other does a lab. Students rotate through the three classrooms with differentiation happening at each station. When the advanced learners reach the vocabulary station the teacher extends their learning with challenging reading and research.The culminating event is a hands-on assessment that the large group does together in a common learning space. These learning groups adjust with each standard. Formative pre-testing develops the groups with the intended target of 100% proficiency. No instruction is lost and students gain what they need, at their level, with the same end goal. Teachers no longer feel that they alone are responsible for the students mastery of the content and are working outside the four walls of their classrooms to bring every student to proficiency.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
We have built a trusting culture at West Middle School over time. We have asked for teacher input as we designed our schedule for collaborative teacher team meetings and we've been very intentional in allowing time for the collaborative teams to grow. The use of DuFour's 4 big questions as our focus during collaboration time keeps the teams focused on student learning. This year we've introduced consulting teachers to our collaborative teacher teams. Consulting teachers make themselves available during this team time to collaborate with the content teachers. They act as problem solvers, idea sharers, and they bring another layer of accountability. This year we created a PLC data room. The walls are covered with pictures of our students. The pictures are labeled with the latest state assessment score and color coded to indicate whether the student is proficient, approaching, or basic. As teams meet in the room they are able to identify which students need the most attention and they create plans then to provide that attention. Standards-referenced reporting and student-led conferences were both new concepts to WMS this year and both have provided focus and have reinforced the importance of improved student learning. As a leadership team we have remained loose in certain areas to allow teacher autonomy and tight in others to ensure consistency. Teachers have grown substantially over the last few years in their comfortability with data. They are excited to share success and eager to dig into areas that do not show the intended outcome. Our building leadership team remains our eyes and ears of the building keeping their finger on the pulse of the climate and culture. Through monthly meetings they relay to administration the reality of the progress we are making through the PLC journey. Just recently when state test results came back our staff was knocking down our doors to see how their students did individually. While they know the overall percent proficient is important; they want to know how each child is performing. They truly talk student-by-student when looking at the building and District data.
Please see attachment titled, "Student Achievement Comparison Data" and attachments titled "WMS".
Energy star certified building