Fruita Middle School
- Number of Students: 639
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 36%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 1%
- Percent of Special Education: 12%
- White: 75.1%
- Black: 0.3%
- Hispanic: 16%
- Asian: 2%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.2%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 1%
- Multiracial: 5.4%
- Other: 0%
The magnificent and resilient staff at Fruita Middle School began the journey to become a Professional Learning Community in 2011. At the time, teachers functioned fairly well independently with pockets of cohesiveness, but interdependence was not the norm. Data in 2011 indicated that the organizational health of the staff was very low. The journey began by looking at the brutal facts. Students were being taught the curriculum, but there was not a focus on learning common essential curriculum. Overall achievement scores were good, but not what all students needed to be on a trajectory of success towards high school and beyond.
A fledgling instructional leadership team began with the first task of ensuring that core subject teachers were on a meaningful collaborative team. These collaborative teams picked two to four essential skills that the team could agree on that all students needed to know and be able to do throughout the year. Initially it was more important to become familiar with the PLC process than to overwhelm teams with too many essential skills. Attainment of skills were posted and tracked visually in the school office that showed the skill being measured, the team that was measuring it, the most recent data of the percentage of students who were proficient in the skill, and the date the data was last updated. Structurally, the master schedule was changed so teams could meet each week to collaborate as they worked through the PLC process, and were changed again to accommodate prescribed interventions for students who had not yet mastered essential skills.
Organizational health issues began improving, as the staff was experiencing the success and excitement of working as an interdependent Professional Learning Community. With this momentum, FMS staff began to collaboratively work on our reason to exist - our mission statement, and then our shared vision statement. It was important to the staff that our vision statement be so clear that everone could 'envision' it, as all staff would be aiming for that same desired future. We accepted that learning for all was our problem to solve, and our new vision became: Fruita Middle School's interdependent teams work together to define, measure, intervene, and extend essential academic skills.
In the fall of 2014, three staff members attended a PLC at Work conference in Denver Colorado. The enthusiasm of those returning from the conference sparked more excitement with the rest of the instructional leadership team, who decided the entire staff should read Learning By Doing. (In 2017, continuums from the book are still used at in-services to keep our collaborative teams sharp, and all new teachers read and study the book together in their first year to sustain and fuel our collaborative, results-oriented culture) Collaborative teams produce products based on the book that guide the process of bringing our vision to reality, including teachers sharing best teaching practices with their colleagues based on common assessment results.
All teachers at our school are now a part of a meaningful collaborative team, including special education teachers, as well as singleton teachers such as art, band, technology education, and computer teachers. Creative ways to find team time during the school day have developed that have fueled our collaborative processes to benefit students and teachers.
Keys to our Success:
- Collaborative team time - Two 35-minute protected collaborative team meetings per week, and eight full-day collaborative team meetings per year with no lesson planning required of teachers – all while students are in school.
- Communication – Teachers inform students and parents what is essential for students to know, regardless of which teacher students are assigned. It is posted in classrooms, in online grade books, on our website, and in the library. Status of attainment of essentials is communicated actively to parents.
- Recognition ceremonies – Students are acknowledged who demonstrate learning of all of their essential skills. We went from acknowledging a few students in the past to a community-involved ceremony with many more ‘winners.’
- Daily intervention and enrichment - A time for all students based on student needs, with the most struggling learners getting the most support from their core instructors in class sizes of approximately eight students to one teacher.
- Clarity of expectations for teams – Collaborative teams have committed to using school-created products to guide the PLC process.
- Celebration – Teachers and teacher teams are consistently and specifically acknowledged through recognition and sharing of photos and products at staff meetings and in any other way that fuels our PLC process.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Teachers in subject and grade specific collaborative teams, as well as special education and our singleton-combined collaborative teams, begin measuring student achievement of agreed upon essential skills during each unit of study. Collaborative teams co-grade several common formative assessments immediately after students have taken them to 1) speed up the feeback process to students, 2) ensure inter-rater reliability for scoring, and 3) determine adjustments to instruction and intervention groupings. Students, teachers, and parents know whether students have met the skill or not, and teachers begin immediately ensuring non-proficient students receive support in class, as well as a tier 2 intervention (RTI), if in class support is not successful. Student data on essential skills is measured in each teacher's classroom so that teachers as well as students remain focused on proficiency on the essentials. Several examples of the types of visual tracking our teachers are using are attached in the resources.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Teacher teams routinely trade students for short-term interventions and extensions during class time to help students get additional support immediately after reviewing common formative assessment results. When this does not produce results for struggling learners, students receive additional support during a time called Academic Lab or Ac Lab for short. Ac Lab is a daily 40-minute time for all teachers to intervene on essential academic skills with struggling learners, and a time to enrich the curriculum for students who are performing at or above expectations. Students in the middle who sometimes need an intervention, but not always are in a reading and study time class, so that they can be quickly pulled when needed, but get additional reading and study time most days. Students who are not struggling are assigned an enrichment class during Ac Lab, such as rocketry, Spanish, coding, yearbook, written and illustrated books, and music ensemble.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Our school schedule was altered to ensure that our collaborative teams met twice weekly during the school day. Teams have products for each unit of study to keep the team focused on student and adult learning in the PLC process, including team norms that drive team interdependence. Team products are reviewed throughout the year, and the templates are attached. In addition to twice weekly meetings, collaborative teams get eight full days per year (while students are at school), without having to make lesson plans for a substitute, in a cooperative effort with the school librarian. To improve teacher effectiveness over time, teachers are required to share results on common assessments to determine which teachers produced the best results. Those teachers then share their effective practices. These discussions are our main driver of professional development.
*2015 not included, as PARCC was a new assessment and growth data could not be computed.
*2016: Our community had district-wide parent campaigns of opting out of new computerized PARCC testing.
The State of Colorado uses a growth model to determine a school's median growth percentile in comparison to other Colorado schools. For comparison purposes, the state median growth percentile is 50. Scores of 35 to 65 are considered average growth.
Prior to transitioning to PARCC, the State of Colorado School Growth Summary for 2014 is attached in the resources section. Schools and grade levels with numbers above 50 - colored green in the table for easy reference- are growing as fast or at a faster rate than the state. FMS is noteworthy in that in 2014, every subgroup, in every tested subject, and in every grade is colored green.
In addition, the School Growth Summary for 2016 is included in the resources section. FMS had the highest growth in Math and English Language Arts in both grades of all district middle schools.
In 2017, state test results revealed that while the growth of all students had remained stronger than the district, our highest growth came from our most struggling learners, thus closing the achievement gap in both math and ELA. Students on an IEP grew at a higher rate than students not on an IEP, and students below proficiency grew more than students at or above proficiency in both tested subjects. In addition, minority students outgrew non-minority students in ELA.
2017 Recognized as one of 85 schools in the nation other educators should visit by GettingSmart.com, a Seattle based non-profit organization
2017 District 51 Foundation Outstanding School for student academic growth
2016, 2017 First Place: MESA (MAth, Engineering, Science, Achievement) Club
2015, 2016, 2017 National Model PLC School designation by AllThingsPLC.info
2014 District 51 Foundation Outstanding School for student academic growth
District Outstanding Educator Awards (2014, 2016, 2017)
Exemplary Band awards
Exemplary Orchestra awards