Monroe County Community School Corporation

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

For three consecutive school years, ranging from 2006 through 2009, the Monroe County Community School Corporation received the designation of “Improvement Status” which was signified by the letter grade of “D” as a result of a consistent downward spiral in student achievement. Staff morale was extremely low and multiple changes in district level leadership roles had brought forth instability. In the 2009-2010 school year, the consequences were intensified by adding the corrective action of a mandated “Curriculum and Instruction Review” to be conducted by the Indiana Department of Education.  The MCCSC was required to review and analyze curricula along with instructional practices within the corporation and make changes based upon these findings all under the supervision of the state.  This was a critical juncture as one more year of the “Improvement Status” designation would have resulted in a more severe correction action with the potential for a state take over.

At that time, the schools in the MCCSC could best be characterized as operating in isolation with each school implementing different initiatives and no cohesive district plan.  Collaboration on curriculum and assessment was not an expectation or consistent practice.  Upon the arrival of the fourth superintendent in four years, the district leadership came together and agreed upon a major shift for instructional practices through the implementation of Professional Learning Communities.

The new MCCSC district leadership made a fierce commitment to a successful implementation of Professional Learning Communities. This led to bold action both from the district and the community.  The school day was lengthened to provide extra instructional support and time for a collaborative PLC session that was a part of the work day for teachers without students.  This required dramatic changes in scheduling, bussing, parent work schedules, child care, and a multitude of other issues.  The administrators, teachers, and community solved all of these issues through the PLC framework and made it happen.  We were then positioned to truly utilize PLCs for a deeper focus on student learning.

Fast forward to the year 2015 and our district has experienced significant growth.  We have consistently received the letter grade “A” for the past four school years, 2011-2015.  Less than 20% of the Indiana School corporations earned an “A” for four consecutive school years.  The percentage of students receiving Advanced Placement,  Dual Credit, or Industry Certification has risen to 76.8% which is over 20% higher than the state average.  The “on time” graduation rate has increased from 87% to 95% during this short time as well. 

 

This progress is a testimony to the power of the Professional Learning Community and much hard work from the teachers, administrators, students, and parents.  We will continue on the PLC journey to extend the promise to Engage, Empower, and Educate all students now and for the future.  

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

The re-culturing of the MCCSC into a PLC framework was propelled forward by providing time built into the school day for teachers to collaborate. Each Wednesday, school begins one hour later for all staff to be able to meet in their professional learning community teams.  This required tremendous effort in building community support, changing bus routes, scheduling, and communication to parents. The district leadership of MCCSC made it clear to teachers and the community that our basic organizational structure would be collaborative teams.  This was not an invitation, but an expectation.  A strong message has been sent that our MCCSC policies, practices, and mission are aligned with the mission of learning through the support of the PLC process. It the duty of the administrators to model and protect this commitment to our students. 

The PLC process includes pacing guidelines that help facilitate the communication among teams both horizontally and vertically.  Calendars are established by teams to ensure that benchmarks, common formative assessments, and interventions are aligned. This past school year, districtwide guidelines were established to support the need for our transient population to have more consistency in their learning.  A story has been repeatedly told in our district about an elementary teacher who had a group of students who were one year behind in every subject that year.  Her task was to get them caught up and learn the new material to be ready for the next grade level on time.  This teacher had never considered that her pacing could actually prevent these students from ever catching up. Once she took the number of skills they had to master and divided this into the number of days she had available to teach them, it was painfully clear.  There was hard work to be done!  The good news of this story is that not only did the teacher succeed, but it occurred through the support of her PLC team.  They all owned the plan and took on different responsibilities, made sacrifices, and took on larger classes to make sure all students were learning at high levels.

 SMART Goals set by students, teachers, and teams also assist with monitoring the timeliness of the student learning.  The expectations are clear for everyone.  Students are tracking their own learning and taking responsibility for their own learning through data notebooks in our elementary schools.  The clarity of the learning goals laid the ground work for a shift to standards based grading in the elementary schools.  We are now reporting to the parents in this format and working to help them understand the system.  These instruments have forged the way for a clear approach to teaching “skill by skill, kid by kid” as Bob Eaker advocates.

 The MCCSC uses multiple measures of student learning data and educator data to monitor progress on a timely basis.  Student data includes, but is not limited to; common formative assessments, state testing results, NWEA, attendance data, literacy assessments, and observation.  Educator data includes, but is not limited to; climate surveys, performance appraisals, instructional rounds feedback, and professional conversations.  The use of this data supports decision making for each student and the appropriation of resources such as staff and time.  The resources must reach the students who need them in balance with accelerating learning for all.

 

 

 

 

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

 Each school in the MCCSC has created systems of intervention and enrichment that provide additional time and support for learning our agreed upon guaranteed and viable curriculum. We call this Tier 2, and it is offered through time set aside for intervention or enrichment based upon the student’s mastery of a particular skill or standard. Teachers work from their common formative assessment data to determine individual student needs.  We work diligently to ensure that the Tier 1 instructional time is not confused with Tier 2 which is a separate opportunity.   Additionally, the teachers use PLC time to determine which strategies had the greatest impact and this information is used to work with the students who need another approach to learn the material.   This same process is used for Tier 3 learning, to reach proficiency with each skill.  The goal is to keep working until students reach proficiency with each skill.  Keeping in mind that pacing is critical, as falling behind perpetuates the failure cycle.

 Restructuring the school day in each setting has been necessary in order to accommodate the needed changes in the schedule.  The realignment of staffing and therefore training has also been necessary to work with the needs of the students.  All of our schools have implemented these changes and many approaches are similar, but the hard work can be illustrated in elementary and secondary examples. In one elementary school, a reading academy was created to support the first graders who were not making timely gains.  As the day and staff were restructured, the students in need of more support increased their reading instruction from 90 minutes a day to three hours per day.  We continue to track these students and have found that of the 15 who were in desperate trouble, eleven of them are on grade level with reading and the other four have been identified with special needs.  In reflection, the teachers recognize that these students would likely not have caught up without the operational changes and likely more of them would have been identified as special education.  The PLC process allowed the school to devise a solution through a collaborative approach to get students on grade level with reading as fast as possible.

 Another example involves the restructuring of one of our middle schools that has resulted in dramatic results for student achievement.  Mike Mattos worked with staff members to design a system for students to attend intervention or enrichment during the school day.  Throughout the day teachers check in with students who are needing an intervention and sign them up for additional learning time.  Students who do not need intervention can go to an enrichment session.  Days are prioritized by subject area in the event that a student needs to attend more than one intervention session. Administrators also offer sessions for students to simply complete work or have retakes on tests. The results of this system have been extraordinary with state math test passing rates jumping on average 20% due to this restructuring.  Mike has also visited one of our high schools as they have implemented a similar structure to support their work and visit classrooms.

 

 

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

 The re-culturing of the MCCSC into a PLC framework was propelled forward by providing time built into the school day for teachers to collaborate. Each Wednesday, school begins one hour later for all staff to be able to meet in their professional learning community teams.  This required tremendous effort in building community support, changing bus routes, scheduling, and communication to parents. The district leadership of MCCSC made it clear to teachers and the community that our basic organizational structure would be collaborative teams.  This was not an invitation, but an expectation. 

Professional development has played an important role in building our capacity to operate in PLC teams.  Our administrators and teachers have had the opportunity to attend PLC Institutes, PLC Summits, District Solutions with Terry Martin,  and RTI Conferences with Mike Mattos just to name a few.  The books of these authors and many others supporting their work fill our bookshelves.  We have also utilized a Hybrid PLC event to keep new teachers current on our PLC practices.  We have come to see these educational leaders as our champions and friends. 

At all schools, teachers are organized into collaborative teams by grade level, course, or by subject area. Schools form a Guiding Coalition of teacher leaders and stakeholders to monitor the work and help guide decisions that will align behaviors and practices to support the mission and vision of the school for student achievement. The distributive leadership within the schools helps to drive and support our work.  Additionally, district teams of special education teachers, administrators, and other special areas have formed teams to continue to move our entire district forward. 

The teams focus on the “Four Critical Questions of a PLC” as the core of their work:

  1. What is it we expect students to learn?
  2. How will we know when they learned it?
  3. How will we respond when they don’t?
  4. How will we respond when they already know it?

Teams meet and engage in collaborative inquiry as well as sharing individual action research regarding high leverage strategies with the greatest results. Our collaborative teams build capacity through tasks that work to improve student learning.  Principals work with the teams to discuss student results, system-wide supports, scheduling, and general efficacy of the team’s progress. Teams across the district engage in the following work:

  1. take collective responsibility for student achievement results – student by student and skill by skill
  2. take collective responsibility for each student to learn
  3. establishing SMART goals for student achievement
  4. analyze student learning, seek best practices,  and determine needed instructional practice changes
  5. continuously monitoring student progress through summative and common formative assessments based upon the guaranteed and viable curriculum
  6. making recommendations regarding the guaranteed and viable curriculum
  7. celebrating success in student growth and teacher practices

A recent event imposed by our state legislators most clearly identified that our PLC work has become a systemic part of our district.  At the beginning of the school year of 2014-2015, the state of Indiana chose not to adopt the Common Core, but instead chose to adopt College and Career Readiness Standards.  The Indiana Department of Education notified districts that we would have all of the 2014-2015 to prepare for the first implementation of the state test over these new standards.  However, this did not stick as USDOE directed that the Indiana Department of Education would need to conduct the state test over the new standards for that same school year – 2014-2015!  This, of course, is known as building the plane as you fly it.  However, this endeavor actually became clear evidence of how deeply embedded our PLC process had become in our daily work and culture.  As defined in the PLC process, we had created “an agreed upon guaranteed and viable curriculum”, common formative assessments, scales to evaluate student work, and standards based grading at the elementary level.  All of this had taken years to develop and we were suddenly faced with the undoing of all of it based on one legislative decision for the state standardized test.  We had to decide to leave the curriculum intact and not aligned with the new test for the spring, or dig in quickly and update our “guaranteed and viable curriculum”.  There was more pressure as two years prior, we had adopted a standards based report card at the elementary level.  Without identifying the new essential learnings and their scales, it would be challenging to complete the report cards.  The risk would be to lose the standards based grading system all together, due to the lack of clarity for students, teachers, and parents.  This was clearly too big of a risk to take knowing that this is best practice for students.  Going backwards was not an option.

Persevering, the teachers responded with synergy and commitment to utilize our PLC teams to get the work done right away and they did!  We were able to devise a system of gathering feedback from teachers to agree upon the new essential learnings and power standards.  It was impressive to see principals, teachers, and literacy coaches from all across the district side by side creating this masterpiece and problem solving for positive resolutions.  The most remarkable aspect of this episode was the fact that the PLC framework provided us with the structure to move forward even in a crisis!  We were confident to function as PLCs in our daily operation, but when put to the test, the organizational function of PLCs gave us the vehicle to respond quickly with great expertise.  

Another benefit of this process is that teachers began to look more closely at rigor and relevance.  Teachers became more focused on the application of skills and higher level of learning.  Cross referenced charts for Bloom’s, Webb’s, and Marzano’s taxonomies for learning were in high demand as teachers collaborated on scales and common formative assessments.  Not only did we recreate our essential learnings/power standards, but we improved them and became more clear about expectations for high levels of learning.  It was an opportunity for great conversations that pushed our thinking and made us better at our craft.

It is also important to note, that through this process, emerged a new tool that has been attempted many times over two decades in the MCCSC.  This tool was an alignment of our writing curriculum for elementary grades K-6.  This tool provides a district wide agreed upon expectation for writing rubrics, exemplars of every writing assignment, grade level genre writing samples, and a method for including writing progress in our standards based grading model.  Another victory born out of hardship!

Professional Learning Communities has provided our district with an organizational framework for keeping the focus on student learning.  Public education is in turmoil and there will continue to be many unexpected twists and turns in our work, therefore having the PLC process allows for team problem solving.  We now have the capacity to work in high performing collaborative teams which will strengthen student outcomes regardless of the challenges that come our way.

As educators courageously move forward for the sake of our children and even our democracy, most aspects of the work are unpredictable.  Leadership changes can have a daunting impact on progress as well as the politics that surround education.  However, PLCs will be the one critical constant that will be a safe haven for educators in our daily work and moving our profession forward.  The true measure of the success of the PLC is not only student achievement data, but the ability of the educators within a district to use the PLC as a mechanism to keep striving for wins even in the face of great adversity.

 

MCCSC Corporation Grades

2011

2012

2013

2014

 

2015*

B

A

A

A

 

A

Grade

ELA P/F

Indicator

(group)

ISTEP S11

ISTEP S12

ISTEP S13

ISTEP S14

 

ISTEP S15

Indiana

MCCSC

Indiana

MCCSC

Indiana

MCCSC

Indiana

MCCSC

 

Indiana

MCCSC

3

Pass

84.2%

82.8%

86.2%

89.0%

85.2%

84.7%

83.6%

82.1%

73.2%

77.4%

Did Not Pass

 

17.2%

 

11.0%

 

15.3%

 

17.9%

 

22.6%

Total

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

4

Pass

82.7%

82.7%

82.4%

83.8%

84.4%

82.4%

86.5%

82.6%

 

70.4%

76.0%

Did Not Pass

 

17.3%

 

16.2%

 

17.6%

 

17.4%

 

 

24.0%

Total

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

 

100%

5

Pass

76.3%

78.1%

78.4%

78.5%

79.3%

80.1%

81.5%

80.9%

 

65.2%

64.0%

Did Not Pass

 

21.9%

 

21.5%

 

19.9%

 

19.1%

 

 

36.0%

Total

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

 

100%

6

Pass

76.7%

78.7%

78.7%

84.0%

77.8%

83.5%

78.7%

81.5%

65.8%

73.6%

Did Not Pass

 

21.3%

 

16.6%

 

16.5%

 

18.5%

 

26.4%

Total

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

7

Pass

78.1%

83.5%

76.3%

83.4%

74.2%

81.7%

77.8%

81.6%

 

65.7%

73.0%

Did Not Pass

 

16.5%

 

16.0%

 

18.3%

 

18.4%

 

 

27.0%

Total

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

 

100%

8

Pass

73.6%

77.9%

74.2%

81.6%

76.3%

82.1%

76.4%

81.7%

 

63.7%

73.2%

Did Not Pass

 

22.1%

 

18.4%

 

17.9%

 

18.3%

 

 

26.8%

Total

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

 

100%

All

Grades

Pass

78.7%

80.6%

79.4%

83.4%

79.4%

82.4%

80.7%

81.7%

 

67.3%

72.9%

Did Not Pass

 

19.4%

 

16.6%

 

17.6%

 

18.3%

 

 

27.1%

Total

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

100%

 

 

100%

 

*State Standards and Assessment Tool Changed

District Academic Awards:

•  "A" School Corporation for four consecutive years.  Only 20% of Indiana's 289 school corporations earned "A" status four consecutive years.

•  Childs Elementary named a National Blue Ribbon School - 2013

•  SAT scores exceeded state and national averages by10% in 2016 in each area of critical reading, mathematics, and writing.

•  The Advanced Placement pass rate has climbed to 66% exceeding the state rate of 51%.

•  The number of dual credit courses have grown by 40% since 2010.

•  According to the ACT scores, 54% of our seniors are prepared for college-level course work as compared to 35% in Indiana, and 26% nationally.

•  In 2015, seven schools were named Indiana Four Star Schools.

•  89%  versus 71.1% nationally of our students enrolled in college the first year after high school returned for a second year.

 

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