Lakewood Elementary School

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

Lakewood Elementary, Norwalk Iowa

Our PLC journey started when the Building Leadership Team tried to explore solutions for creating a collaborative culture focusing on improving teaching skills and the academic performance of students.  A team, consisting of administrators and teachers made the conscious decision to attend the PLC At Work Institute in 2014.   The statement that  impacted  the team was DuFour’s quote, “The most effective learning communities are defined by the spirit of reflection, an action orientation and a focus on “collective inquiry.”  (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, 2008).   


This conference started healthy discussions, and the team continued their learning to create PLCs within the existing structure at Lakewood Elementary.    The team developed a four-year action plan to be eventually a Model PLC school.  In 2015, the goal was for the staff to understand the principles and concepts to develop effective Professional Learning Communities within the grade levels. The goal was for the staff to understand how using that format would decrease the barriers and address the weaknesses identified by the staff.   The team focused on how to create staff excitement around the potential impact of PLCs in improving teaching and learning. Teams developed and honored norms, a mission and a vision was created.  Staff meetings were dedicated of learning more about the principles of PLC’s and understanding the practical purposes within the classroom and the impact it would have on the students.   The focus was to develop an understanding of using the four essential questions to guide meetings and discussions about students.  

The first three years focused on developing effective PLC teams along with understanding the PLC process.    Multiple professional development sessions were devoted to learning about the PLC process throughout the year. During that time, there was a concerted effort to send people to both common assessment and PLC conferences.  In 2015, a major shift occurred with PLC’s.  The teams questioned the status quo and reflected on the results of their PLC’s assessments, both formative and summative. The worked as a collaborative unit instead of classrooms.  It was a consensus of the building that each team would write SMART goals connected to the annual building academic and cultural goals.  SMART goals became the cornerstone of conversation within the PLC’s.   SMART goals were used every 4 -6 weeks connected to the specific grade levels assessments. The staff was recognizing the need to develop the school culture to become one where all students had equal access to quality instruction regardless of grade level or room assignment.

The biggest obstacle the first two years was developing a common collaborative time. A commitment was made in 2016 to create a common planning time for grade level PLC’s.  Lakewood is a grade alike building, so the structure was easier to do than in neighborhood schools.    In problem solving with the staff and increasing staffing, a schedule was developed that would give a 45 minute common planning time throughout the day for PLC time.  Each PLC meets a minimum of two times per week for forty five minutes.  This occurred simultaneously with Norwalk receiving the TLC grant, which provided an opportunity for teacher leadership with a stipend.  Immediately, we created PLC leads as a paid leadership position within the building.  The leaders made a commitment to proceed pushing forward with the action plan and to meet twice a month to plan and provide support.  This was a huge step forward within the overall structure of the success of PLC’s within the building.      

The focus of the PLC leads was to not be content with status quo and to continue to achieve mutual goals and accomplish their fundamental purpose of learning for all.  Each year, the agenda and note taking forms were revised to meet the criteria of a quality PLC meeting and to help align our work with the SMART goals.  Each meeting’s purpose needed to answer one of the four PLC questions. In 2017, the shift was that staff members would become proficient at taking part in  data meetings and  sharing strategies that produced results for their classrooms.  This commitment has led to more results-oriented environment at Lakewood.  The teachers are hungry for evidence of student learning and to use that evidence to inform and improve their practice.

In 2017, the focus was to create a PLC environment where there could be critical conversations and teams could reach consensus.  The leaders felt that Lakewood had a collaborative and trusting culture, but noted the need to specifically focus on creating an environment where staff felt free to voice their opinion and share ideas.  The overarching goal was for the teachers to become reflective thinkers and be able to examine teaching practices and scores to become results driven.  The question that was continuously asked was, “Does this impact learning for every student in a positive way?”  

Each year, Lakewood makes a commitment to send people to the PLC Conference and create an action plan to constantly improve practices.  The building has dedicated a room specifically for teams to meet and have created spreadsheets to monitor student learning.  One of the current goals is to videotape data meetings for the leaders to learn from each other on facilitation practices and data interpretation. 

This year, the focus in increasing our capacity of building strong common assessments and proficiency scales.  Our professional development is strongly grounded in PLC work and is a mix of instruction and application.  As a PLC leader group, the book "The Five Disciplines of PLC Leaders" is serving as a foundation for our discussions for facilitation.  






1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

SMART Goals are the overarching tool to monitor the student learning and building/grade level goals at Lakewood.  The goals serve a purpose of creating a measurable tool helps ensure that student goals are within reason and attainable for each grade level.     Based on student data, each team writes their SMART Goal throughout the year to monitor the learning of the students in their specific grade level. This year, the teams related their goals so that they were in alignment to Marzano Focused Evaluation Model.   Students are targeted for instruction, the teachers establish a timeline and then create evidence to determine effectiveness within the team.  This is the data presented to both the building administrator and the school board.    

In the formal weekly team meeting, students are monitored using student progress based on being proficient in the priority standards and proficiency scales.  These were created by the grade level teams and provide a structure for teachers to identify what the students need to learn.  The purpose of the tracking of student learning is to enable making instructional changes within the teams based on the specific needs. Once the content is taught in class, students take the first formative assessment.  From that data, the teachers meet to design instruction based on the needs of the students from that data. Groups are made specifically based on the needs of the students in specific groups.  The teams have functioned as a system and service all of the students within the grade levels, not just their classrooms.  

This approach helps teachers deepen their awareness of individual student data across the grade level as a whole rather than just those students in their classroom.  The visual, whether it is a spreadsheet or a data board, create a representation of individual student data and growth.   From there the teachers collectively monitor the growth of students and remediate as necessary.  The mastery of the priority standard is the goal.   

In 2018 we continued to track student learning by collectively looking at student work samples as a PLC. Looking at these samples allowed members of the PLC to create a common understanding of teacher expectations based on proficiency scales.  

During the 2017-18 school year, facilitation by team leaders was essential to the development of PLC’s. PLC leads took part in a book study about shifting responsibility to all members of the PLC team. This increased internal capacity within each PLC and improved the efficiency of team meetings. Each PLC team member had a role that was instrumental in teams analyzing data more effectively. This resulted in the better targeting of student deficits and improved student learning.

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

For the last three years, the staff has worked to increase their knowledge base in understanding formative and summative assessments and how they should be used as a tool to inform classroom instruction.  Based on this training, reteaching and reassessing students based on proficiency has become a regular practice at Lakewood. The work done within the teams has been on standards-based instruction.

Individually, each teacher does an Iowa Career Development Plan.  These plans are directly related to the team’s SMART goals and target individual students based on their needs. Teams also conduct data meetings each week that are focused on student achievement in our priority standards. These data meetings help guide instructional decisions for reteaching and enrichment for groups of specific students based on their needs. As the teams have looked at their data, they respond to these questions:

  • How will we respond when students do not understand a concept?

  • How will we respond when students already understand a concept?   

As data is collected and analyzed in teams, problem-solving related to instruction and student need occurs. There is an intervention/enrichment time each day for a 30-minute time span each grade level.   Students are taught content, pre-assessed and then place into groups according to their needs. Grade level teachers as well as the Title Reading teacher, Special Education teachers, English Language Learning teacher and the Talented and Gifted teacher support the needs of the learners in a small group setting.  These groups are changed throughout the year, based on the results of the team assessments.

In 2017-2018, the focus was on creating meetings based on analyzing student work.  This was comprised of sorting based on proficiency scales then differentiating instruction based on the learning needs. An intervention will occur for each student and the teams will work as a unit, instead of individual classrooms. Smaller intervention groups for students who require the extra time and support to achieve the learning objective will be taught by the most skilled teacher for that standard.  Students who have achieved proficiency are placed in groups to extend their learning. These meetings also served as an opportunity for teachers to share effective teaching strategies with each other.

Lakewood works on the framework of the MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Support) to determine appropriate interventions. Analyzing student work together as a team will lead to specific groupings based on need, creating additional resources, and involving the instructional coach to strategize about the best ways to meet the students at their current level.  There will be cross-classroom instruction based on differentiated needs. The MTSS model will be in place when determining needs for the students.

In the upcoming year, the focus for Lakewood will be to continue to fine-tune our alignment of standards, proficiency scales, and assessments. This will take place during our weekly PLC meetings that will be embedded in our professional development work. 

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

Lakewood Elementary has made a true commitment to building teacher capacity in high performing collaborative teams. As of today, 90% of the staff has attended a Solution Tree PLC Conference.  During that time, it gives a team time to review the action plan and set goals for the upcoming year based on information learned.  The vision of Lakewood Elementary is “Every Child, Every Day.  The fundamental vision was created collaboratively by all staff members.    The first year, the purpose was to establish relationships and establish norms within the teams.  Each member of the team, needed to establish mutual trust and respect for each other.  It was emphasized that members needed to work independently.  The first goal was to have collaboration embedded into all work even if it was routine work.  Each team was provided time to collaborate and the four essential PLC questions were at the foundation of all conversations. (See schedules for instruction and collaboration here.)  Teams focus was to create common goals that directly impacted student learning and achievement.  The second goal was to understand the components of a successful team. Leaders would meet bimonthly to learn more about how to create high functioning teams.   

The second year, the emphasis was on the data portion of the team process. One of the collective commitments was that student data would guide decisions.   Running the data protocol was a priority and each person on the team took the lead in facilitating that process.  Throughout early outs, the gradual release model was used to model how the data protocol process would be used during the team meetings.  After the team felt comfortable with that process, they worked through the data as a group.  Simultaneously, the staff members learned about the difference between formative and summative assessments.   

During year three, the teams worked to have critical conversations and to create a consensus as a team.  One commitment was to have an open mind to new ideas and methods of teaching.  Teachers were encouraged to reflect on their own teaching practices and embrace change.   Common assessments became a priority and there were many conversations on how to use those assessments to drive instruction for all learners.   The team met formally with the coaches and curriculum leads to giving a deeper understanding of the standards and proficiency scales.   

To gain a deeper understanding of the team leads, they elected to do a book study on facilitation skills.  Each member took a disk profile to better understand as an individual how they think and then read the “Lemons to Lemonade” book as to study how people within a team react and how to facilitate that work.  The group continues to focus on how to lead, but also how to celebrate student and teacher successes.  

During the 2017-2018 school year, the PLC leads participated in a book study, "Shifting the Monkey" by Todd Whitaker. As a result of reading this book, we gained a better understanding of how to shift responsibilities within our PLCs, as well as addressing critical issues of learning and leadership.

For the 2018-19 school year,  the focus will be on opportunities for sharing work samples and to start peer review.   Sharing work samples allows teams to check the inter-rater reliability of the assessment.  Through sharing student data, teams deepen their understanding of content and what the standard truly means for their students.  Some teams use percentages showcasing the students who are meeting or exceeding the standard.  This helps teams determine which instructional strategies have been effective in teaching the skill or strategy.   The teams will share individual student progress data as we have moved to focus on being responsible for the learning of kids in all classrooms.  Data is not only discussed while working through the process, but teams also look at summative assessment data.  This data is used at least three times a year to monitor student growth through data spreadsheets.  

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

AIMSweb Reading Data  of 2015 - 2017


Grade Level


Spring, 2016 Proficient 2016

Spring, 2017 Proficient-2017

Spring, 2018


3rd Grade- Aimweb- Spring Data





3rd Grade Aimsweb Plus- Spring Data  ORF    

4th Grade





 AimsWeb Plus   ORF    

5th Grade





 Aimsweb Plus

 ORF      85%


AIMSweb Math Data Spring of 2015, 2016 & 2017


Grade Level


Spring, 201 Proficient

Spring, 2016 Proficient

Spring, 2017 Proficient


3rd Grade










4th Grade










5th Grade











Iowa  Assessments: Percent of Group Proficient in Reading


Grade Level






3rd Grade






4th Grade






5th Grade







Math Scores:

Grade Level






3rd Grade






4th Grade






5th Grade







State Average Data:



State Average

Lakewood Average










**See Artifact Section for Comparibility Data with State

Lakewood Elementary:

  • Achieved building academic and behavior goals for the past five years

  • Outperformed state average in all subtest on the reading and math Iowa Assessments

  • Currently working on becoming a Lighthouse School for The Leader in Me.  

  •  2017-18 Iowa Teacher of the Year is currently on the Lakewood Elementary staff as a coach  

  • Teacher attended the Honeywell Educators Space Camp

  • Teacher received the Iowa Living History Farm Teacher of the Year

  • Teacher received the Golden Apple Award

  • Teacher received the Iowa Technology and Education Connection Teacher of the Year

  • Currently a Leader in Me School

  • Certification in Highly Reliable Schools by Marzano (Level One)-April 2018

  • Working on Certification in Highly Reliable Schools by Marzano (Level Two)- April 2020

  • 2016-2017-

    • Awarded a rating of “Commendable” by the Iowa Department of Education. Thirty-four percent of all elementary schools in the state of Iowa received this rating. This is a composite of the following categories: Proficiency, Closing Achievement Gap, College and Career Ready Growth, and Annual Expected Growth.  

  • Awarded Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and STEM-related grants and recognition. Lakewood is guiding students to learn more about the engineering process and robotics design. In 2017-18, there will be a STEM class using Project Lead the Way principals.  

  • Lakewood teachers have presented at ITEC (Iowa Technology Education Connection)

  • Teacher representative Iowa Department of Education Social Studies Writing Team

  • Teacher representative was chosen to present with Iowa State University at the American Educational Research Association Conference