Gladys Polk Elementary

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

Gladys Polk Elementary began its PLC journey in the 2014-2015 school year.  After not meeting standard on the state of Texas accountability system, campus and district administration began researching instructional strategies and best practices to improve the achievement of the campus.  We had already tried special workbooks, trainings, and other instructional strategies, but did not see sustainable improvement for the campus. The research eventually led to the All Things PLC website and our transformation began. In our PLC infancy, teachers met and shared lessons, talked about intervention for students, and tracked student data.  This continued for two years. Teachers implemented a common intervention time for all students during the school day. When Polk received their accountability report in 2016, they learned that they met state standard for the first time in three years. Although they met standard, they still had areas that needed improvement with student growth.    

 In the summer of 2016, the school district leadership provided opportunities for a team of teachers to attend their first PLC Institute in San Antonio, Texas.  This institute began the process of true transformation of Polk Elementary. At the institute, they learned that a PLC is not a meeting, but instead, a campus culture and way of doing business.  They realized that they had “PLC lite”, not a tight PLC. The team returned and trained the staff on the Three Big Ideas and the Four Critical Questions. They revised their mission and vision to align with the PLC beliefs.  Staff identified essential learning outcomes for each grade level and subject area. Modifications were made to the campus master schedule to include an hour long common intervention time for each grade level, as well as a common PLC collaborative meeting time for teachers and support staff.  Vertical PLC meetings were implemented to allow grade level teachers time to collaborate across grade levels. Special area teachers and singletons were included in the Vertical PLC’s. We revised the special education instructional delivery from pull out resource to full inclusion, with intervention and in-class support, which had never been done before at this campus.  We used a data wall to track student interventions by grade level. It was after this year that Polk saw tremendous growth on their state accountability report! Not only did we meet standard on the state of Texas accountability, but we met standard with a distinction in closing achievement gaps! To top it off, we had the highest achievement data for special education students in the district.   STAAR Longitudinal Data

 In summer of 2017, Polk leadership team attended our second PLC Institute in San Antonio, Texas.  At this institute, we were inspired to create common formative assessments and track data by standard, not just by unit.  A true PLC mindset became embedded into the culture and was no longer just an idea. By empowering the leadership team to embrace the collaborative mindset, we were able to model this for the staff.  The staff who collaborated the most were the grade levels that had the best results on assessments the year before, so the staff had evidence that PLC’s work. This showed the rest of the staff that this is a sustainable way of operating and something that we all needed to do together.  

 Our team developed a more focused PLC collaborative meeting agenda, shared resources for common formative assessments, identified learning targets for each unit, and role played a “0, 5, and 10” PLC collaborative meeting for staff during professional development.  The PLC guiding coalition created the script, and led the staff in demonstrating what a “10” PLC should look and sound like. PLC teams created their own norms and roles, and identified common beliefs statements and collective commitments. We revised the mission and vision statements again to include the phrase “all students”.   Mission/Vision/Beliefs SMART Goals were developed as a campus PLC and as grade level PLC teams.  Polk Elementary SMART Goals  In 2017, we were named a model PLC and continue with that distinction. 

Today, Polk Elementary continues to operate in a culture of collaboration.  Since 2014, we have made it a priority for our staff members to attend PLC At Work Institutes annually and continue to grow in our PLC journey.  Despite changes in leadership and staff movement the culture of collaboration remains strong. We continue to use our Guiding Coalition and our leadership team to drive our work.   Our professional development is centered around PLC's and RtI. It’s second nature for our teams of teachers to work together interdependently, and we truly embrace the idea of “our kids”, instead of “my kids.”  Our mission statement says that we will “ensure all students learn at high levels and are future ready.” Our vision is “a culture of collaboration, focusing on results.” These are not just statements printed out on a wall in our school, but it is what we ALL believe.  


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Each grade level team is provided a one hour collaboration time once a week, in addition to our common planning time.  This ensures that our collaboration time is spent discussing the Four Critical Questions, not grade level business.  The collaboration meetings are held in the PLC Room, where teachers and staff have access to visible data to track student progress.  PLC Agenda  PLC Schedule  We look at student data on a shared Google spreadsheet and Global PD. Sample Data Sheet  This data includes universal screeners, common formative and summative assessments, and classroom observation data.  We look at behavior and social emotional data.  Monthly, our intervention staff attends the grade level PLC to determine if any students who are receiving Tier 3 interventions need a change in intervention support based on the progress monitoring data from IStation and TEMI.  We include special education, behavior, ESL, and counseling staff as needed on these collaboration meetings.  

Teachers must look at their common formative assessment data weekly in order to track students standard by standard, based on learning targets.  As students are not successful on essential outcomes, the intervention must be provided during small group instruction in the classroom.  Guided Reading and Guided Math are the instructional models we use to provide the small group instruction based on the needs of students.  The Polk Master Schedule is developed around two main ideas:  time for intervention and time for collaboration.  Each grade level is provided an hour block of intervention time.  Students are not pulled from core instruction to receive intervention

Weekly, our Principal reviews data from our instructional programs for math and reading, and reports this in the newsletter for staff, by teacher and by grade level.  Attendance and discipline data are tracked and reported weekly.  Our team knows the status of the campus at all times, because administration and classroom teachers are collaborating on a weekly basis.  


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

Intervention is provided during the school day in a common one hour block of time called Panda Time.  Panda Time Schedule During this time, students who need intense remediation attend a small group  with intervention staff.  Students who need ESL support are provided that in a small group setting.  Special education students who need intense support attend a small group to receive math and reading interventions.  Dyslexic students are provided their intense lessons during this time as well.  All other students remain in the classroom with the grade level teachers and are provided intervention support based on the skill and the need as identified in the common assessments. MASTER SCHEDULE Students who already mastered the skill are provided extension activities during this intervention time.  

We progess monitor our students monthly to track growth on our universal screeners.  Universal screeners are given in math and reading three times a year.  From this data, we identify students who are behind grade level in those subjects.  PLC’s then meet to decide on the best intervention plan for the student. Intervention and special area staff are included in PLC meetings to review data and provide support to students.  Grade level teams hold each other accountable, and track each student to provide the necessary intervention needed.  Each teacher maintains student progress in the classroom and reports it using the common data spreadsheet.  A PLC Data Binder is also used to track data from district screeners for beginning, middle, and end of year progress and growth.  If a student is multiple grade levels behind, they receive Tier 3 interventions, either in class during Panda Time, or in a pull-out small group.  Students who are slightly behind grade level receive Tier 2 interventions in class.  When analyzing formative assessment data, students may be on grade level but need intervention on a certain essential skill.  Some students may lack motivation or need intervention in the area of behavior.  For these students, the PLC plans interventions such as “check in check out” folders, token economy systems, personal mentoring, etc.  

During intervention time, you will see many things happening.  You will see teachers working with small groups on an essential standard, while the rest of the students are working self-paced on a reading or math extension activity.  On another day, you may find the teacher reteaching a skill to the entire class because the data from the assessment indicated that they needed more time on that particular skill.  Later in the week, you may see Guided Reading and Guided Math rotations, where teachers are working with small groups, and students are working together in small groups on a common skill.  .  

Our students are only pulled out of the classroom during the intervention block so that they do not miss core instruction from the highly trained professional teachers in the classroom.  This includes special education, dyslexic students, and English language learners.  This intervention is focused on math and reading, depending on the needs shown from classroom assessments.  Students who receive Tier 3 interventions are tracked by our intervention and classroom staff, and our Tier 2 intervention students are tracked by our classroom staff.  

The main focus of our intervention is to provide what the student needs when they need it.  We do not get too caught up in a certain program or formula.  We teach, we assess, we collaborate, we provide intervention, and we assess again.  We’ve had other schools contact us after seeing our results and ask what “program” we are using to get those results.  We are very quick to tell them that it’s not a program, it’s a culture.  We use intervention, assessment, and collaboration to ensure our students are learning.  

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

Our first step was to take teams of influential teachers to the PLC Institute.  We selected teachers who represented a variety of grade levels and subject areas.  These teachers then formed our PLC Guiding Coalition.  The PLC Guiding Coalition collaborated to create professional development for our entire staff, and they facilitated the professional development activities.  Our weekly PLC collaborative meetings are driven by a focused agenda.  This agenda is developed by the PLC facilitator and shared the day before the meeting. At the meeting, a recorder takes notes and shares them with the team after the meeting.  Our time keeper keeps us on track and makes sure we start and end on time.  Our data and assessment specialists help find data and keep it organized in a common place for the grade level.  Teachers collaborate throughout the week to identify learning targets and develop their common formative assessments.  Each team has a digital folder where data is shared for all students on the grade level.  Students who are not mastering a standard or a concept receive intervention.  Sample Data Sheet  Teams also use Global PD to track formative assessment data and easily identify learning targets. 

Our staff has experienced the power of working collaboratively and focusing on results.  We have bought into the idea that it is essential to work as an interdependent team in order to ensure success for all students.  Our Principal and Assistant Principal are involved in every PLC weekly meeting, although they are facilitated by the PLC team.  When the administration goes to a PLC collaborative meeting, they don’t have to lead the meeting, because the grade level PLC is doing that themselves.  They’ve taken ownership of their own teaching and learning.  Data and professional development related to PLC’s are shared weekly in the staff newsletter. Polk Faculty Newsletter example  Tara also includes video clips and articles from the All Things PLC website for staff to view.  PLC meetings are sacred time for our teachers.  Teachers will purposely not schedule appointments or personal days on their PLC day, because they do not want to miss that time with their team.  Recently, a teacher had a doctor’s appointment on her PLC day, but came back at the end of the day just so she could attend the PLC meeting, because that collaboration time is crucial to the team. 

At Polk Elementary, we are student focused, and hold ourselves and our students to a high level of learning.  We approach situations with the question “would this be good enough for my own child?”  If we can’t answer yes to that every time, then it’s not good enough for our students.   Grade level teachers share students for intervention time, and when we meet for our weekly PLC collaboration time, we are focused on the Four Critical Questions.  Administration and staff hold each other mutually accountable, and we do not accept excuses.  Instead, we focus on what we can control or influence, and what is best for our students.  We share our achievement data and instructional practices.  Our staff is known for being flexible, caring, and compassionate. Our teachers are recognized for their collaboration with other campuses in the district as well.  As new teachers and paraprofessionals join our staff, we provide professional development in PLC's and RTI, and provide support as a team.

We celebrate our student’s success all the time!  Every morning on announcements, our students recite the Polk Pledge: “At Polk, I will be positive.  I will reach higher, I will achieve more, I have the ability!” Then we say our Polk Expectations: “Be responsible, be respectful, be safe, be a Panda!”  Every Friday morning, we meet as a school before the bell rings and recognize academic achievements for the week.  Students are selected by their teacher for something they did to improve their learning that week, like mastering their math facts, achieving their goal for sight words, etc.  We call their name and the school and staff cheers for them as they come up to be recognized as Master Pandas.  We recognize students who are making good choices during the week at our Friday PAWS Ticket drawings.  Our staff displays student products in the hallway, with the essential learning outcome posted by the product.  

In 2017,  our area experienced Hurricane Harvey, which caused us to have to cancel school for two weeks.  When we announced that we would cancel school, it meant that we would miss our PLC collaborative meetings.  Teams of teachers came to the office and expressed that they didn’t want to cancel school because that meant they would not have their PLC collaborative meeting.  During the two weeks, teachers used technology to continue collaborating.  Many of our homes were surrounded by flood water, however, teachers were continuing to communicate via text, email, and digital documents.   Teachers and staff expressed that they just wanted to get back to school for their students.  When we finally were able to come back to school after two weeks, teachers who had their homes flooded with the storm did not use that as an excuse.  Instead, they were there for the students, and carried on with normal routines and procedures in order to meet the needs of the students, many of whom were also flooded from their homes.  Walking into the school, one would never know that over half of the students and many of the staff had just experienced a horrific disaster at home.  Instead, you saw guided reading, small group instruction, and PLC collaborative meetings to continue addressing the needs of the students.   Only a staff who has truly bought into this kind of collaborative, student focused culture can literally weather a storm and come out stronger after it’s over.  Even when the campus was surrounded by water and plans were made to relocate school temporarily to a church building, it did not phase our staff.  When they heard of the plans, they said “ok, let’s do it.”  Plans were made to continue instruction and to meet the student’s needs.  No one complained, no one panicked about having to move an entire student body to a different location.  We worked together to make the best of the situation, the whole time, keeping students as the focus.  After the flood, the staff immediately organized into teams to go into flooded homes and help with cleanup.  We didn’t organize into grade levels, we went as a whole school PLC team.  That’s because we don’t see ourselves as grade level teams.  We are a whole school PLC.  

These are testaments that Polk Elementary believes that a  PLC is not a meeting, it’s truly a lifestyle.  It’s the culture of our campus and it’s the mindset of our staff.  We continue to learn and grow on our PLC journey, and we look forward to continuing to ensure high levels of learning for ALL STUDENTS!

Achievement Data Files

2018 Texas Education Agency Distinction - Post Secondary Readiness

2017 Texas Education Agency Distinction - Closing the Achievement Gap 

2017, 2018 No Place for Hate campus

Featured in an Inspirational Story on All Things PLC - 2017

Internationally Recognized Model Professional Learning Community