Liberty Middle School

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

Liberty Middle School located in Lemoore, California believes that a focus on the 3 C’s: culture, collaboration, and coaching combined with a strong foundation in PLC’s is the key to success for middle graders in our community. Liberty has the privilege of educating 600 7th and 8th graders every year in a community that is 70% SES with most of the population only having achieved a high school diploma. The current vision of Liberty states: Liberty Middle School will dramatically improve the community of Lemoore by increasing the education level, decreasing the amount of families living in poverty, decreasing the amount of crime and incarceration, and increasing a sense of community. Although this vision may seem out of reach for a middle school, it is the belief that through the 3 C’s we can prepare our students for success in high school, which will then lead them to be college and career ready, with the result of our vision being met. This vision was built through the collaborative process with the leadership PLC team after reviewing the old vision of Liberty and knowing that the vision had become a reality.

Through continuous study of Learning by Doing, Transforming School Culture, Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap, and most recently Amplify Your Impact, Liberty is always looking for ways to make students, staff, and Liberty as a whole,more successful with learning at the heart. Liberty has many key practices that helps drive the three big ideas of a PLC:

  • Built in weekly PLC time and common prep periods for teams to allow as much possible time for collaboration

  • Bi-weekly leadership meetings

  • Monthly new teacher meetings

  • Weekly meetings between administration and individual team leaders

  • Weekly meetings between new teachers and administration

  • Coaching model with all teachers with instructional resource teacher, administration, and other teachers for learning about instructional and management decisions in the moment

  • Monthly Professional Development Days for each team to help foster learning in a specific focus area

  • Establishment of a guaranteed and viable curriculum determined by the PLC team that is revisited every year

  • Team developed proficiencies, learning targets, and rubrics

  • Common learning targets and first instruction framework to ensure all students are learning at the same level

  • Team Meeting before common formative assessments to determine common testing conditions and SMART Goals

  • Data Meetings after all common assessments to discuss next steps, strengths, and things that can be improved upon. Data meetings are also conducted with administration when benchmark assessments are given to ensure student growth and learning.

  • Actions are taken to help students that have not yet learned the guaranteed curriculum and also for those students who have learned it

  • Built in tier two and three intervention time, to give students the maximum possible learning opportunities

  • Elective classes for students that do not need extra support in the guaranteed curriculum

  • At least twice a year using the 18 critical attributes of a PLC, teams assess their effectiveness and revisit any focus areas that need improvement.

In the year 2000, Liberty was one of the earliest of the adopters of being labeled as a program improvement school from the No Child Left Behind Act. Liberty also had a terrible reputation behaviorally and academically in the community and surrounding school districts. Throughout the next eight years, Liberty experienced five different principals, many new initiatives, and a revolving door of structures that were supposed to ensure academic growth. Teachers worked in interdisciplinary teams that were supposed to be focused on academic improvement but were actually gripe sessions about students, administration, parents, and the district office. After eight years of seeing no growth new Vice Principal, Benjamin Luis and Learning Coordinator, Erin Revious knew that it was their responsibility to ensure the success of current and future students.

During the next two years Ben, Erin, and a guiding coalition of staff members worked and learned as much as they possibly could to make Liberty a place that believed that all students could learn at high levels. The administration and team of teachers visited Washington Academic Middle School in Sanger, California, so that they could see what a true high functioning PLC school looked like. The administration and a team of teachers also attended The PLC Summit in Phoenix. The school changed their focus during staff meeting from nuts and bolts information to learning about Professional Learning Communities with a focus on the four questions that build a successful PLC. Some structures that were put in place to ensure that the PLC culture was fostered were: moving department teams into the same buildings, creating common prep time for PLC teams everyday, and built-in PLC time on Mondays for an hour and a half. The school leadership team also attended the PLC coaching academy and had their meetings focused on building successful PLC’s as well. It was in the first two years of implementation that Liberty Middle School was able to grow a substantial amount academically and exit Program Improvement status, which was unheard of for a middle school in California.

Throughout the next eight years, the staff at Liberty Middle School focused on continuous professional development, both internally and externally, to ensure growth in learning every year for both staff and students. In fact, the one year in which PLC’s were not the area of focus and growth for the school, the school went down in test scores. It is our belief at Liberty that learning never stops even when you are an adult so we are constantly looking for ways to improve and grow both within our own teams, professional learning community, and through outside resources. We also instill the belief of learning nevers stops to kids by never being satisfied by the amount of students that are learning the intended outcomes and extending the learning of those that have learned all intended outcomes.

During the 2018-2019 Liberty Middle School returned once again with a team to the PLC Summit in Phoenix. While at the summit, Liberty was inspired by Dr. Bob Eaker and his insistance on, "kid by kid, skill by skill".  Due to this, Liberty worked fervently the second half of the year to ensure that all students were proficient in the guaranteed standards.  This led to having the smallest number ever of 8th grade students who could not participate in graduation.  

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Using a three tier model Liberty Middle school has many different ways to ensure that all students are learning on a timely basis. Administration, individual department teams, and individual teachers monitor all student learning in a variety of ways. In addition to monitoring all students, administration and department teams more closely monitor students moving in and out of tier two intervention to ensure there is learning taking place. More so, administration takes ownership in monitoring tier three student learning, because they are the most intensive and smallest group.

On the team level, each department uses a variety of strategies to ensure student learning is taking place in a timely nature. On the daily scale, teams use common checking for understanding questions, common exit slips, and common closure tasks to ensure students are learning. With those tasks being completed, each department team can make an instructional decision each day whether the students had learned the target for that day, if they should go back and reteach the lesson, or if they should clarify minor misunderstandings or mistakes. With these tasks being common for each department team, the conversations each day focus on student learning instead of student behavior or “if the lesson went well”. When looking at a unit, the teams use many different resources to check in with students’ path of learning before the final summative assessment. The teams plan common SMART goals with each unit, along with learning targets, exemplars, and rubrics to verify that each student is going to be held to the same expectation no matter what teacher he or she may have.  In addition to this, each team writes their own assessments after determining proficiency, uses a pre-cfa form to ensure common testing conditions, and uses inter-rater reliability to help ensure fair grading practices. To see which students are understanding the concepts and skills, and which are not in between the start of the unit and the common summative assessment, in addition to the daily common tasks, teams develop cfa’s, they then have a conversation about which students need more time and instruction, and which students; can enrich their learning, and then the students will deploy into strategic groupings and be retaught the skills, they will then be reassessed to determine the effectiveness on the team level. Each standard the team has chosen is an end of the year standard, so even if a summative assessment has been given the teams will decide what students have still not mastered the skills and concepts that were taught and at that time the teams will determine when they will be reteaching in class and which students will be moved into tier two flex intervention to help support the students’ needs. On the student level, each student has a tracking sheet for each subject area and it is in this location that they track whether they have met the expectation of the skill, if they almost have it, or if they have not reached proficiency yet.

Although the team as a whole, works together very closely, each teacher is in charge of knowing where each student in their class is by skill. Within each teacher’s classroom, he or she uses pair shares, non-volunteers, whiteboards, and small group to monitor learning within the lessons that are being taught in addition to the things being done to monitor on a team level.

To monitor learning on the administration level, the administration works in conjunction with the teacher teams to ensure that each student is on track to grow in their learning by the end of the year. At the start of each year, each team develops an overall SMART goal in conjunction with administration, then at each staff meeting and leadership meeting the team reports out their growth and what they are doing to help more students learn in regards to their overall SMART goal. Each of these meetings are biweekly. Administration also holds data meeting three times per year after each of the benchmark assessments with each of the teams as a check to determine if the team's data matches an outside assessment. The administration helps monitor tier two student growth through a monthly intervention meeting with representation from each of the teacher teams, with a specific focus on flex, tier two intervention time and deployment. Finally, administration and instructional coach are in charge of monitoring tier III reading growth, through the MAP test and STAR reading test, which are taken three times per year and once a month respectively. Students are moved into appropriately leveled reading levels based off of these assessments. Administration also has access to all team CFA and summative assessment data, and meets with team leaders once or twice a week formally to discuss how each team is answering the four questions of a PLC.

 

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

Liberty Middle School uses a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) pyramid for their systems of intervention that addresses both academic and behavioral needs. Liberty Middle School has been using the tiered pyramid of intervention for eight years when dealing with academics. Then two years ago, Liberty started attending training for PBIS and attended a PLC’s at Work conference with Mike Mattos. Liberty has attended multiple trainings with Mike Mattos; however, the two of those trainings happening in the same year made Liberty’s leadership realize that we needed to address behavior in the same way they do academics.  Therefore, the two sided multi-tiered pyramid at Liberty was born.

Liberty has a solid handle on the academic side of the pyramid in which the teachers have complete control of tiers one and two and administration and the intervention team will address tier three academic needs. Every student at Liberty with the exception of 3% of the school’s population receive the same tier I program. The teacher teams design a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students that they have deemed necessary using three criteria: longevity, endurance, and readiness for the next grade level. The teachers determine learning targets and design lessons and all assessments. Liberty uses explicit direct instruction for new skills and concepts to ensure 80% of the students understand the content when it is taught. When students have not shown proficiency on skills and standards through whole group instruction there are many different routes within tier II academic intervention that the teachers can determine what would best fit the need for the students that are not yet meeting proficiency. One of the things a department team will do is use a deployment model after a data meeting on an assessment. The deployment model moves students in a period to different teachers based off of their area of need as determined by the assessment. For example, in a team of four ELA teachers, the students who all scored lowest on the assessment would all move to the teacher’s classroom that had the most amount of students reach proficiency on the assessment. The students that needed two skills improved upon would all move to the teacher’s classroom that had the second most proficient students. Lastly, the students that reached proficiency would all go to the teacher’s classroom that had the lowest amount of proficient students. The teacher’s are in complete control of this intervention. They determine when, how long, and why it occurs. This intervention occurs during core instructional time. The other route teachers may take when students need tier two academic support is moving students into flex intervention time. Flex time is a class that occurs four days a week for 25 minutes each; students attend one flex class Tuesdays and Wednesdays and another flex class on Thursdays and Fridays. English and math get first priority in selecting which students need flex intervention class and they can move students in and out of their classes whenever they deem necessary. If a student does not need extra time and support in math or English, they attend a history, science, PE, or music flex class for extra learning in those subject areas. Liberty feels that at the tier II level, different students may need that support in different subject areas at different times throughout the year and that  is why it is set up for students to be able to move in and out of all tier II supports. Tier III is determined by administration and the intervention team for our 10% of students that need specialized and individualized support to help the students that need the most amount of support. This level of support is designated for students on IEP’s, 504’s, and students that are 3 or more levels behind on reading. Students on IEP’s receive extra support within their core classes by having push in support and individualized accommodations. Students on 504’s have specific accommodations that are determined by a team to help students be just as successful as others. Lastly, students that are in the tier III reading program receive an extra 40 minutes of reading instruction at their level five days a week during elective time. Although these are the students that are designated as students that need tier III supports based off of data and test results, any students that need specific accommodations and supports in class will receive them as long as it is supporting their learning.

In order to ensure that these supports are being utilized effectively and efficiently there are many different sources of discussion that occur to check on these systems frequently. Every two weeks the leadership team meets that focuses on tier I academics, school systems, and PLC work. At least once a week, department teams meet to discuss the four essential questions of a PLC including “What we do when students do not understand what we have taught?”. The intervention team meets once a month to focus on tier II supports. Three times per year department teams have a data meeting with administration after benchmark assessments are given and part of that meeting is to check to ensure the correct students are receiving tier II and III supports. After every formative and summative assessment, department teams have data meetings to discuss which students need tier II supports. Tier III students’ progress is checked on by the special education teacher and the instructional coach to progress monitor those students with the greatest need. Lastly, at the end of every year, the leadership team meets to discuss any systems in place that need to be changed to better service these pyramids of supports to help foster our students' learning.

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

The Liberty team has many different systems in place to ensure that all members, including support staff, are constantly building their capacities in knowledge to work as a team and to help students learn more and at higher levels. The entire district has committed to dedicated PLC time each Monday from 1:38 to 3:00; this time is solely carved out to answer the four critical questions of Professional Learning Communities.

In addition to the Monday collaboration time, the schedule also allows for extra collaboration time throughout the day by scheduling all department teams with common prep periods and common lunch periods. During this time, teams can choose to meet for extra collaboration time. All teams choose to meet at least once more throughout the week, though depending on how much they need to collaborate, many choose to meet more often.

Another way Liberty builds teacher capacity and team effectiveness is through the use of internal and external professional development. Liberty spends most of their site funds strictly for professional development. Throughout the year a team of teachers along with site leadership will attend professional development events throughout the year. These teams and trainings are strategically selected based off of the needs of the site. Site leadership also always attends trainings along with the team to help guide the team in the direction that Liberty needs to focus. Not only does Liberty attend outside trainings, they also have internal training once a month for each department team.

Every month each team is allotted a “PLC Day” in which the team uses an action research model to focus on a specific need for the team. The day is guided by site leadership and the resource teacher. During this day, the team will spend the morning building capacity and knowledge as a team and then in the afternoon the team will go to the classroom and actually teach together as a team with the specific focus being student learning. One teacher is the main teacher in the classroom, the instructional coach is also team teaching with him or her, the rest of the team is also observing and will step in if they want to make any suggestions. After teaching the team meets together to discuss strengths and improvements. After this discussion the team will go back in a different class and teach again. This cycle continues until the end of the day. At the end of the day the team discusses how they will use the learning as a team, how they will use the learning as an individual, and how the day can improve the next time. This professional development day is the most useful day for teacher and student learning at Liberty.

Furthermore, the new teachers also meet with their site leadership once per week and attend new teacher meetings once per month. In addition to building knowledge with the new teachers, site leadership also spend a lot of time throughout the month building capacity of team members. Some of these times are:

  • Biweekly leadership meetings

  • Weekly meetings between administration and individual PLC leaders

  • Weekly administration PLC meetings

  • Weekly office staff PLC meetings (secretary, clerks, custodian, nurse, cafeteria staff)

  • Weekly paraprofessional PLC meetings

  • Monthly intervention team meetings

  • Bi-weekly staff meetings focused on PLC work

  • Data meetings between administration and PLC teams after benchmarks

At the end of every school year, Liberty Middle School revisits their systems and structures, like the schedule and the intervention program to ensure that the school is as effective as possible and to ensure that the school is always assessing their systems to make growth possible. The leadership team works together in looking at the systems and in deciding how to make the school program more effective in regards to student learning. This check on the systems helps build capacity as a team and helps improve student learning. The department teams also spend the end of the year revisiting the prior year and their guaranteed and viable curriculum, proficiencies and learning targets. Liberty is always focused on getting better and learning more. A learning culture is truly the focus of Liberty Middle School.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Since implementing Professional Learning Communities in the year 2010, Liberty’s student achievement on district and state assessments has steadily increased. For example, after the first year of implementation of PLC's, state assessment scores went up 52 points from 731 to 783.  This was the largest jump in the history of the school and significantly higher than the previous two years where the school had increased a total of five points combined for both years.  After the first two years of implementation of PLC's, Liberty Middle School was exited from Program Improvement status after being labeled Program Improvement for the previous ten years.  During this era of Program Improvement, it was virtually impossible for a middle school to exit that far into the process.

Since implementing the PLC framework, Liberty has consistently closed the gap between its student achievement data compared to the rest of the state.  This is a significant milestone as our student demographics are more challenging than the state average.  As an example, the state average for free and reduced lunch is around 60%, whereas Liberty’s free and reduced lunch percentage is around 70%.  Because of the work of PLC’s and a no excuses attitude the school has erased the gap and since the year 2017, Liberty has been above the state average in both ELA and Math and in 2018 was higher in each grade as well.  This increase in scores can be attributed to the school’s commitment to the PLC process and our belief in the continuous improvement process of learning by doing for both staff and students.

2008-2015 San Joaquin Valley Colorguard and Percussion Review Winterguard Champions

2015- California Business for Execellence in Education Award

2016- California Business for Execellence in Education Award

2017- California Business for Execellence in Education Award

2018 - California Business for Excellence in Education Award

2018- California Schools to Watch- Taking Center Stage  Award Winner

2018- National Forum Schools to Watch Award Winner

2016-2018- South Valley Winter Arts Association Winterguard Champions 

2012-2018- CMEA Superior Rating in Jazz Band 

2018-CMEA Superior Rating in Symphonic Band 

First place Finishes for Marching Band in both the Visalia Band Review and Fowler Band Review

2017-2018- Kings County Execellence in Education Award Finalist, Christopher Morshead

2018-2019- Kings County Execellence in Education Administrator of the Year Award, Benjamin Luis

2018-2019- California League of Middle Schools Region 7 Execellence in Education Award Finalist, Benjamin Luis

2018-2019- Kings County Execellence in Education Award Finalist, Anna Covarrubias

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