Sundance Elementary

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

The creation of the Professional Learning Community at Sundance Elementary has been an ongoing journey that began over ten years ago.  Our Academic Coach at the time attended a PLC Summit and brought back the idea of collaborative teams and daily intervention.  Teams held weekly PLC meetings initially led by the Academic Coach.  One grade level team piloted daily math interventions and the use of common formative assessments.  Sharing the data of their success built interest and buy in for all teams.  From there, more teachers experienced a PLC Summit, and we developed a master schedule that created protected common prep times, both vertical and grade level, and a school-wide daily intervention time.  This uninterrupted time helped to develop action-oriented, collaborative teams with a focus on student learning.

Our PLC journey has had continued success because each year we have refined our work through reflective practices.  Teams have taken ownership of their PLC, creating their own agendas and leading collaboration, and their designated collaborative time has become much more than a meeting.  Governed by the four guiding principles of a PLC, established roles and team-created norms have supported our work as we moved to shared responsibility and accountability.  Through the creation of a Guiding Coalition, lines of communication have been established to communicate clear expectations of what a PLC looks and sounds like.  Through the Guiding Coalition, teams developed a shared mission, vision, values and goals which have been routinely reviewed and updated.

In the past two years, our commitment to continuous improvement led us to becoming certified as a High Reliability School.  We have been certified at Level 1, Safe and Collaborative Culture; Level 2, Effective Teaching in Every Classroom; and Level 3, Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum.  As part of our work, we developed an Instructional Model with the input of the entire staff.  This has been fundamental in developing a shared knowledge and the effective application of instructional strategies.  We have utilized our Instructional Model to determine professional learning needs and to grow all staff in utilizing the outlined best practices.  We have also been able to take the key elements of our Sundance Instructional Model and apply them to routine classroom walkthroughs and formal teacher observations. The HRS certification process has allowed us to continually monitor our effectiveness by gathering evidence of our levels of performance, set goals for improvement, and reflect often which have all supported our community of learners.

Goal setting for teachers and students has been essential to our commitment to continuous improvement.  Every student develops a data binder in which they keep evidence of their performance, reflect, and set goals for growth.  Teachers have extended this idea to their own growth by selecting one of the forty-one elements of effective teaching from The Art and Science of Teaching model as a goal area and routinely reflecting on their progress in that practice. 

Another pivotal attribute of our successful PLC journey has been structures we have in place which allow collaborative practices to enhance student learning.  Daily intervention includes all students and staff, and has moved beyond math interventions to include English Language Arts skills.  Support staff work with grade-level teams which allows for targeted instruction and utilizes team member’s strengths to support students.  Each team has 75 minutes of collaborative team time weekly (45 minutes of grade-level time and 30 minutes of vertical grade-level collaboration).  Common prep times established in our master schedule allow for this important collaborative work.  Grade-level teams collaborate for 45 minutes during the school day while their students are in an enrichment class including PE, Music, Counseling, Computer Lab, and Library.  Additionally, vertical grade-level collaboration occurs for 30 minutes before the school day begins.  These times have been critical for focused intervention, the development of quality assessments, collaborative discussions about students, and building high-performing teams.  Each team functions differently, but expectations are consistent for all teams.  New expectations that have enriched our professional learning in the past two years are co-observations and the use of SWIVL cameras for self-reflection.

Our staff is committed to the PLC process and continuous improvement which allows us to move forward to reach all student learners and enrich the knowledge of our staff.  We have been able to utilize the best practices introduced to us and have customized them to best meet the needs of our staff and students.  This work will never be finished; however, collaborating and problem solving to meet the needs of all our students has become essential to our culture.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

The introduction of the Common Core State Standards provided the ideal opportunity for teachers to work collaboratively and grow their practice as they came to a common understanding of the standards.  New learning for all teachers allowed our experienced and new teachers alike to build collective knowledge.  Simultaneously, we also addressed learning targets, standard by standard, as we monitored student progress toward proficiency with performance scales.  Teams worked collaboratively to identify priority standards essential to student learning.  Teacher leaders then took team-identified priority standards to district-level collaborations and used a protocol to rate each standard’s endurance and leverage.  Once priority standards had been narrowed through this process, teams looked closely at the standards through vertical grade-level discussions, and also as part of grade-level collaboration. Teacher teams at Sundance took the identified priority standards to create road maps to make them viable through pacing for both core instruction and interventions. 

Monitoring of student progress toward proficiency through the use of performance scales is a major focus of our current work.  The priority standards road maps allow teachers to create long-range plans and also determine levels of learning on a 5-point scale.  Teachers use this scale to collaboratively create Common Formative Assessments designed to meet individual student needs.  Understanding the rigor of each standard ensures we are incorporating different levels of questioning. We now understand CFAs have to be focused on one priority standard and may even require being broken apart into smaller more manageable parts. This process, aligned to our daily intervention, has allowed teachers to monitor student progress while holding each other accountable to teaching the guaranteed and viable curriculum through comparison of student data from CFAs.  Through this data-driven reflective practice, teachers gain new perspectives and teaching strategies to reach more learners through a team effort. 

Teachers also utilize required state assessments to further analyze student performance of skills.  Monthly and bimonthly progress monitoring allows teachers to determine the success of their core instruction and interventions of essential standards.  Teachers create flexible groups during common instruction which allows prerequisite skills needed to be addressed through focused and targeted instruction.  Curriculum “quick-checks” and other informal formative assessments such as exit tickets have also helped teachers monitor student learning on a timely basis. Teachers teach, check in, and determine next steps to ensure learning for all students, then continue teaching with necessary accommodations.  Students who still struggle after accommodations have been made during this teaching cycle are discussed during collaborative weekly conversations. Checking in with students at risk as a team pulls from the team’s collective experience and expertise and builds ownership of all students in the grade level.

Student’s monitoring their own progress has also provided students the opportunity to reflect on their learning and take ownership of their progress.  Teachers can then celebrate small wins on the path to proficiency and beyond.  Parents are kept informed of student progress toward essential standards through weekly progress reports, Friday Folders, and other feedback tools to make school and home connections.

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

The intervention systems currently in place have been refined through the years.  We now have every team providing daily intervention support through the use of protected intervention time school-wide, every morning for 30 minutes.  Our master schedule has been created so there are no meetings or special events scheduled during this protected time so that intervention can take place daily without exception.  Beyond the school-wide intervention time, uninterrupted core instructional time allows teachers to support one another through small group, targeted instruction.  Common prep time allows teachers to collaborate beyond the formal structures.  The power of teams having common unstructured time is that it allows teachers to become risk takers and meet the needs of all students beyond the formal 30-minute intervention time.  In the teach, check-in, teach cycle teachers are more likely to try something outside of their usual strategies.  What works for student A may not work for student B.  Drawing from each team member’s strengths, strategies are shared and each student’s needs can be met.

The entire staff is involved in intervention with support staff assigned to each grade level to make small group, guided instruction possible.  During this time students may receive a reteach of the target skill from a teacher who showed success in first instruction; students may look deeper at the skill with more practice; or students may need extension of the skill.  These decisions are made by the grade-level team and are based on student performance during core instruction, through informal assessments such as exit slips and classroom conversations, and also through student performance on Pre- and Post CFAs.

Students who still struggle after accommodations have been made during the teaching cycle are discussed during collaborative weekly conversations. The team documents specific concerns regarding student progress and outlines a plan of action to support the learner utilizing the team’s collective experience and expertise.  The team establishes a timeline and date to check back in and document the student’s progress.  Students who continue to struggle may be referred to the Student Assistance Team.  Teachers gather data for the student including the PLC Student Discussion documentation, intervention documentation, Pre- and Post CFA data, class work, anecdotal records, and parent input to submit to the Student Assistance Team.  The team is comprised of various grade-level teachers, our RTI Facilitator, the Assistant Principal, and the parents.  The team gathers to discuss the student and develop a specific intervention plan if the need is determined.  A student who receives support from the SAT has specific ELA and Math programs available for their use.  The teacher working with these students keeps careful documentation of academic behaviors, monitors student progress often, and keeps note of student strengths and weaknesses.  The Student Assistance Team continues to meet to analyze student data and progress and determine next steps.  These systematic interventions ensure we continually address what we will do if student are not learning as well as help us to extend learning to meet all student needs.

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

Building high performing, collaborative teams has been made possible by our consistent focus on establishing a Professional Learning Community.  The systems of organization we have established through this work have created team accountability and have allowed collaboration, focused on student learning, to occur beyond established collaborative meeting times.  Our Professional Learning Community is guided by the four guiding questions of a PLC. By adhering to this continuous cycle of collective inquiry focused on reaching all learners, these practices have become a part of our culture. Teachers share best practices, teaching strategies, and reflect often on their work both formally and informally.  Through this work we have built a culture of trust and high expectations which allow teams to perform at high levels.  This culture of high expectations for all, both students and staff alike, is supported by our agreed-upon and often revisited mission and vision statements and instructional model. We have a clear focus ensuring high levels (grade level or higher) of learning of all students. As new teams form, we begin with making collaborative norms and establishing roles to maximize everyone’s contribution and responsibility. Items considered include time, hearing all voices, participation, and confidentiality. 

Teams have taken ownership of their PLC, creating their own agendas and leading collaboration.  Guided by the four guiding principles of a PLC, teams have worked to: unpack the standards to gain a strong common understanding of what we want students to learn; identify the prerequisite skills and guaranteed vocabulary at Tier 2 and Tier 3 necessary to achieve deep levels of understanding; and determine student-friendly learning targets to communicate to students.  Through this deep understanding, built through learning by doing, teachers have strengthened core instruction with a laser focus and critical eye of curriculum programs to focus on how to best teach and monitor student learning with a standards-driven focus. This work has been closely monitored and supported by administration through systems of accountability.  Guiding Coalition members facilitate grade-level team collaborations and communicate agendas to team members and administration at the beginning of each week.  Weekly intervention groupings and data are also regularly communicated to team members and administration by the team data communicator.  Team data is accessible to all on our school network.  Constant communication is an essential piece of our collaborative work.

Meaningful professional learning has also become embedded in our work. Teachers share professional learning often which has built trust and teacher leadership.  Teachers who attend training no longer keep valuable information to themselves or share only with their grade-level team – the expectation is to share with all.  Through structured co-observation times built in our master schedule, teachers have many opportunities to observe one another in action as another aspect of professional learning.  Co-observations have helped to develop risk-takers for both the observed and observer.  Teachers observe strategies perhaps outside their own comfort zone, which stretches us and allows us to continually develop our skill.  We learn from each other’s successes and have the opportunity to grow our own practices. 

Additional Achievement Data

In New Mexico, students in Grades 3-6 take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  Schools earn performance grades based on student performance on this assessment.  Sundance Elementary has earned an A Grade for the past two years.  We have also shown growth in our number of students proficient on this assessment, well above the state and district average, because of our collaborative efforts and high performance as a Professional Learning Community.  Please note performance data below and Student Performance/Comparison Data Graphs uploaded in supporting documents.

ELA 2015-3rd Grade 28% Proficient, Math 2015-3rd Grade 37.4% Proficient

ELA 2016-3rd Grade 42.5% Proficient, Math 2016-3rd Grade 53.8% Proficient

ELA 2017-3rd Grade 44.08% Proficient, Math 2017-3rd Grade 51.13% Proficient

ELA 2015-4th Grade 40.8% Proficient, Math 2015-4th Grade 44.7% Proficient

ELA 2016-4th Grade 44.3% Proficient, Math 2016-4th Grade 58.2% Proficient

ELA 2017-4th Grade 48.72% Proficient, Math 2017-4th Grade 56.41% Proficient

ELA 2015-5th Grade 24.3% Proficient, Math 2015-5th Grade 30% Proficient

ELA 2016-5th Grade 34.2% Proficient, Math 2016-5th Grade 35.5% Proficent

ELA 2017-5th Grade 41.38% Proficient, Math 2017-5th Grade 45.45% Proficient

ELA 2015-6th Grade 50.6% Proficient, Math 2015-6th Grade 51.8% Proficent

ELA 2016-6th Grade 37.5% Proficient, Math 2016-6th Grade 32.8% Proficient

ELA 2017-6th Grade 38.96% Proficient, Math 2017-6th Grade 32.46% Proficient

  • Grade A School-New Mexico Public Education Department Special Recognition based on student performance and growth- 2017, 2016
  • Recognition by District of Most Growth by Special Education Students
  • PLC Model Team recognition at district level, video production for district level
  • HRS Level 1 High Reliability School- Level I Certification- Safe, Supportive and Collaborative School
  • HRS Level 2 High Reliability School- Level II Certification- Effective Teaching Practices in Every Classroom
  • HRS Level 3 High Reliabiltiy School - Level III Certification- Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum
  • Partnership with Kirtland Air Force Base STAR Base Science and Engineering Academy
  • American Society of Safety Engineers Teacher Award for Support of Student Learning in Science
  • Regional Research Challenge Encouragement Award-Central New Mexico Science and Engineering
  • Partners in Education PIE Grant Recipient for Spanish Club Resources and Community Learning Outreach
  • American Heart Association Award for Jump Rope for Heart 2000-2018
  • 20 Certified Staff Master’s Degree Level III Teachers
  • 2 Nationally Board Certified Teachers
  • 12 TESOL Endorsed Teachers on Staff
  • 7 Certified GLAD Teachers
  • 100% of Teachers on Staff Certified CORE Reading Instructors
  • 2 Certified Apple Teachers
  • Teacher of the Year for Los Lunas Schools, Teacher Liason for NMPED