Monroe Elementary School

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

Our PLC Journey began in August 2014 in the living room of our principal's home. It was a pre-school year teacher meeting where a "fist of five" consensus deemed 100% of us were on board and would like to start the PLC journey so that we could better serve our students and their learning. Having attended a three day PLC at Work Institute in Kalamazoo in August 2014, our principal relied on the teachings and strategies from this conference to begin the work of building a collaborative culture and laying a solid foundation and committment. We spent our first year building our shared knowledge of PLC work, creating expectations and structures in our daily/weekly schedules for collaboration, and establishing our 4 pillars. Weekly staff meetings immediately changed to our own PD of learning how to do authentic PLC work with a deep commitment to the process and to improve student learning. Teachers would often joke "Mrs. Wilson only brought us two articles to read this week!" By mid-year we had established our 4 pillars. The pillars were more than a document for us – they were the heart and soul of our promise to our students.

During year one, we turned an open room in our school into a PLC room. It is a common place, rich in professional resources and PLC protocols, where each collaborative team has a designated workspace and a collaboration whiteboard for their team. This room has become a sacred place honoring the most important work we do for our students. Every Wednesday after school, all teachers gather here and we have our own PLC development, collaborative time for grade-level teams to work in a common space and to support each other, and discuss books/articles we are studying. Throughout the week during their dedicated collaboration time or common planning time, you will find one or several collaborative teams engaging in the PLC work of answering one of the the 4 critical questions.

Once we had our pillars in place we studied Marzano’s research on Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum (What do we want our students to know and be able to do?). We decided together our second year to tackle our ELA standards by first unwrapping each one in our grade level teams, then putting them through Reeve’s 3-part test of Readiness, Leverage, and Endurance to prioritize. We used a protocol to analyze the vertical progression and look for gaps, and then finally identified the most Essential Learnings for each grade. With a Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum for ELA, our grade level teams spent the remaining part of the year writing Common Formative Assessments (CFAs) (How will we know if they have learned it?) and developing intervention/enrichment systems to respond to the evidence of student learning. (What will we do if they have not learned it? What will we do if they already know it?) The remainder of year two and beginning year three we devoted our work to the full PLC process in ELA with a Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum, development of Common Formative Assessments, and analysis of student learning with intervention and enrichment systems. In order to build our capacity for writing quality assessments, a team from our school attended Deisgn In Five, a Soultion Tree assessment workshop with Nicole Vagle. This school team designed professional development and offered coaching and support for all our PLC teams to share the knowledge school-wide. We believed we needed to just "fly the plane" even if it crashed. We learned from our mistakes and grew a lot in the process - unit by unit. In the second half of the year three, our collaborative teams began unwrapping our math standards and followed the same protocol in ELA to create our Guaranteed and Viable curriculum in Math.

This fourth year, 2017-2018, we completed our Math Essential Learnings. We now continue to build our shared knowledge of PLC work and Research-based Best Practices of Instruction, and we are applying the full PLC cycle to ensure learning of all with our ELA and math curriculum – answering the four driving questions of PLC work. Also, this year, our principal is leading the district’s four elementary schools in developing a district-wide Guaranteed in Viable Curriculum in ELA with a plan to do the same process with math, science and social studies.

In these four years, PLC work has become the culture of our school. It is evident in our belief that all of our students will learn at high levels. Our teams work collaboratively on a consistent and frequent basis to evaluate the learning of every individual student in that grade and then identify a plan to assist and support those that need more time and instruction, as well as move forward those students that need enrichment. The commitment to our own professional learning is ongoing and a constant in our school as we continue to develop deep implementation of PLC work and improve our instructional and assessment practices collectively.

Many new school programs don't make it past year three. In this fourth year, our commitment and enthusiasm for PLCs continues to grow stronger. It is no longer an initiative, it is our culture and the way we do our work.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Each collaborative team meets at least twice a week to look at student learning by evaluating common formative assessment results, gaps in prerequisite skills necessary for mastery of an Essential Learning Target, or a need to discuss/research effective instructional practices to improve the results we are getting. The collaborative team will then develop an intervention/enrichment plan, often called WIN (What I Need) plan to either reteach, extend, or enrich their collective group of students toward mastery of the Essential Learning. We use a loose-tight approach. While we have a tight agreement that all teachers keep record of mastery toward the Essential Learnings, the team members have the freedom to create record-keeping documents that best suit their need/style. The majority of our teachers use a simple chart with student names in boxes and the Essential Learning written at the top. A green, yellow, and red dot shows progress toward mastery in the student box. Once interventions have been executed a Form B CFA is given to reassess mastery.

Essential Learning Targets from each unit are paced throughout the unit as determined by that collaborative team. Then CFAs are developed and given by all team members on the same day when mastery of a particular target is expected during the unit. The team will develop their immediate intervention/enrichment plan to address that target. This process is ongoing throughout the unit with CFA checks typically on a 5-10 day cycle.

Collaborative teams determine with each CFA how best to execute an intervention/enrichment plan by looking at each teacher’s results, discussing likely misconceptions during the learning process, and based on how many students did not yet master the target and from which classroom. These interventions and student groupings are very fluid based on student need and performance. 

Our collaborative teams monitor reading levels of students by administering a DRA three times a year for all students. Students not reading on grade level, move into Tier 2 of support through our PLC work. Teachers use a current running record to diagnose the deficit(s) for each struggling reader. They take this information to their grade level collaborative team and collectively evaluate the intervention needs of all the students and plan the best course of action for intervention. Interventions may include learning of prerequisite skills or small group instruction in a guided reading group format that strategically teaches the area of deficit for each learner. Students in this tier of support are progress monitored every 10 days through either mastery tests or running records. (There is a visual flow chart of this process under the resources tab.)

We also use the NWEA assessment three times a year in math and reading to monitor our students’ growth and achievement. Collaborative teams look collectively at grade level reports to identify the skills students need to fill gaps in learning. We also use this assessment tool to monitor achievement gaps of our subgroups – specifically economically disadvantaged and bottom 20%.

State assessment data comes in once a year, usually in the summer. We look at this data with all collaborative teams together and set goals and plans for our own learning and identify schoolwide achievement needs and school improvement action plans.

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

In our four years of PLC implementation, our intervention systems have grown and evolved dramatically. The first year, we identified a set WIN (What I Need) time for every team, every day in their daily schedule. It was a set block of time that we used when we needed to execute an intervention plan in response to a team’s CFA. Once we developed our Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum in math as well as ELA we realized there would be some weeks we needed time for ELA WIN and math WIN. We scheduled two blocks, a block for ELA intervention/enrichment and a block for math intervention/enrichment. We were also struggling to coordinate with a district RtI (Response to Intervention) system that was separate from the work of our professional learning community and identified students for RtI based on NWEA assessment results instead of mastery of the Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum. In year three of implementation we did a staff book study of Best Practices at Tier 1 Daily Differentiation for Effective Instruction by Gregory, Kaufeldt, and Mattos. This book validated our beliefs about PLCs and student learning and challenged us to advocate for best practices in how we have traditionally used Response to Intervention (RtI) in our school. A small team from our school attended a PD session through our local education agency on Multi-Tiered Support Systems (MTSS). This training was based on the book Simplifying Response to Intervention: Four Essential Guiding Principles by Buffum, Mattos, and Weber. This year we have applied our learning from these two books to bring together our PLC work and a previously disjointed RtI system.

Providing students with additional time and support, regardless of which Tier they may be identified on, is now a fluid part of our daily teaching and learning. Instead of two scheduled intervention/enrichment blocks, our collaborative teams now respond with intervention/enrichment plans as the need arises through constant monitoring of student learning by each collaborative team. This year, we added at part-time Literacy Coach that works with collaborative teams to help them develop their skill in diagnosing deficits and building intervention and monitoring plans for the students. The Literacy is available to meet with all collaborative teams to assist them in determining effective intervention plans.

To provide the time for WIN (Intervention/Extension) each collaborative team set up their schedule so their core subjects are taught at the same time of day. Our classrooms are self-contained, and teachers teach all subjects. Instruction is delivered in a Daily 5 or workshop model with short mini-lessons for the whole group followed by students having choices of authentic collaborative or independent work. It is during Daily 5 and workshop time that our teachers execute their interventions and extensions in their classrooms. Students no longer lose core instruction by being pulled out for remediation based on a school schedule. Instead, each collaborative team takes collective responsibility to ensure all students learn the Essential Learning targets, and when the students do not show this mastery, the team works together to discuss their theories about individual student learning, develop a plan of intervention with targeted instruction by the team, and execute their plan right away. No longer do we send our students to someone else out of our classrooms to get support. We have two Title 1 instructional aides that previously did the pull-out RtI. This year these aides work with all our PLC teams and come into the classrooms during the intervention times as additional support toward mastery of our Essential Learnings. Our Speech and Language Pathologist pushes in her speech services right into the classroom. She has embraced our Essential Learnings and reinforces these targets with her speech students during her speech work with them. Our special education teacher uses our Essential Learnings in his work with students in the Resource Room. As we look to the future, we want to develop opportunity to grow this support with more classroom push-in services.

A MTSS leadership team in school provides additional support to teachers in collaborative teams when they see a student regularly and consistently falls short of meeting the Essential Learning targets.

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

When we first began this journey, we knew we had a lot to learn and establish regular, frequent, and dedicated collaboration time. Each team had at least two times a week that their specials (for prep time release) were at the same time for the grade level. We all agreed that we would choose one of those weekly common preps (40 minutes) and use it for dedicated PLC work within our teams.

We then looked for creative ways to find more time to collaborate. Our school had been having weekly PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention & Supports) with our students that last about 40 minutes on Friday mornings. We decided that half of the teachers would stay with the children and teach lessons on positive behaviors at these assemblies, while the other half would spend another 40 minutes on dedicated PLC work. We alternate who stays with the children at assemblies and who is released for PLC work. A third way we find time to collaborate is through a leadership buddy partnership. An upper grade class and a lower grade class partner up once a week for a leadership lesson or for the big buddies to read to our little buddies. Each week either the upper grade teachers or lower grade teachers take on both classes for this 40 minute session releasing their partner to meet with their collaborative team. Using these three opportunities, we found at least 80 minutes a week that every team could collaborate that is in addition to any district identified release time for professional development.  

Having the time established we had to build shared knowledge of intentional, purposeful, dedicated PLC work. We have a one hour staff meeting every week. All school information was handled in memos, announcements, and email in order to preserve the hour for building shared knowledge of PLC work. Our principal, together with our PLC school leadership team, planned and led this learning. In our PLC room, we read countless articles, had book studies, and watched and dialogued about videos. Through this learning, we developed a common pedagogy about student learning and best practices. We worked together on how to become a high performing PLC in a common space, side by side, supporting each other when the journey got fuzzy. We developed into a community of learners with a common goal and a passion for doing right by our students. Through our learning and work, we have created or collected meaningful protocols, agreements on loose/tight expectations, and a relentless drive to make a difference in the learning of all our students.

Collaborative teams are structured by grade level. We have either two or three sections in each grade at our school. At-Risk kindergarten aides support kindergarten students and plan with our kindergarten collaborative team. Our two Title I aides support students in grades 1-5, and will join in their collaborative team meetings to plan when they are needed to assist in intervention plans. Our Literacy Coach works with all collaborative teams to plan specific intervention plans for our most struggling readers.

 Another process we embraced to improve student learning and support a collaborative culture is instructional rounds. We visit each other’s classrooms as a group, to look at student learning and best practice instructional strategies. After each visit, we debrief about our observations of learning and best practices in an effort to improve our own classroom practices. This process has reinforced and strengthened the initiatives that are important to us, especially our Professional Learning Communities. Going on rounds has created and nurtured a collective trust in each other, encouraged us to take risks, and taught us that it’s ok to fail. When we fail together, we have a great opportunity to learn and grow as a team.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Our highest priority SMART goal is to increase the number of students performing at or above grade level. In 2015, we had set our SMART goal at 75% of all students. We exceeded that in 2018 and were focused on achieving 80% of all students by 2020.  As you will see in the attached PLC achievement report, our students had a tremendous negative impact from the pandemic with school closing followed by a mix of virtual/hybrid in 2020-2021 with only 63% of all students at or above grade level as readers by June 2020.

Returning from the closure in 2020, we proactively revisited our guaranteed and viable curriculum and reduced the number of essential learning standards on math and reading to give staff more of a laser-like focus on fewer standards. However, virtual learning followed by strict cohorting restrictions created challenges to our collaborative teams and strategic student groupings. Looking at the charts for NWEA Reading and Math Student Growth Summary by Mean RIT (from the PLC achievement report), we saw that our students were growing but the percentage of students meeting the NWEA goals in math and reading (all students as well as our targeted subgroups) had dropped significantly. Our 2020-2021 performance data became our new post-pandemic current reality.

Returning to school in September 2021, our school faced a significant turnover of teachers. Additionally, our staff faced anxiety from the extended isolation which created yet another obstacle around returning to highly collaborative work (for adults and students). In the fall of 2021, we spent deliberate time unpacking our school’s mission, vision, values & commitments and establishing new goals related to our new current reality. We challenged and supported each other to move from isolation to high collaboration for both adult and student learners. We also invested in additional tier 3 reading interventionists in the district. The 2021-2022 school year seemed like a restart and recommitment. We are thrilled to report that we are back to seeing student gains related to our SMART goals of student reading level achievement (assessed by DRA2) and NWEA student growth in reading and math (reported by NWEA Student Growth Summary by Mean RIT). While it is great seeing these percentages rise, the big celebration came when we saw the lists of students in the 3rd tier of intervention move off of the list into needed only tier 1 or tier 1 & 2 support. 

The state assessment of Michigan (MSTEP) was not administered in 2020. In 2021 it was optional and less than 30% of our students took the test. We do not have valid comparative data for two years of MSTEP. All students were required to participate in the spring 2022 MSTEP test. Those scores will be reported in the next year's achievement data update. (See monroe-plc-state-accountability-data)

2016 Presented to MDE (Michigan Department of Education) State School Improvement Conference on Instructional Rounds

2015 Wayne County Presentation to Elementary Principals on Instructional Rounds

2013-2018 Welcomed school visits by approximately 10 areas school districts to observe Instructional Rounds in our school

2016 Wayne County Presentation to Elementary Principals on 21st Century Learning Environments

2016-2018 Welcomed school visits by approximately 3 areas school districts to observe 21st Century learning environments

2016 Wayne County Presentation to PBIS school teams of student-centered positive classroom and student management at Tiers 1, 2 and 3.

2018 District Blue and Gold Award for schoolwide PLC committment and work.