Hawthorne Elementary School (2022)

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

The current principal of Hawthorne Elementary School arrived in 2013-2014. He brought with him training and experience implementing the PLC at Work process as a school wide foundation from another school district. For the 13-14 and 14-15 school year we really focused on school climate structures and tier one core instruction best practices. The focus on school climate, tier one, built common language, student expectations, and school wide practices/procedures that weren’t directly tied to classroom instruction. That helped the building principal build trust with staff and between staff, as they saw the power of school wide school climate practices to reduce behavioral referrals and allow more teacher time for instruction.

Then, beginning in the 15-16 school year, we began to roll out formal implementation of the PLC at Work process and our journey toward establishing our school as a PLC. During staff meeting time we framed discussions around the four essential questions. Following the winter benchmark assessment we gave collaborative teacher teams time to unpack their data using a data analysis protocol that took a look at both achievement and growth in the areas of reading and math. The protocol was based on the four essential questions and helped teacher teams begin to have focused data conversations that would lead to changes and adjustments in instructional practices and MTSS groups. We then adjusted school wide MTSS resource allocation to fit our mid-year data picture. This created a lot of buy in from staff as the targeted needs discovered in their facilitated collaborative team discussions resulted in resource allocation adjustments to target school wide and grade level specific needs. During the 15-16 school year a district consensus process was initiated to discuss system professional learning communities in the district. The end result was disappointing, as although there was consensus that the PLC at Work processes were important and an absolute best practice, the district could not fund the additional prep time needed to implement them district wide. It was mandated that any collaborative teacher team expectations would need to be done as a site-based model, and could not be done during existing teacher prep time.

For the 16-17 school year our school leadership team built a master schedule that included our counselor delivering a 45 minute guidance/school climate lesson in every classroom, every week. That additional “prep time” allowed for three hours per teacher team per month that could be devoted and administratively directed to collaborative teacher team meetings. The focus for the first half of the year was to build common understanding and walk teacher teams through the important and essential components of the PLC at Work Process, both from the school wide perspective and the individual team side of things. We purchased In Praise of American Educators, by Rick Dufour as a school wide book study to gain a common foundation and language. September collaborative meeting time was spent reading and responding to prompts from the book. October staff meeting time was spent digging into the four pillars of mission, vision, collective commitments, and goals. By November the book study was complete and we used a scaffolded roll out (attached) to have teacher collaborative teacher teams begin to "do the do" of the essential work. That scaffolded process included the following seven tasks, each with supporting documents/samples and facilitation as needed:

  1. Establish team norms activity

  2. Establish team logistics (dates/times/locations)

  3. Review fall data - set SMART goal/s

  4. Establish google documentation plan

  5. Build common formative assessment/s

  6. Analyze student common assessment data using protocol

  7. Prepare to share celebrations and challenges at staff meetings

By the 2017-2018 school year we are able to hit the ground running with full functioning collaborative teams at each grade level, and a school wide understanding of how the components work together to result in practices and culture aligned with the PLC at Work process. We ensured that each grade level collaborative team also included staff from our MTSS/SPED team. That allowed the MTSS/SPED team that meets weekly to have a working knowledge of what is churning within each collaborative team. The expectation of 3 hours per month remained and all collaborative team meetings are scheduled via a common google calendar. Additionally, all collaborative teams use google tools to track and share what they are talking about and working on. Those tools are all based on the four essential questions and result in cyclical conversations and recurring cycles of collective inquiry. Staff meetings continued to be a time where we would share celebrations and challenges from collaborative teacher teams. Additionally, we came to agreement on a measurement tool, selected from several options, to help gauge where each collaborative teacher team is at on their journey. That tool, Evolutionary Checklist for PLC Teams, was completed by each team in the spring and the results shared will guide future action plans, professional development, and team specific facilitation needs for 2018-2019.


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

The implementation of collaborative teacher teams and school wide structures, culture and processes consistent with PLC’s at Work has allowed for timely monitoring of student learning. From a grade level perspective the use of pre-assessments, particularly in the area of math, has allowed grade level teams, via their focused collaborative meetings, time and a structure to actually respond to the pre-assessment data. They are able to discuss and anticipate student misconceptions before the unit ever begins, as well as have a handle on holes that will likely need to be filled via the MTSS intervention model. Finally, the pre-assessment data discussions in team meetings has pushed our teams to take into account students who already have proficiency with unit goals/benchmarks, and created robust conversations on how to extend learning for those kids.

The cyclical structure of the collaborative team meetings has also ensured that common assessments are delivered, and then analyzed within each grade level team in a timely manner. Google documentation tools for our teams have built in the accountability to ensure that the assessments are given on time, data is brought to the meetings to discuss on a set date, and they ensure that data analysis conversations actually lead to instructional changes.   


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

We have done a variety of things to braid our PLC at Work process within our MTSS, multi-tiered systems of support (see MTSS Handbook Attached). That braiding of those two constructs has become just how we do business in our school. First, we intentionally have "blurred" the lines of the resources available in our building. For example, we lump all of our instructional paraprofessional staff together (special education funded, general education funded, grant funded, etc.) and allocate those resources based on student need. We use the concept of "circle thinking" in that resource allocation. This process involves ensuring IEP needs are met, followed by 504 needs, followed by students on specific and robust MTSS plans, followed by all other general education students needing intervention or enrichment.

Second, we have clearly articulated for our teams who is responsible for what in our model. For example, our grade level collaborative teacher teams are responsible for both tier one and tier two academic interventions for students who do not yet have core grade level academic skills. Teacher teams use the resources allocated to them flexibly to best meet the needs of their students. Conversely, we don't expect teacher collaborative teams to take on the sole responsibility of planning for students who significantly struggle socially, emotionally, or behaviorally. We wrap a school-wide team of supports around those students and the school wide team manages the plans and interventions for those students.

Third, we use spring data and early fall benchmark data to build an intervention schedule that is directly tied to student need. We make minor tweaks along the way to that intervention schedule, and then spend the time mid-year to completely revamp the schedule based on our data picture mid-year. Time is built into each grade level schedule to provide intervention/extension opportunities in both English Language Arts and Math. Those blocks of time are “flooded” with support staff to create flexible groups that can laser intervention or extensions, directly tied to core curricular standards, in a timely and responsive fashion. In addition to the flooded MTSS blocks in the schedule we strategically use adult resources to flood some of our core instructional blocks to ensure “first best instruction” for students who may struggle with core content. That push-in collaborative model creates a teacher to student ratio conducive to providing the accommodations and scaffolding some of our kids need to maximize and benefit from core instruction.

Additionally, we use school-wide resources to target social emotional learning at the tier one, two, and three levels. Our school guidance counselor is used as a fourth enrichment specialist (in addition to HE, music and library) in the building to provide weekly guidance lessons tied to tier one social emotional learning goals. That fourth enrichment specialist ensures access to solid tier one social emotional learning, but also creates the prep time additions that allow collaborative teachers teams to meet. Beyond the tier one social emotional learning we also use school wide behavior data and SEL assessment data to target specific students for tier 2 and tier 3 SEL interventions. We use our school counselor, principal, school psychologist, and mental health team to provide a variety of targeted SEL MTSS supports.

Finally, we have ensured that all of our school wide teams and processes are done through a trauma-lens. We understand the impact of complex trauma on learning and partner with our families to delicately listen to their stories with empathy, and then use that knowledge of significant life events as we build programming and staff relationships with those students and families. We have worked hard to build a culture that moves away from questions like, “What is wrong with this student?” to questions such as, “I wonder what has happened to this student?” Those efforts have helped our staff shift their lens, identify what they bring to the equation, and ensure that they are taking efforts to manage self-care.


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

We learned early on in our school-wide PLC journey that the people part of the process is the messiest, and must be proactively managed and supported. We have spent time in staff PD sessions discussing and working on norms, taking stock of our individual and teacher team personality styles, discussing topics such as vulnerability, shame and guilt that are not often part of school faculty discussions, problem solving conflicts and providing facilitation as needed for groups needing support. More recently, as we are heavily digging in to trauma-invested practices, we are really paying attention to mindfulness, and having the adults "chase the why" when they are triggered by a student or a colleague. We have also spent a great deal of time building and streamlining the documentation and systems involved with our school wide model to focus conversations on the "right work" and ensure felt-safety for all involved as they know what is expected.

Our collaborative teacher teams are supported by a master schedule that builds in common instructional blocks and common planning periods K-5 on a daily basis. Our collaborative teacher teams work together to define their calendar for common collaborative meetings. The expectation that has been created and embraced is three, one-hour meetings per month. In addition some collaborative teams go above and beyond that expectation and meet more frequently during their individual teacher planning time. We push in school wide intervention staff (intervention teachers, SPED teachers) for one or more meetings per month when the agenda is tied to analysis and response to recent assessment data. The building principal serves as a coach/facilitator for collaborative teams that are getting stuck, needs help problem solving, or are struggling with interpersonal concerns. Teams have built trust with the building principal where she is sought out as a resource in continuous improvement efforts.  

Additionally, we have used our evaluation system, based upon the Danielson model to build teacher capacity. Each certified staff member works through an annual goal setting process, directly tied to the teacher evaluation self-assessment, to select a student learning goal/s and associated professional practice goal/s. Ongoing formative administrative walkthroughs and formal teacher evaluation feedback is then designed to support teachers in meeting their goals. Important elements and skills necessary for effective collaborative teams are built into our teacher evaluation rubric (collaboration, assessment for learning, standards-based instruction, student feedback, data analysis, student problem solving, etc.)


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

The Hawthorne School data available that has a basis of comparison to other districts in the state is the statewide proficiency assessment (SmarterBalanced - SBAC). That data spreadsheet is attached clearly showing positive data trends in increasing the number of students who are proficient or advanced over a three year period. Note: There is no data for this assessment from the 2019-2020 school year, as students were in remote learning due to school closures.

You may note an asterik (*) on data that was masked to protect the identity of students, as per state and board policy, based on the following criteria: Fewer than 10 students were reported in the category. 

Montana Governor's Award for the Arts 2005, Service to the Arts

Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network, Creative Ticket School of Excellence Award, 2004-2005

Named as one of top five schools in the nation for exemplary arts integration programs by the Boyer Center, 2002

Listed as an exemplary school for arts integration by Harvard Graduate School Project Zero, 1998

Selected as Model School for Arts Integration by the Montana Arts Council, 1991

School principal awarded 2015 Montana Office of Public Instruction Regional Leadership Award at the Special Education Conference.