Spradling Elementary

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

Built Shared Understanding and Commitment:

In 2014, the building principal came to the understanding that 50% of Spradling Elementary students were not reading on grade level. Everyone in the building was working very hard with various programs, but it was not the right work. In an attempt to raise student achievement and get consistency in instruction, the Spradling Leadership Team attended a PLC At Work Institute in Tulsa, OK; this was our first exposure to the process. That year we implemented the PLC process with as much rigor as our limited understanding allowed. Over the next two years, we continued to send staff to PLC Conferences, which increased our understanding and implementation of the process. In August of 2017, we were one of ten schools/districts chosen for the Arkansas Department of Education PLC Pilot in conjunction with Solution Tree. In the last three years, we have had continuous improvement in the areas of instruction, RTI, assessment, special education, and standards based grading. Additionally, during the 2018-2019 school year, our special education resource teacher began to join team meetings, co-plan, and provide support in the general education classroom. We began to transform our SPED system. Through this process, we no longer pull resource students out of grade-level instruction; they are supported by both the special education and general education teacher. Additionally, self-contained students are integrated back into general education classes for core instruction in Literacy and Math. We have also started the process of changing the IEPs to mimic the essential standards that are taught in the general education classroom.  Through this process, we have seen gains in student achievement and behavior. In 2019, we had 100% of the self-contained students make gains on interim assessments. This process is an example of how we live our mission.  

A Culture of Continuous Improvement:

At Spradling, our mission is to meet every child’s needs, every day, whatever it takes to help them achieve a better future. This mission drives our work. We are committed to not only meeting their academic needs, but their emotional and social needs as well. After developing a school mission, students were asked what kind of school they envisioned for themselves. Through this process, we formulated a school vision that is through a student’s eyes. Before each guiding coalition meeting, we revisit our mission. During school wide assemblies, the school mission and vision are read aloud by everyone. Collective commitments are agreed upon behaviors that were created by the staff to guide the work that we do.

To facilitate a culture of continuous improvement, our leadership team has evolved into a true Guiding Coalition that now meets twice monthly. The primary purpose of this group is to keep the PLC process moving forward. The meetings are focused on curriculum and instruction. Alternating meetings are focused on assessments, proficiency levels, and DOK levels. We are also a learning group. As an example, we had two book studies to further our knowledge, explored research to answer team questions, and brought team created assessments to learn from each other and improve our practices.  We have also taken the role of holding all team members accountable for the process. Since there is a representative from each grade level on the Guiding Coalition, imperative information is brought back and shared with the rest of the team. Often the Guiding Coalition works to address challenges and obtains feedback from the team members to assist in resolving the challenges. Additionally, the agenda that is created and followed, as well as decisions that are made, are sent out to all school personnel.

Grade level teams are using data from common assessments to improve instructional practices. The teams house all agendas, which are accessible to the entire staff, in the PLC Google Drive. This drive is where all of our process work is documented. Within the drive, unit plans, assessments, and essential standards are all housed. It has become a valuable resource for all staff members, as everyone has access to everything. Recognizing the impact and importance of responding to student data, Spradling teachers developed an electronic system called Spradling Teams Assessment Reporting System (STARS). STARS utilizes the data protocol that is adapted from Solution Tree to guide the teams through the four critical questions of learning (see Evidence 17 - STARS System). The report quickly gives teachers information on which students are proficient, close, or in need of support on the essential standards. This tool organizes our work and helps with accountability. Additionally, parent-friendly learning targets have been included to provide clarity to parents about what exactly their child is mastering. 

In 2018-2019, RTI became our focus. In creating a strong intervention system, we also saw the need for an Intervention Team. This team meets monthly and is comprised of district experts in the content areas, SPED and behavior experts, and our Spradling support staff. With the RTI system in place, and the added component of the Intervention Team, only two students have been added to SPED in the last three years and no students have been retained. 

All professional development has been geared toward school deficits within the PLC process. This has strengthened our weak areas and given us direction while being deep in the work. Over the last three years, the staff has attended more than ten national Solution Tree Conferences with at least 30 conference slots used. We have also contracted Solution Tree with four additional days that have targeted our new hires and SPED staff.

Over the last six years, much knowledge has been gained; however, only in the last three years have we implemented the process with fidelity.  Our staff has been transformed, as well as the principal’s standard mode of operation. We have all adopted a growth-mindset and we are highly collaborative with no academic decisions being made in isolation. Our process is sustainable because there are so many people committed to the process. We are not the same educators we were before we started this process. We never want to work outside of the process again.

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

In order to set up our guaranteed and viable curriculum, the Spradling staff met in grade level teams to determine essential standards following the R.E.A.L. criteria (readiness, endurance, assessed, and leverage). Using templates provided by Solution Tree, teams worked together to unpack the essentials into learning targets and develop pacing guides. Teacher teams determined what proficiency looked like and developed proficiency scales for each standard. Teachers used the proficiency scales to establish grading criteria for common formative and common summative assessments. In the summer of 2019, we met vertically to align the progression of essential standards. This became a time for reflecting and revising our choices for essential standards. For the 2019-2020 school year, we set aside sacred time for Tier 1 where no students can be pulled from that core instruction. We felt this was essential in order for ALL students to receive Tier 1 instruction without interruptions. Teams also set aside a common Tier 2 time where teachers share students in order to provide intervention and extension to students. 

Each week, grade level teams are given eighty minutes of collaborative time to meet for planning units, creating common formative and summative assessments; and discussing data, interventions, and extensions. Teams consist of grade level teachers, elementary specialists, and special education teachers.  While creating unit plans, teachers first create their common summative assessments. Then teachers create common formative assessments. Teachers use the formative assessment data to determine which students need help with the learning targets and to drive instruction. After administering the summative assessment and analyzing the results, teachers place students in groups based on what help is needed. Teachers also share students for Tier 2 groups so that students are receiving intervention from the teacher who had the better results. In the beginning of the process, this was a hard task to accomplish because teachers were vulnerable and not used to sharing this type of data. Over the last three years, teachers are sharing strategies and resources to make each other stronger

On a daily basis, teachers use many forms of quick checks, such as thumbs up/thumbs down, whiteboards, or exit tickets. The quick checks give teachers an opportunity to meet students’ needs quickly and help prevent gaps in learning. On top of monitoring academic progress, teachers also monitor behavioral progress using Spradling’s Social Behavior Expectations (see Evidence 07 - Social Behavior Expectations). Students who are having difficulty are referred to our counselor to be included in her small groups.

We also have monitoring schoolwide. We have quarterly data meetings for all grades K-6. During these meetings, teams review SMART goals that were created at the beginning of the year and determine how close teams are to meeting yearly goals. Teachers are given time to make a plan on how to achieve their team’s end of year SMART goals. Teams are not the only ones setting goals. Students are also setting goals based on how they performed on common summative assessments. Students use their formative assessments to guide how close they are to meeting their goal and to determine if the steps to reach the goal need to be adjusted.

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

In 2018, Spradling’s focus was on creating a strong system of intervention. We continuously refine our schedule in order to ensure that time is embedded into the school day for interventions, extensions, and remediation. (See Evidence 18 - Tier II Interventions Schedule).

Teachers restructured schedules to include two daily sacred times that allow for a guaranteed Tier 1 instruction; no student can be pulled out of the classroom at that time. Teams use the results of Common Formative Assessments (CFAs) to provide small-group support during the initial unit of instruction for students requiring extra time. Tier 2 was inserted into grade level schedules at times when students within the same grade level could be shared to have intervention on targets, as data suggested from Common Summative Assessments (CSA). This was a mind shift for some of the seasoned teachers that had not previously shared the responsibility of students outside of their classroom. 

Staff members who were once designated as interventionists were reassigned as Tier 3 remediationists. The remediationists were charged with meeting the needs of students who were more than a year and a half behind on foundational skills. These students were given screeners for placement in groups and progress monitored as the remediation progressed. This system was refined many times for continuous improvement. Initially, there were more students in need of Tier 3 than we had staff capacity to handle. We hired a third person to help support these students so that we could ensure that everyone who qualified for Tier 3 supports, received services. 

Soon we realized that new students enrolled in our school throughout the year might “fall through the cracks” due to the lack of student history and it could be a considerable amount of time before the student received remediation if they needed it. The guiding coalition developed a procedure to have a guaranteed timely look at the student’s skill level and response for students who require additional support for foundational skills. (Evidence 19 - RTI Referral Process)

We have monthly Spradling Intervention Team meetings where Spradling support staff meet with district specialists to get help for students who are failing in Tier 3. We have seen significant improvement in students who would otherwise fall between the cracks. It has also helped us to have fewer students referred to Special Education.

 

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

At Spradling Elementary, no teacher is allowed to work in isolation nor do we feel the desire to ever work alone because we understand the importance of collaboration. Unfortunately, this was not always the norm.  

At the beginning of our PLC journey, our 5th and 6th-grade teams were isolated because of departmentalization. Spradling saw that this would not support the needs of 5th and 6th-grade students and teachers. In order to allow collaboration, the teams split and reconfigured based on content areas. Now, we have a 5th/6th Math and Science grade level team and a 5th/6th ELA and Social Studies team. Now, these teams have a partner to unpack essential standards, build units, create assessments, discuss results, and determine intervention and extension needs.

Each teacher is part of a grade-level collaborative team to support the needs of our students. Initially, teams met once a week for forty minutes to conduct formal meetings. The following year we went to seventy minutes for meetings. In the 2019-2020 school year, we went to eighty minutes of protected time.

Through the inclusion of special education teachers into grade-level teams, teachers are learning from each other. Special education teachers are building their knowledge of grade-level essential standards and general education teachers are increasing their capacity to differentiate and meet the needs of students with special needs. Teachers also are learning from each other as they analyze data from common assessments. When one teacher is showing success on a particular learning target, teams explore the strategies used to improve their own practices. 

During the 2019-2020 school year, the specialist team (art, music, physical education and library teachers) identified essential standards for each of their content areas. They have started with the kindergarten standards and will continue to learn and build on the PLC process. As a result of their work, they now better understand each other’s content areas and are a source of support.

The four critical questions, Spradling’s Mission and Vision, and the teams’ norms drive the PLC process. Each grade level team has created SMART goals concerning what they want to achieve as a team in regard to high-stakes testing and unit plans. These SMART goals are curated from discussions among team members not only horizontally across grade-level team members, but vertically across different grade levels. Additionally, the SMART goals were formed based upon student data from common summative assessments as well as the previous year’s performance on high-stakes state testing. The goals keep teams focused on improved student learning. As teams work through the 4 critical questions, they use the results of common assessments to group and regroup students, sharing students between teachers and sometimes between grade levels. Data is no longer used punitively to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers, but to improve teaching practices and to guide instructional decisions. Teachers no longer are working in isolation but are truly interdependent, relying on each other to meet their students’ needs through their collective learning.

 
  • Selected as one of only three schools to be highlighted in the Solution Tree/ Arkansas Department of Education's Documentary about the Arkansas PLC Pilot.
  • Selected as the only school in the state that has a pilot with Higher Education, ADE and FSPS in an Apprenticeship Program for teacher preparation.
  • Nine staff members presented to other district teachers and administrators about the PLC Process in professional development in the summer of 2019.
  • Other schools in the state have been to Spradling to observe the PLC Process in action.
  • Principal received the Above and Beyond Service Award by the Arkansas Association of Elementary School Principals. 
  • Principal was Administrator of the Year for Fort Smith Public Schools for two consecutive years, 2017 and 2018.
  • Received over $42,000 from the State of Arkansas for growth in scores in 2018. 
  • There are currently six staff members who have graduate degrees and five more have started advanced degrees since beginning the process. 
  • One National Board Certified Teacher.
  • Our LEGO/ Robotics Team was the only Ft Smith elementary school to win an award at the state competition. Spradling's team received the Rookie All Star Award. 
  • Principal was a presenter at the 2020 ACT Summit.
  • Principal serves on the Teacher Advisory Council and for the Transition to the College of Education Committee for University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. 

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