Old Mill Elementary (2018)

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

In order for Old Mill Elementary to achieve the goal of high levels of learning for all students, we had to embrace a PLC "Revival".  The PLC process was introduced in our district back in 2007 and initially the staff believed that we were "doing" PLC as we could check off various elements that identified a PLC.  Teams met every Monday and turned in meeting notes, students would go to different teachers at a set time each day based on their Dibels scores or reading levels and test scores were reported to the principal without any conversation about why they were turned in or what was done with the results. This was "doing" PLC.  Then in 2015, after completing the Critical Issues for Team Consideration survey from Learning By Doing at the request of the newly appointed administrator, the staff had to face the hard reality that we were not a highly effective professional learning community and our students were not all performing at high levels.  

From there life is a bit of a blur as things began to happen very quickly.  Our staff was already extremely talented and dedicated, therefore it wasn't a question of effort.  We knew we needed to work smarter, not harder.  Over the course of the next 3 years the staff would meet monthly to study and rediscover the value of each important piece of the PLC process, as well as the research and process behind the Pyramid of Response to Intervention. Our mission became Every Child, Every Day and each month we would study, implement and improve our instruction, data analysis, collaboration and response to intervention. With the help of choosing high leveraged common core standards, implementing various Hattie and Marzano instructional best practices in Tier 1, careful data analysis in order to provide targeted Tier 2 interventions and extensions, and coordinated Tier 3 interventions on literacy and math foundational skills that were explicitly taught and then integrated into the classroom through daily high volume exposers... teacher instructional quality began to vastly improve and in turn, so did student learning and achievement. 

By the end of the 3rd year of the PLC Revival, Old Mill Elementary had made 19% gains in ELA and 17% gains in Math on the Utah State Assessment.  Much of this success is attributed to the attention to detail in the PLC process and committing to quality Tier 1 instruction as grade level teams. (currently the school has 83% proficiency in Tier 1 instructional of Math and Reading as a school)  We went from 17th in the state in Reading to 6th and 18th in the state in Math to 5th, compared to schools similar to ours.  Our teachers and students have learned to embrace the growth mindset and that learning is not optional for adults and children alike.

2022 Update:

Now at the end of 7 years, our state reading scores have improved 31% and math 33%.  Even through the pandemic, our students continued to make growth. We were the top ranked school in Reading and Math (20-21) based on state test scores and schools most like us.

We attribute this growth and success to intentionally chasing and embracing a growth mindset as adults and students. We consistenly use data to inform our next steps and are always looking for ways to become more efficient and effective in our practices and proccesses.  It is a constant state of action research.  After each new achievement or goal completed, a new challenge presents itself and off we go again. 


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Our grade level teams have chosen 12-16 Essential Standards for Reading and Math each.  Teams track the CFS data for each essential standard on a weekly basis. Tier 1 Essential Standard instruction mastery and then overall standard mastery after Tier 2 instruction are closely monitored with a goal of 100% mastery by the end of the year.  We also utilize the Dibels assessment in combination with the Core Phonics Screener to identify specific skill deficits and either pre-teach these skills prior to unit instruction or re-teach these skills via Tier 3.  Each grade level collects data through their team One Note that not only works as a living document for weekly meetings, but also allows us to share data to the upcoming grade level the next year, therefore we are able to start Tier 2 instruction the first full week of the school year focusing on mastering the previous grade level's un-mastered essential standards. Another benefit of tracking data digitally is that teams can look at the previous years data for each Essential Standard and now "every" teacher can replicate that effective instructional practice in Tier 1.  

Additionally, we want to ensure that our students who are performing below grade level make the adequate amount of improvement in order to close the learning gap as quickly as possible.  Therefore, we have a progress monitoring team that assesses student foundational reading skill progress monthly.  We use this data to inform our next instructional decisions to help be as efficient and effective as possible.

We are currently in the process of developing our 3-Tiered Instructional System for Essential Behaviors as well, which will follow the same process as above, but focus on the social emotional aspect of student learning and success. 

2022 Update:                                                                                                 

We have created and added an Essential Behavior Tiered System to our RTI process and it has had a very positive impact. Student discipline and referrals have dropped drastically over the past 2 years, especially during unstructured time.

Providing explicit Tier 1 Instruction of the Essential Behaviors through monthly counselor lessons, ensures a guaranteed viable curriculum.  Also utilizing our Intervention Team to identify kids who are in need of additional support has allowed use to have a systematic approach to addressing this need. 

Students who need a "little" support are entered into our Tier 2 Intervention of weekly diagnositc lessons with our counselor to reteach and practice the behaviors they are struggling with.  There is specific criteria to get in and get out of the intervention.

The students identified as needing "significant" behavior interventions are entered into our Tier 3 Intervention, which meets weekly with our more highly trained mental health counselor, as well as meets daily with the principal to participate in a Check In and Check Out behavior tracking system. We are getting positive feedback from teachers, parents and students.

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

We have protected Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 time for Literacy and Math, planned in our master schedule for each grade level.  Special Edcuation, ELL and Gifted and Talented teachers, along with their aides, are assigned to each grade level to help provide additional time and support for grade level interventions and extensions.  ELL, Special Education and Gifted and Talented teachers also meet weekly with teams to look at Tier 3 student success data and use the data to create weekly plans of explicit instruction interventions and then classroom integration of those skills for daily practice and mastery. 

We also have instructional coaches that are assigned to each team.  Their success depends on the success of the teachers and students that they work with.  Each coach's whole purpose is to build the capacity of the teachers to build the capacity of learning for our children.  They work tirelessly to provide support, modeling, networking, peer observations, data analysis, PD and sometimes even a shoulder to cry on or some chocolate in emergencies:) They are completely invested in the team and their students and are constantly searching out resources of support.

2022 Update:

When we started this process we had 3-4 classes providing interventions and 1-2 providing extensions.  Now we have 3-4 classes providing extensions and only 1-2 needed for interventions.  As our teachers continue to grow and improve in their depth of understanding of the PLC process, so does their collaboration structures, instructional practices and student learning.  The learning gap is closing much faster and for the first time we had 99% of our students pass the end of year NWEA assessment in 2nd grade.  All means all isn't just something we say...we are truly approaching 100%.

The increased amount of students coming in to each grade level above grade level has created a unique challenge. Our teachers are finding that they are in need of guidance and are reaching out to their above grade level colleagues to be able to provide the needed extension instruction that our students require in order to ensure they too get at least a year's growth.  It isn't enough that our students are on grade level, every child deserves to be challenged to achieve at least a year's growth.  It has been fun to learn and grow together to address this new need in our building.

Our Tier 3 Interventions have been successful in filling the holes that students have in their foundational skills, but accuracy is not enough. These skills were not sticking and transferring. We need fluency and flexibility to improve to ensure the skills are truly mastered.  We knew that in order for that to happen we needed to provide guaranteed exposures of these foundational skills.  

As a result, we created what we call Tier 4...which is 10 minute daily exposures of identified skills that students are not transferring, with the goal of achieving fluency and mastery.  Under the direction of our Support Team, a process and criteria have been created for how students get in and get out of this intervention.   We are 3 months in and serving about 50 students school wide and beginning to see some encouraging results.  Not only are these students improving on their Dibels Progress Monitoring, but they are also improving their results on Essential Standard CFA's.  Students are mastering these skills and transferring them, which is allowing them to access and comprehend information that they have not been able to before. This year we are only addressing Reading, but plan to add Math next year.

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

Three years ago when we started the PLC Revival process, our overall Tier 1 mastery as a school was under 70%.  Teachers met weekly as a team, but during the week they worked behind closed doors with little interaction or conversation about the grade level as a whole.  It wasn't that the teachers didn't care or that they were not gifted in their craft, they simply did not have a system in place that allowed them to utilize their talents to the fullest in order to help all students.  We now are consistently close to 85% mastery of Tier 1 instruction as a whole school.  This has everything to do with extremly high performing collaborating teams who are committed to our Every Child, Every Day misison.  Success breeds success and when you implement the PLC and RTI processes as they should be done, it works!  The principal has said on many occasions that she believes that the Dufours themselves would be immensely impressed with the work that these teachers do each day in the name of "ALL means ALL".  They work as one unit and see the students as "our" kids, fully committed to each other's success.  It is evident in everything that they say and do.

2022 Update:

Every year we take all our new teachers to a PLC Conference with our principal and an instructional coach.  This has provided great support to our Team Leaders and coaches in helping to build understanding and shared vision.  Our principal also takes our Building Leadership Team to an out of town Solution Tree Summit or Workshop every year.  We choose where to go based on what our student data is telling us.  This helps deepen our understanding of various aspects of the PLC and RTI processes, as well as spend some much need time team building and collaborating with other grade levels and support staff.  Our PLC has transformed from individual grade level teams, to realizing that our entire staff are invested in helping all kids learn at high levels and are valuable resources.

2018 chosen as Solution Tree Model School