Festus Middle School
- School District: Festus R-VI
- School Address: 1717 West Main Street , Festus, MO 63028, US
- School Phone: 6369375417
- Principal: Joseph Willis
- Contact E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Web Address: https://www.festus.k12.mo.us/vnews/display.v/SEC/Middle%20School
- Number of Students: 476
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 36.13%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 0.2%
- Percent of Special Education: 6.72%
- White: 93.28%
- Black: 1.89%
- Hispanic: 0.42%
- Asian: 1.47%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 2.94%
- Other: 0%
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are and have been a foundational part of the Festus R-VI School District for over eighteen years. We did not participate in formal PLC training because we were really a pioneer in the implementation of the PLC process. Early in the process, Rick DuFour came to our district and trained our entire staff. During that time, there was a unified book study with Professional Learning Communities at Work by Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker. This inspired the staff to start the collaboration and exploring options for consistent and protected PLC time. One idea that became the cornerstone of the Festus R-VI School District PLC process was the implementation of the late start Wednesdays. During these days, classes start an hour later than usual so that teachers can meet in their different PLCs. These PLCs continue to meet weekly, usually in horizontal teams of grade levels and special areas. Occasionally, vertical meetings occur, especially in curricular conversations. Each week, the PLC facilitators develop agendas, share those agendas with fellow team members and the administration, and meet on Wednesday. These agendas are reflective of the four corollary questions of PLCs-
What do we want them to learn?
How do we know they learned it?
What do we do when they don’t?
What do we do when they do?
Administrators visit different PLCs each week and make sure that they see all PLCs regularly. Detailed minutes are collected by each PLC and are shared with the PLC team almost immediately after the PLC concludes. These minutes include attendance, the roles of various team members, and other pertinent information. These documents are shared and are many times referenced in later years as teams are working through issues and are trying to remember past decisions.
In the beginning, the Festus R-VI School District staff had no idea the journey they had set in motion for the future students and staff members, who would carry on the PLC vision. Even with the changes in administration, teachers, and students; the PLC culture has continued to thrive and drive every process throughout each building. At the state level, the Festus R-VI School District has been recognized for their efforts and been awarded multiple Exemplary PLC Model School honors. The PLC process is not something we do, it is who we are.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
In our PLC, we are constantly focusing on the Four Guiding PLC Questions:
1) What do we want students to learn?
2) How will we know when they have learned it?
3) How will we respond when they do not get it?
4) How will we respond when they already know it?
These questions are the focus that leads us to continue to reflect on whether our students are learning using assessments and collected data. Collaboration is the key to creating and then evaluating continuous formative assessments to be used within each PLC. Collaboration begins with a viable curriculum that is a living document that all teachers within the PLC have access to give input in each Unit of Study. These Units are discussed and even edited based on feedback on a consistent basis and then revised as a whole on a rotation schedule all within the PLC. This process always begins with the PLC deciding which standards are essential for our students. Our PLC looks at assessment data, state standards, and core skills that students will need in order to be successful in the future when determining essential standards. Since moving to a new one-to-one environment this year these have evolved and continue to evolve into new ways of measuring students knowledge, but now more often using instant feedback models. These include multiple strategies such as exit tickets that were used in the past to virtual learning system formats built within our PLCs that lead students down different learning paths based on pre-assessments and continuous assessment data collected within the platform. The pre-assessments and formative assessments do not have a set model but do follow a common process of deciding first what we want the students to know, which aligns to our Units of Study in our curriculum. Then we move to how will we know when they have learned it and design the formative based on this within the PLC. As we continue to grow in these new assessments on student devices, the PLCs conversations continue to evaluate data on the effectiveness and accuracy of measuring what we want our assessments to measure. Our data allows us to focus on the group and the effectiveness of our instruction and assessments as a whole, but also allows our PLCs to focus on each student as an individual. We are able to almost instantly compare data within the PLC on different standards as the PLCs not only have time every Wed. morning, but also share a common plan time daily where data can be discussed on the effectiveness of instruction based on these assessments now that they have results more quickly.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
The main focus of a PLC has to be student learning. The focus is not just on growth in our instruction and assessment for the large group of students. Rather, we focus on each student’s learning with the understanding that not every student learns in the same way or at the same pace. Processes are designed and implemented through the PLC in order to provide interventions for students who need more support or extra time learning. In essence, this is how we address question 3: How do we respond when students do not learn the information?
Our school has implemented multiple interventions to address various student needs such as: skill, student will, and social-emotional needs. Interventions have been developed from needs identified through discussions in PLC. Our PAWS program provides all students with 22 minutes daily. This allows students to receive support from any teacher during the school day. During PAWS, students are assigned to one teacher who checks their progress daily using missing assignment reports. The teacher is able to build a relationship as the first point of contact should the student be struggling in any way. Our leadership team has implemented, building-wide, model guidance PAWS lessons to teach concepts that also hinder learning or provide a basic skill needed to succeed in the classroom such as basic computer skills or digital citizenship so that a student's past experience with technology does not hinder them reaching their learning goals.
Most recently our Math PLCs added a new intervention during PAWS for students below grade level on the star assessment, that includes assigned support time to work on basic math skills outside of their scheduled normal math course. Students are also divided based on assessments within a unit to prepare for summative assessments or to reteach an unmastered skill from a summative assessment. An example of this would be our Science PLCs which will assess student mastery and then divide students among the PLC based on their level of mastery. This is designed to implement reteaching and extension activities. Students needing support in multiple areas are assigned to an “Academic Success” classroom to receive support in multiple areas during the school day.
In addition, we provide tutoring after school, which includes student transportation. This expanded to include mandatory tutoring for students who struggle with the "will" to achieve the desired outcomes. Teachers are compensated to stay with students during this extended time. The focus is always student learning.
Our collaborative teams are constantly looking for ways to support student needs that may impact learning. If the intervention needed is outside of curricular needs, we have implemented programs such as a truancy court program, which is a PLC that includes a local judge, juvenile officer, family services representative, and several school representatives to meet with a student and parent to work together to support the student with whatever needs they have that are hindering their learning, whether it be not coming to school, or not having outside needs met.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
The emphasis that is put on the PLC is evident in our school as during all steps of the hiring process willingness to collaborate and experience with PLCs is in every step of the process from the application process to interview questions. Once someone is then hired as a new staff member, the entire first day of employment for a new teaches is spent in professional development on only the PLC process and the importance of it at our school.
Structurally, teachers are organized into collaborative teams by the common courses they teach. The teams work interdependently on common goals that are decided on within the PLC using data from formative and summative assessments as well as curricular standards. PLC meetings each have agendas to stay focused on the 4 main questions of a PLC.
What do we want students to learn?
How will we know when they have learned it?
How will we respond when they do not get it?
How will we respond when they already know it?
These teams are given an hour weekly during their contracted time to meet within their PLCs. This occurs during our late start Wednesdays, where our school starts an hour late. This PLC time is protected and used only for PLC goals and data review. These teams are also given a common plan time daily within their schedule to plan, review formative data, amend learning objectives daily based on student learning that is measured to meet the needs of our students as those needs change.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
In Missouri our state assessment has changed multiple times over the last few years, putting an even bigger emphasis on local assessments to ensure student learning. These local assessments are designed and monitored through data within our PLCs, making the PLC process even more important in ensuring our students are learning. We have seen the cut-off scores change and the format change nearly every year. For this reason, the best way to interpret student growth using state data is by looking at MPI growth when compared to state averages. The state of Missouri categorizes tested students into four achievement levels. Each achievement level is then assigned a point value. The MPI is calculated by multiplying the number of students at each level by the point value and then divided by the total number of students. Until our state's testing system is stabilized, we intend to use MPI growth as an indicator of the progress that we are making as a school because it is more consistent and reliable from year to year.
Our state assessments consistently rank at the top not only for our county but often rank high across the state. We are also measured by Super-Subgroup achievement. The Super-Subgroup consists of all subgroups including those who often score lower on standardized test scores. Our school’s largest percentage of students to fall into this category include IEP students and students receiving free or reduced lunch. Although in many areas our Super-Subgroup often outperforms whole student population scores from districts around the county and state, we recognize the need to always improve these areas. PLC time consists of a focus on tracking achievement and intervening early when necessary. Rather than wait for the outcome to surprise us, we are attempting to be proactive in recognizing gaps.
Gold Star School 1999
Designated ‘Missouri’s Outstanding Rural School District’ by MARE 2013
AdvancEd Accredited 2012 and 2017
Missouri DESE Exemplary PLC School 2013
Sustaining Exemplary PLC School 2018
St. Louis Post Dispatch Top Workplace 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017
Consistently ranks among the top of Jefferson County, MO in all MAP tested areas
Six-time Jefferson County Math Champions
Gifted Ed/Quest Students advanced to State, Nationals, and Globals for Destination Imagination - 2016 and 2017