Deretchin Elementary

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

At Deretchin, our journey towards becoming an effective Professional Learning Community began in 2012 after our principal attended a Solution Tree workshop. Our staff was introduced to the book Learning By Doing, and a team of teacher leaders participated in a book study over the summer.

Our first steps in the process were to create a shared mission and develop a master schedule that allowed for additional time and support for student learning during the school day. Once we had some simple structures in place, we were able to clearly identify our strengths and struggles. We learned how to create and use common formative assessments to track student learning and use our intervention time more effectively. We also learned the value of collaboration amongst teachers and we yearned to maximize our time spent together as colleagues during the school day.

Each year, our staff has worked collaboratively to build a shared understanding and increase our effectiveness as educators. In the summer of 2017, twenty members of our staff attended a three day PLC at Work Institute. This team of teacher leaders worked throughout the following school year to share what was learned with the rest of the staff through monthly teacher led faculty meetings. This was so beneficial to building our capacity as a PLC that the following summer, we sent an additional team of twenty-five teachers to attend the PLC at Work Institute as well.

At this point, over half of our staff has been able to learn about the PLC process firsthand from Solution Tree experts. Attending these institutes has been the biggest factor in building a shared understanding and collectively committing to the work we do as educators. As a result, our staff now collaborates to make any decisions that affect student learning. We consistently evaluate our effectiveness and make adjustments as needed.

Currently, our master schedule (which was developed through a major collaborative effort involving staff members from all areas of the school), includes two features that are crucial to our continued success as a PLC. The first important piece is that it allows for all classroom teachers to have 80 minutes of collaboration time each day. Teams can be found collaborating and planning together several times throughout a given week, but we always designate Wednesdays as sacred collaborative team planning days. On Wednesdays, each team spends the full 80 minutes working together to answer the four critical questions – What do we want our students to learn? How will we know when they have learned it? How will we respond if they are struggling? How will we respond if they already know it? To address these questions, teams unpack standards, write common assessments, evaluate student learning data, and plan for student interventions and extensions.

As we have learned together and grown as educators, our trust in each other has strengthened. Walk into any team's collaboration time at Deretchin and you will find teachers comparing their assessment data and asking each other what instructional strategies they used to yield the most positive results. We have truly learned to check our egos at the door and use our time together to learn and grow as educators so that we can ensure learning for all of our students. 

The second crucial aspect of our master schedule is that each day includes a 30 minute campus-wide intervention and extension block. During this time, all new instruction pauses and every student participates in an activity that is tailored to his/her academic needs. Students who are in need of intervention receive instruction from a teacher whose instructional strategies were proven successful through student learning data, and students who have mastered essential skills participate in extension activities. In order to keep intervention groups as small and targeted as possible, we utilize the skills of almost all of our support staff – P.E. and Fine Arts teachers, our librarian, instructional aides, our technology teacher, instructional coach, and even our nurse’s aide all facilitate student activities during this time.

Doing what's best for our students is the driving force behind everything we do at Deretchin. We have grown so much in our ability to collaborate and make decisions, but sometimes we still get stuck. It is very common in these moments for one of our teachers to refocus our attention on our mission - learning for all. This is the goal that keeps us working together, learning together, and growing together day after day, year after year!

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

One of the struggles all educators face, especially in Texas, is the overwhelming volume of standards our students must learn. In our PLC journey, we have learned the importance of prioritizing standards to ensure all students are reaching the same level of mastery, regardless of class placement. In Texas, some of this work is done for us at the state level. The list of standards for each grade level and content area is categorized at the state level into one of three categories: Readiness Standards, Supporting Standards, and Process Standards. Readiness Standards are expected to be taught to a level of student mastery and are assessed as such on our state assessment. Supporting Standards are intended to either scaffold a skill that will be mastered in a later grade level, or build on a skill that was mastered previously. Process Standards are woven throughout as skills necessary to master content standards.

Prioritizing content standards further for tier one classroom instruction while still meeting the accountability criteria set by the state is a challenge. However, in our first few years on this journey, we found ourselves often scattered when planning lessons and creating groups for interventions. Our teams of teachers would look at recent assessment data and find their intervention focus bouncing from standard to standard each week.

It is in relation to our intervention time that we have found the most value in prioritizing our content standards. At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, each team of teachers worked together to make a list of the standards they felt were most important for students to master at their grade level. Once each list was created, it was revised using input from the teachers who teach the same content at one grade level above and below. The result was a list of “Promise Standards” for each content area – standards that we promise to reteach and intervene on until all students at that grade level have achieved mastery. This provides our teams of teachers with more focus as they analyze their assessment data and plan for future intervention and instruction.

To monitor student learning, teachers collaborate as grade level and content area teams to create common formative and summative assessments. Sometimes, these assessments are traditional paper and pencil tests that look similar to parts of state assessments, but as our campus has grown as a Professional Learning Community, our teachers have become more creative and adventurous with the types of assessments they use to collect information. Several teams create proficiency scales using the Marzano model to calibrate their perceptions of proficiency levels and use them to assess students during small group instruction in class.

Our teachers use these assessments as well as formal district and state assessments to set goals as teacher teams and as a campus. We value the goal setting process and feel it is important to facilitate goal setting with students, which we know is strongly supported by John Hattie’s research as an effective instructional practice. Students in all grades use their own assessment data to set and adjust individual goals and track their progress towards success. The formats students use to track their learning varies greatly from kindergarten through 6th grade, but we have found that students at each level benefit substantially from this practice.

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

One of the first steps we made as a campus in our PLC journey was to create time in our instructional day for a campus-wide intervention and enrichment block. Over the years, we have adjusted this part of our schedule to fine tune the duration, time of day, and logistical methods for making it work, but we have consistently held to the importance of providing additional time and support for student learning during the school day.

Currently, our intervention and extension block is 30 minutes long, five days a week. During this time, all support staff (aides, P.E. and Fine Arts teachers, and all instructional support professionals) partner with teams to help facilitate activities with the goal of keeping intervention groups as small and targeted as possible.

The grouping of students is flexible and based on student learning data. Teachers focus first on identifying students who have not mastered the prioritized “promise standards” for their grade level. To determine which teachers will provide interventions on these standards, teams typically look again to student learning data to see which teachers had the most success with their tier one classroom instruction. Sometimes, students’ individual needs may be best met by working with a teacher in another grade level. Holding these groups at the same time of day across several grade levels as well as a high level of trust and collaboration both within teams and across grade level teams is what allows this flexibility.

Once intervention groups have been created, students who have mastered current content at the appropriate level are placed in extension activities based on their interests and needs. These groups are most commonly led by support staff and include activities such as independent study projects, student mentoring, book clubs, problem solving with an emphasis on critical thinking in math, coding, readers’ theater, and creative writing. These groups are often made up of students from two to three different grade levels. As a campus, we work to ensure that our support staff members are working with grade levels and content areas that fit their interests and comfort levels so that the adults can get excited and take ownership of the activities they are facilitating.

Even with a solid and well planned intervention block, we sometimes find ourselves faced with students who are not making the intended progress, who are continuing to fall behind, or who have learning gaps from prior grade levels that inhibit current learning. In these cases, we follow a more traditional Response to Intervention model that is in line with district expectations. Students who have additional needs beyond what is being provided at tier one and within our campus intervention block are brought before an RtI committee where decisions for additional interventions at tier two or tier three are made. These additional interventions are more targeted and structured and allow us to monitor student progress more closely. Student data is reviewed regularly and decisions to remove, modify, or add interventions are made through this process.

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

Our Mission Statement at Deretchin is as follows:

Deretchin Elementary School is a school for the community, promoting a safe and nurturing learning environment while developing the whole child and encouraging excellence in all we do.

Student learning is consistently the highest priority of collaborative teams at Deretchin. At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, our staff expanded on our campus mission by creating a list of collective commitments. We used a process inspired by one of Tim Brown's breakout sessions at the PLC At Work Institute to involve each member of our staff. The list of collective commitments we generated include “being passionate and dedicated educators who continuously put children first” and “impacting students by cultivating an authentic and nurturing learning community.” These commitments define what we stand for as a team and the process through which we arrived at them ensured that each member of our staff feels passionately "bought-in." As the school year drew to a close and we began to hire for the upcoming school year each candidate was presented with this list of collective commitments as part of the interview process.

Our commitment to student learning is most prominently displayed in team collaboration. Our teachers consistently work together to collect and analyze data, and make instructional decisions that will benefit their students. Establishing team norms and building trust within teams has been a crucial part of our journey, and as trust has strengthened and developed, sharing data and instructional practices has become the norm. Our teachers see each other as their most accessible and useful sources of knowledge and spend most of their collaborative time asking each other questions about their instructional successes, planning lessons together, and learning from each other.

In addition to their peers, our teams often reach out to instructional support at the district level. Our district instructional coaches have led us through the implementation of curriculum initiatives including using Lucy Calkin's Units of Study for teaching reading and writing as well as using a Guided Math model to incorporate small group instruction in math.  Our teachers are always looking for ways to improve their craft and often get their best ideas from watching others. Teachers are required to participate in instructional rounds on our campus twice a year, but many choose to observe other teachers more often than that. Additionally, we sometimes reach out to other nearby campuses to observe their instruction and gather new ideas.

Maintaining consistency in our collaboration and holding to our staff generated mission, vision, and collective commitments have been critical in building trust amongst teams and fostering continuous focus on improved student learning. On this PLC journey, we have become a campus in which staff members truly hold themselves and each other to the highest expectations with regards to collaboration, professional learning, and student achievement. 

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Even before beginning our PLC journey, Deretchin was a high acheiving campus. Our campus and team goals have always been focused on maintaining a high level of student acheivement while increasing the percentage of our students who exceed grade level expectations on state assessments. Over the past several years, we have experienced changes in our student demographics, including an increase in our percentages of students idenitified as Economically Disadvantaged and/or Limited English Proficient. Our work as a PLC has allowed us to maintain high levels of student acheivement regardless of any new challenges we face. 

2018-2019 Conroe ISD $10,000 Innovative Education Grant Recipient

2018 Children At Risk A+ School Rating

2018 State Accountability Distinctions: Academic Achievement in Mathematics, Academic Achievement in Science, Academic Achievement in ELA/Reading, Postsecondary Readiness, Top 25%: Closing the Gaps

2017-2018 Educational Results Partnership Texas Honor Roll Scholar School

2017 Children At Risk A+ School Rating

2017 State Accountability Distinctions: Academic Achievement in Science, Academic Achievement in ELA/Reading, Postsecondary Readiness, Top 25%: Comparative Academic Growth, Top 25%: Closing the Gaps

2016-2017 Educational Results Partnership Texas Honor Roll Scholar School

2016 Children At Risk A+ School Rating

2016 State Accountability Distinctions: Academic Achievement in Mathematics, Academic Achievement in Science, Academic Achievement in ELA/Reading, Postsecondary Readiness, Top 25%: Comparative Academic Growth, Top 25%: Closing the Gaps

2015-2016 Educational Results Partnership Texas Honor Roll Scholar School

2015 State Accountability Distinctions: Academic Achievement in Science, Academic Achievement in ELA/Reading, Postsecondary Readiness, Top 25%: Comparative Academic Growth, Top 25%: Closing the Gaps

2014 State Accountability Distinctions: Academic Achievement in Mathematics, Academic Achievement in ELA/Reading, Postsecondary Readiness, Top 25%: Comparative Academic Growth, Top 25%: Closing the Gaps