Sterling Elementary School
- Number of Students: 425
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 37%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 2%
- Percent of Special Education: 11%
- White: 84%
- Black: 6%
- Hispanic: 5%
- Asian: 2%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 3%
- Other: 0%
Low academic achievement, high rates of discipline incidents, teaching in isolation, and elements of a toxic culture were phrases once used to describe Sterling Elementary. Despite the struggles within the building, a small group of dedicated educators began what would only prove to be a successful journey. Sterling’s leadership team, and their abundance of energy, began the quest leading to high levels of achievement for ALL students. The journey began with professional development centered on Professional Learning Communities. The creation of a vision, mission, and collective commitments soon followed in which teachers and staff examined their beliefs about teaching and learning. It was immediately apparent that change was an inevitable next step. Proposed change produced fear, but Sterling’s commitment to student learning produced a moral purpose enabling the adults to work through initial hesitations.
Improvement efforts were centered on high impact, evidence based, practices, requiring a shift in focus for the adults. Teachers engaged in collaborative practices both horizontally and vertically. Time for collaborative teaming is set aside by the district, and the teachers typically meet each Wednesday, from 1:30-3:30, to discuss data. As a hallmark of professional learning communities, agendas, norms, and roles centered on the four corollary questions and kept student learning at the heart of every decision. Teachers collectively identified essential learning standards in which SMART Goals, common formative assessments, and shared instructional strategies were developed. A daily schoolwide intervention time, known as G.O.A.L. Time (growing our academic leadership), provided students with additional time to master essential standards, while leading to an “all hands on deck” approach.
The building also addressed the inequities regarding behavior and began creating a Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) school environment.
The collaborative teams soon came to the realization that their efforts correlated with rising state, district, and building assessment scores. As a team, we celebrated each step along the way through the use of jeans days, wacky wig assemblies, trophies, staff shout outs, and chocolate. In closing, Sterling Elementary’s motto, “Power of One,” communicates the importance each team member makes on students’ academic and behavioral success. We have embraced the Professional Learning Community philosophy and attribute our students’ rising achievement to the framework, as well as the dedication of our teachers and staff.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
All students are monitored on a frequent basis through the use of assessment and intervention data. Grade level teachers meet weekly during protected collaboration time to review student data, create common assessments, and form intervention groups. All students are progress monitored using STAR Reading and Math assessments during four benchmark periods throughout the school year. Additionally, grade level teams create common formative assessments based on identified essential standards. It is with the analysis of the CFAs that our tiered supports are based.
Sterling teams have become very skilled at using collaboration time to address the teaching and learning needs of all. While grade level agendas do vary, at the core of each meeting is discussion of student learning. Teams are practicing developing proficiency scales based around WIGS (Wildly Important Goals) that are being addressed during Tier 1 instruction. After skills are taught, students are assessed and performance data is entered into a color-coded spreadsheet. The data is then analyzed at collaborative meetings, and student scores are sorted based on proficiency levels for that particular skill
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Our organization has implemented a consistent school wide intervention time, Tiered Instructional Support (Response to Intervention). A new schedule was built around grade levels, with each having their own RTI time, allowing the Title teacher, Instructional Coach, and Special Educators to work with all students to help close the achievement gap. GOAL Time or RTI is used as a part of our Care Team interventions as well as a school wide approach to meeting ALL students through remediation and/or enrichment. RTI time is a daily 25 minute block of time in which students receive small group or 1-1 instruction based on a missing skill.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
At Sterling, we are consistently composing team-created proficiency scales and common formative assessments. The process involves identifying an essential standard, deconstructing that standard, and then coming to a consensus on what proficiency for that skill looks like. We use the corollary question, “What do we want students to learn and be able to do?” to guide our thinking.
Once the proficiency verbiage is decided upon, we then compose a short common formative assessment. The CFA is administered after Tier 1 teaching, and the results are compiled into one spreadsheet, with all team members’ results visible. The students’ scores are highlighted green, yellow, or red (proficient, close to proficient, or lacking proficiency, respectively).
During our data team meetings, the team’s results are visible for all, and conversations around strategies used are then related to the results. For example, if a Teacher 1 shows a lot of green, that teacher will discuss the instructional strategies s/he used to address the standard. Teacher 2, who has more red and yellow, may then choose to team up with Teacher 1 during our designated RtI time to co-teach and develop strategies for this particular skill. The students who are “red” are easily identifiable, and are placed in our smallest groups for intervention. Students who are “green” are placed in larger maintenance and enrichment groups.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
At Sterling we have made a concerted effort to address the achievement gaps among our subgroups. In analyzing state assessment data we have noticed our super subgroup scores have steadily increased. We feel this is a direct result of our commitment to the Professional Learning Community model.
Teachers engage in collective learning/professional development in the areas of formative assessment, assessment capable learners, specific feedback, and the application of the data cycle within units of study.
All students are monitored on a frequent basis through the use of assessment and intervention data. Grade level teachers meet weekly during protected collaboration time to review student data, create common assessments, and form intervention groups. All students are progress monitored using STAR Reading and Math assessments during four benchmark periods throughout the school year and common formative assessments during 3-4 week cycles. Teachers review the results of the CFA's during collaborative meetings (occuring weekly).
Because of the streamlined data, Sterling’s teachers are able to see results across an entire grade level. This process lends itself to not only grouping students according to needs, but it also provides teachers insight on their own teaching practices. The spreadsheet provided to teachers shows results based on Tier 1 teaching and learning. When teachers recognize that some strategies are not working well in classrooms, conversations about strategies used to address a specific standard can take place. Furthermore, teachers are able to open doors and utilize a co-teaching model during intervention time, in order to see and participate in what is working for a targeted skill.
Sterling Elementary received the Missouri Professional Learning Communities Exemplary School award January 2018 for our comitment to high levels of learning for all studdents.
Our school participates in the yearly Missouri Powerful Learning Conference (MO PLC) by sharing our own journey of success throughout breakout sessions. This winter our PLC team will present on our use of CFAs to lead to stronger RTI practices as well as greater levels of teacher reflection. We have also been asked to present at our state's Professional Development (Learning Forward) conference this spring.
Additionally, we have earned distinction at the bronze level for successful implementation of Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support and will continue to work towards creating a learning environment which recognizes the social-emotional needs of all students.