Arbor Grove Elementary

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

The Road we have Traveled!

We have come a long way on our PLC journey in 12 years!  In the beginning, our weekly collaboration meetings attempted to 'cover' a checklist of items.  These included addressing all four of the PLC questions, discussing behavioral challenges of individual students, and discussing some data after the results of each quarterly district benchmark assessment was given.  We ‘sorted’ our struggling learners and followed a fairly traditional process - the special ed kids were the special ed teacher’s responsibility, the EL kids were the EL teacher’s responsibility etc. 

Although we were looking at the quarterly data, we were not analyzing the information to make instructional decisions, nor were we planning appropriate interventions to ensure learning for all students. Additionally, the quarterly assessments were only for 3rd-5th grade.  We had nothing in place to systematically measure achievement in the Early Childhood grades. There were no unpacked standards or common formative assessments.  We had some foundational pieces in place - a schoolwide schedule provided common plan times for collaboration meetings, social contracts were in place for all meetings and in classrooms, and information sharing based on each team’s collaboration notes being shared, schoolwide. We did have a focus on the PLC questions, albeit not in a very effective way.

The 2014/15 school year brought an exciting change as we moved into a brand, new school building. We quickly grew from an enrollment of 450 to 580 and have continued to grow to our current enrollment of a little over 600.  We added four, self-contained special education rooms, and an additional Pre-K class.  Our demographics have also changed, with Hispanic students now representing almost half of our student body, our Black sub-group the next biggest, and our white sub-group now the smallest of the three. We had new challenges and we needed a strong, collaborative culture in order to provide our students with the very best.

The move to the new school initiated a change, not only geographically but in our school culture. We started sending lead teachers to PLC Summits/Workshops, with the expectation that they would share their new learning with the faculty and would drive our PLC process to the next level.  At the new school we had a designated team collaboration room which meant all the tools we used for effective collaboration were right at hand.  This included schoolwide data tracking, our instructional cycle and our pacing guides.  Another improvement was having our Instructional Coach fulltime, instead of halftime. We had a new commitment - ‘All the kids are all our  kids’ -  the ‘why’ behind the process.

In 2014/15 the district moved from quarterly assessments to unit tests.  That provided more timely assessment information, and we were able to then use the data to inform instruction and interventions.  That was also the year we were introduced to Dr Sharon Kramer.  Working with Dr Kramer we learned about unpacking standards, learning targets, scales, and student tracking.  One of the true ‘Aha’ moments was when we realized we had students tracking data but not towards mastery of essential standards – huge insight! Immediate adjustments were made and the focus was tightened!

We continued to work with Dr Kramer in 2015/16 and 16/17.  Whereas the earlier work had been administrators, instructional coaches and a few lead teachers, this work was complete grade level groups of teachers.  Teachers examined their most current unit test data, learned to ‘get naked’ with their data and own their results.  The data is the data!  It is what we DO with the data that is the important part.  Another quantum leap in the process was understanding the function and impact of common formative assessments.  Our collaborative team meetings started looking and sounding different.  We were unpacking standards, analyzing current data, taking unit tests before we taught the content, creating CFAs and sharing effective instructional strategies and interventions.

Following our work with Dr Kramer, we developed an instructional cycle model to guide our collaboration.  It outlines the full cycle of a unit and directly connects each piece of the cycle to the corresponding PLC question.   The Instructional Cycle now focuses our collaborative actions and conversations.  We can pinpoint where we are in the teaching/learning process at any given time.  Our standards are unpacked and the essential objectives are identified.  Even our students are familiar with the teach/assess/intervene process and the expectation of success!

A critical piece of our solid foundation is our Mission/Vision/Goals/Beliefs document.  The creation of this document was a huge collaborative venture! We started with input from all staff (including support staff) brainstorming our purpose, what we believe, what we want to achieve.  This was then refined by our Guiding Coalition into our final product.  The final document was presented to stakeholders (electronically!) in November, 2020.  Since then we have revisited it, as a faculty, really dug into the meaning of each section and examined how it is reflected in our actions.  Revision and reflection will be ongoing, and will be based on the results we are achieving with our learners.

 We are a schoolwide Professional Learning Community and we collaborate to improve teaching and learning.  A professional learning community is who we are, and collaboration is what we do!

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Monitoring Student Learning on a Timely Basis – strategies

  1.   Daily Informal Assessments

    Teachers use daily quick checks to gauge the understanding of content, and provide immediate intervention as needed.

       
  2. Common Formative Assessments

Common formative assessments are created by teachers and administered every 3-5 days.  Data from the CFAs are used to intervene with learners who have not mastered the skill. CFAs often measure mastery of one specific skill, to enable individual or small group intervention immediately.

 3.       Unit tests

Teacher created assessments are given over each unit. These are provided by the district.  For Reading, this occurs approximately 4-6 weeks and for Math every 2-3 weeks. We follow a specific data analysis protocol.  The data is then used to re-engage learners who have scored near mastery or below.  They are then reassessed using a CFA.    

 4.       Small Group Instruction

Daily small group instruction means the teacher is aware of individual student’s progress and understanding.  The teacher works with 3 or 4 students and is able to provide immediate corrective feedback and scaffold the learning. These groups are flexible and based on student needs, so they change as the student needs change.

 5.       Collaborative Team Meetings

Data from most recent CFAs or Unit tests are reviewed during these weekly meetings.  Teams address successful instructional practices and results. Individual students who need further assistance are identified, along with who will provide the additional assistance and when. Teams meet at a seperate time for team planning.

 6.       Problem Solving Teams (PSTs)

PSTs meet monthly to review progress of students who are most at risk (below the 10th percentile) and to review the effectiveness of the current intervention.  At these meetings decisions are made as to whether to continue, increase or change the intervention.  During the month these students receive specific interventions 3-5 times per week, and are progress monitored weekly on that specific skill.  The Problem Solving Team can include classroom teachers, the instructional coach, administrators, the school psychologist, special education teachers, Title 1 Reading teacher, and EL teachers.

 7.       Technology – Immediate Feedback

The full implementation of individual devices was moving ahead quickly, even prior to the pandemic.  All students at Arbor Grove have an ipad. This has been a steep and rapid learning curve for teachers, students and parents. It does however provide the teacher with immediate oversight of what students are working on, at home and in the classroom.  In the classroom, teachers use Apple classroom and are able to immediately see whether students are selecting correct answers or not.  If a student selects an incorrect answer, the teacher can intervene immediately.  Frequent communication with parents has been a definite bonus with the use of technology platforms.

8.  Finding our Essential Essentials

Each grade level followed the protocol we learned at the RTI conference to determine their Essential Essentials, the absolute necessities students must have to be successful in subsequent grades. We have compiled the results into a vertical framework that we will use to finalize the Essential Essentials for our school.  Vertical teams will use the framework to identify gaps and bridge key concepts between grades. 

9.      Areas for Growth

  • Vertical Alignment of Essentials - this will be a document shared with parents/stakeholders and will be our guaranteed curriculum for each grade level. It is currently under construction and is almost completed.
  • Systematic process for diagnosing gaps in foundational number sense and operation. We are continuously improving teacher use of our in-house developed diagnostic system.  This ties in closely with our RTI work.

 

 

 

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

Creating Systems of Intervention

The best prevention for intervention is excellent initial instruction (Tier 1), thus the need for interventions is greatly reduced.  However, there also needs to be a structured, systematic response to provide additional support and time for students who have not grasped the learning.  At Arbor Grove the following are some of structures in place:

A Designated Intervention Block

Our schoolwide schedule contains a 40-50 minute, daily block, allocated for intervention per grade.  During this time students may receive additional teacher support in a small group, Title 1 support, EL support or Special Education support.  The most important aspect of this time is that no new instruction is given, so students are not missing out on learning.  Time is shared between the classroom teacher and the additional support so that students can receive intervention on their grade level learning as well as ‘back fill’ from their additional teacher.

 Shared Students Across the Grade Level

Pre-pandemic, this is a process that was happening in our 2nd-5th grade classes. For example, 3rd grade divided their students for reading during the intervention block time.  The two strongest teachers took the students who struggled the most, another teacher took the ‘bubble’ students (on or near grade level) and another took the extension students.  The numbers in the two low groups were deliberately lower than the other two groups, which allowed those teachers to work more individually with those students. The groups were flexed throughout the year, to best meet student needs.  A key component in this process was frequent assessment.  This allowed us to provide very specific intervention and to move students to the next skill as soon as they were ready.  The students in the low groups also split their time – half the time was with the teacher and half was with either Title 1 or EL.  4th grade was sharing students to remediate math and reading.  They based the groups on the CFA results.  Other grade levels are following similar models.

 Additional Intervention Assistance in Early Childhood

Support at the earliest possible opportunity builds a strong learning foundation.  Hiring an additional Title 1 teacher, dedicated to early childhood interventions has allowed us to better support Kindergarten - 2nd grade students.  Kindergarten is a mixture of student backgrounds;  students from Pre-K, students who have been in daycare or other caregiving facilities, and students who have never been in any school setting at all.  Thus, we already have a separation of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.  Our goal is to ensure all students finish kindergarten on or above grade level to ensure they have a solid foundation. Classroom teachers work closely with the Title 1 teacher to make sure the right students are receiving additional help. Groups are fluid, based on CFA information, and there are frequent assessments.  This is a very targeted system of supporting students who need additional help to master foundational skills.

 Spiral Review for State Testing

Our spiral review for state testing begins in February.  Teachers revisit all essential standards taught throughout the year.  This is another opportunity for students to re-engage with the learning, and for teachers to provide intervention as necessary.  

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

Building High Performing, Collaborative Teams to Focus on Improved Student Learning

Quality Team Collaboration

Collaborative team meetings occur weekly and are guided by our instructional cycle model.  Teams meet at a seperate time for team planning, and several teams meet even more frequently.  Collaboration meetings are teacher led, high quality and focused on the right work; analyzing data, problem solving, sharing best practices and processes for improving learning. 

We have also expanded our collaborative teams to include other schools - a  Pre-K teacher who was a singleton joined our team for weekly meetings, and a 4th grade team from a neighboring school has joined our 4th grade collaboration meetings so that they can learn and improve their own.

Norms/Social Contracts

All team meetings have established norms.  As a staff, we have a social contract that specifies agreed upon behaviors during those meetings.

Developing New Hires

With the help of the PLC to-go packages, we were able to ensure that, even in this pandemic year, our newest teacher were trained.  100% of our classroom teachers, and administrators have attended PLC institutes!  The goal is to continually develop people in Arbor Grove's key initiatives - PLCs, RTI and EL.

We are fortunate to have minimal turnover of staff, and we have a strong school culture.  However, it is critical that we bring new hires into the PLC environment quickly, since that is the heart of what we do.  New teacher meetings are weekly for the first 6 weeks, and monthly thereafter.  Those meetings help new teachers become familiar with best practices and why we do what we do.  All first year teachers have a mentor within the building, and that person’s job is to make sure the new teacher understands the way we do things.  

Teacher-to-teacher Professional Development

Along with a variety of outside professional development opportunities, we also have a system within our school where teachers can learn from master teachers.  There are various ways this can happen:

  • A teacher can request to observe a particular teacher or particular skill being taught
  • The Instructional Coach/Administrator can arrange for a teacher to observe a master teacher based on noticing a need 
  • The Instructional Coach/Administrator can arrange for a master teacher to observe a teacher and provide feedback on a specific area of growth

The teacher then completes a reflection document, and the instructional coach meets and reviews that information with them and they discuss the next steps.

This job embedded professional development is not limited to only within our building. We have taken teams of teachers to other schools to observe specific programs etc being taught.  Other schools have sent teachers to observe us, and a neighboring district brought a team of principals to discuss how our PLCs function.   Our goal is continuous improvement, using the resources at our disposal to improve learning.

 

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Our sub-group data for EL is based on Oklahoma State test scores. compared district results over 3 years, and shows the following:

2017  5/7 areas above district
2018  6/7 areas above district
2019  4/7 areas above district

Areas where we were below district are all within 2%-4% difference.

Since our school is 100% free lunch, our overall results, by default, represent the high poverty subgroup.

The cohort data for math shows continuous growth from 2nd-5th grades.  The data for reading shows continous cohort growth from 3rd-5th grades. In 2019 we moved from a pencil and paper test to online testing, which was a big change for our students. 

In a school with a high population of students learning English, it is often the case that math progresses more quickly than reading, and our data reflects this.

In August this year, the start of school was delayed for 2 weeks so that teachers could prepare to teach virtually. They were tasked with completely reinventing education as we knew it, to a totally virtual format.  The strength of our culture of collaboration was immediately apparent, as teachers instinctively collaborated to learn the platforms, to teach each other, and to prepare a whole new learning environment for students. 

Our students returned on an A/B schedule on October 26th.  The next day Oklahoma had its worst ice storm in history and school was out for a week.  With hundreds without power and internet, instruction was impossible. Thanksgiving and Christmas were followed by the recent arctic blast here, and another 2 weeks out of in-person school.  

Through all of these challenges, our focus on intentional instruction, revising our essential skills, CFA's, RTI, PLCs, and working as a team has been the thing that has kept us positive, believing in ourselves and our kids, and our ability to continue to deliver quality instruction. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are greatly hoping to add Model PLC School!

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