Festus Intermediate School
- Number of Students: 772
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 40%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 0%
- Percent of Special Education: 0%
- White: 88.86%
- Black: 3.62%
- Hispanic: 1.04%
- Asian: 1.17%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.13%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.39%
- Multiracial: 4.79%
- Other: 0%
Eighteen years ago, the Festus R-VI School District began the journey with Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s). In the beginning, I am not for sure if anyone truly knew the educational impact PLC’s would have on our staff and students ensuring the future success of the school district. Today, we can confidently say the number one factor for our district’s continued success is the productivity of our PLC’s.
We did not participate in formal PLC training because we were truly a pioneer in the implementation of the PLC process. Early in the process, Rick DuFour presented to our district a two day training, one day with the entire staff and the second day meeting with each individual building. Concurrently, the staff participated in a unified book study with "Professional Learning Communities at Work" by Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker (a few years later we completed a second book study with “Whatever It Takes”: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don’t Learn). 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 collaborative teams. These collaborative teams 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 collaborative team leaders develop agendas, share those agendas beforehand with fellow team members and administration, and then 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 collaborative teams each week and make sure they see all teams on a weekly, or every other week basis at minimum. Detailed minutes are collected by each collaborative team and are shared through Google Docs with the team almost immediately after the PLC time concludes. The weekly agendas includes attendance, the roles of various team members, and other pertinent information. These documents are kept in shared folders, and many times referenced in later years, as teams work through issues and reflect on past decisions.
I would say it took five or six years for our Professional Learning Communities to begin functioning at a high level of efficiency and effectiveness. Though the processes were put in place, I believe it wasn’t until the school district put a greater focus on rigor and relevance that we saw significant changes in our students’ levels of achievement during this protected time. The focus and collaboration became more intentional and deliberate. PLC’s offered the structure, and collaboration time teachers needed to align curriculum, create common assessments, analyze data, and discuss best teaching practices and resources.
And now, even with the changes in administration, teachers, and students, the PLC culture has continued to thrive! It drives every process throughout each building in our district. The Intermediate building has been recognized for their efforts; and has been awarded The Exemplary PLC Model School, and then five years later, the Sustaining Exemplary PLC Model School honors. Even with the success we have had, we continue the commitment of fine tuning our practices and procedures. The PLC process is more than something we do on Wednesday mornings; it is who we are...our true identity!
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
In the beginning, our weekly Professional Learning Communities consisted of collaborative teams with a large focus on planning lessons and continuously creating and revising a viable pacing guide, and analyzing large, bulky semester summatives, or “autopsies” we would call them. Theses assessments were much like our state assessments in the spring. Once you take them, there is not much you can do to help students. But over the past ten to twelve years, we have seen our PLC’s morph into collaborative teams with a greater vision and focus. Though we still use a small time for lesson planning, the discussions are much more rich and purposeful. Teachers consistently research and share best teaching practices and resources, effective teaching strategies and ideas, effective activities, and most importantly... collaboration on data analysis. We do not use, or very seldom use textbooks to guide our instruction, like in the past. Instead, we use various online resources to help guide the teaching of our Missouri Learning Standards (MLS). Because we use our textbooks very little to guide our curriculum, we have had to design a curriculum map, making our weekly conversations and use of time more focused.
Our students are assessed with Common Formative Assessments a minimum of six times per year. These CFA’s are created using the Priority Standards from the Missouri Learning Standards, which are grade-level objectives. The CFA’s are created using Grant Wiggins’ Backward Design. These CFA’s are given as a pre- and post-test. After students take the pretest their scores are entered into our data collection system, which we call MAMA forms. The MAMA forms consist of data entry or summaries for our pre- and post-test scores, a SMART goal statement, a pre- and post-test analysis sheet, a re-teaching grade level and teacher sheet, a bar graph to quickly identify the percent at each of the four levels (Proficient, Close to Proficient, Far To Go, and Intervention). Our student data not only identifies our Overall student population, but in addition our Free and Reduced, Special Education, and African-American can also be calculated. This is to help us have an even greater focus on the needs of ALL students within our Super Sub Groups. The MAMA forms are completed together within the designated Professional Learning Communities.
Along with our common formative assessments, we use STAR reading and math assessments four times a year. These tests also give us another idea of how are students are comprehending. The reports we use also give us example of how to assist students with specific weaknesses. We can take these results and not only compare students for this year, but how they compare with the students from previous years. This helps us identify areas we need to have a greater focus in. We do the same with our state assessment scores, or Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) results as well, through a program called Athena which uses our state assessment data to create various reports.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Several years ago, we were identified with several other high achieving buildings throughout the state of having a deficiency, which needed to be corrected. This deficiency was an excessive gap on our state assessments (MAP test) between our our Overall Achievement (all students) and our Super Sub Groups (SSG-an unduplicated count of all students in a school or LEA belonging to at least one of the following individual subgroups: black, Hispanic, students with disabilities, English language learners, or low income students (eligible for free/reduced price school lunch (FRL)).
We began working with the Collaborative Works (CW) initiative, which would provide training to administrators and staff on specific areas using researched based strategies. Through this process, our staff has received training through the states’ Regional Professional Development Committee (RPDC) and our CW consultants, using our PLC design to incorporate these strategies. Our building went through trainings on providing specific and immediate Feedback to students, Collaborative Teams, and Data Based Decision Making (DBDM). We are currently in the beginning stages of directing our focus on Developing Assessment Capable Learners (DACL), with the assistance of MO Edu-sail (Educational Systems and Instruction for Learning.
Due to our staff’s deliberate focus, training, and willingness to refine some of our PLC practices and protocols, we were able to close the achievement gap between the two groups, by increasing student achievement in the SSG, without allowing the scores of the overall achievement decrease. We have had such success the past few years, we have seen our SSG students continuously outscore the overall achievement of some of the surrounding school districts in our county.
As we began our journey, we identified the need to implement an intervention program with a greater focus on, not only intervention, but enrichment as well. We started by setting aside 30 minutes at the end of the day for intervention and enrichment. This became very beneficial as we started to begin seeing some growth within our SSG. After a year of meetings and surveys, it was decided with the overwhelming positive results and responses from teachers, we would not need a specific time at the end of the day, but teachers would build this time within their lesson. Teachers took the time during PLC’s to help identify resources and activities,and plan the additional instruction time for intervention and enrichment. This helped us to ensure we were answering, “What will we do when students don’t learns? And “What will we do if students already know it?
Our teachers use resources such as Study Island and Triumph Online to provide additional instructional resources, including stories with tiered reading passages. Some of our daily practices include differentiation strategies such as flexible grouping and fluid intervention/enrichment groups, leveled centers, 1:1, and reteaching in multiple ways. For our 4th and 5th grade we also use Title 1 resources and co-teaching classes for our identified students. In our 6th grade, we run more like a middle school setting which allows us an opportunity to offer an additional math class (math club) or reading class(reading club) per day. We also provide co-teaching in many of these classes and an Advisory Time for remediation when necessary.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
All certified staff collaborate through Professional Learning Communities. Each grade level and subject area has an established PLC including: 4th grade Math/Science, 4th grade ELA/Social Studies, 5th grade Math/Science, 5th grade ELA/Social Studies, 6th grade ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies, Special Area teachers, and counselors. These groups meet every Wednesday morning for 1 hour and during four Professional Development days per year. Each PLC has established roles and norms that are identified on the weekly agendas that are electronically shared with each group member and administration. Lead teachers develop this agenda prior to weekly meetings. A record keeper documents the conversation and findings and reports those minutes on the agenda. Teachers and administrators refer to these agendas to plan for future meetings and acquire necessary materials. During each PLC meeting, teachers discuss the 4 corollary questions;
1)What do we want students to know (state MLS standards)
2) How do we know they are learning (MAP,STAR,CFA data analysis,observations)
3) What do we do when they have not learned the material (interventions, RTI)
4) What do we do when they have mastered the standards (Enrichment)
As stated earlier, our teachers use the pre- and post-test analysis sheet to guide the deliberate focus for their assessment analysis discussions, such as strengths, misconceptions/errors, and inferences. Along with instructional strategies, time, duration, frequency, and materials needed for students and teachers. This helps ensure we hit the 5 steps of the data team process: Data Collection, Analyzing Data, Goal Setting, Instructional Strategies, and Results Indicators. Using our MAMA forms, teachers can quickly identify students’ growth, and therefore identifying whether they may need intervention or enrichment.
Festus Intermediate School teachers focus on establishing within their lessons, a clear learning goal/target, overt responses for comprehension, flexible groupings, and ensuring timely and specific feedback. This criteria was established as a building level focus for the past two years as part of their Missouri Educator Growth Plans (indicator 3.3; Instructional goals and differentiated instructional strategies). With the increase of additional chromebooks, and going 2:1, our focus the next two years will be Appropriate Use of Instructional Resources to Enhance Student Learning (indicator 4.2). In addition to meeting once a week (late start Wednesdays), many of our teachers share common planning time. Also, our four Professional Development days have time built in for grade level PLC time and two out of our four days have Vertical PLC time incorporated into the schedule. The vertical PLC’s provides the time to ensure we are covering/teaching all the Missouri Learning Standards, using common vocabulary, and sharing effective instructional resources and activities.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
Since 2013, Missouri schools have had three different sets of standards for ELA and MA (old grade/course level standards, common core state standards, and the Missouri Learning Standards) and four different sets of assessments (old state assessments, SBAC, leased items from Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), and the new state assessments). With all of these changes, it has been challenging for schools districts, especially teachers, to understand the curriculum expectations and the vehicle the state will use to assess students. With the many transitions we have had to make, it makes our Student Achievement data that much more impressive. Our continued deliberate focus has been providing a high standard for our curriculum alignment, instructional resources and practices, and data analysis. This focus would not be as effective or efficient without our highly effective Professional Learning Communities.
In our district, we do use Advanced and Proficient percentages to help determine our effectiveness in helping students reach proficiency status, but strongly feel using MPI scores gives us a more accurate overall view of our effectiveness for EVERY child, and holds us to an even higher academic responsibility.
As you can see from the uploaded Achievement Data we are consistently above the state averages with our overall achievement (all student scores). Using the Advanced/Proficient data, we are 10-16% higher in ELA, 14-27% higher in Math, 4-15% higher in Science each year. When looking at the MPI scores, you will notice we are 39-62 points higher in ELA, 43-90 points higher in Math, and 18-44 points higher in Science.
Our school is also measured by their Super-Subgroup achievement. Super-Subgroup consists of all subgroups including those who often score lower on standardized test scores, for our school largest percentage of students for us to fall into this category is our students who fall under the categories of having an IEP and students who receive free or reduced lunch. Our Super-Subgroup often outperforms district totals from around the county and the state average for all students in many areas. Again, when looking at the data, our Super subgroups outscored the overall achievement state averages in 36 of 42 opportunities, with some scores being 50+ points better! This continues to be an intentional focus of providing researched-based strategies and Professional Development opportunities for our staff to provide ALL students with the appropriate social, emotional, and academic supports.
*Brief Explanation of MSIP, Subgroups, and MPI can be found as an additional attachment in the Resource File .
Festus Intermediate School Awards:
AdvancEd Accredited 2012 and 2017
Missouri DESE Exemplary PLC School 2013
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Top Workplace 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017
Designated ‘Missouri’s Outstanding Rural School District’ by MARE 2013,
Missouri DESE Sustaining Exemplary PLC School 2018
Gifted Education “Quest” Students advanced to Regional (2014-18), State (2014-2018), and Global Finals for Destination Imagination (2015- 2017)