- Number of Students: 516
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 96%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 33%
- Percent of Special Education: 13%
- White: 13%
- Black: 9%
- Hispanic: 75%
- Asian: 0%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 2%
- Other: 1%
Our story began with two separate elementary schools who were both in "Improvement Required" status by the Texas Education Association. One school was Jane Long Elementary and the other was Velasco Elementary. Both of these schools were in Freeport, Texas, and part of the Brazosport Independent School District. Jane Long and Velasco had similar demographics and served the low economic side of the district. I was hired as Jane Long Elementary's principal in 2015.
In an attempt to remedy our low-performance, many strategies were put in place; one of them being a trip to a high performing school in Wichita Falls, Texas where we witnessed collaborative teams working seamlessly and scheduled interventions embedded in the school schedule. I immediately attempted to implement what we witnessed. I created a schedule with embedded collaboration time as well as dedicated intervention time. Our first efforts were poor at best. Our collaboration time was spent more as extra planning time and while we intended to have targeted tutorials, the question always arose, "What do we do with our kids during interventions?"
Luckily, we have a district administrative staff that is very supportive of the PLC process. We were able to take buses of staff to the Solution Tree PLC conference where the connections started to be made between teacher collaboration and student performance.
In 2017 both Jane Long and Velasco were declared "Met Standard" by TEA. Unfortunately, the district decided to close Jane Long and merge the students and staff with Velasco in an attempt to target our students' specific needs. Velasco is now a 2nd-4th grade campus and a new elementary, Freeport Elementary, serves all our PreK -1st graders. Freeport now has one feeder pattern and each campus is now able to specialize in a smaller grade span. I was asked to be the principal of the newly merged Velasco Elementary and continue to implement the PLC process.
We continued to attend Solution Tree events every chance possible. The campus leadership team, our interventionists, and classroom teachers from each grade level have been to at least one event in the last 3 years. Our PLC process has grown into one that is truly sustaining. It is our goal that 100% of Velasco's staff will attend the Solution Tree PLC Conference by 2022. We're about 80% there. We are registered to take a team of 10 this summer; after which all but one of our staff will have attended a Solution Tree Institute.
Our schedule allows for teacher subject teams to have weekly collaboration meetings during the school day. This collaboration time has been the cornerstone of our progress. Each week teams address the Four Critical Questions of Learning and target areas of instruction and intervention for the upcoming week. The teams take responsibility for student learning across the grade level and work together to achieve our goals.
Each student participates in targeted intervention in both Math and Reading for 4 days each week. There is constant collaboration about student needs and teacher efficacy. Teachers observe each other, share students, and truly have an “All means all” mentality.
Since the merge, Velasco Elementary has gone from an F to a solid C. We have had steady gains in both academic achievement and student growth. Our goals are very targeted and specific. We are on track to earn a “B” by the end of this school year. Our teacher collaboration and targeted student intervention is the driving force behind all we do.
The school year 2021/2022 brought about changes to Velasco Elementary School. Our neighboring school, Lanier Middle School lost their principal and Margaret Meadows was named principal of Lanier and Velasco Elementary school. The two schools share a city block. Velasco became grades 3 and 4, and Lanier serves grades 5 and 6. Our 2nd graders were moved to Freeport Elementary. We knew our students would have severe learning gaps because of the multiple disruptions caused by COVID. We have continued with our dedication to collaboration, learning target identification; and common formative assessments. The results have been refreshing to see. Our students are making up lost instruction and are making gains in many areas. We are committed to our belief that all students can learn at high levels; despite what obstacles are put in our path.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
The teachers at Velasco are all in for their students. We have weekly collaboration time embedded in our master schedule, yet they beg for more time together. This past year there has been a shift from focusing on what the students are lacking to what the teacher is doing or not doing to get the lessons across to the students. Students are shared on a daily basis based on the expertise and tools of each teacher, aide or available adult in the building.
Once essential standards have been identified, teachers work together to make a timeline of teaching, assessing, and intervening. Our teachers are relentless in the pursuit of student achievement, and their role in it. They work together to create common formative assessments and use the results of these to identify strengths and weaknesses in their practice. They learn from one another and collaborate on teaching methods to improve outcomes for all students; whether struggling or in need of extensions.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Providing quality interventions for our students is at the core of everything we do. We start with solid tier 1 instruction in the classroom, ensuring students are learning at high levels. Teachers are well versed in instructional best practices including; balanced literacy, guided reading, guided math, and blended learning. Teachers plan units together that include common formative assessments used as checkpoints throughout the unit plan. After these assessments, teachers and Interventionists work with small groups to intervene with tier 2 students, or those that just don’t quite get it yet! This system repeats itself after every common formative assessment and after every unit is taught.
Students that require more intensive intervention, our tier 3 students, get daily intervention in reading and math during our WING (What I Need to Grow) Time. During these two 40 minute blocks, students work with other students across the grade level who are struggling with the same standards. Students who are not struggling, or those in need of extensions, also get these interventions during WING Time. This guarantees that tier 3 students also get the tier 2 intervention they need. We use academic screeners to gauge student performance on grade-level standards at the beginning of the year, in the middle of the year, and at the end of the year. After these screeners, teachers collaborate and students are sorted by need into tiered groups and assigned a WING Time group. Students are shared by teachers across the grade level. Groupings remain flexible and students are moved around as needed to fit their personalized needs.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
One of our continuous improvement goals for Velasco Elementary is that every classroom teacher will be formally trained in the PLC process by attending the Solution Tree PLC conference. Currently, we are at 70% of classroom teachers trained. The other 30% (9 teachers) are scheduled to attend the conference this summer. Our support staff has also attended events on planning and RtI.
Part of building capacity is having a strong Guiding Coalition. This group of leaders serves to establish the focus for our collaborative teams and helps to keep our teams on the right track.
Recently, our Guiding Coalition and grade-level leaders attended the 15-Day Challenge. Utilizing their training, they led their teams in creating our own. The first thing our collaborative teams undergo is the unpacking of standards into learning targets and essential standards. The team prioritizes standards and agrees on a pacing chart that allows for common formative assessments within the unit and a summative assessment at the end of the unit. They then work together to create both the formative assessments and summative assessments. They establish rubrics or set measures for identifying student mastery of each standard.
Once units have been planned and assessments implemented, our collaborative teams work on disaggregating data to determine student progress towards achieving mastery for each standard. Time is designated during the day for skill-specific interventions and extensions based on this data.
This lesson planning, assessing, and intervening process repeats with each unit. Tiered intervention groups are fluid to meet the needs of each student on essential standards in each unit of study.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
While STAAR is our ultimate measure of student achievement, we use many assessments and screeners to monitor student progress. Our district has teams of teachers that help in the development of Curriculum Based Assessments, CBAs, which are given for each grade level and each subject. This data is monitored on the district level and shared with our district administrators and school board.
On the campus level, we monitor individual student progress by using our Velasco Data Worksheets. This worksheet houses all information on screeners, CBAs, tiers, and various academic data for each student. We have used these worksheets for 3 years and can track a student throughout their time at Velasco Elementary. The worksheets linked here are from 2019-2020 and are incomplete because of COVID. We have started 2020-2021 worksheets and will use the 2019-2020 middle of the year data to monitor growth.
2019 Texas Education Agency Distinction in Mathematics Performance
2017 Jane Long Elementary: 3 TEA Distinctions
Margaret Meadows, BISD Principal of the Year 2017-2018
Sarah Brown, BISD Teacher of the Year 2018-2019 and Region IV Finalist 2018-2019