Daniel Burnham Elementary (2022)

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

Our school, similarly to many throughout the United States, was deeply affected by the Pandemic.  The shared vision at Daniel Burnham Elementary drives engaged and individualized instruction while supporting students in a safe, student-centered environment and fostering school/home partnerships. Coming out of the Pandemic, we articulated as a staff that you must "Maslow" before you can "BLOOM."

We strive to hold students and staff to high expectations as a school. Our mantra is "Bulldog Strong," which means, We inspire, motivate, and stimulate students academically, emotionally, and socially by giving students the necessary tools and proper guidance to prepare them to be responsible and productive global citizens. The entire school is committed to promoting and supporting the PLC process to influence a mindset toward change and growth daily.

Following the closure of our schools on March 13, 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cicero School District 99 and Burnham School spent nearly the following year (2020-2021) in a remote learning environment. Approximately eleven percent (83 out of 770 students) of our students returned to in-person instruction utilizing the Hybrid model in March 2021. During this time, PLC teams leaned into each other as they worked virtually to support the needs of our students. Undaunted by a positivity rate of 12.5% (3x the state average, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health). Our teams rose to the challenge; while we understood learning loss was going to happen, we were determined to limit its effect. 

Frankly, we would not have made it to this point without the power of our Professional Learning Community. Covid affected our students, and it impacted our faculty. Understanding the PLC at Work process and coaching positions, focusing on what we could control was our only option as we recreated our teams, created norms and ways of enforcing them virtually, planned units by identifying "promise standards", and used data to inform our practice. We, in effect, controlled what we could control, the planning, assessing, instructing, re-assessing, and intervening.

August began our 2021-2022 school year and we returned to in-person instruction. A new series of guidelines by the CDC and IDPH shaped our interaction. The staff that served the students of Burnham, when we returned after the 2020-2021 school year, was essentially new, as five members of our staff took administrative roles, two retired, and fifteen non-tenured were released. However, teachers and teams rose to the challenge. Rather than using NWEA MAP test environments as a crutch, we adopted a
"The data tells us" attitude. Returning to in-person instruction meant adjusting to changing procedures and continuing to rely on PLC processes developed during the pandemic. Opening and closing of classrooms, student quarantine, staff quarantine, and even internal subbing stretched our staff thin. It could be easy to lament our shortcomings, but we are Bulldog Strong. The fact is that without the PLC process, our kids would be further behind.

Despite the obstacles, we were determined to demonstrate that we were here to make a difference and do what was best for our students. The data shows our shared understanding of where the students are and where they need to be, through the use of NWEA Map testing, entrance and exit tickets, and common formative assessments. Our school focused on growth. We concentrated on the essential standards necessary for on-grade level learning. These standards became the priority. PLC Teams compacted the curriculum and used the NWEA learning continuum to drill deeper into what they were to
know, understand, and be able to do.

We are proud of our accomplishments. According to NWEA, the "Covid Slide" should have been worse based on our student demographics. However, at Burnham, the PLC at Work approach allowed us to align priority standards, identify anchor activities, and plan instruction to meet our student's needs. The four critical questions continue to be our drivers. Particular attention was given to questions three and four. Students were regrouped based on whether they met or did not meet the expected growth, and differentiated groups addressed student learning loss. Using pre-assessments, common formative assessments, and common end-of-unit assessments allowed us to identify gaps, backfill skills, and use our SMART Goals to measure progress, making it easy for teams to determine the next steps.

Background -

Daniel Burnham Elementary School is a predominantly Latino and Title I school in Cicero, Ill. Based on a three-year average from 2011-13, Burnham was identified as a priority school — one in the lowest performing 5 percent of all Title I schools in Illinois.

In 2021, 711 students were enrolled at Burnham. Student demographics are 97.5 percent hispanic, 0.5 percent white, 1.7 percent black, 0.1 percent asian and 0.2 percent multiple races. According to the 2020 Illinois State Board Education (ISBE) School Report Card accessed on May 21, 2021, the student population includes 56.6 percent English learners, 91.5 percent low income and 9 percent with IEPs.

In 2013, Burnham took the first steps toward changing the lives of its students. Jennifer Evans — named principal in 2013 — decided to implement the PLC process. Previously, Burnham had a failed attempt at implementing collaborative teams led by the administration, where collaboration focused on teaching tips and disciplinary concerns and teachers worked in silos instead of collaborating to increase student achievement. Therefore, Evans’ first step was creating collaborative conditions through designing a master schedule with common planning time, four critical PLC questions and a simple meeting agenda.  

Collectively, Burnham and Cicero District 99 established a school improvement team as a leadership team for Burnham. Energizing the school, this created the impetus for why change was needed. Utilizing books, videos and other resources from Solution Tree, year one was spent instilling the belief in staff that all students can learn at high levels.

In 2014-15, Burnham ensured teachers were on collaborative teams utilizing collaborative processes. Burnham implemented an initial PLC handbook and data binders for teams, and instructional coaches utilized tools and protocols from Learning By Doing, ensuring everyone was on the same page. The leadership team led Burnham through establishing the school’s mission, vision, goals and commitments, setting the trajectory for Burnham to expect high-level learning for all.

In 2015-16, Burnham refined its master schedule to focus on learning by including Power Half Hour (PHH) — a 30-minute intervention/enrichment period focusing on supporting grade-level learning in reading and math. Additionally, Burnham began refining its motto, stating “Bulldog Strong” students are provided:

1. Engaging, individualized instruction,

2. in a safe, supportive, student-centered environment,

3) where school/home partnerships are established, and

4) high expectations and accountability drive learning.  

 Today, this mission, and Burnham’s vision, goals and collective commitments, are posted throughout the school, on the school’s website and addressed at school events.

Burnham continued sending instructional coaches, teachers and new administrators to PLC institutes as part of a bigger strategy brought in by our Superintendent, who came to District 99 from a district identified as an All Things PLC Model District.

In 2016-17, Burnham began to audit and refine its process and help model how collaborative teams can function in the district. Burnham collected evidence demonstrating teachers became well-versed in the four key questions of a PLC, and through the use of the SMART Goal template, they became more adept at the TEAM Cycle. However, Burnham found the need to better understand balanced assessment and create quality Common Formative Assessments to support student learning. Staff teamed up to use NWEA Map data to group students for tier 2 support during PHH, and using the Critical Issues for Teams Survey helped administrators and Burnham leaders provide targeted support for teams.

Over three years, Burnham moved from a priority school to commendable designation — Illinois’ second-highest designation. Primary grades have had significant improvements with NWEA MAP scores and the PARCC exam, and all teams have embraced the three big ideas, four critical questions and six key characteristics of a PLC. There is collaboration where there was isolation, teams dig deep into data to identify problems of practice and find ways to work together to improve instruction, and Burnham administration, PLC Leaders, and instructional coaches provide the extra help and support for members of collaborative teams so they can meet the needs of our students. 

 During this time, the District has supported Burnham’s journey. Anthony Grazzini, the District’s Director of PLCs, and District administration provide support for continuous improvement.   Working together, PLC implementation and school culture plans have been created and refined. The leadership team has taken full advantage of professional learning provided by the district to support PLC implementation through participating in the districts leadership academy, attending conferences, engaging in book studies or seeking out successful schools. Burnham has learned action orientation and experimentation only occur in collaborative environments where trust and collegiality exist.  

 The culture of trust and the structure of the learning community has created conditions allowing Burnham’s teacher teams to take advantage of common prep time to regularly review timely assessment data and support grade-level learning by utilizing the PHH period for flexible grouping. Subsequently, teams have developed a laser-like focus on learning, apparent in the way teams take collective responsibility in order to meet the needs of all students. With teams at every level, Burnham’s mindset has moved from “doing PLCs” to “being a Professional Learning Community.” Moreover, students have become involved as they set goals, are constantly aware of their achievement and chart their own progress, and report their learning using accountable talk. The culture shift is evident at Burnham; it is truly a school where everyone believes students can achieve at high levels.


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Data analysis begins immediately at the start of the year as staff uses the district Data Analysis Protocol to examine and analyze a variety of data: NWEA MAP assessment, F&P, attendance and other pertinent information to develop a "game plan" for each team to support high level learning throughout the year. Analysis continues throughout the year through grade-level meetings, where fresh data is utilized.

Daily, teachers use assessments for learning to collect evidence of student learning and support growth. Like an exit ticket, teacher formative assessment is used to guide instruction from day to day. Collaborative grade-level and course-alike teams meet weekly, following the PLC TEAM Cycle and Cycle Template and addressing the Four Critical Questions of a PLC to focus and shape conversations to meet the needs of teachers and students. The Cycle Template ensures participants look at data (team-created CFAs) and analyze trends, identify best practices, and determines next steps for flexible grouping (extra support, practice and enrichment).

The focus of improving teacher pedagogical content knowledge is at the forefront of our work.  As teams analyze assessment data, they identify both problems of practice and teacher best practices. Flexible grouping during Power Half Hour is used to provide support and enrichment. Typically, groups of students emerge who need support or enrichment based on the standards being assessed. Usually, the teacher with the best results will take the lowest scoring students, and other grade level teachers identify who will work with the remaining student groups support and enrich grade-level learning. Common Assessment Data, the Cycle Template, and flexible groupings are kept in a shared team folder.  Using an electronic shared document to hold reading and math data, agendas, templates and other essential material has helped the team monitor and focus their work during and between meetings.

MTSS meetings are held quarterly to discuss student concerns and look for additional ways to provide support at the tier II (on grade level) or tier III (intensive support delievered by a specialist) levels. The goal is to catch kids before they fail; in this way, the PLC process has provided stronger nets and structured support to address student needs in real time.

Our approach to MTSS is not to move kids from tier to tier; instead, the tiers are cumulative. Using the PLC process we ensure that all students receive effective initial teaching on grade-level priority standards at Tier 1. In addition to Tier 1, students receive additional time and support (or enrichment) in meeting grade-level essential standards at Tier 2 during the PHH period . And in addition to Tier 1 and Tier 2, some students receive intensive help in learning essential outcomes from previous years through Tier 3 intervention.  



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

Burnham’s first step was ensuring staff commonly understood how to support students. Next, Burnham identified how teachers could provide support at Tier 1 and Tier 2 levels to focus on grade-level learning. An intervention period (Power Half Hour) was created in the master schedule, allowing for flexible student grouping (Tier 2 on grade level) for extra time and support for enrichment or reteaching.

Collaborative teacher teams utilize the Common Formative assessment data to determine Tier 2 flexible grouping. It is understood that all students receive Tier 2 grade-level support, so students are ensured to receive all support needed.

Administrators and teachers look closely at end-of-year MAP data, current MAP data and common assessment data to identify trends and determine necessary improvements. This data forms the basis for school goals, and results displayed in the PLC room are revisited and updated regularly.

Based on data and research about meeting student needs, before- and after-school programs are implemented at Burnham including: Geek Squad, Broadcasting Club, Lego Engineering Club, Coding Club, Math Teams, STEAM Club, Science Club, Service Learning Club, Student Council, Battle of the Books, Art Club, Financial Literacy, Yearbook, Choir (grades 1-3), Burnham Troupe (grades 4-6) and Athletics. Programs are tied to learning standards to supplement the curriculum and enrich student learning. Additional creative outlets are provided to inspire 21st-century skills and deepen an intrinsic motivation to learn.

Before-/After-School Support (BASS) math and reading programs are run for students needing extra assistance. Students’ MAP RIT scores determine who needs extra help, and programs typically run for an hour either before or after school and last 14 sessions or contact hours.

Burnham also partners with Family Focus to provide a  21st Century Schools community school program to provide academic, social, mental and physical services to meet individual, family and community needs. It is run for grades 3-6 from 3-6 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

At Burnham, students take ownership of their learning, and staff believes students are empowered as learners when they are taught to track assessment data and engage in the goal-setting process. Shifting the responsibility for learning from teachers to students instills a growth mindset that ultimately teaches students they control their own destiny.

Students record their NWEA RIT Math and RIT Reading scores in a log at the beginning, middle and end of the year, noting where they should be (according to NWEA MAP Norms) and setting realistic goals with their teachers. Teachers review goals prior to testing, ensuring students are focused and take the test seriously.

Burnham believes all students can learn at high levels — some just need more time and support. Teachers set a SMART Goal for each unit and communicate goals, with results of the assessments shared among team members on the SMART Goal template. Along with student goal setting and individual conferencing, this helps students take ownership of their learning. Consequently, this process has helped students understand how their efforts affect achievement.


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

At Burnham, collaboration is an expectation and everyone is on a team. Teams respect time, have clear expectations about accomplishments, utilize protocols to improve student outcomes, and incorporate people’s strengths to learn from one another.  

Through collaboration, Burnham guarantees teams have daily common prep time and a dedicated PLC room to meet — something which has helped staff shift ownership and ensured focus on student learning is at the forefront. From data analysis to flexible grouping, grade-level teams constantly monitor student learning and adjust practices to continue pushing students to new levels of achievement.

This expectation is not only focused on by Burnham teachers, but students as well. Students are aware of where they are, where they want to be, and what is needed to attain their goals. They buy into their learning and maintain data folders to reflect on their individual growth.  

Dedicated planning time, meeting spaces, and the PLC approach have ensured  all students have the "best" teacher, as they are all "our" students. When MAP scores are available, scores are downloaded and put into common grade-level folders. This approach as a learning community ensures all teachers are on the same page and all students receive the same high-quality instruction to meet standards.

Burnham doesn't settle for “PLC lite”; it focuses on being a whole PLC. Burnham uses Global PD with its staff and worked through book studies with PLC leaders to build capacity to create a common understanding of the research that supports PLC implementation. Teacher teams have been given the opportunity to order PD books through Solution Tree to personalize the development of each individual teacher within the PLC process, as well as grade-level teams.

Additionally, instructional coaches meet with teams to support collaborative planning, creation of common formative assessments (CFA), and plan for differentiation to meet students’ needs. This job-embedded PD has led to a gradual release of responsibility to teams, as they have internalized and taken ownership of the processes.   

Burnham is proud of its accomplishments. The teamwork is part of an overall collaboration strategy that has fostered reciprocal communication and provided a feedback loop for coaches and administration. Surveys, like the Critical Issues for Team Consideration and use of an evidence-based building rubric, help the PLC leadership team make course corrections and support deep implementation.  

Collaborative teams are the heart of Burnham. The PLC TEAM Cycle guides teams as they meet regularly to use standards to plan instruction, develop and discuss common formative assessments, analyze results and identify problems of practice, and determine best instructional approach to ensure mastery. However, for more kids to achieve at high levels, Burnham has learned to intentionally plan to meet the needs of kids who are at various levels of mastery.  

At the team level, teachers plan for targeted intervention to backfill prerequisite skills, support grade-level learning, or provide enrichment during the Power Half Hour (RTI) period. Teachers understand they need to work interdependently to achieve, hold each other mutually accountable for, and provide support if they want students to achieve the audacious goals set. Collaboration is key to Burnham’s PLC, bringing the vision, mission and collective commitments of Burnham to life.


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

2018 - Daniel Burnham was awarded a Commendable designation by the  Illinois State Board of Education. The Commendable designation is given to a  school that has no underperforming student demographic groups at or below the “all students” group of the lowest 5 percent of all Title 1 schools, a graduation rate higher than 67 percent, and whose performance is not in the top 10 percent of schools statewide.

As a high poverty school, this is a significant accomplishment because Daniel Burnham School was identified as a priority school (lowest 5% of all schools in the state of Illinois) when Cicero School District 99 appointed Ms. Jennifer Evans as Principal.  

Our state assessment data demonstrates 21% growth over a four-year period in mathematics and 11% growth over a four-year period in English Language Arts. The charts attached show growth in Math and ELA in comparison to other Cicero School District 99 Schools. Burnham is one of the highest poverty schools in the district and nearly 52% of our students are identified as English Learners, yet our staff does not allow student demographics to be an excuse. Burnham teachers do whatever it takes to support our students, increasing numbers of students have met or exceeded their target growth goal in both ELA and Math and we believe this growth, is a result of our staff "BEING" a Professional Learning Community. Our teachers meet regularly to create, analyze, and discuss common formative assessment data and implement best instructional practices following the PLC TEAM cycle. Additionally, SMART goals are set and monitored, students track data in their goal setting folders, small group instruction is provided, and the MTSS process provides extra help, support, and enrichment to meet every child's needs.

The data analysis and instructional adjustments made our collaborative teams have led to significant changes.  Today, as a result of the PLC at Work approach the collective efficacy of our staff to meet our students' needs has increased, teacher pedagogical content knowledge has increased, and student success has increased.  Aligning PLC process with MTSS/RTI has allowed for targeted support, specific and explicit skill remediation, and enrichment. Teachers have embraced small group instruction and flexible grouping as ways to meet the needs of students.   


Imagine Learning School of Excellence Award

Daniel Burnham Elementary School was selected as a featured school for the 2018 Google Education Tour

Daniel Burnham Elementary School recieved a commendable rating from the Illinois State Board of Education in 2018.

June 2019 - Model PLC School

December 2019 - Raising Student Achievement Conference Featured School

Golden Apple Teacher Finalist - 2020