Quentin STEM Academy
- Number of Students: 839
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 89%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 20%
- Percent of Special Education: 19%
- White: 5%
- Black: 13%
- Hispanic: 75%
- Asian: 2%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 1%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 1%
- Multiracial: 2%
- Other: 1%
Six years ago was when the PLC journey began at Quentin STEM Academy. Two years of declining state and district level assessments, poor school culture and high teacher turnover spurred a change in leadership at the school. A new principal and leadership team were hired. Midway through the first year a survey was sent out to the staff to decide on what the focus for school improvement should be. When the results came in, it was resounding that the staff wanted to focus on collaboration. It was then that the leadership team sought out different options to encourage collaboration on campus. Administration landed on the PLC model. It was decided that a team of six teacher leaders and two administrators were going to be sent to the PLC Summit in downtown Phoenix. Prior to going to the summit, the team of eight met and looked at the program of breakout sessions being offered. They strategically developed a schedule of what breakout sessions the team members would attend and agreed to meet in between sessions to share their new learning (this process for teams was repeated each year they were sent to the summit).
Upon returning from this exhilarating experience the team met to discuss how the new learning would be shared and implemented. It was agreed that there would be five breakout sessions facilitated by the teachers that communicated what PLC’s were and to get support from the rest of the staff. The sessions the team agreed to deliver to the rest of the staff were; purpose of PLC’s, 3 big ideas, 4 pillars, power of teams and use of data to drive achievement. After the PD was provided the staff communicated that they were interested in rolling this out in the new year.
Each year of the PLC journey allowed for refining the process. In year one a time was dedicated for all teams to have their PLC prior to the work day, teams had agendas and PLC binders to evidence the work that they were collaborating on. At the end of year one we wanted to focus on how we get better so we sent another group of teacher leaders and an administrator to support in building a rubric that focused on the three big ideas and four critical questions. This way when we visited PLC’s and when teams were planning they were able to identify what needed to be in their agendas and what they should be talking about. At the end of year two we sent another group of leaders down to the PLC summit and we decided to refine our master schedule to build PLC into the work day and we also wanted to refine our current rubric. At the end of year three was when we really started to see the staff begin to own the process and student achievement slowly start to show improvements. At the end of year four we sent another group of leaders down to the PLC summit and we decided to refine how we structured our meetings focusing on NORMS, agendas, data protocols and bi-weekly feedback. By year four the school had moved its label from a “C” to a “B” rated school as evidenced on the AzMERIT state assessment. By year five we sent another team of leaders down to the PLC summit and from that experience we decided to transition to digital PLC folders using the Google platform. Teams had in their digital PLC folders access to their agendas, NORMS, meeting minutes, rubric & feedback, academic and behavioral data, protocols and miscellaneous at their fingertips with access anywhere. We created a PLC leads group. This group meets bi-weekly and they receive development and collaborate on how to lead their PLC’s. Topics such as unwrapping standards, NORMs, use of data protocols and focusing on the right work are a few of the topics the team builds capacity within. In year six a guiding coalition has been developed of four teacher leaders and two administrators. The focus of the guiding coalition is to develop the staff on best practices that support effective PLC’s.
The PLC process is what Quentin STEM Academy attributes its steady student achievement success, improved school culture and strong teacher retention rates. Today at Quentin STEM Academy the PLC process is what all teams are committed to doing.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
At the district level we have a curriculum action team (CAT Committee). This committee is comprised of teacher leaders, coaches and two administrators from across the district. The meetings are facilitated by the Director of Teaching and Learning. The group reviews resources for curriculum adoptions and rate it on a rubric. The top two curriculum choices are selected and the companies are notified. Representatives are sent to promote their product in front of the CAT committee. The representatives from the schools on CAT Committee share information with their staff and then the product is set up in all the schools for a week for staff to vote on it. When the voting results have been collected, the recommendation is made with the School Board for it to be approved. Once approved all district teaching staff receives professional development to ensure understanding and successful implementation of the new curriculum.
At the school level we provide professional development weekly for our teachers on the resources available to them within the math and language arts curriculum so that they are able to meet the needs of our students. Teams have NORMS, SMART goals, agendas, time to meet weekly in learning communities within the professional school day to focus on the four critical questions. Teams create weekly common formative assessments and analyze the results of this data. During this collaborative time teachers unwrap standards, look at student work and build intervention groups to best meet the needs of struggling learners and extend our learners who are at proficiency and beyond. We also have quarterly interim district level assessments which assess the standards that have been taught over the past nine weeks. Teams use this information at their collaborative meetings to discuss reinforcements and refinements and how they will spiral back on essential concepts to incorporate into their daily lessons. At our school we have comprehensive assessments in January. The comprehensive assessments are composed of all the concepts that were taught over the first semester. Teams use this information to assess student learning and instruction over the first semester, but also to inform next steps as the teams looks to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills and to also support in developing engaging lessons that focus on students learning the content.On a quarterly basis junior high teams meet with two other schools in the district (based on start times and schedules) to discuss student learning and student results with a focus on content. This is meaningful to our junior high teachers because this is an opportunity to have discussions about content specific topics. Junior High Teachers are able to look at data, identify trends, seek feedback, deepen content knowledge and sharpen instructional delivery to increase student outcomes.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Our core (Tier 1) instructional time is driven by our guaranteed and viable curriculum of Wonders for ELA and Go Math for our K-5 students and Study Sync (ELA) and Big Ideas Math for 6- 8. The curriculum is available both online and in print. Due to all of our 3-8 graders having one to one devices, K-2 students having 5 laptops per room and three school computer labs with scheduled times for K-2 students, all students at our school have access to technology to engage with the interactive and adaptive components of the curriculum. At Quentin STEM Academy our master schedule has intervention time built into it for our K-5 students. Our 6-8 students have built intervention time into their 85 minute blocks. Grade level interventions in middle school are based on student achievement on ELA and math interims. Teachers identify intervention groups after an analysis of the results. Each team then identifies the dates and times that the students will participate in intervention or extension/enrichment. Throughout the intervention teachers are informally assessing students making adjustments to groups as needed. After each interim the data is reanalyzed and students are placed as needed. Teachers in K-2 use the Tier 2 intervention Smarty Ants. This intervention uses gaming to build students’ early literacy skills. Students complete a pre-test that levels their experience. Teachers also have the capacity to place students at specific levels to support or enhance the learning experience. Students in 3-8 grades use Achieve 3000. This program supports students reading comprehension. Students take a pretest to place them at their lexile level and they work on multiple articles a week to build mastery. A post test is taken at the end of the year to see increases in lexile levels. Our English Language Learners and resource students use Fast ForWord from Scientific Learning, which has a gaming component along with the Reading Assistant piece that supports fluency and comprehension. Teachers in all grades provide intervention for our students based off of their analysis of the data during collaborative team time. Teams use small group instruction as well as “march to math” where students are grouped based on their assessment results. Teachers identify what instruction will be provided to the various student groups and what the learning focus will be for each student.
Additionally, we support our students through our (4) resource teachers that push into classrooms to support our students in a team teaching model. We provide a walk to intervention program for our 1-3 grade students. A phonics screener is used to initially assess our students, the teachers place students in groups based on individual skill level. Students are taught their specific skill level for six weeks and then re-tested. The data is analyzed in our PLC teams. We regroup the students and continue this same process throughout the year. For our K-5 students, Acadience Reading is used to assess our students three times a year and based off of that data, our students are progress monitored (weekly for intensive, bi-weekly for strategic and monthly for core/proficient) to ensure continued progress. Tier 3 interventions such as Touch Math and Sonday are used as additional supports. In addition, many of our teachers provide after-school tutoring.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
The first way we began to build capacity is through the formation of our PLC lead meetings, which take place bi-weekly for an hour. At these meetings we invest time in our teacher leaders to be able to promote meaningful PLC time. We grow our leaders to be able to create NORMS, develop SMART goals, and identify agenda items that focus on the right work (student learning, student results and collaboration). Our current focus is appropriate use of the four questions to drive collaborative time to achieve maximum student outcomes and the importance of action plans that are measurable and agreed upon to enhance student achievement. As a result of our professional development sessions teacher leaders are better equipped to facilitate collaborative time that focuses on the right work and shared leadership.
The second way we build capacity amongst our staff is through our Guiding Coalition. This is a team of four teacher leaders and two administrators. These leaders will receive professional development from a Solution Tree Trainer over the course of a year. The team is tasked to bring the learning back to the whole staff in the form of professional development. One two-hour professional development session a month is dedicated to building the whole staff’s capacity, commitment and execution of meaningful and appropriate collaborative team time. Professional development topics for the whole staff have consisted of the power of collaborating, how interdisciplinary teams can collaborate in PLC time, having organic conversations and the four pillars of PLC’s. This team uses break-out sessions to differentiate the professional development experience so that the training is meaningful to the different parts of our staff (grades: k-5, 6-8, specials, and special education).
Since 2014, we have sent approximately seven staff members yearly to the PLC summit in downtown Phoenix. Prior to attending the summit, the team looks at the sessions offered and discusses possible refinements of the school’s current practices. From this conversation the team reviews the sessions and identifies a plan of action in regards to how they will assign the different sessions to the team members. The team attends the summit and brings back new learning. Upon their return the team shares their new learning and what they will look to implement as a refinement to the current practices with the staff. Over the years some of the ways the PLC summit team has impacted the functioning of PLCs at the school are: implementing NORMS, unwrapping standards in collaborative teams, creation of rubrics to assess collaborative team time, adding collaborative time within the work day, the use of the four questions to drive PLC conversations and the transition to Google Drive to digitalize the PLC process at our school. The aforementioned are ways that the PLC leads, Guiding Coalition, and the summit team have developed staff capacity to continue to ignite continuous improvement at Quentin STEM Academy as evidenced by our student growth.
2015 Beat the Odds Bronze School
2016 Beat the Odds Silver School
2017 Beat the Odds Gold School
2017 Administrator of the Year (District)
2017 Red Carpet Award (District)
2018 Red Carpet Award (District)
2018 Energy Saver Award (District)
2018 VFW Teacher of the Year Brenda Alamillo
2017 Master Council Award for Student Council
2018 Master Council Award for Student Council
2 National Board Certified Teachers
2 Arizona State Master Teachers
Fuel Up to Play60 Grant recipients
PlayWorks Junior Coach of the month for Arizona https://www.playworks.org/arizona/story-of-play/congratulations-to-daniella-our-junior-coach-of-the-month/
2017 and 2018 District math challenge champs
Student group presented at the Kids at Hope Master's Institute 2018
2020 - A+ School of Excellence Award
2020 - International Center for Leadership in Education Model School
Student council article: https://www.westvalleyview.com/news/quentin-student-council-steps-up-to-master-council/article_ab9920b0-643c-11e8-ac55-d38a95dd5804.html
Beat the Odds: https://www.westvalleyview.com/community/quentin-elementary-beats-the-odds-goes-gold/article_1b3d83d0-d62a-11e7-bbb8-f37167ef41dc.html
Teacher of the Year: https://www.westvalleyview.com/community/schools/quentin-teacher-named-a-vfw-teacher-of-the-year/article_eb75dfda-06cb-11e8-b239-d7534e64a824.html
Where’s Watson - Quentin STEM Academy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDqw5aWeXhg
Grand Canyon Article: https://news.gcu.edu/2015/12/visionary-leader-helps-students-see-the-light/
Horizon’s - PBS: https://azpbs.org/horizon/2015/09/american-graduate-administrator-achievement-and-training/