Westmore Elementary School

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

In 2015, District 45 was eager to meaningfully organize for school improvement. As a first step in this journey, approximately 12 representatives from each school building attended the PLC At Work Summit in Lincolnshire, IL. The team from Westmore Elementary spent those two days engaged in deep, meaningful learning around the power of interdependent teams pursuing a common goal for which they are mutually accountable. In the final team collaboration session of the Summit, we made a unanimous commitment to collectively leading our school to become a true Professional Learning Community.

Fortunately, we already had a master schedule that allowed for team collaboration and had a School Leadership Team (SLT) in place to serve as the guiding coalition. This team immediately began the charge of digesting and building an action plan around the professional learning provided through the Summit and through our study of Learning By Doing (Dufour, Dufour, et.al). The SLT’s plan was distilled into a timeline to guide our collective action through the year (see Appendix A), and we began the hard work of bringing the plan to fruition.

In accordance with our plan, our 2015 Opening Institute Day became the catalyst for our school’s PLC journey. We used this opportunity to create a shared understanding and commitment to each of the three big ideas that define the PLC culture: 1) The purpose of our school is to be relentless in its pursuit of ensuring all students learn at high levels, 2) Helping all students learn requires us to work collaboratively in teams, and 3) To assess our effectiveness in helping all students learn teams must focus on results– evidence of student learning - and use  the results we examine to inform and improve our professional practice, as well as respond to students who need intervention or enrichment. (See Appendix B). We ended this day with staff consensus around aligning our subsequent actions to these three pillars of PLC culture.

The duration of the 2015-16 school year was spent cultivating the foundational PLC principles, as well as beginning to apply them in the context of math. The foundational PLC principles we established that year to support functional teams included collective commitments (See Appendix C), norms,  and team agendas. To support the results-orientation of teams, we identified school and team goals, essential outcomes for math with proficiency criteria, common formative assessments, and data analysis protocols that allowed teams to enact intervention or enrichment. 

In each year since our kickoff in 2015-16, we have re-visited and refined the foundation of our PLC culture. We reflect on current processes (See Appendix D), recommit to “The Big Three,” and refine our collective commitments, team norms, and processes. We now have stipended team leaders who serve on our SLT and facilitate their teams with the support of our Instructional Coach and Literacy Leader. We continuously evolve as we branch our collaborative work to other subject areas, improve curriculum and adopt new resources, systematically implement high-impact instructional strategies, and refine our approach to ensuring the behavioral and academic needs of all students are met through a comprehensive MTSS framework.

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

IMPLEMENTING A GUARANTEED AND VIABLE CURRICULUM

At Westmore, implementing a guaranteed and viable curriculum begins with team agreement on which standards are essential for student learning. To make this determination, we use Robert Marzano’s guidance around prioritizing standards that have endurance(knowledge and skills that will last beyond a class period or course),leverage (knowledge and skills that cross over into many domains of learning) andreadiness (knowledge and skills important to subsequent content or courses). Determining essential standards is what ensures the curriculum is viable -- that is, it can actually be taught and learned in time we are afforded.

We use many resources to inform our judgement of which standards are essential in light of Marzano’s guidance. For example, when we began our PLC journey in the context of math in 2015, each grade level created a “wish list” of the top  3-5 math concepts they wished all students mastered by the time they entered their grade level. Then, these “wish lists” were passed to the grade level below to inform their essential math standards. We also used Jason Zimba’s Cluster Emphases to guide our understanding around which standards are major, supporting, and additional. Additionally, we consult the guidance provided by our core curricular resources.

Once essential standards are agreed upon, teams determine proficiency criteria that define what students must know and be able to do to approach, meet, and exceed the standards. Common formative assessments (CFAs) are then selected or created in alignment with the essential standards.  The CFAs are the lynchpin of the guaranteed and viable curriculum -- what is assessed is what gets taught by teachers and learned by students. Teams review CFA data to establish inter-rater reliability, as well as inform intervention and enrichment. Additionally, we are devoting our district-wide early dismissal meetings to establishing inter-rater reliability around the math assessments that accompany our new curriculum. We review assessments both before and after students take them, focusing in on questions that elicit responses that are particularly challenging to assess. Through this work, teachers come to consensus around adjustments to the test items and/or the rubrics that will result in greater inter-rater reliability. These methods ensure that the curriculum students learn in a school year is not left to chance based on the teacher to which they are assigned. Instead, students across each grade level work toward mastering a guaranteed curriculum.

MONITORING STUDENT LEARNING ON A TIMELY BASIS

Student learning is monitored in relation to both benchmark expectations and the essential standards of each content area. Monitoring student learning via benchmark assessments is less timely, as it occurs just three times a year. However, it does help inform us about where students are in relation to normative expectations, as well as to measure our progress in relation to team and school targets. 

More timely assessment comes via the team’s common formative assessments, which provides data we house in internally created dashboards. These assessments are developed or selected in relation to the agreed-upon essential learning outcomes. Teams agree on their testing protocol and bring assessments to the next available team meeting to analyze in alignment with our data analysis process (See Appendix G). We document outcomes of the analysis and collaboratively plan for related adjustments to instruction that are implemented as quickly as possible. Inherent to our data analysis process is re-assessment for students who did not yet meet the standards. We agree upon the date we will bring the re-assessment data back to the team to evaluate student progress and plan accordingly.

Additional timely assessment happens in the form of progress monitoring in relation to Tier 2 and Tier 3 learning targets for specific students. Teachers monitor at the Tier 2 level, while our support services staff monitors at the Tier 3 level. This progress monitoring is a natural complement to our work around analyzing and responding to data, and allows us to do so with greater frequency and precision for the students who need it. 

Ultimately, the Westmore Staff is committed to the relentless pursuit of high levels of learning for all. As such, we must monitor student progress in a timely manner in a variety of ways and respond accordingly.

 

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

Given our collective commitment to high levels of learning for all, Westmore has been able to systematically leverage the master schedule, student mindsets, effective collaborative team work, and the MTSS framework to provide intervention and extension.

Our master schedule is an important component in making sure time is designated for all students to have additional time and support for learning. First, we built in WIN (What I Need) time for all  grade levels, which is designated time for intervention and enrichment.  As we realized that many students were missing core instruction time for intervention, thereby compounding deficits,  we identified staggered core instructional time blocks for reading and math that are protected for all students. We make every effort for interventions and other interruptions to take place outside this designated time.

The students themselves are also key drivers in how time and support is used. Students take ownership of their learning, and the Westmore staff believes students are empowered as learners when they are taught to track assessment data and engage in the goal-setting process. The individual student goal setting and conferencing that happens across our school helps students take ownership of their learning, instills a growth mindset, and proves to students that they have a large degree of control over their own destiny. This process has helped students understand how their use of time and support impact achievement.

Furthermore, effective teacher teams are critical in providing students with additional time and support for learning. It is the team’s agreement on essential learning outcomes and relentless pursuit of ensuring all students achieve that allows them to capitalize on their collective strengths to serve students across the entire grade level. This includes analyzing data together in a way that helps uncover instructional strengths of individual teachers and using that information to plan for the success of all students. These plans may include flexible grouping across classrooms that allow student needs to be targeted.

Finally, the MTSS framework is utilized to ensure we routinely analyze data to identify which students are in need of intervention or enrichment -- both in relation to academic and social-emotional learning. Our teachers implement Tier 1 and Tier 2 within the context of the classroom, while our support staff implement Tier 3. We regularly monitor student progress and collaboratively agree on how intervention will be adjusted accordingly.

 

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

First, our collaborative teacher teams are organized for improvement. This means that they agree on their central purpose -- to ensure high levels of learning for all students. In addition, they have critical components in place to ensure they function at their highest capacity. This includes creating, living by, and monitoring norms that define the way they work together. They have designated meeting times, a meeting place, agendas, shared data tracking and document organization systems, and protocols they can employ to maximize efficiency. Team members share roles and responsibilities, with one team member serving as the Team Lead. The Team Leads helps facilitate the work and serves as the team’s liaison to our School Leadership Team (SLT).

Also, school-wide structures and systems are in place to support highly effective teams that are inclusive of all teachers. Our master schedule allows for two protected meeting times a week for each grade level and our Special Areas (art, music, and physical education) teachers. Our Special Education teachers collaborate with both grade-level teams and one another. Each team has representation on our SLT.

Additionally, our teams do the right work. This means true collaboration around the four PLC questions  (1. What do we want students to know and be able to do? 2. How will we know if they know it? 3. What will we do to intervene? 4. What will we do to enrich?). Our teams agree on SMART goals, essential learning outcomes, common formative assessments, and regularly monitor data to target student learning needs.

We have replaced traditional professional development with a systemic Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) protocol.  Within this protocol, a far more powerful lever for individual and collective improvement of teacher practice exists—-the analysis of and response to data garnered by common formative assessments. Our process requires careful reflection of the instructional strategies that led to greater student growth. When the data proves a given strategy is more impactful than others, we can take action to ensure that all students have access to highly effective teaching. Actions may include a teacher coaching his/her team or directly applying the strategy to the instruction of a group of students across the grade level who demonstrate a related need. Through continuous, job-embedded learning anchored in common formative assessment data, instructional guesswork is replaced by intentional and systematic implementation of practices proven to work in our local context.

Furthermore, we have aligned our homework and grading practices to our mission of ensuring high levels of learning for all. This means that we allow re-dos/re-takes, base quarter grades on a recent pattern of demonstrated proficiency rather than averages, and do not rely on homework as intervention or as an assessment of learning. 

Hiring and onboarding practices also prioritize our PLC culture. We look for candidates who have a mindset that aligns with our mission and can demonstrate their ability to collaborate. We include existing team members in the interviewing process to ensure that the new team members are a good fit and will bring a balance of unique strengths to the team. New staff members are also mentored by team members to promote their success.

Ultimately, the Westmore Staff has agreed that being serious about student learning requires that our use of time, money, and people, as well as our collective practices, be in alignment with that mission. It is by design -- not by accident -- that we build teacher capacity to work as members of high-performing collaborative teams focused on improved learning for all students.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Earned the Illinois Exemplary School Designation for 2019 for performing in the top 10% of schools statewide, with no underperforming student groups.

Illinois' Exemplary School Designation, which is awarded to schools performing in the top 10% of schools statewide, with no underperforming student groups.

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