Brentwood Middle School

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

Introduction

Brentwood Middle, a suburban middle school located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, serves 1324 students in a thriving residential community.  We are fortunate to benefit from a dedicated staff, an active parent organization, and community support. Our school has been recognized on local, state and national levels.  We received the National Blue Ribbon Award in both 2006 and 2016, and we were again nominated by the State of Tennessee in 2019 (although not eligible to reapply within 5 years).   The State of Tennessee has also named us a 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 Tennessee Reward School for demonstrating high academic achievement and growth for our entire school population as well as our sub-population groups.  Locally, our district has consistently recognized Brentwood Middle for producing the highest student academic achievement and growth for middle schools over the past decade. Our path to the PLC journey began in 2015-2016 as our school leadership team reevaluated and discussed our mission and vision to ensure high levels of learning for all students.  Specifically, even though our school’s overall student achievement scores on state testing were high, it was evident that some teachers consistently outperformed others in our school, district, and across the State of Tennessee. Upon further investigation of these teachers’ practices, some common elements emerged: intense collaboration on effective instruction, use of shared assessments, data analysis, and frequent targeted intervention.  At that point, we didn’t have the PLC language or practices to describe what we recognized; we could simply see what worked well with a handful of teachers in our building. As a result of these findings, we came together as a school to craft our renewed school mission and vision to build a collaborative culture relentlessly focused on ensuring high levels of learning for all students (see BMS vision statement). In an effort to encourage collaboration immediately, our administration protected a “meeting-free” common planning period for teachers in the second semester and charted a course for PLC implementation by taking twelve teachers and administrators to the PLC at Work conference in St. Louis in the summer of 2016.  

Year 1 (2016-2017)

Upon returning to school in August 2016, the team that attended the PLC at Work conference defined and presented the PLC process to staff for the first time. To illustrate what it means to be a collaborative team, we utilized Dufour’s example of the Mayo clinic core values and how doctors collaborate to meet the needs of their patient.  We also emphasized Dufour’s metaphor of all team members rowing in the same direction compared to individuals running a marathon. In building upon this foundation, we trained our staff on the four critical questions that drive the PLC process and work of the academic team (same subject area and grade level teams).  At the conclusion of this back to school PD, we charged teams with PLC implementation as outlined in the unit planning cycle created as a result of our learning at the conference (see resources). While we set out in year one to address the four critical questions within each unit of instruction, our primary focus became creating a culture of teacher collaboration and designing common assessments. In October, administrators supported each academic team by facilitating reflective conversations on their progress in addressing the three big ideas and four critical questions. 

As implementation continued throughout year one, challenges arose as we navigated this new team structure and expectation of a collaborative culture.  Academic teams wrestled with the “tight” and “loose” elements of a PLC. This led us to revisit team norms and collective commitments for guidance on how to progress when teams disagree.  Because our leadership team was committed to full PLC implementation, BMS took twelve additional teachers to the PLC Summit in Phoenix in February 2017 to continue our learning. They returned with a clearer understanding of the tight elements of a PLC and what it means to become a level 10 team as defined by Mattos.

Upon returning from the Summit, administration met again with each academic team in March to further clarify and share this learning of tight elements of level 10 teams.  Through continued PD and many additional conversations, momentum increased, and by year’s end, many teachers began to embrace working on an interdependent team.  

Year 2 (2017-2018)

In year two (2017-2018) the PLC process truly began to take shape at BMS, as teachers began to fully buy into working in a collaborative culture. Over the summer, teams continued working together to clarify and later implement the guaranteed and viable curriculum unit by unit for each course. Also that summer, teachers attending the PLC at Work conference in Atlanta led the charge to more systematically address questions three and four of the PLC process and how we would create a system of interventions and extensions for all students.  While we previously provided interventions for struggling learners through Focus (directed study hall), we did not have a system for monitoring learning by standard and providing targeted intervention and extension for all students. After multiple planning meetings with teacher leaders, BMS added a forty-minute intervention period (called THRIVE) to the daily schedule that empowered all teams to provide timely, directive, diagnostic, and systematic interventions and extensions to all students.  Through this model, teachers use data each week from common formative assessments to design targeted interventions and extensions based on current student performance data (See question 3 for complete details regarding THRIVE).

The implementation of THRIVE transformed our school culture.  THRIVE sessions have enabled students to take ownership of their learning and have fostered interdependence among academic teams.  Previously teachers only interacted with their assigned students; now, THRIVE empowers teachers to share students for intervention and take collective responsibility for student learning and mastery of essential standards. As we concluded year two of PLC implementation, we had a systematic protocol for addressing each of the four critical questions of the PLC process unit by unit. 

Year 3 (2018-2019)

Now that we had full implementation of all PLC components, the relentless collaborative culture we envisioned continued to take hold and strengthen as we moved into the 2018-2019 school year.  At this point in our journey, all academic teams had a strong understanding of the PLC process and were executing each component of our unit planning cycle unit by unit. While we were proud of our progress, we still recognized challenges and opportunities for improvement. Therefore, moving into the 2018-2019 school year, our goals for each academic team were to continuously improve their execution of each step of the PLC process, and to continue building a healthy school culture that supported and sustained purposeful collaboration throughout our school.  The theme launched at the year’s start was one of creating a school that is both healthy (a culture to support PLC collaboration) and smart (knowledge and execution of PLC process) (reference Lencioni, The Advantage; Muhammad, PLC at Work Conference).  

As our back-to-school professional development began, we committed to focusing on organizational and academic team health as a foundation to support our efforts for continuous improvement in the PLC process. We trained our teachers in Lencioni’s pyramid of building cohesive teams (Building Trust, Mastering Conflict, Achieving Commitment, Embracing Accountability, and Focusing on Results; reference Lencioni, The Advantage).  We recognized that our academic teams, at times, were struggling to build trust and engage in healthy conflict, so it became important that we provide them with the process and tools to help them engage in the crucial conversations that come with effective collaboration. In order to support these conversations and promote accountability, we examined Lencioni’s Conflict Continuum and discussed the cost of avoiding conflict. We also focused on improving our process for creating team norms, collective commitments, and team SMART goals. Each teacher completed the StrengthsFinder assessment and academic teams shared their results with each other to better understand each teammate’s strengths, how they approach their work, and what they need from their team members. Moreover, with PLC embedded deep into our culture, we engaged our academic teams in the hiring process in order to build upon our momentum of creating highly cohesive teams. 

Finally, our summer professional development centered around each team continuously improving their work in addressing the 4 critical PLC questions unit by unit; in addition, prior to the start of the school year, our administration began providing training for all new staff in the PLC process and our expectations for executing our unit planning model. These trainings and strategies have empowered our teachers and academic teams to build trust and engage in healthy conflict as they work towards becoming strong, cohesive teams focused on meeting the individual needs of the students they serve. 

Summary

As we reflect on our PLC journey, we are extremely proud of the work our teachers and staff have accomplished and the academic achievement and growth our students have made in their learning. Five years ago, we agreed as a school that our vision was to become a collaborative community relentlessly focused on ensuring high levels of learning for all students. Today, Brentwood Middle is closer to fulfilling that vision than we have ever been. We continue our work of clarifying our guaranteed and viable curriculum unit by unit, creating rigorous common formative assessments to measure student progress by standard, consistently analyzing student performance data throughout each unit, and designing timely and targeted interventions and extensions to ensure high levels of learning for all students. While we celebrate our tremendous progress, we recognize the nature of the work is ongoing.  Therefore, we look forward to the never-ending pursuit of sustaining a smart and healthy school for our students; that we may always strive to be a collaborative community relentlessly pursuing excellence in every step of the PLC process (smart), while simultaneously building a culture of cohesive collaboration within our teams (healthy) to sustain this significant and vital work for our students.

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Describe the process that your school uses to create and implement a guaranteed and viable curriculum.

Since Brentwood Middle embarked on the PLC journey, we have actively worked to create a school culture with a focus on learning for all students based on a collaborative team approach.  Although we had been working from a set of state standards and a district-implemented scope and sequence, teachers in our building interpreted it differently and worked primarily in isolation.  In order for academic teams to come together to agree upon the guaranteed and viable curriculum and execute the PLC process, administration made some changes to support team cohesiveness. First, a common, meeting-free planning time was established for all academic teams on Thursdays and late-start Mondays were used as a time for teachers to collaborate.

The following summer, we worked to improve our vertical alignment within each department by mapping out the curriculum across grade levels.  Representatives from each grade met to identify the essential standards and skills and to create common vocabulary across the department. As a result of that work, academic teams are continuing to identify essential standards within each quarter, unit by unit.  

As we have grown into a PLC school, developing academic teams has been critical, and our administration recognizes and supports this development.  During the summer our administration approves two days of professional development for each academic team to decide upon essential standards, create unit plans, and design rigorous common assessments.  As our state has changed standards, our administration has supported teams by providing additional planning days during the school year to update the guaranteed and viable curriculum.

Describe the strategies your school uses to monitor student learning on a timely basis.

As we have grown in the PLC process, we have learned that it is critical to know specifically where students are struggling so that we can provide feedback and interventions to students.  Common unit assessments, given approximately every three weeks, were our first step to monitor student learning. However, academic teams quickly found that they needed more timely information in order to intervene prior to the unit assessment.  We now strive to administer common formative assessments every few days of instruction to monitor student learning on each standard and skill and drive intervention. Another way we have improved our assessments is by clustering questions by standard; students and teachers can now more quickly identify skills that have been mastered or skills that need additional instruction.  We have utilized software programs (GradeCam, NearPod, ALEKS, GoFormative, etc.) to more efficiently analyze assessment data by question, standard, and teacher. Since we have become a 1:1 school, students use their Chromebooks to complete mid-lesson formative checks which allow us to provide immediate feedback to students. Teams come together in their weekly collaboration time to analyze this CFA data, identify students who need additional support, and design targeted THRIVE interventions and enrichments to ensure mastery of essential standards.  As our teams have progressed in their data analysis, we have provided multiple teacher-led professional development sessions to inform and model for staff the effective practices of collecting, analyzing, and acting on data that are being used in our school. 

 

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

After the 2017 PLC at Work conference where teachers attended Mike Mattos’ session on secondary interventions, Brentwood Middle felt passionate about revamping our schedule to provide a targeted intervention and enrichment time for all students during the school day.  We had tried to fit intervention programs (BOOST, ENCORE) into our previous schedule; however, they did not provide support for all students, and they produced inconsistent results. In the fall of 2017, we added a 40-minute period (extended to 45 min in 2018-2019) into our day that we called THRIVE (Taking Honorable Responsibility in Viking Excellence).  This period offers interventions to ensure students who struggle receive additional time and support in a way that is timely, directive, diagnostic, and systematic. Moreover, students who demonstrate proficiency are provided extensions and enrichments in order to deepen their learning. THRIVE instills a sense of student ownership by providing a weekly opportunity to reflect on their learning in their student data notebooks and choose targeted learning sessions that will help them grow.

Academic teams meet each week on Thursday to analyze common formative assessment data and design targeted intervention and extension sessions. Sessions are designed to support the learning of all students and are often taught by a teacher other than a student’s primary classroom teacher.  They are designed to support mastery of the standards identified as essential for all students. All sessions are academically driven. Some sessions are deemed “closed”, and students who are “stamped” are required to attend; other sessions are “open” and available for any student in the grade level to attend.  We have students who are requested to be in multiple teachers’ sessions; therefore, we have created a priority system to guarantee that teachers will have access to every student each week (Tuesday: Science, Wednesday: ELA, Thursday: Math, Friday: Social Studies). 

THRIVE is 3rd period each day for all students in the school.  Each Monday students reflect in their student data notebook on their learning and grades, missing assignments, and their nine-week goals before reviewing the week’s schedule of THRIVE sessions.  Students record their first, second, and third choice THRIVE session for each day (Tuesday through Friday), and sign up each morning electronically. Many students are “stamped” for targeted interventions and enrichments each day, while students without stamps choose from approximately 20 “open” sessions that will maximize their learning. 

Each week, a variety of open and closed sessions are offered including: extra help and additional practice, re-teaching (identified via CFA data), test review, extension and enrichment, close read activities, organization and study skills, physical activity, missing work, open silent study spaces in our library and cafeteria (See example THRIVE schedules in attachments). 

In addition to our THRIVE tier 1 intervention system, we also have additional RTI interventions in reading, writing, and math for students who need more intensive tier 2 and tier 3 interventions.  Students in Special Education also receive deficit-based interventions as outlined in their IEP from a special education teacher during focus. Students who struggle but do not qualify for RTI receive targeted small group grade-level interventions weekly during THRIVE.  A data team meets monthly to assess these students’ progress.

Finally, at the end of the school day, students have a 45-minute Focus period, which allows students the opportunity to begin independent work.  During this time, students may seek out additional help from their academic teachers. Most importantly, teachers have another period in the school day to provide students with time for reteaching and additional support. 

 

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

Brentwood Middle School is dedicated to living out our vision of becoming a collaborative community relentlessly focused on meeting the individual needs of all students (see BMS Vision Statement).   In the past, we had been a school of isolated teachers focused only on the students within our own classrooms. Teams discussed what to teach and sometimes shared resources.  The administration recognized that teachers needed training and support in order to transform into a collaborative community. Our practices have shifted from a focus on teaching to one of student learning.  With the financial support of our district, as well as our PTO, we have invested in training our teachers via the Solution Tree PLC at Work, PLC Summit, and RTI at Work conferences, sending groups of teachers once or twice a year for the past several years.  After each conference, teachers come back impassioned and provide turn-around training for the rest of the staff.  

In these turn-around trainings, we have built capacity for teams to develop team norms and collective commitments to one another to guide their work through the PLC process.  We have relentlessly focused on the three big ideas and four critical questions and how to embed them within each unit. As we deepened our learning we focused our staff's attention on the tight elements of a PLC and the characteristics of a level 10 team.   Finally, we have had extensive discussions as a staff and within departments on how to identify the guaranteed and viable curriculum, create common formative assessments, analyze assessment data, and how to provide intervention and extension based on CFA data.  Academic team leaders and department chairs have received additional training and support in order to lead their teams and implement our PLC unit planning cycle with fidelity. 

BMS utilizes a variety of team structures to support the development of the whole child.  

Academic teams consist of same grade-level, same subject-area teachers, which are a part of larger department teams.  Academic teams meet at least twice weekly; however, our highest achieving teams maintain on-going reflection on instruction and student learning on a daily, period-by-period basis.  Strategically moving academic teams to close proximity in the building has facilitated greater collaboration and cohesiveness. Providing this structure and time to collaborate has been critical to our success and growth in the PLC process.  In 2016, our administration began by protecting our Thursday’s planning time for academic teams meetings. The next year, our late start Monday time (Power Monday) was also protected for teams to plan, create common assessments, analyze assessment data, and design interventions.  While academic teams are consistently working to implement the PLC process with fidelity, teachers are also working vertically within their departments to ensure cohesiveness from one grade level to the next. Departments meet monthly to share best practices and department chairs provide targeted training to ensure all students are learning at high levels. 

We have an RTI intervention team that meets monthly to identify students who are struggling.  The team provides intense, consistent interventions to help students fill gaps that will allow them to be successful in grade level instruction. The RTI team meets quarterly with academic stakeholders (grade level teachers, counselors, psychologist, administration, and interventionists) to discuss instructional strategies and goals for each identified student.  Students move in and out of intervention throughout the year based on progress monitoring data. 

Our teachers come together quarterly as grade-level and interdisciplinary teams to discuss the whole child.  Teams notice trends in academic performance and changes in behavior that impact learning. Placing sixth graders on small interdisciplinary teams with common teachers helps students and families be known by adults within our school.  Through these meetings teachers develop a team approach to support the needs of each child.

 

Achievement Data Files

2006 National Blue Ribbon School 

2016 National Blue Ribbon School

2019 National Blue Ribbon School Nominee (not eligible within 5 years of last recognition)

TheBestSchools.org #30 Middle School in the Country

WCS Superintendents Award for Excellence in Highest Achiveing 2017, 2018, 2019

WCS Superintendents Award for Excellence in Highest Growth 2017, 2018

TN Rewards School 2017-2018, 2018-2019

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