West Side Elementary
- Number of Students: 511
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 69%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 5.4%
- Percent of Special Education: 14.8%
- White: 77.8%
- Black: 4.6%
- Hispanic: 10.8%
- Asian: 0.4%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.4%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.4%
- Multiracial: 5.6%
- Other: 0%
West Side Elementary, established circa 1914, sits in the proud community of Rossville, Georgia, on the Georgia-Tennessee border. Our families continue to be hardworking caregivers who, like those in many other rural communities, struggle to provide as best as possible. Known for our higher poverty and transiency rates, which have consistently held in more top percentiles, we are among the district’s highest. Currently, West Side’s free and reduced lunch rate is around 80%, while our transient rate hovers closer to 30%. While our goal has always been to teach all students with compassion and empathy, our path was not an effective one because it was highly individualized.
Catoosa County Public Schools began a district-wide journey with Professional Learning Communities around 2015, and many of our teachers participated in the writing of our first-ever district essential standards. We also started a book study of Learning by Doing to discover what PLCs were about and satisfy a district expectation. Although we were building a common language together, we did not own the process. Then in 2017, we received our College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) rating of 57%, which rattled our proverbial collective cage and served as a catalyst to launch us into seeking a deeper understanding of a professional learning community.
After attending the PLC at Work Conference in Dallas, Texas, in the summer of 2018, our new principal came back with a rough draft game plan to address West Side’s deficits and enhance our strengths by focusing on the Four Pillars of mission, vision, values, and goals. We began by creating a master schedule with input from the assistant principal and academic coach. The new master schedule ensured time for Tier 2 prevention and Tier 3 intervention in all grade levels. Also, we identified and scheduled dedicated weekly collaborative planning and coaching times for all teams. Additional work began on establishing our inaugural Guiding Coalition by investing in sending select faculty members to a Solution Tree training in the fall.
Beginning the 2018 school year with a PLC game plan was both exciting and daunting for our team. We launched our school theme, “All Hands On Deck,” to focus on team dynamics, instituting common language, improving teacher practice and student achievement, and increasing teacher efficacy through collaboration. The work was challenging in every part as we took on re-evaluating our essential standards, creating common assessments, establishing team dynamics, analyzing student data, and addressing our collective biases.
Sending eight teachers to the PLC at Work conference that fall ignited many of our faculty’s passion for getting the ball rolling with a Guiding Coalition. Upon our return to school for the second semester in January 2019, our Guiding Coalition obtained school-wide input and, through consensus, created our West Side Mission and Vision Statements. As a faculty, we revisited our West Side Mission and Vision Statements during our professional learning with Solution Tree’s Dr. Jamie Virga in August. We collaborated to develop our initiatory Collective Commitments. Every member of our faculty signed these Collective Commitments, and we prominently displayed them in the foyer of our school (Appendix A). Students also began learning our Mission Statement by reciting it daily during morning announcements.
In January 2020, we revisited our common Mission and Vision Statements and our Collective Commitments to recalibrate our focus. During this time, each team member explored and discussed what the Collective Commitments looked like in action at our school in small, collaborative groups. Then, the entire faculty again reaffirmed their commitment to our collective focus.
After revisiting the Mission Statement, Vision Statement, and Collective Commitments within their teams to discuss progress toward achieving them, the Guiding Coalition determined that we had unachieved goals that we wanted to meet. Therefore, it was unanimously agreed to continue with our current Mission Statement, Vision Statement, and Collective Commitments.
With a new purposeful focus, we also engaged in identifying essential standards, creating standard grading practices through collaborative discourse, began writing common formative assessments, and developed curriculum maps for the next year (Appendix A). Additionally, we provided weekly, job-embedded team professional learning through coaching support, allowing teachers to delve deeper into understanding the PLC process.
Many of our teachers attended various Solution Tree PLC events that prompted action and ownership. The RTI at Work training and the Assessment training with Casandra Erkens, coupled with ongoing district PLC support, allowed teachers to learn and reflect on our current classroom and school PLC practices in a collaborative setting. As a result, our school took steps to enhance Tier 1 instruction and address disproportionalities in Tiers 2 and 3 to ensure high levels of learning for all students and better establish a guaranteed and viable curriculum. Our concentrated effort to develop the PLC process at West Side resulted in a new CCRPI score of 69% -- 12 percentage points!
The school’s administration and Academic Coach attended the Solution Tree training, PLC at Work in the summer of 2018, prompting them to focus specifically on our master schedule. For the 2018-2019 school year, they created time in our master schedule to provide for collaborative team meetings based on the PLC model. We worked closely with grade-level teams to identify essential standards and learning targets for our school (Appendix B).
A new momentum propelled us into the 2019 school year. We welcomed Dr. Jamie Virga from Solution Tree to lead our entire school faculty and staff in Working As a Professional Learning Community. During this professional in-service training, Dr. Virga guided us further into the implementation of the PLC process. The training’s engaging and challenging work forced us to re-evaluate our commitment to ensuring high levels of learning for our students by looking closer at the Four Pillars. As collaborative teams took ownership of student learning and instructional practice, we saw a strengthening in teacher commitment to take collective responsibility for all students. Coaching support encouraged critical reflection and engaged in reciprocal accountability as teams established norms and took on improving student learning by identifying misconceptions and misaligned goals.
Collaborative teams met with our Academic Coach in August 2019 to set S.M.A.R.T. Goals for grade-level teams. Using the S.M.A.R.T. Goals and Action Planning Worksheet from Common Formative Assessment, teams analyzed the previous year’s district benchmark data for grades K - 2 and state assessment data for grades 3 - 5 to create a picture of their current reality. They then collectively established a grade-level S.M.A.R.T. Goal that would be incrementally measured using winter and spring district benchmark data. The teams developed action plans and assigned roles for achieving the goals. The teams’ S.M.A.R.T. Goals and the corresponding data were posted with our school comprehensive S.M.A.R.T. Goal in our school’s foyer, allowing for community accountability (Appendix C). As new data became available for each benchmark, we added it to our S.M.A.R.T. Goals Board for continued progress monitoring. Also, teams analyzed the updated data with the Academic Coach and revisited their S.M.A.R.T. Goals and Action Planning Worksheets for re-evaluation and alignment.
Attending Coach’s Collaborative Team Meetings, teams participated in professional learning about creating common assessments and analyzing student data. Coaching support on designing collaborative units and lesson plans allowed teams to begin to own their practice and critically reflect on student learning. As data now informed instruction, teachers regularly monitored students for re-learning and extension purposes. Using common formative assessment data to measure progress toward successfully reaching team and school goals, collaborative teams began critically reflecting on instructional practice and assigned teaching plans for Tier 2 instruction accordingly. It was at this time that our PLC began to truly see the RTI process as an approach to instruction, prevention, and intervention to increase student learning (Appendix D).
Further PLC training and support afforded our teachers opportunities to attend Guiding Coalition, Mathematics at Work, Assessments in PLC, and PLC at Work training. As each team returned, they shared their new learning and experiences with their team members and put the next steps into an action plan. Follow-up on plan enactment allowed teams to assess progress on engaging their practice with new learning. Additional opportunities for professional learning were offered by establishing West Side University (WSU) as teachers planned and presented knowledge and ideas to their peers (Appendix E).
West Side Elementary’s PLC journey has been advantageous for all members of our learning community. Since Georgia did not issue 2019-2020 CCRPI scores due to the pandemic, we analyzed student assessment data from multiple sources. These data sources included our Student Intervention Team (A-SIT), Renaissance STAR Reading and Mathematics Benchmark Assessments, Georgia Kindergarten Inventory of Developmental Skills (G-Kids), and grade-level common formative and summative assessments to measure student academic growth and improvement (Appendices F and G). The progress identified in these assessments and our CCRPI Trends data led us to conclude that had we participated in statewide assessments, West Side Elementary would have demonstrated a substantial increase in student learning (Appendix H).
At this place in our journey, we can now honestly state that our PLC’s dedication to ensuring high levels of learning for all students fuels our commitment to a focus on learning, collaborative culture and collective responsibility, and a results orientation. By adopting Mike Schmoker’s statement as our mantra, “Clarity precedes competence,” West Side Elementary moves forward past just teaching to ensure that all students learn.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
West Side Elementary expects all teachers to collaborate and reflect on student learning and professional/instructional practice. During collaborative team meetings (by grade-level or content), teachers use the four guiding questions and essential standards to create unit plans (core instruction) and common assessments--formative and summative. Using essential standards, teachers identify learning targets to guide instruction. The data from common assessments is used to inform Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction. Collaborative teams use student assessment data to group students across the grade level based on students’ needs for re-learning, extension, and enrichment utilizing teacher instructional strengths. Teachers re-teach and extend content in Tier 2 instruction based on common assessments at least twice weekly for thirty minutes. Data is regularly analyzed by teams to inform this cyclical process.. Teachers reflect on students' learning and their teaching strategies. They collaborate with their team to determine which teachers are re-teaching students and which teachers are extending students using information gathered from the data of each classroom. Teachers organize and share resources such as agendas, meeting minutes, and student data in Team Shared Drives.
Students are also assessed using a universal screener three times a year in reading and math. They are progress monitored weekly or monthly, depending on if they are Tier 2 or Tier 3 students. This data is used to determine if a student needs intervention and if the intervention implemented is effective for student growth.
West Side Elementary uses research-based intervention programs that individually determine recommended usage based on student data. In addition, teachers monitor student progress regularly and interventions are monitored through the Academic Student Intervention Team (A-SIT) monthly. The A-SIT monitors academic progress and analyzes if interventions for specific students need to be adjusted. West Side students also record and measure their own learning through the use of data notebooks to set goals and monitor academic growth. Data notebooks help hold students accountable for their own learning and allows them to share their data with parents during conferences and “student showcase” nights. As a Leader in Me school, data notebooks have been used for 3 years to gather and monitor student data.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
In order to provide students additional time and support for learning, West Side Elementary has a protected Extended Learning TIme block (ELT) for each grade level during the school day. The ELT is a 45-minute segment used for extension (Tier 2) and intervention (Tier 3) support. Based on student assessment data, students are placed in appropriate supports to address reading or math deficiencies and needs. Classroom teachers, additional support teachers, and para-professionals are all utilized to provide intervention, extension, and enrichment support.
Within the master schedule, Tier 2 time is set aside twice-weekly for the purpose of preventive teaching and extension or enrichment as informed by common formative and common summative assessments.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
West Side Elementary works to build capacity through a variety of ways. A Guiding Coalition was formed to address the current reality of the school and guide next steps moving forward such as leading the school in the creation of new mission and vision statements. Additionally, the Guiding Coalition guided the process of adopting collective commitments by gaining ownership through seeking out input from all internal stakeholders. The Guiding Coalition was also provided professional development on developing high-performing and effective teams.
Professional learning at West Side Elementary is informed by Learning by Doing. Administrators and our academic coach meet weekly with teachers in collaborative teams to provide opportunities to reflect, plan ahead, and to provide feedback. Collaborative teams plan units together, develop and analyze common assessments, and reflect on professional practice to improve student learning and teacher practice. Vertical planning teams meet monthly to discuss commonalities between essential standards and analyze data across all grade levels to measure progress toward meeting school goals. Singleton content teachers collaborate at the district level and school levels for the purposes of planning, sharing knowledge, and reflecting on practice. All collaborative team meetings are driven by the Four Guiding Questions and the West Side Mission that ensures high levels of learning for all students. Job-embedded professional learning is ongoing through coaching support and West Side University where peers share knowledge and learning. West Side continually invests in our teachers, providing professional learning opportunities in house (e.g., bringing Dr. Jamie Virga for two days of on-site training) and at conferences (e.g., PLC at Work, RTI, and assessment training by Solution Tree).
Through all of these experiences, West Side Elementary is becoming a more effective, high-performing, collaborative Professional Learning Community.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
Goals and Focus Evidence
At West Side Elementary School, we believe that setting and achieving goals is vital to our success. Collaboratively, we established goals in academics and culture that would focus our effort and increase our collective efficacy.
As described earlier, collaborative teams established S.M.A.R.T. Goals using the previous year’s district benchmark data for grades K - 2 and state assessment data for grades 3 - 5 to create a picture of their current reality. To measure academic growth, we administered benchmark assessments approximately every nine weeks. Teams analyzed these benchmark assessments to determine which students were making significant progress toward the S.M.A.R.T. Goal, who was not making progress. Then, teams mapped out intervention, prevention, and extension instructional plans to appropriately support students with just-right instruction. Each time new data was analyzed, teachers revisited the S.M.A.R.T. Goal data board to assess their team’s progress toward their goal. Data graphs were displayed to illustrate growth toward the S.M.A.R.T. Goal, as indicated by school benchmark data. (Appendix C).
Common formative assessments were developed to determine student progress toward content mastery and to inform instructional practice. The West Side Elementary 5th grade team developed writing common formative assessments based on their essential standards. Students were given the success criteria upfront to provide clarity and achievement targets. The team assessed students with a benchmark writing prompt to demonstrate to students areas that needed to be addressed. Then, at the unit’s planned times, the CFAs were administered and scored using the agreed-upon success criteria. Students’ scores were graphed to demonstrate growth, and students set goals to achieve for their next CFA (Appendix I). The team analyzed the data and then would collaborate as to what students’ specific needs were. Small groups were determined for re-teaching purposes based on the data. The common summative assessment determined students’ overall mastery of the standard.
Additionally, the team recognized an academic deficiency in reading comprehension, as indicated in benchmark and CFA data analysis. During the collaboration, the team developed a plan to address the lack of growth using a small group guided reading approach as a Tier 2 support called Pusing in Reading Exceptional Support Services (PRESS). This plan brought in special education and reading specialists to support students during a concentrated time of guided reading that addressed focused reading, re-reading with purpose, writing, and word work. Teachers collaborated daily to realign PRESS plans to address students effectively and efficiently (Appendix J).
In 2018-2019, West Side’s new administration set parent attendance goals to increase school events’ involvement. Collaborating with the school Guiding Coalition and other leadership teams, our Parent Volunteer Coordinator and school administration established a lofty goal of increasing parent attendance by at least 25% at every event. Parents were given parent surveys to obtain input from parents about what they wanted from the school at these meetings and what would help their child’s academic success. Incentives were also put in place to generate more excitement and attendance. Students and teachers were aware of the goals and given the exact attendance numbers needed to reach them. After each event, the collaborative team charted our progress and announced it to our stakeholders. The momentum created by these clear goals resulted in the overall growth increase of 79% at patient orientation, 107% at the Title I Annual Meeting, and 256% at student-led conferences. The overall growth of attendance at mid-semester conferences remained statistically unchanged (Appendix K & L).
West Side Elementary also set goals to increase our overall School Climate Score by addressing climate indicators such as discipline through PBIS and attendance.
By obtaining input from stakeholders about their perceptions of school climate, collecting PBIS data and affecting positive change in how students own their behavior, creating a safe and substance-free learning environment, and focusing on school-wide attendance, our School Leadership Team, B-SIT, Guiding Coalition, and Leader in Me Lighthouse Team established goals to determine growth in each area. Teams met monthly to evaluate and analyze relevant data to measure growth and to determine the next steps. This collaborative planning and execution of action steps resulted in the following areas of growth.
School Climate (Appendix M & N)
Georgia 2015 CCRPI School Climate: Overall School Score of 72.10 with a Performance score of 93.10.
Georgia 2016 CCRPI School Climate: Overall School Score of 64.20 with a Performance score of 91.90.
Georgia 2017 CCRPI School Climate: Overall School Score of 67.8 with a Performance score of 94.70.
Georgia 2018 CCRPI School Climate: Overall School Score of 57.6 with a Performance score of 96.50.
Georgia 2019 CCRPI School Climate: Overall School Score of 69.0 with a Performance score of 99.60.
PBIS (Appendix O)
2016-2017 PBIS Recognition: Installing
2017-2018 PBIS Recognition: Emerging
2018-2019 PBIS Recognition: Operational
Total Number of OSS Days reduced by 66% from 2017-2018 to 10 days in 2019-2020.
When West Side Elementary began our weekly book study of Learning By Doing in 2015, we were quite a novice at the process. These book study sessions included reading and discussing the ideas in key chapters during grade-level meetings with the principal, and teachers were encouraged to “try out” some of the strategies found in the text. Vertical, content-focused teams (K-1 and 2-5) were formed, and teachers developed CFAs for essential standards. These vertical teams chose one or two similar essential standards for each content area. Once the essential standards were taught and assessed, the team members worked collaboratively to score and share data with their team. Some intervention and extension lessons were taught based on the data results.
During this time, we began using Lexia Core5 Reading intervention to “backfill, reteach, and extend” student achievement in reading. During this process, a “more is better” mindset became prevalent as we felt that Lexia would completely support our students and close the content gaps. There was a significant push to make sure students met their weekly intervention minutes requirements in Lexia, and Tier 1 instruction suffered as a result. In many ways, Lexia became the teacher. Thus, our Georgia Milestones achievement scores for the 2017-2018 school year declined across all grade-levels and within all subgroups due to a lack of instructional focus and planning.
Significant changes occurred in the 2018-2019 school year at West Side Elementary. Changes in the administration were made at the principal, assistant principal, and academic coach levels. In November 2018, one teacher from each grade level, the academic coach, and the Title 1 interventionist attended the PLC: Learning by Doing training. This group came back with a clearer understanding of the PLC process and an excellent enthusiasm for implementing it with fidelity. As they shared their knowledge with their grade-level teams, that momentum and excitement began to transfer across the school. With a clear focus on the Four Pillars and through the guidance of our Guiding Coalition, additional support was planned for teachers. More teachers at each grade level attended training in developing assessments, and greater detail was given to the development and use of assessments and data. Grade-level teams choose three essential standards upon which to create units, common assessments, and a system for data analysis.
As we reset our focus on essential standards and strengthening Tier 1 instruction, we began to intervene with targeted Tier 2 support for students. Significant improvements were evident in 3rd-grade, as well as within the cohorts compared across grade-levels. Our focus on improvement in reading and math resulted in a considerable decrease in 5th-grade scores for science and social studies, as the amount of instructional time for those subjects was reduced within the schedule.
In the summer before the 2019-2020 school year, additional teachers from each grade level participated in the PLC Learning By Doing Institute. Now, approximately one-half of all West Side teachers had received this training. Then, the entire faculty attended a two-day on-site workshop, “Building Capacity for PLC,” with Dr. Jamie Virga. These professional learning opportunities helped to align our efforts and invigorate our determination to impact student learning.
Administrators built a schedule with 90-minute blocks for core subjects that enabled teachers to focus again on science and Social Studies. The longer blocks also allowed for more focused, embedded Tier 2 times within grade-levels and subject areas. A continued effort to improve the capacity of grade-level and vertical teams to plan and implement Tier 1 instruction, CFAs and Tier 2 support for intervention and extension was put into place where grade-level teams met twice a week for data analysis and planning, focusing on the Four Key Questions of PLC at each meeting.
More standards-based intervention programs were implemented. Reading Plus was added as an additional reading intervention for 4th and 5th-grade students. This program served as an extension strategy to improve vocabulary and comprehension skills. Additionally, Dreambox (K-2) and i-Ready (3-5) were implemented for Tier 3 intervention and extension opportunities in mathematics.
Unfortunately, the end of year data was not available for the 2019-2020 school year due to the pandemic. Since all data points for 2019-2020 reflect mid-year results, 2nd grade appears to indicate a decline from 2017-2018 to 2019-2020. These percentages are difficult to compare because they were based on a partial year of instruction.
We firmly believed that “had we participated in state-wide assessments, West Side Elementary would have demonstrated a substantial increase in student learning.” We made this conclusion based on the marked increases in student performance from the beginning of year STAR benchmark data compared to mid-year benchmark data. At each grade level, there was a significant shift from the number of students performing at “At Risk” levels to those performing at “On Watch” or “At or Above Grade Level.” Students made incredible gains from August to January across all grade-levels. Thus, it was our opinion that this trend would have continued and would have been reflected in state testing results.
As stated above, the focus on Lexia Core 5 in our Tier 3 intervention allowed teachers to spend a disproportionate amount of instructional time intervening and not instructing core content. As a result, significant drops occurred among subgroups such as Special Education and economically disadvantaged students. The lack of attention on Tier 1 instruction had a significant impact on student achievement and academic growth.
Furthermore, before 2018-19, Special Education was a pull-out program in our school. After noticing that the instruction received by our Special Education students was not as rigorous as that provided to general education students, we changed policy. We instituted a co-teach, full inclusion model for Special Education services. This change and a concentrated effort to improve Tier 1 instruction provided more instructional support and scaffolding opportunities and resulted in a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students.
5 STAR School Climate
2019 Catoosa County Creating Hope Award for ELA All catagories
2019 Catoosa County Creating Hope Award for ELA (Economically Disadvantaged)
2016- present Leader in Me School
2020 Model PLC School
2020 Leader in Me Lighthouse School