Morrilton Intermediate School

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

Before Morrilton Intermediate School was selected as part of the PLC at Work Process in Arkansas, we had common planning times, but there was no expectation of collaboration. We had access to data but did not utilize it to make changes to instruction, so we did not see the results in the classroom or on assessments. We had pacing guides with no focus on essential standards and teachers were trying to cram everything in during the school year. Unfortunately, teachers were working hard as individuals and not smarter as a team. Assessments were just the end of a unit and not used for improvement. The common theme was, “I taught it, they just didn’t get it.”  We knew that our culture was not built on shared ownership of learning. If a student was not learning, the student, parent/guardian, previous grade, and lack of resources were always to blame. We found many excuses because we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We just knew that what we were doing was not working; enter the Solution Tree PLC at Work Process. 

 Our first step in the PLC process was to build a shared understanding of the four critical questions. We spent time first on question one- What do we want students to know and be able to do?  Collaborative teams started to identify and unpack essential standards. Teachers found this work challenging and didn’t always understand why this was important. Over time through resources such as Learning by Doing, (DuFour et al.)  as well as on-site coaching, we built a common understanding of the work and the why behind it. We moved from coverage of standards to planning for deep understanding of the essential standards.  At the end of the year, teachers met together to review our learning and celebrate our success. We felt that we built a foundation with mission, vision and a start to our collective commitments. 

 Once we understood our “why,” we looked out every aspect of our day and time to ensure it was supporting the work.  We adjusted the master schedule to allow for a protected hour and a half of collaboration time each week for each team. (See Appendix 1: Master Schedule) and to allow time for teachers to intervene in a timely manner based on the data from the common formative assessments.  Each grade had a protected 45-minute block of time in which teachers through flexible grouping could intervene on the essential standards and deficits in skills that the teachers were able to identify through assessments. 

 The mission of MIS is to maximize the safety, learning and achievement of every scholar, every day, and we are committed to this mission for ALL students.  Every collaborative team starts their meeting with a review of the mission, vision of the school and norms of the team. (see Appendix 2- Video of Beginning of Collaborative Meeting and Appendix 3- Collaborative Team Monitoring Tool). A tool is used to support teacher understanding of the process and to assist administrators as they observe and support teams. Each team receives feedback from the administrative team following the meeting. 

 A leadership team was used to guide the beginning stages of the process, but a true guiding coalition emerged, in the second year.  The administrative team, including the principal and instructional facilitator, first invested in the guiding coalition to shift the culture from blame to ownership.  The guiding coalition which includes a representative from each subject and grade, a special education teacher, a “specials” teacher, counselor, and instructional coach met weekly to begin to build a shared leadership model as the school continued to grow in the PLC work, sharing successes and data and continued to build capacity among the team. These meetings included addressing the specific needs of each team and roadblocks they were facing, but most importantly they learned from each other and began to communicate this learning to their teams. The guiding coalition shares and celebrates data; they share what instructional strategies they used to get the desired results; they learn from each other and support each other in the work.   A culture of high expectations and learning took shape and continues to be the model by which all teams operate. 

 As we learned more through the RTI Coaching Academy, the guiding coalition was able to share their knowledge and support ALL teachers’ understanding of how to better answer questions three and four of the PLC critical questions.  (See Appendix 4 and 5- RTI at Work Pyramid and RTI Work at MIS). During the second year, we understood the value of our data and how to use it to take actions to help our students. This data included our common assessments, STAR, DIBELS, ACT/Aspire Interims and summative assessments. As we progressed, we increased our use of data to include how we created flexible groups and responded to student needs. (See Appendix 6- Copy of 4th grade Tier 2 Intervention Chart). We conducted data talks, both collaborative teams and individual teachers, with the school’s administrative team. (See Appendix 7- Video: Principal Stobaugh planning next steps with 5th grade ELA team). Teachers were expected to answer questions about individual students/skill by skill, what instructional strategies proved to be most effective, and a plan to  support that student. Teachers shared specific instructional strategies they used to yield the desired results and the data meetings ended with a plan for how to implement these strategies in all the classrooms. The data from the assessments is used to inform instruction.  During this second year we also adjusted our intervention plans/time as we learned more about the RTI process. As a staff, we were able to celebrate moving from a “C” to a “B” school based on ESSA scores. (See Appendix 8- School Report Card- ESSA 2019). This was great confirmation that our culture was changing and our work was focused on continuous improvement. Because of the change in culture, MIS quickly became the model for our school district. 

 Beginning year three, we continued to build a common understanding of what all students meant in the school.  The main focus was to understand more about how to assess for understanding both in our classrooms and during our collaborative teams. A decision was made that a group of teachers, not the guiding coalition, would attend The Assessment Coaching Academy. This was intentionally done to create more common understanding and build capacity of the learning culture we want to sustain in our school. This group of teachers represents each collaborative team and shares their learning with their teams. We saw more teachers emerge as leaders because of this decision. This assessment team will also be prepared to serve on the guiding coalition as part of our sustainability plan. 

 To continue to build our practices and ensure sustainability, the guiding coalition meets regularly to  build a shared learning of the PLC practices with a focus on the RTI process. Continuous improvement of best practices will be the intentional and on-going focus of Morrilton Intermediate School. As our school works as a Professional Learning Community, it is not enough to just KNOW the mission, but instead we are ON a mission to provide high levels of learning for ALL students.   

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Before Morrilton Intermediate School was selected as part of the PLC at Work Process in Arkansas, we had common planning times, but there was no expectation of collaboration. We had access to data but did not utilize it to make changes to instruction, so we did not see the results in the classroom or on assessments. We had pacing guides with no focus on essential standards and teachers were trying to cram everything in during the school year. Unfortunately, teachers were working hard as individuals and not smarter as a team. Assessments were just the end of a unit and not used for improvement. The common theme was, “I taught it, they just didn’t get it.”  We knew that our culture was not built on shared ownership of learning. If a student was not learning, the student, parent/guardian, previous grade, and lack of resources were always to blame. We found many excuses because we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We just knew that what we were doing was not working; enter the Solution Tree PLC at Work Process. 

 Our first step in the PLC process was to build a shared understanding of the four critical questions. We spent time first on question one- What do we want students to know and be able to do?  Collaborative teams started to identify and unpack essential standards. Teachers found this work challenging and didn’t always understand why this was important. Over time through resources such as Learning by Doing, (DuFour et al.)  as well as on-site coaching, we built a common understanding of the work and the why behind it. We moved from coverage of standards to planning for deep understanding of the essential standards.  At the end of the year, teachers met together to review our learning and celebrate our success. We felt that we built a foundation with mission, vision and a start to our collective commitments. 

 Once we understood our “why,” we looked out every aspect of our day and time to ensure it was supporting the work.  We adjusted the master schedule to allow for a protected hour and a half of collaboration time each week for each team. (See Appendix 1: Master Schedule) and to allow time for teachers to intervene in a timely manner based on the data from the common formative assessments.  Each grade had a protected 45-minute block of time in which teachers through flexible grouping could intervene on the essential standards and deficits in skills that the teachers were able to identify through assessments. 

 The mission of MIS is to maximize the safety, learning and achievement of every scholar, every day, and we are committed to this mission for ALL students.  Every collaborative team starts their meeting with a review of the mission, vision of the school and norms of the team. (see Appendix 2- Video of Beginning of Collaborative Meeting and Appendix 3- Collaborative Team Monitoring Tool). A tool is used to support teacher understanding of the process and to assist administrators as they observe and support teams. Each team receives feedback from the administrative team following the meeting. 

 A leadership team was used to guide the beginning stages of the process, but a true guiding coalition emerged, in the second year.  The administrative team, including the principal and instructional facilitator, first invested in the guiding coalition to shift the culture from blame to ownership.  The guiding coalition which includes a representative from each subject and grade, a special education teacher, a “specials” teacher, counselor, and instructional coach met weekly to begin to build a shared leadership model as the school continued to grow in the PLC work, sharing successes and data and continued to build capacity among the team. These meetings included addressing the specific needs of each team and roadblocks they were facing, but most importantly they learned from each other and began to communicate this learning to their teams. The guiding coalition shares and celebrates data; they share what instructional strategies they used to get the desired results; they learn from each other and support each other in the work.   A culture of high expectations and learning took shape and continues to be the model by which all teams operate. 

 As we learned more through the RTI Coaching Academy, the guiding coalition was able to share their knowledge and support ALL teachers’ understanding of how to better answer questions three and four of the PLC critical questions.  (See Appendix 4 and 5- RTI at Work Pyramid and RTI Work at MIS). During the second year, we understood the value of our data and how to use it to take actions to help our students. This data included our common assessments, STAR, DIBELS, ACT/Aspire Interims and summative assessments. As we progressed, we increased our use of data to include how we created flexible groups and responded to student needs. (See Appendix 6- Copy of 4th grade Tier 2 Intervention Chart). We conducted data talks, both collaborative teams and individual teachers, with the school’s administrative team. (See Appendix 7- Video: Principal Stobaugh planning next steps with 5th grade ELA team). Teachers were expected to answer questions about individual students/skill by skill, what instructional strategies proved to be most effective, and a plan to  support that student. Teachers shared specific instructional strategies they used to yield the desired results and the data meetings ended with a plan for how to implement these strategies in all the classrooms. The data from the assessments is used to inform instruction.  During this second year we also adjusted our intervention plans/time as we learned more about the RTI process. As a staff, we were able to celebrate moving from a “C” to a “B” school based on ESSA scores. (See Appendix 8- School Report Card- ESSA 2019). This was great confirmation that our culture was changing and our work was focused on continuous improvement. Because of the change in culture, MIS quickly became the model for our school district. 

 Beginning year three, we continued to build a common understanding of what all students meant in the school.  The main focus was to understand more about how to assess for understanding both in our classrooms and during our collaborative teams. A decision was made that a group of teachers, not the guiding coalition, would attend The Assessment Coaching Academy. This was intentionally done to create more common understanding and build capacity of the learning culture we want to sustain in our school. This group of teachers represents each collaborative team and shares their learning with their teams. We saw more teachers emerge as leaders because of this decision. This assessment team will also be prepared to serve on the guiding coalition as part of our sustainability plan. 

 To continue to build our practices and ensure sustainability, the guiding coalition meets regularly to  build a shared learning of the PLC practices with a focus on the RTI process. Continuous improvement of best practices will be the intentional and on-going focus of Morrilton Intermediate School. As our school works as a Professional Learning Community, it is not enough to just KNOW the mission, but instead we are ON a mission to provide high levels of learning for ALL students.   

 

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

 Our schedule allows for 45 minutes of intervention time, each day, that we call “W.I.N” (Whatever I Need) time. Our teams meet at least once a week to review student data and create their intervention/extension lists that identify specific standards and skills and the students that did not meet their agreed upon level of proficiency and those that did and are ready for extension. This list is based on how the students performed on common formative assessments and daily checks for understanding.  Our teachers are committed to not only re-teaching the skills that are needed, but also ensuring that the best teacher is teaching the skill using the most effective instructional strategy. If a teacher had success with teaching a certain skill then he or she will work with those students that didn’t master the skill and use those proven strategies for those students. For example, if a teacher has more training and proven success in reading, then he or she will take the students that are not reading on grade level and work with them and monitor their progress to share with the other teachers. 

 Each team also meets with the administrative team to discuss the data and make an action plan for each student that isn’t showing growth. If a student has not shown proficiency on two standards they are placed in our Tier II block of intervention.  The team discusses why this student isn’t making progress- Is it an attendance issue? Behavior concerns? A deficiency in foundational skills? Or do they need extra time and practice? A plan is made, the progress is tracked, and the team comes back together to discuss the progress and makes a plan to either intensify the support, change the support plan, or celebrate the growth and keep progress monitoring. 

 Our WIN block also allows us to address not only the third critical question, but also the fourth, “How do we respond when students learn?” Our teams are also including extension into the intervention time for those students who are on target and ready to extend their learning of the standard. The “specials” (music, art, library)  teachers as well as our Gifted and Talented Coordinator are utilized during this process. These teachers including the media specialist work with the math and literacy teachers to plan extension and enrichment lessons for the students that will support math/literacy in music, art, and technology. This WIN model allows students to see the cross-curricular connections.   

 In order  to focus on our stretch goal of ensuring that all students are reading on grade when they enter seventh grade, we needed to look for ways to allow for more time to focus on reading skills school-wide.  We went back to the master schedule, and we were able to find an additional 45 minute block of time to dedicate to reading in addition to the students’ 90 minute literacy block. During this reading block, teachers are assessing students’ reading levels and pinpointing the deficiencies in their reading and providing specific interventions in either decoding or comprehension. Because of this process, it is expected that the teachers share students to ensure success. Again, our goal is to always match the best teacher with the most effective strategies to support the student and skill.  

 Moving forward, we have built a schedule that allows for one 45 minute block of time that will occur at the same time for all three grade levels.  This schedule allows for more staff to work with an intervention group across grade bands to ensure a system of intervention is in place for all students and they are paired with the best teacher regardless of the grade.  

 

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

The guiding coalition is in place to help lead the work to ensure high-performing collaborative teams as each member is leading a collaborative team including our special education and a “specials” teacher representative. Each meeting of the guiding coalition begins with stating the norms and the vision and mission of the school and ends with a communication plan for each team, “How will we hold each other accountable for the work? How should we communicate our work to the teams to ensure clear understanding and ownership?” 

Kelli Gregory, a member of the guiding coalition reflects on their work, Being a part of the guiding coalition has empowered me to become a stronger teacher and leader. Members of the coalition come together in a protected environment where our voices are heard, and we can have meaningful conversations on a wide range of topics (data, scheduling, assessments, instruction, RTI) for the betterment of our scholars, teachers, and school. We look for ways to celebrate successes and seek alternatives to help when challenges arise.”(See Appendix 20- guiding coalition sample agenda).

The work of the administrative team is shared frequently with the guiding coalition and feedback is received to support and make changes to our practices and processes as a school. For example, the administrative team developed a unit planning cycle template and a learning cycle visual to help our teams ensure that their work stayed focused on the four critical questions (see Appendix 11- Unit Plan Template and 21-Learning Cycle for Collaborative Teams). This was drafted and then shared with the guiding coalition for reflection and revision. The guiding coalition shares effective instructional strategies with each other, and the administrators support the learning of the teachers by ensuring time to observe their peers to see the strategies in action and debriefing on the observation with the teacher that taught and the teacher that observed. We know that we learn best through job-embedded professional development and utilizing the expertise of those we have in our school.  

Each collaborative team has a protected time and space to meet each week.  Their essential standards are posted along with data to allow for vertical planning around the standards and each team works to develop a planning template based on the process that addresses all four of the critical questions.  Each team begins each meeting by reviewing the mission of the school, the norms, and the homework from the last meeting. (see once again, Appendix 2- Video of Beginning of Collaborative Meeting and Appendix 3- Collaborative Team Monitoring Tool, Appendix 22- PLC Math Agenda 02-19-2020). If teams are not functioning at their highest level, the guiding coalition along with the admin team offers support by reviewing the four critical questions and the norms of the team.  The administration uses Appendix 3: Collaborative Team Monitoring Tool to offer feedback on the meetings with each team which allows them to reflect on their work and ensure the focus remains on the four critical questions. 

SMART Goals, essential standards, assessment planning cycle templates, resources, and student data is all housed in a google drive and can be accessed by other teams, the principal and the instructional facilitator at any time for review and feedback.  The guiding coalition also works to vertically align the work around the essential standards. A physical wall of the essential standards is displayed in the planning room, and each team updates the data on the standards after each data meeting. This allows each team to be transparent with the data and serves as a tool to cross reference each team and grade’s essential standards for more effective planning. 

The guiding coalition conducts peer reviews of assessments, instructional strategies, and student work regularly.  They operate as the communicators and first teachers of best practices and both leaders and supporters of the PLC work.  As adults, we are committed to growing together to ensure student growth. Through the PLC process, it became abundantly that we are stronger together when we function as a team. 

 
  • Recognized as a School of Distinction and School of Merit by National BETA Club

  • Presented at the Arkansas Department of Education Summit on PLC work

  • School on the Move Recognition by the State of Arkansas for our growth on the ACT Aspire

  • ESSA Report Card- B School Distinction

  • Beating the Odds in Math Award 2016

  • MIS was chosen by the Arkansas Heart Hospital to participate in the Champions for Health Pilot which was recognized on the national level

  • Our science department received The Science Equipment Grant Funding from UCA STEM Institute  and the Arkansas Game and Fish Education Grant

  • District of Distinction by National BETA Club

  • The principal was chosen as a member of the Arkansas Council of Executive Leadership that worked on curriculum around the state of Arkansas

  • The district has been recognized as the Partner of the Year by the University of Arkansas for our steadfast commitment to preparing future teachers

  • Our literacy team’s work was featured in The New Art and Science of Writing by Robert Marzano and Kathy Glass and as part of the AR Department of Education’s highlight of the PLC Work of Cohort One http://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/divisions/special-projects/professional-learning-communities-in-arkansas

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