Dunlap Elementary School

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

Our journey began 5 years ago when our district office introduced the idea that we were going to make professional learning communities a focus in our school district for the coming year.  It was at this same leadership meeting in early August that we were introduced to Jon Yost.  We were informed that Jon would be giving us some workshops on creating PLC’s and collaborative teams, and also offer ongoing support by coaching individual principals throughout the year. 

As we started developing our understanding of PLC’s, collaborative teams and how to build them, we knew that we still had many questions, and that we didn’t fully understand the process, even though it was beautifully and articulately presented by Mr. Yost.   Nonetheless, we decided that we needed to get started with this important work despite our novice understanding.

The K-8 principals in my district, including myself, decided to form a support system so that we could attack this important work and hit the ground running when the school year began.  Since many of us had grade levels that only contained one teacher, we decided to join forces by having all of our schools meet together to create grade level collaboratives.  At the time, this seemed like the best plan since we were all following district pacing guides and using common curriculum.  This would prove to be a good start as it helped us leaders, and our teachers, further understand the important elements of collaborative work.

We did many things to facilitate the growth and understanding of collaborative teams in this first year including calendaring meetings for the entire year, identifying team leads, establishing norms, providing professional development for our teachers, sitting in on meetings, reviewing team minutes, and offering ongoing coaching to help build the capacity of those involved.  In all, this was a great learning year, but there were many challenges associated with creating a PLC that encompassed four separate campuses, like conflicting schedules, differing leadership styles and perspectives, work culture differences, the district office scheduling meetings during our collaborative times, etc.

It was after this first year that Dunlap decided to leave the group and really begin building the collaborative spirit on our campus.  So, in year two, Dunlap School, along with the help of our teachers, created our own school based collaborative teams.    This was especially challenging because we had many grade levels that only contained one teacher, and some of them were combination classes.  To overcome this challenge we formed vertical teams where necessary so that everyone on campus had someone to collaborate with.  Needless to say, we had a few kinks to work out as we adjusted to this new format. 

As a school, we began immersing ourselves in all things PLC.  We built a professional development calendar that had our collaborative meetings scheduled for the year, and professional development activities that would give us the opportunity to learn and grow together as a staff.  We set clear expectations for the organization and collection of team minutes and agendas in Google Docs and we committed to reviewing documents on a regular basis and providing feedback.  It was clear by the end of year two that we had made much progress, but that there was still much work to be done.

As year three approached, our leadership team began working on a plan for improving the collaborative process at Dunlap School.  We knew we had somewhat functional teams that were invested in the work, and had some practice under their belt, but there were still varying degrees of effectiveness and a lot of opportunity for improvement.  It was at this time that we decided to focus on goal setting with our staff.  This was a critical PLC element that needed some attention.  It wasn’t that there was a lack of goals, it’s just that grade level goals weren’t always SMART, or even aligned with areas that we wanted to see improvement in.  It wasn’t a lack of effort, it was a lack of understanding.

Our first step was to develop Dunlap School goals for the school year in both ELA and math based on SBA data that was carefully reviewed.  At the beginning of the year we shared these goals with our staff.  It was then communicated that they should build their collaborative team goals to support the site goals so that there was an alignment of effort.  We provided staff development on goal setting so that teachers learned the importance of SMART goals, and how to use long term and short term goals. 

Next, we aligned our professional development activities for the year to support improvement in said goal areas. This provided the opportunity for us to come together as a staff to improve our understanding and build our capacity to create change in those areas that were identified in our goals.  Thus, the entire staff became our guiding coalition.  We used this guiding coalition to finally create our school’s mission and vision, along with collective commitments.  We created this as a staff in one of our meetings and we were careful to include everyone’s voice and ideas.  Although it was out of sequence, the outcome was beautiful and fully represented and supported the work that we were now waist deep in.  

Moving forward, the leadership team assumed areas of responsibility for overseeing the collaborative team process by grade level.  The learning director was responsible for grades K-2, the instructional coach was in charge of 3-5 and the principal would oversee 6-8 math and ELA.  Areas of responsibility included checking in with team leads on a regular basis, reviewing agendas and minutes and providing coaching and feedback on all things PLC.  Each of us worked with our respective teams to improve the goal setting process and we made great strides.

By year four, it was obvious that we were on the right track and that we were gaining some serious understanding and momentum.  Our efforts had yielded improvements in SBA scores two years running and we saw tremendous improvement in the academic culture of the school. 

Additionally, in the last year and a half, leadership committed to attending every collaborative meeting and participating alongside our teachers, not as the leader, but as one of them.  We rolled up our sleeves and got our hands dirty.  This helped administration to better support our teachers, both in the collaborative process and instructionally. 

This being our fifth year, we have really worked at refining our data driven process.  We are utilizing formative assessment on a regular basis to feed intervention programs and to meet individual student needs.  

Overall, our collaborative teams have identified essential standards for instruction as a focus of their collaborative efforts.  These essential standards were selected through a study of SBAC blueprints, claims, targets and standards.  This was accomplished through a series of professional development trainings that were provided by site administration.  Once this critical learning was identified, teams built pacing calendars that allowed them to engage in the cycle of inquiry and really dig into the work.  

Operating on the belief that all students can learn, teams built formative assessments in each area that would be used to gauge student understanding based on predetermined proficiency levels.  Student performance on formative assessment is used to determine next steps for teaching and to identify individual areas of student strength and weakness.  This information is used to inform our intervention process and provide more time in instruction for struggling students.  There are multiple tiers to the intervention program at Dunlap School to ensure that all students succeed. 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Thanks to the collaborative process at Dunlap School, every student is offered a guaranteed and viable curriculum.  We start with state approved and board adopted curriculum in all subject areas as a base program for instruction.  However, this is just a starting place, we are not limited by this base curriculum.  Since we teach standards, not curriculum, teachers are given the liberty of bringing in extra or peripheral materials to meet student needs and to augment/enhance instruction.

In all grade levels, Kindergarten through eighth grade, collaborative teams have identified essential standards and created pacing and assessment calendars.  Each grade level is also given release time for the purposes of co-planning for instruction and analyzing data and planning intervention opportunities for all students, even high achieving students.  These release days are in addition to their regular collaborative meetings.

Collaborative teams carefully analyze student assessment results on a regular basis through the use of SMART goals and common formative assessments.  They use this information to guide their pedagogical discussions pertaining to instruction improvement, opportunities for re-teaching and specific improvement plans for each student via intervention.

Collaborative teams meet on a weekly basis on Wednesdays for at least 90 minutes to analyze student data, identify areas of need for student learning, and plan upcoming instruction and assessments.

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

Dunlap School has worked hard to create a solid base program that includes great first instruction.  We have accomplished this by studying key areas pertaining to the deconstruction of standards, understanding SBAC blueprints, Depth of Knowledge, Item Specs and Targets.  Good first instruction also includes scaffolds to support student success and differentiation to meet the variation of learning needs in the classroom. 

Dunlap School knows that not all students learn at the same rate and/or in the same way.  There are many creative avenues for learning provided at our school to support our tier 2 program.  Students can learn during their regularly scheduled class, during class time interventions, lunch time interventions, after school interventions and interventions provided during the designated period each day. 

Vertical grade level teams meet on a regular basis to review data and determine student growth.  This allows for our intervention programs to be fluid in nature which enables the movement of students so that we may better meet their individual needs.  This collaborative process breeds a multiple view perspective of each student’s educational strengths and weaknesses.  These collaborative meetings also give teachers the opportunity to discuss pedagogical approaches.  Teachers will share instructional ideas, student outcomes, next steps and formative assessment.

One example of our designated interventions from our tier 2 program is in grades kindergarten through fifth grade.  We have created an extensive program to support all students in their development of Foundational Literacy Skills.  Students are grouped based on multiple assessments.  In this model students are deployed across grade levels based on ability and provided instruction that targets each student’s specific area of need.

Collaborative teams also pay special attention to their RSP and EL student progress.  These student data results are specifically labeled and updates are provided on all meeting minutes.  Additionally, “at risk” students are also separated out in each team’s minutes and placed under the same microscope. 

In grades six through eight Intervention takes place each afternoon and is provided for students in both ELA and Math.  Teachers identify students using a variety of formative assessments.  Students who demonstrate proficiency in ELA and math receive enrichment or can serve as cross-age tutors in lower grade levels on campus.

We have also developed a systematic approach to writing instruction in grades 2-8.  Writing follows a grade level appropriate progression that adds complexity each year that also aligns with grade level standards.  This systematic approach ensures that all students receive high quality writing instruction that has appropriate rigor and continuity so that students can firmly grasp the concepts associated with writing over several years.

Tier 3 support for students comes from our RSP and intervention teacher each week based on the individual plan that is put in place for these students by our team.  We engage our student study team for students who are not responding to tier 2 supports.  These interventions are highly individualized and ongoing progress monitoring is used to determine the student’s response to targeted intervention so that we can plan next steps. 

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

Every school year site goals are determined based on state and local assessment results.  Each collaborative team will then develop goals that align and support school site goals.  These goals become the binding factor that help us focus our efforts at Dunlap School.

Our school utilizes an early release Wednesday collaboration schedule that affords teams the opportunity to meet on at least a weekly basis.  However, collaboration has become such an important part of our culture at Dunlap School that teachers are often seen collaborating in prep rooms, classrooms and hallways, and especially during their prep time.  During Wednesday collaboration meetings teachers meet to talk about student progress, assessment data, pedagogical approaches and progress towards goals.  Teachers also engage in a reflective practice where they analyze their success and challenges with instruction and share best practices with one another.

Administration engages in the conversation and adds a layer of accountability by including an area on walkthrough evaluations pertaining to evidence of incorporation of team goals.  In addition, feedback is provided on a weekly basis in response to each team’s agenda and minutes.

Once goals are established by the site, a calendar is created to map out the school year including Wednesday collaboration meetings and professional development activities.  All professional development trainings are meant to build the capacity of the staff and are always in direct alignment with school site goals.  We believe that an alignment of effort creates the greatest impact and maximizes our potential to improve in identified areas.

Professional development is delivered by the school site administrators, the site academic coach and outside individuals, as well as school site teachers.  There is a nice variety of presenters and focused training.

In addition, release time is provided to teachers as more collaboration time and/or planning for intervention or instruction.  Release time is often provided immediately following trainings as a means for implementing our new understanding in upcoming lessons and instruction. 

Dunlap School also has an academic coach who works with teachers to build understanding, analyze data and plan for instruction/intervention.  In addition to our academic coach, two other teachers on our campus are paid for providing coaching during their prep periods in the areas of math and ELA.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Dunlap School is a school located just below the Kings Canyon National Park.  This has come with a set of challenges.  Retaining teachers is a bit challenging.  To make matters worse, teacher recruitment can be difficult due to our distance from civilization.  On average we lose about 4 teachers every year who get replaced with new teachers that have not necessarily been a part of our journey.  While this has presented some challenges, we have built a strong collaborative culture that has helped us to minimize the impact on our academic programs. 

For example, in 4th grade math we experienced a decline in student performance because of poor instruction in a 4th/5th combo classroom.  The teacher only made it through one year of instruction, and despite our best effort, this teacher managed to inspire a decline in student performance in both 4th grade math and 5th grade English and Math.

In addition, we have been providing much support to our other 5th grade teacher to build their capacity with 5th grade instruction.  Support from the coach, consistent feedback and coaching by administration, and release time for co-planning  have all been utilized to build the capacity of this teacher.  This year we have finally seen a return on our investment and the teacher is doing great things with instruction.  Based on formative assessment results we expect the data to reflect the instructional improvement on state testing. 

We also experienced a decline in 7th grade math and English.  This has been a bubble group for us.  While this group has been consistently underperforming, if you follow their performance back for the last three years they have made considerable improvement.  This is proof that our collaborative efforts are making a difference for students. 

PBIS Gold Level Awards 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019