Graysville Elementary School

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

Our story began in the 2016-2017 school year with initial training that established a foundational understanding of the PLC process. Throughout this year, we began to build a shared commitment to the “PLC at Work” process which grew during the following years. After attending district PLC training, school leadership facilitated a day of introductory training for each grade level, including special education teachers, interventionists, and paraprofessionals. They introduced the three big ideas and the four guiding questions, elicited buy-in to the process, and briefly explained the initial steps that we would use to jump start the PLC process. This began the paradigm shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on student learning and achievement. Teachers from kindergarten through third grade participated in district-wide development of the English Language Arts essential standards and learning targets. Administrators and teachers attended a “PLC at Work” conference in Atlanta, where they learned the importance and process of establishing norms and working agendas for use in team meetings. During this year and the following year, the school Response to Intervention team, which would later evolve into a School Intervention Team, met to monitor student progress on interventions and discuss ways to better support students.  At this point in our journey, our teams began to understand that tier 2 and tier 3 interventions are not a series of steps but a multi-tiered approach where students can receive both intensive remediation as well as reteaching for specific learning targets.

During the 2017-2018 school year, collaborative teams were clearly established and teachers began holding team meetings consistently. Administrators altered the master schedule to allow for common planning times for all grade levels. The school leadership team, which would later evolve into a guiding coalition, participated in a book study over Common Formative Assessment: A Toolkit for Professional Learning Communities at Work by Kim Bailey and Chris Jakicic.  They later led the staff in the same book study. The staff then developed a solid understanding of formative versus summative assessments, how to use assessments to drive instruction, and how to create common formative assessments. Fourth and fifth grade teachers participated in district-wide development of English Language Arts essential standards, and kindergarten through fifth grade teachers participated in district-wide development of Math essential standards. In September, staff attended the “RTI at Work” conference in New Orleans from which they learned about the effectiveness of specific and valuable feedback to students regarding their learning. Our district hosted a Response to Intervention training with Austin Buffum which led to the evolution of our leadership team into a guiding coalition. In the summer following this school year, staff attended a “PLC at Work” conference in Minneapolis where they gained knowledge about the effectiveness of collaborative planning, purposeful agendas for team meetings, and using student data notebooks.

Our work as collaborative teams deepened in the 2018-2019 school year with the setting of clear and specific goals. After evaluating the effectiveness of each team, we adapted fourth and fifth grade teams to be centered on content instead of grade level. This allowed for vertical alignment among teachers of the same content areas. Teams began the year by establishing norms, completing the PLC inventory, setting team goals, and creating essential standard curriculum maps. This work continued when teams wrote and implemented unit plans, created common formative assessments and data tracking sheets, and wrote action plans for re-teaching and extending learning. Teams completed at least one teaching-assessing cycle during each nine week period, addressing student needs based on common formative assessment data. Additionally, teachers participated in district-wide development of Science and Social Studies essential standards and learning targets. During the year, school representatives attended “PLC at Work” conferences (in Atlanta and St. Louis) where they learned more about the use of data notebooks and more effective team collaboration. Our district hosted a Solution Tree workshop led by Cassandra Erkens. At this workshop, we learned about the dramatic impact of student efficacy, self assessed our school culture, and reviewed our use of the four critical questions. Our administrators participated in a district-wide leadership training led by Jasmine Kullar. This training resulted in an examination of our school’s grading procedures and prompted teams to standardize grading practices. The Response to Intervention team was adapted to better meet our school’s needs and became the School Intervention Team. This team met consistently to analyze student progress and determine how to more effectively support all students. Overall, we revised our school mission statement to more clearly reflect our fundamental purpose of ensuring that all students learn at high levels. Our new mission statement declares, “Every child, every day, without exception.” In order to share our commitment to academic growth with parents, we hosted a Lunch and Learn event where universal screener data was presented to parents. We also hosted a Grow Day Celebration, where students enjoyed games and treats to recognize their hard work and academic growth throughout the school year. 

During the 2019-2020 school year, several teachers presented at a district-wide instructional fair where they shared their strategies for implementing data notebooks, developing a growth mindset, and establishing student learning targets. After attending a training led by Jasmine Kullar, our guiding coalition continued to evaluate our school’s practices to ensure equitable education for all students. School-wide, teachers implemented data notebooks in which students track their own learning, and students led data based conferences with their parents. We increased our celebration and recognition of students’ growth by hosting Grow Day Celebrations and ceremonies at the end of each semester. We continued our implementation of teaching-assessing cycles with a greater focus on strategic reteaching and extending based on assessment data. The School Intervention Team met consistently to analyze student progress. A team attended a district-wide Assessment Coaching Training led by Cassandra Erkens from which they gained deeper knowledge of assessment design, practices, and use.

Our school’s leaders work each year with the district to further their knowledge and understanding of professional learning communities through the use of book studies and professional development opportunities. At this time, 71% of staff have attended at least one PLC/RTI conference and/or workshop, and 46% have attended more than one. Administrators provide planning days for each grade level, including special education and intervention teachers, where teachers work collaboratively to ensure students receive a guaranteed and viable curriculum. With this deepened understanding of how a professional learning community operates, we continue to improve our practices and do whatever it takes for students to achieve at high levels. We have plans for the 2020-2021 school year to continue revising our units and common formative assessments so they better align to the standards and have higher cognitive rigor. As a collective whole, we understand that growth in the PLC process involves experimentation, adaptation, the changing of culture and teacher actions, and an attitude of continuous improvement. With this ongoing collaborative work, we are confident that all of our students, like our teachers, will grow each year toward higher levels of learning.

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

At Graysville Elementary, we use the guiding principles of PLCs to drive all of our decision making. Continuous monitoring of student learning is a key component of this process. Student achievement is at the heart of all we do. It is closely monitored so that teams can use the data to guide instruction. This process began with agreeing upon essential standards at the county level.  Identifying essential standards is the initial step in addressing the first critical question, “What do we want students to know?” At the beginning of each year, teams create common pacing guides, which are based on the district’s curriculum map detailing when the essential standards are taught and assessed. All members of a given team know which learning targets will be taught during each nine weeks. After looking at the essential standards, teams at our school decide how they will be implemented at each grade level, what academic rigor will look like, and how the standards will be assessed using common formative assessments. Throughout the year, teams create and implement unit plans and common formative assessments. For example, a team in our school evaluated a standard on informational writing and collectively determined what proficiency on that standard looked like. They carefully unpacked the standard to ensure students would reach the appropriate level of rigor and mapped out the lessons needed to get students to that level. The team administered a pre-assessment on informational writing, then came together to analyze the results. They determined that students needed to learn the difference between fact and opinion as well as how to organize their writing. The teachers spent the next two weeks teaching these skills and assessing the students’ progress toward mastering specific skills. The team then administered another common formative assessment to determine what students needed at that point in the unit to help them progress toward proficiency. Students were grouped according to their area of need. This teaching-assessing cycle was repeated several times that year to ensure students received the precise instruction they needed prior to the administration of the summative assessment.

Graysville uses a variety of strategies to monitor student learning. Students take universal screeners (EasyCBM and STAR) three times each year to provide teachers with baseline data. Teachers progress monitor frequently between benchmarks to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions. Common formative assessments are given throughout each unit of study, and results provide crucial data that teachers utilize to drive instruction. Students monitor and track their own learning through conferencing with teachers and using data notebooks to chart their progress toward mastering essential learning targets and achieving grade level proficiency. For instance, students in upper grades take the STAR Reading assessment at the beginning of the year to get their baseline Lexile measure.  Then, each student works with his/her teacher to set incremental and end-of-the-year goals. Teachers also advise students on strategies and actions to help them meet their goals. The STAR Reading assessment is administered several times throughout the year. Following each assessment, students conference with their teachers, analyze their performance and chart their progress toward individual goals. Thereby, students are constantly encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning by being aware of their current Lexile level and goal(s). This information is used to help them choose books that appropriately challenge and promote growth.  

 

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

In becoming a PLC, Graysville developed a shared vision for creating a systematic process in which teachers work interdependently to analyze and improve practices to ensure all students are given high-quality instruction. Common formative assessments are given regularly to assess student learning and drive instructional practices. In our weekly team meetings, we strive to focus on the four critical questions. Questions 3 and 4 of the PLC process ask, (3) “How will we respond if students don’t learn?” and (4) “How will we respond if they already know it?” Tier 1 instruction is provided to all students, all of the time. Teachers provide additional time and support for intervention and extension in a variety of ways. Each grade level works collaboratively to ensure all students’ individual needs are met. This multilevel approach includes Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions. Students can be served in one tier, or in all tiers based on their needs.

Tier 2 intervention (20-30 minutes, as needed, at least two days a week) is built into English Language Arts and Math core instruction blocks along with reteaching or extending based on common formative assessment data. The time, depth, and make-up of these groups are flexible as students demonstrate mastery of specific learning targets. These groups are constantly changing based on formative assessments and progress monitoring. 

In addition, all grade levels, kindergarten through fifth grade, have a Tier 3 block built into the master schedule every day for 45 minutes known as “Workshop.” A student who is significantly below grade level in English Language Arts or Math is placed in Tier 3 to provide rigorous instruction needed to help close achievement gaps. This time is used for intensive remediation based on universal screener data and extension for those already on grade level. To recommend a student for Tier 3 interventions, teachers submit a referral to the School Intervention Team. This team examines student intervention data, instructional strategies, and other useful information to determine how to best support each referred student. 

Tier 3 (below grade level intervention) does not replace Tier 2 (on grade level intervention), therefore students can have access to both, if needed. This cycle of continuous learning and reflection allows us to improve as professionals, while also seeing sustained growth in our students.

 

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

The leadership of Graysville Elementary puts great emphasis on building high performing collaborative teams. Teachers across all grade levels and content areas participate in ongoing professional development. Workshops, conferences, and on-site training are geared toward learning and applying the PLC process as well as enhancing the PLC culture. Teams also learn from one another by sharing celebrations and by seeking advice and assistance, when needed.  

During the past few years, weekly team meetings have evolved into a “meeting of the minds” where teams of grade-level and Special Education teachers, along with school leadership, come together to intentionally evaluate and develop action plans for student learning. Collaborative team meetings are an integral part of our culture at Graysville Elementary School, resulting in teachers daily living out the school’s mission of “Every Child, Every Day, Without Exception.”    

High performing collaborative teams adhere to commonly created norms during weekly meetings. Agendas are created and shared with all team members prior to the meeting. They outline the topics to be discussed, all of which align with the four guiding questions. During the meetings, teachers examine student performance on common formative assessments, develop action plans for re-teaching and extending learning, determine the timing and content of upcoming units, and develop new common formative assessments.  

High performing teams are not comprised of teachers who agree on everything, but of teachers who agree to share everything. The most effective teacher teams replace competition with compromise. They agree upon the “why” and the “when” of common formative assessments and collaborate to determine the “what” and the “how.” Team members work to identify and model the most effective instructional practices for each learning target based upon CFA results. For example, the first grade team recently analyzed CFA data regarding informational writing. They noticed that students from one teacher’s class were more proficient in creating illustrations that correlated with the writing topic. The team recognized this teacher’s strength in helping students meet the learning target and discussed the strategies that were most effective. A willingness to reflect upon and share individual teacher strengths and weaknesses is a trademark of Graysville’s high-performing teams.  

Collaborative teams evaluate student performance and instructional strategies throughout the week, not just during weekly meetings. Teachers then sort individual students into groups based on identifiable needs and implement their plan to effectively and efficiently meet those needs. This process is applied to each learning target.  

The most successful teams see the teaching-assessing cycle as a journey, not a destination. Common formative assessments are regularly analyzed to ensure that they credibly assess students’ levels of mastery and meet the rigor required by the essential standard. Teachers also routinely revisit and revise Tier 1 unit plans, Tier 2 interventions, and extensions to more adeptly meet student needs. The overarching theme of Graysville’s high performing teams is a willingness to do whatever it takes to continuously improve achievement for all students.

 

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