Battlefield Elementary in Catoosa County Schools
- Number of Students: 471
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 53%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 4%
- Percent of Special Education: 12%
- White: 79%
- Black: 5%
- Hispanic: 4.6%
- Asian: 6.5%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 4.9%
- Other: 0%
At Battlefield Elementary, our PLC story could be described as one of school-wide reflection and the inevitable resulting process of transition. Our campus consists of 3rd-5th graders and operates as a sister school to a neighboring primary school. We have a population of 471 students with 53% on free and reduced lunch.
Our state uses a CCRPI (College and Career Readiness Performance Index) system to track student achievement and school performance on a large scale. This provides a school-wide data point that can be a catalyst for system reflection. This new system was implemented at the start of our PLC journey. The CCRPI accountability rating is comprised of student content mastery (35%), progress/growth (30%), closing gaps in subgroup populations (15%), and readiness for high school based on attendance, literacy, and courses taken beyond the core (20%).
In 2016, our overall CCRPI was 72.8. As this referenced a rigorous assessment process, we were pleased to see that our school had a strong foundation to build from in order to launch the process of Professional Learning Communities with a focus on student learning. When our next CCRPI score was released later that year, this number remained at 72.8. We were seeing improvement within the building but it had not translated yet on a larger platform. We also noticed disproportionate numbers for students needing tier 3 support or special education services which caused a closer look at these subgroups specifically. Throughout the early stages of the process, we continually referred back to the research. The research of collaborative teams focusing on a common goal was clear, this process was going to positively impact student performance and we would need to exude patience in that process.
As a school-wide team, we focused on Content Mastery as well as Closing the Gaps where we make sure to carefully track how each of our subgroups are performing. Grade level groups, leadership committees, and School Intervention teams began the tedious work of continuing the PLC process. We were truly learning by doing. Training and professional development became paramount and collaborative discussions became the norm though they did not always come without challenge or frustrations. In 2018, we received our new CCRPI score which resulted in the first marked improvement in overall scores for the past several years at 74.7. The new scores that created the overall score showed 66.4% in content mastery, 83.4% in progress and 58.3% in closing the gaps. We began to have momentum and it was exciting to be a part!
The next year we focused on providing consistent tiered support and fine tuning the process of answering those four critical PLC questions. As a result, our most recent scores released for the 2018 school year became an opportunity to celebrate! Even with a changing state-wide assessment system, our students were making academic advancements! Our overall CCRPI score was now an 81.1 with the following subscores: 72.2 in Content Mastery above the state average of 67.6, 85.2 in Progress also above the state average of 84.4, and 85.4 in Closing the Gaps which was significantly above the state average of 73.8. Our school climate star rating is a five-star rating, the highest possible score. These successes were hard earned and gave us renewed vision.
Our current school year has been an exciting season as teams are now working much more efficiently and the process is becoming part of the fabric of how we operate. A collaborative culture has become the expected which can be felt from administrators to the students themselves.
Our vision statement at Battlefield Elementary is Building Exceptional Students. To build infers that a process will be involved that includes laying foundations, reinforcing supports, and creating beautiful productivity. Over the past three years, our school has been building through a Professional Learning Community process that has transitioned from “something to do” into “something to be.” We are looking forward to the continued journey.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Teachers meet weekly to focus on their common content area. Their process began by identifying essential standards as a team and then developing a pacing guide to ensure commonality among the classrooms. After coming to a consensus on pacing, the conversation turns to the exact learning targets and “I can statements.” We discovered the more time we took to add clarity in our process, the more effective and efficient we became.
Some teams also took on the challenge of assisting the school in reaching some of our school-wide SMART goals. A fifth-grade team began to research lexiles and their place in tracking student reading achievement which referred back to a specific school wide goal developed with the help of our leadership team. They created a classroom based assessment system that would allow us to track the growth of lexiles and instill awareness with our students. The focus remained on tracking how this impacted our students’ ability to read fluently and comprehending higher levels of text.
After developing our work within Question 1 of determining what we want students to learn, we then turn our attention to Question 2 and focus on creating a method of assessing those essential standards. Common Formative and Summative assessments are created while conversations turn to how the team will be grading and interpreting students’ performance on those assessments. Common grading as well as student misconceptions become important topics and we work through the sometimes tedious road to consensus. This process has caused us to become more flexible not only in sharing resources, but actually sharing the responsibility of “every student, every day.” All students are “our kids.”
As this process continues, rubrics and student reflection forms begin to enter the discussion. We want students to see consistency in “I Can statements” from the instruction to the assessment and take it further so they will be able to reflect on their own learning through combining short teacher:student conferences with reflection forms.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
To answer PLC questions 3 and 4, we look into the best methods of remediation and extension. Teachers begin to share their assessment results and break students into groups based on misconceptions. Tier 2 Flex days are integrated after every CFA that allow teachers to share students in order to provide the support or the extension those students need based on their data. Students showing mastery are grouped in one or two groups to complete deeper practice within the content and provide opportunity for extended application of the concept.
Some grade levels noted the need for more frequent opportunities so they have also set aside a few segments each week to exchange proficient students with those that need continual Tier 2 support to allow for smaller groups. This has been a highly effective process and we look forward to tracking the impact of this remediation/extension implementation process. Some PLC teams have also worked to begin a process of Tier 2 integration when our Tier 3 students are pulled for interventions. Students complete reflection sheets based on recent data. These sheets are used for 1:1 conferencing with the teacher and lists their next steps depending on their reflection. This helps us to target our supports/extensions and maximize any time we have without taking up Tier 1 instructional time. Again, this is an example real-time "doing the work" based on the needs noted by our collaborative teams. We stress to our teams that the work is worth it so we are willing to try new procedures so we can carefully note their effectiveness. We are excited to see continual developments in the area of student learning by empowering teams to think outside of the box.
Other points of assessment are also considered throughout the year. As benchmarks are given along with the common assessments, the data is examined by the Professional Learning Communities as well as a team developed solely for the purpose of examining school-wide data. We call this a SIT team, or a School Intervention Team. This team works in conjunction with teachers to analyze data and then assists in coordinating additional instructional time each day to provide Tier 3 interventions. Teachers flex their students during this time every day to give tiered support, gifted services, or extention opportunities. We examine these groups on a continual basis, students are moved based on a need, and the SIT team works as an additional Professional Learning Community to ensure that all students are learning.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Each year, our collaborative process is being fine-tuned and becoming a culture within our building. We are celebrating each and every one of these successes; however, as we continue to take part in consistent training with Solution Tree, our journey has transitioned to the process of reflection. We have begun to ask ourselves, how can we do this better? Now that we are beginning to grasp the processes, how can we become more efficient? How can we continue to ensure that all of our students are learning? This has spurred conversations with our teachers that focuses on the “how” we do things.
We discovered that our processes reflected a forward movement: unpack the standard and then create CFAs that would be followed up by creating a CSA. Through doing the work, we found that this task could be more efficiently completed by keeping the “end in mind.” We began to answer the four questions on a larger scale and then integrate the process of backward design. This allowed us to ensure that all parts of our question one, what do we want them to know, were taught as well as assessed. We began to fill in the gaps of instruction with our end goal learning targets and became more efficient in creating effective assessments. We also were able to look at the topics as a whole and discuss instructional strategies, procedures, and resources. They would compare these with their data and then discuss their classroom dynamics to determine impact.
In addition to our dedicated weekly time for Collaborative Teams, our administration listened to the teachers request for more time to “do the work.” A grade level planning day is now provided each quarter that includes acquiring subs for a collaborative team, including Special Education teachers, that allows them to spend an entire day on where they are in the process. In some of our most recent planning days, a few groups completed their CFAs and CSAs for the entire year while other groups created unit plans that focused on integration of writing standards within their instruction complete with instructional activities and teacher created rubrics. Teachers also used this time to discuss how their students had been performing on topics and the instructional strategies they used to impact student learning. The most impactful part of this intentional provision of time has been the continued development of a collaborative culture.
We also work to keep our specials teachers involved in the ongoing goals of our school. Through the PLC journey, we put various teams together to help decipher between “skill” students and “will” students. For example, specials teachers work to help with staff on “will” students by offering specific incentives through physical education and/or music education. Specials teachers (who are singletons within our building) meet throughout the school year during inservice dates to plan together and discuss how to support these skill vs will students. Our specials teachers have “partners” that they communicate/plan with as often as 2x/month from another school. This allows them to discuss their essential standards and instructional strategies they have found effective. Our STEM teacher collaborates with our homeroom science teachers to reinforce science essential standards.
In order to build high performance among the different teams, a concerted effort has been made to provide training in the PLC process and now even further into content specific PLC training as they are made available. We made it our goal that 100% instructional and administrative staff have attended a PLC training conference and are pleased to say that we are very close to reaching that goal! This commitment is also seen as on-going professional development is made available throughout the school year to representatives of each teacher team. These training sessions focus on different aspects of the PLC process including creating assessments and how to confidently lead collaborative teams through the PLC process.
One great discovery we have found in this process is that transition and change will never end. This journey does not have a destination where we can confidently state the process is complete. Rather, we will continue to walk and reflect, improve and tweak. In that knowledge, we are able to extend to ourselves grace for the process. We are emboldened to try something new or maybe back up to do something again. As our journey continues, we get a front row seat to how this transfers to increased success for our students because in the end, it should all be about them.