Midway Elementary School

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

15 years ago, Midway elementary began their journey as a Professional Learning Community. During that journey Midway has experienced times of effective work within their learning community but had over time fallen into some “PLC Lite.” Teams were meeting together and feeling good about their time together but were probably more collegial than collaborative.

Seven years ago, Midway began to organize to become a high functioning Professional Learning Community. There have been some very specific steps that have been taken that have moved Midway from PLC Lite to a school worthy of model school status:

School improvement means people improvement. Culture eats structure for lunch. A heavy investment in people has taken place at Midway Elementary School over the past seven years in an effort to create a culture that was intently focused on student learning. At the hub of this investment has been attending solution tree conferences. Over the past four years ever single teacher and administrator has attended a PLC at Work conference. We have followed up with the conferences with dynamic discussion groups based on reading from the PLC literature.

We have always had a common mission at Midway, but learning together at conferences has helped us to understand that mission and bring a different level of clarity on a vision for achieving our mission.  With a clear vision in place we were able to develop some collective commitments that drive the work of our school and set specific goals that have helped us monitor our progress for achieving our mission.

Guiding Coalition/Leadership Team: 

PLC Lite: We have always had a leadership team at Midway. The function use to be to manage the school. Determine assemblies, field trips, talk school policy, etc.

PLC Might: Critical to us moving from PLC Lite to Model School status is a purposeful leadership team focused on learning for all. This team has helped us organize the work associated with building capacity in adults and creating conditions for them to succeed.  They have taken on tasks like:

  • Clarifying Mission.
  • Culture of Learning for All
  • Building Vision
  • Building the capacity of adults to carry out that vision
  • Adhering to collective Commitments
  • Setting and chasing goals.
  • Providing time for T2 and T3 intervention.
  • Identifying essential social and academic behaviors.

Collaborative Teacher Teams: Every Monday afternoon at Midway elementary is an hour block of time that is used to do the critical work of collaborative teacher teams. This time has been in place for many years, but with a clear vision for PLC work the work of the teacher teams is now focused on the correct work.  We have gone from the work of the team answering the four questions to clarity around what it really means to answer those four questions:

  • What it is we want students to learn?
    • What is essential that all students must learn.
    • Create clear learning targets.
    • Communicate learning targets to kids. 
    • Have kids track their progress on each learning target.
  • How will they know if they have learned it?
    • Pre-requisite assessment to determine if they are ready to learn.
    • Formative assessments within a unit for each learning target.
    • Summative assessments to determine the different needs of students.
  • How will we respond if they do not learn it?
    • Systematic way of collecting data (feedback) and identifying which kids need additional time and support to master certain learning targets.
    • Designated time within the school day to provide additional time and support in a timely and targeted way.
  • How will we respond if they already know it?
    • Purposeful higher order thinking tasks to help students learn standards at a deeper level or within a real-world context.


Intervention Team:

PLC Lite: We knew we had kids that had issues like attendance problems, home and health issues, lacking basic reading skills or math skills. We did not know how to help them. This responsibility fell on the teacher team.


PLC Might: We created a dynamic problem-solving team that has the sole purpose of organizing the work for students that lack foundational academic or behavioral skills. This problem-solving team has taken us from a culture of complaining and wishing, to a culture of proactive efforts on behalf of student missing foundational skills. We have gone from a culture of trying to get these kids into SPED and take them off grade level curriculum to one that supports them in achieving grade level curriculum. 

We now have designated times within the school day that allow students lacking these skills to get the help on the missing foundational skills while we continue to give them access to grade level curriculum. We truly do attempt to live the statement: “All Means All.”

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Midway Elementary School’s journey from PLC Light to Might was profoundly impacted by our developing understanding of a guaranteed and viable curriculum. In PLC Light we tended to see our curriculum as textbooks and our scope and sequence as moving from page to page. By attending Solution Tree events, through book studies, and collaborative conversations we came to understand that PLC Might requires much more!

We came to understand that for PLC Might we must have a common understanding of why essential standards are important, what they are, how we can identify them, and how we can guarantee that all students will learn them. By doing this, we took a significant step towards PLC Might.

We began with the “why.” We discussed the difference between covering curriculum and guaranteeing that students learned curriculum. We learned together that this guarantee required a more viable curriculum. We also recognized that identifying essential standards was not enough, we needed our essentials to be common from teacher to teacher in order to guarantee learning for all and in order to create common formative assessments. Perhaps our most important takeaway was that guaranteed learning was dependent on engaging all teachers in the process.

To choose essential standards, we worked together to answer the guiding question, “Which standards in your grade level curriculum are so essential, that if students do not learn them, it will be impossible to be successful in the next grade level’s curriculum?” We discussed identification strategies, gave individual teachers time to reflect on which standards they would choose, and then came together in grade level teams to reach consensus and chart their selections. Teams used assessment blueprints and district documents to help build consensus. We then had a vertical conversation where each team presented and received feedback before publishing our essentials which we review, and adjust, each year.

Once essential standards were identified, we placed them on Mattos’s Essential Standards Template. Grade level collaborative teams described standards in student friendly language, identified prerequisite skills, determined proficiency, created a common summative assessment, discussed when we would teach them, and planned how teams would extend students who had learned the standards while we intervened on those who had not.

Our next step was to unpack standards into measurable learning targets. For this process, we used the Essential Standard’s Unit template from Taking Action. Our Building Leadership Team created a list of “tight” areas for the process of unit planning. We asked that each team create a unit plan every six weeks. We built collaborative time to do so into the master schedule by creating time using specialists to do science activities with kids on Mondays.  Our teams used that time to unpack standards, create common assessments, place targets onto a progression, ladder, and allowed students to track their progress. Teams then built tier 2 intervention time into their calendars to ensure all students mastered essential content.

To monitor student learning, we are using the concept of convergent assessments that we learned about in the book Simplifying Response to Intervention. Our convergent assessments include screeners, diagnostic assessments, progress monitoring, common formative assessments, and benchmark assessments. Each plays an important role in helping us ensure all students are mastering essential curriculum.

We use screeners and diagnostic assessment to quickly identify students missing foundational skills and “drill down” to find their specific needs. This allows us to place these students into targeted tier 3 interventions. We then use progress monitoring assessments to ensure that our interventions are effective. We use a team of paraprofessionals to help with progress monitoring and build time into common preps every three weeks for teachers to look at progress data.

A similar process is used to identify and progress monitor students in need of behavioral/emotional supports. Office referrals are tracked through SWIS – a PBIS program. We have recently developed a screener to help identify students struggling with internalizing issues. Students identified by our Tier 3 team as needing behavioral intervention are monitored through a Check In/Check Out program that graphs progress which is discussed biweekly.

Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction relies heavily on team created common assessments. Our teams work to deliberately plan for instruction based on the first two questions of a PLC. Common formative assessments are placed after key learning targets which must be mastered in order to learn more complex targets. Common Summative assessments are placed at the end of each unit to identify who has, and has not, learned the standard. Intervention days are built into the scope and sequence to allow for timely and targeted intervention after each common assessment. 

Student progress is tracked on a data platform built on One Note. Teachers can see their class wide progress on each standard and drill down to show which students have, or have not, mastered each target and each standard. Teachers use this tool to place students into intervention by name and by need.

One of our ongoing focus areas is to determine if the rigor of our team created assessments are preparing students for the next grade level. To check our rigor, we utilize benchmark assessments to look at how our students are doing on state and national assessments. This allows us to have a comparison point for our team created assessments and to give a better data story of how we as a PLC are helping prepare our students for college and career readiness.

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

Certain Access

Midway Elementary has worked hard for many years at meeting the intervention needs of our students. However, it was only after we successfully made a cultural shift that increased our focus on student learning, student results, and working in a collaborative culture that we realized, we didn’t have an intervention problem, we had a “what we were doing all day long problem.” It became increasingly clear that we needed to begin our efforts at helping all students learn by renewing our commitment to ensuring that all students had certain access to quality core instruction.

Ensuring access began by identifying essential standards. We have utilized the templates we have learned about at Solution Tree events and have read about in our book studies. The Essential Standards Chart helped us better understand the standards that we had identified. The Essential Standard’s Unit Plan helped us unpack standards into measurable learning targets, create common understanding of proficiency, and to measure proficiency with team created common assessments. We have been able to place our student friendly targets into learning progressions that organize instruction and allow students to understand what they need to learn and also to reflect on whether they have learned it. Now that these are in place, we are able to help struggling students in a more targeted and systematic way.

Certain access also required a master schedule that ensured time in the school day for tiered instruction. Because Midway Elementary is a Spanish Dual Immersion school, our schedule was complicated by the Utah State Dual Immersion Assurance we had signed that required instructional time being split evenly between the two languages. Our Building Leadership Team chose to embrace the “genius of and” in order to create a master schedule that allowed us to be effective as both a dual immersion school and as a school that prioritized tiered instruction.

The foundation of our master schedule is protecting Tier One time. We initially experimented with pulling students during small group instruction, but our teachers reported that it felt like kids were constantly coming and going, and at times, they still missed core instruction to receive intervention on previous year’s targets. As such, we determined that we needed to avoid pulling kids during our literacy and math blocks. Our Building Leadership Team established and protected a 90 minute math block and a 150 minute literacy block.

To solve the problem of when to pull out our Tier Three and Gifted and Talented students, a 45-minute period was placed in the master schedule on the opposite side of the day from the 45-minute contractual teacher preparation time. This balanced our dual immersion commitments. It also allowed us to provide a more intensive intervention and extension time in which all students were divided based on their student data to receive intervention, extension, and to apply essential content to authentic projects. We borrowed the name What I Need Now (WINN) for this block.

While WINN time helped us with our schedule, we still realized that we had students who needed all three tiers of instruction. Our Building Leadership Team explored multiple Tier Two options and determined that our calendar was our best answer. During essential standard unit planning, grade level teams create a calendar, usually around 20 days, that plans approximately how long students will need to learn each learning target.  As teams have built calendars, they placed half hour blocks for Tier Two intervention throughout the units to ensure all students master essential targets.  This allows for our teams to intervene on targets before, and after, summative assessment and ensures students receive help without missing new core material.

By Name and By Need

As a professional learning community, we are focused on being systematic in our approach to helping all students master essential content. Our Building Leadership Team coordinates these efforts and articulates a “loose and tight” philosophy. We articulate “tight” for grade level teams through written communication and school wide templates. Within that framework, teams and teachers are able to demonstrate the art of teaching as they meet student needs.

Systematic intervention requires being timely in our approach to helping students. Universal screeners and previous year data allow us to identify students who need extra help at the beginning of the year. All students receive screeners, and students who are identified at risk receive diagnostic assessments such as the Core Phonics survey allowing us to drill down into their specific needs. As the year progresses, teams add to this information with common assessments, progress monitoring, and benchmark testing to better understand each student.

Our convergent assessments allow us to inform ourselves on the specific strengths and needs of each student. Intervention then becomes by student and by standard and target. Our Building Leadership Team created a template that organizes student data into these targeted interventions. Each intervention group has entrance criteria, goals, progress monitoring assessments, and exit criteria.

Intervention time is not optional at Midway. It is directive. All students are placed into both tier two and WINN time. WINN time is organized into six-week cycles with a three-week check in. Our grade level teams meet with members of our Youth Support team during these meetings to divide kids and to discuss progress.  WINN Time focuses on both helping students with Tier Three supports and extending students. Our Building Leadership Team created an extension template that helps teachers identify essential targets from multiple disciplines. These targets are then used to create an authentic interest-based project. The project requires the use of the four C’s: critical thinking, collaboration, creation, and communication. The template also asks for a rubric that allows the teacher, and the students, to assess the project they create.

Tier Two is determined by formative assessment. Our Building Leadership team created a common assessment analysis protocol that allows teams to sort kids by name and need. They also created a school wide One Note that allows teams to organize their common formative assessment data by name and target to help guide this process. Within the protocol, teams discuss who had the greatest success, what instructional strategies were most effective, and group students for extra time and support. Our most successful teacher on each target works with the lowest group. We use the Essential Standard’s chart to plan Tier Two intervention.

Will and Skill

Midway Elementary recognizes that students struggle for a variety of reasons. To address the wide variety of student needs, our Building Leadership Team helps coordinate “Will and Skill” Interventions. Our grade level teams focus on Tier One and Tier Two academic interventions, while our Youth Support (Tier Three Team) focuses on interventions that target behaviors, social issues, academic dispositions, attendance, and Tier Three academic interventions.

Our school uses a PBIS matrix that allows us to give explicit instruction on social, behavioral, and academic dispositions. We call this program our Ride for the Brand program which connects to our school mascot the Wranglers. Days are built into the calendar to teach, model, and practice our school wide expectations. These expectations are then reinforced individually through our use of “Cowboy Cash” to recognize positive behaviors, and we use “Brands” to recognize whole class positive performance.

Giving students authentic opportunities to practice dispositions and behaviors are essential to this process. Academic dispositions can be practiced in the classroom using rubrics, checklists, and by giving opportunities to reflect on their learning. In order to better help our students, practice social and behavioral dispositions our Youth Support Team has worked with Play Works to create structured play opportunities during our school recess time. This allows students to practice what they are learning in an authentic context. One example, students use “Ro Sham Bo” to settle rule disagreements in playground games.

Our Counselor spends recess time on the playground providing guidance, reinforcing positive examples, and working with struggling students. Our school discipline also is able to utilize structured recess opportunities to teach students replacement behaviors for behavioral issues, and the student is assigned to a game by administration and our counselor is able to give that student instruction and feedback as the student practices the replacement behavior.

Youth Support examines student data, discusses how best to help each student, and then individualizes intervention for struggling students. Many of our students struggling with “Will” issues are put into interventions such as “Check In and Check Out” to help them create goals for improvement, check in to review these goals, track their progress throughout the day, and to then check out at the end of the day to review their performance.  All of our “Will” interventions focus on relationship building with struggling students and in helping create an emotional and physically safe place for all students to learn.

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

Midway Elementary School’s efforts for PLC Might has been strongly influenced by our improved focus on a result’s orientation. That orientation begins by telling a compelling data story. A prioritized common curriculum combined with convergent assessments allows us to examine not only our progress as a school but the progress of each of our students on each of our essential standards. By setting ambitious SMART goals and tracking our progress towards those goals, we are constantly working to make “All Means All” a reality.

Student progress is tracked on a PLC data platform that allows the grade level team to track their results for Tier 1 instruction and to examine each student’s mastery of each learning target. This data guides the thinking of our teams as they evaluate the effectiveness of their Tier 1 instruction and provide targeted Tier 2 intervention by name and need.  Our data story also allows us to identify students who are have not mastered essential standards from previous years and to place them into Tier 3 interventions.

Student improvement requires educator improvement. Our collaborative culture has led to a deep commitment by each Midway collaborative team and each Midway educator to become better at our craft in order to help more kids learn. Through team created common assessments, our teams are able to evaluate the effectiveness of their own instruction. Teams use a common assessment protocol created by our school leadership team that not only determines which students need extra time and support but also examines which teacher had the most success on each standard. By identifying effective teaching strategies, our teams have been able to put the most effective teacher with the highest needs students and to use formative data as action research to identify effective instructional strategies. The assessment protocol keeps our team discussion from being a travel log of what each teacher did that week to be a focused conversation about what worked to help kids.

Our data story has also helped our school leadership team determine areas that we want to get better at as an organization. We have prioritized our resources in order to send teachers to conferences, buy books, and bring in outside speakers to target specific areas that we want to improve in as a school. It has also helped our leadership team to create plans, templates, and artifacts to target those areas. As our educators have improves, our student results have improved.

As Midway has developed a collaborative culture and common understandings of what helps students learn, we have put a lot of focus on how to move best practices to student results. How do we ensure that when teachers close their doors, we do the work that we have committed to? Perhaps the most impactful artifacts for this have been our essential standard unit plans. By putting best practice into our teacher planners, we have been able to ensure that essential standards move from the collaboration room to the classroom. This has allowed us to create the data story that allows us to guarantee that all students will master each essential standard.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

In our quest to leave behind PLC light and experience the real power of professional learning communities we have seen great growth in student learning. Below is a table to show that growth in certain areas. We only have 5th grade scores for 2 years because of a reconfiguration of grade levels in our district. 5th grade moved over from the middle school 2 years ago. Since coming over they are getting the same high achievement as our other grades.

Language Arts

                 2015-16     2018-19    Growth

3rd Grade   47%             66%      +19%

4th Grade   47%             67%       +20%

5th Grade                      69%

Low Income  27%            42%      +15%

ELL              12%             10%       -2%

SPED            14%              7%        -7%

MGP              58               70


                   2015-16        2018-19

3rd Grade      53%            70%      +17%

4th Grade      48%            61%      +13%

5th Grade                        67%

Low Income     27%           49%      +22%

ELL                   5%            35%     +30%

SPED                 51%          36%      -15%

MGP                 45              58


4th Grade          44%          69%      +25%

5th Grade                          74%

Low Income        31%          55%      +16%

ELL                      0%          38%       +38%

SPED                   42%          36%          -6^

Areas to highlight:

The number of students proficient in our school has increased as our ability to carry out the PLC process has refined. We are very pleased, but not satisfied, with the percentage increases at every level. This shows a significant change in both school-wide and classroom practices.

While SPED scores have gone down, the number of students we are qualifying has gone down significantly. We are getting better at the RTI process and as we have only those students that truly have a learning disability are in SPED services. Most of these students are sitting in T3 interventions and getting the support they need but are not seen as learning disabled.

We are very pleased with the progress we have made with ELL students. We are a Spanish immersion school and we have found this has benefited our ELL kids. You can see in our data profile that in Science and Math our ELL scores have gone up significantly. We feel teaching these two subjects in their language has been very beneficial.

MGP is a measure we take very seriously. It is how our state calculates the growth of students year to year. Over the past couple years we have one of the highest MGP in the state of Utah. This is critical because we want all of our students to continue to grow. This shows we are meeting the needs of high end kids, low end kids, and those in the middle…..we are just good at meeting the needs of individual kids.

SPED is also a major highlight. Although our pass rate with SPED students is not strong, our efforts with the RTI process has resulted in decreasing the number of students receiving SPED services from 79(12%) students to 34 (5%). Our efforts with RTI have allowed us to qualify those students that are truly disabled. Our efforts are now to be successful with those students and that is a current area we are looking to improve.

Alliance for a Healthier Generation National Healthy School Bronze Awardee 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2020-2021.

Let's Move Active School's National Award 2016-2017 and 2017-2018