Moores Mill Intermediate School
- Number of Students: 711
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 43.48%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 3.38%
- Percent of Special Education: 19.27%
- White: 60.1%
- Black: 24.3%
- Hispanic: 7.3%
- Asian: 1.8%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.4%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 5.1%
- Multiracial: 1%
- Other: 0%
Moores Mill Intermediate began this journey in the summer before the 2017-18 school year. Our district brought Solution Tree in to address a concern from our accreditation process. We had no clue what a Professional Learning Community was in any respect. After hearing about the 3 Big Ideas of a PLC and the 4 main questions, our building leadership was hooked.
MMIS was the newest school in the district and was performing well. We were competitive in most areas and happy beating some other schools in our district. Our faculty and staff did not see the bigger picture. We had students who were not achieving on grade level. Our eyes were opened to the idea that all students could achieve at a high level. We first began by organizing our school into groups so that teachers could collaborate on learning. We established time during the week for our groups to collaborate with each other. We established our mission and vision and aligned it to learning. We spent a lot of time establishing our collective commitments. Essential Standards were developed, tweaked, tweaked, and changed over and over. We were guided through this process by an associate who worked closely with our school.
We saw our faculty begin to come together slowly. Some groups began to operate like Level 5 teams. From this, we saw achievement start to spike. This gave us momentum as we were struggling to change our culture. We had barriers and mindsets that worked against us. We stayed the course and survived the first year of change.
The second-year brought new people, new students, and new challenges. We knew where we wanted to go but realized that hard work alone was not enough to get us there. We spent time as a faculty learning how to be a team, how to analyze data, and how to collaborate. There were tears shed but on the other side of the tears was true collaboration and trust. We had teams starting to act like Level 10 teams and produce Level 10 teachers. The switch happened around Thanksgiving of 2018 and it was magical. The conversations in the building changed along with the attitudes.
Our Guiding Coalition met that Thanksgiving and talked about how we could address the needs of our students as a whole. Our leadership team had heard Anthony Muhammad talk about Student Teacher Access Time. We penciled out the idea and talked about carving out 30 minutes of time each day that was protected for students to get the additional time and support they needed to master the standards. The coalition decided that it needed to happen now. So, we reworked the master schedule to provide this time when we came back from Christmas break. Teachers would share students based on their needs. It created a sense of community and shared collective efficacy amongst the school. Each person was responsible for the success of all students.
This opened the door to common formative assessments. Teachers could not split kids up without a common assessment that measured the mastery of essential standards. Once again, our associate helped guide each team through this process. Our students grew on average of 50 scaled score points that Fall. After the change and adding the time, our students averaged 100 points of growth in the spring. Momentum was in our favor.
The 2019-20 School Year was a major turning point for us. We had a strong foundation in understanding and practice but were still missing key components. Our leadership team participated in RTI at Work Coaching Academy. Just when we thought we had it all figured out, we went deeper into the work. We began utilizing unit plans to guide our instruction. Our site-level intervention team was formed to guide our interventions. We took control of the learning for all. Everyone was working with the same purpose, to ensure that all students learn at a high level. The faculty believed that our goal of 100% proficiency in Math and Reading for all students was possible. Then the pandemic hit and it should have thrown us all for a loop. But instead, it gave teams more time to refine essential standards, build unit plans, and dissect each child’s data to find out what they needed. From our sofas and back porches, we got stronger together and refined our craft. Time was now our ally rather than our enemy. Our students are poised for greatness this year and every year moving forward because our teachers will not accept the status quo or anything less than mastery.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum
Moores Mill Intermediate School’s (MMIS) collaborative teacher teams are referred to as Elite Teacher Teams (ETT). Each of these teams works collaboratively to answer Question #1: What do we want all students to know and be able to do? Our ETTs determine what students need to learn and be able to do by developing a deep and thorough understanding of what students are expected to learn and do at the next grade level based on the essential standards. They also look at state accountability measures to ensure that the essentials standards and learning targets are aligned with assessments. The ETTs choose grade-level standards that they have strategically determined to be essential for all students in order to be prepared for and successful in the next grade level. Once the essential standards are chosen, the teams must unpack the standards and come to a consensus on what each standard means and the tasks that are needed to show mastery. Standards are organized into unit plans to cover no more than three essential standards at a time. The units are then organized into a proficiency map to determine how much time is needed for all students to master the identified essential standards. The proficiency mapping allows teachers to plan for additional instruction including reteaching and extension opportunities. From the proficiency map, a pacing guide is developed to plan for the entire school year. These components, when executed correctly, establish a roadmap for each content and grade level at MMIS that will allow additional time and support for all students to master the essential standards, which keeps the focus on student learning rather than teaching.
Monitoring Student Learning
Question #2 in the PLC process guides each of our teams in their actions to monitor student learning. Teams work collaboratively together to develop common formative assessments (CFA) that are used at least twice a week to check for understanding. Monitoring student learning begins with assessing for prior knowledge and skills so that each teacher knows what each student needs and knows before a unit begins. Our teams use this information to create differentiated groups that are shared amongst the team to address specific learning gaps as it relates to the individual learning targets. The teams have to reach a consensus on all assessments, work products, and learning measures so that student learning is measured equitably across classrooms.
Teams bring their student data in the form of CFA’s to analyze, sort and problem-solve. This is possible through the strategic design principles implemented in the assessment design process. Each possible answer is an indicator of an error. No answer choice is random. By quickly identifying why the student missed the target on an essential standard, the team is able to respond accordingly and quickly. This method of monitoring student learning has allowed our teachers to work efficiently as a team to meet all students’ needs.
Each CFA includes the essential standard that is being assessed above each question. Students know what they are being asked to demonstrate. When students are given feedback on their assessment, they are able to track their progress on their standards checklist. This allows the students to monitor their own progress and take ownership of their own learning, which has a very large effect size according to John Hattie’s research.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
At Moores Mill Intermediate School (MMIS), our team believes that to affect learning we must focus our efforts on prevention, intervention, and extension. Our plan involves us implementing these things fully during the school day. We do not believe in homework because we lose the ability to work with the student directly. We pride ourselves on learning which occurs from bus to bus.
Our teams work collaboratively to create common formative assessments (CFA) that guide our student learning. CFAs give teams the information needed to adjust instruction quickly and respond to student needs. This is an integral part of our Tier 1 learning plan. Students receive additional time and support during the instructional block through small group instruction. Teachers pull students based on common errors to provide clarity and reteaching based on their specific errors and misunderstandings. This allows teachers to respond timely and prescriptively. As teams have evolved in this process, we have made provisions to the master schedule to allow teachers to share students with other teachers during the instructional block. It allows teams to use each other’s strengths to reach a wider range of students when focusing on specific learning targets. For example, a fourth-grade math teacher may have a number of students struggling on a specific essential standard but a teammate has all of her students mastering that standard. The teachers can switch students to provide a different learning opportunity to the students. The goal of prevention is to get students to mastery and not have any surprises when it is time for the summative assessment.
Because we all agree that all students do not learn at the same pace, we have developed a system of intervention to provide additional time and support for those students. At MMIS, we utilize a protected time in the schedule to address Tier 2 instruction. We called this Student-Teacher Access Time (STAT). When we created this protected time, it was designed to be 30 minutes each morning for all students. We realized that due to certain processes and procedures, we were unable to utilize the full time in the way it was intended. This year we implemented a master schedule change that incorporated 40 minutes into each school day as well as 80 minutes on two days of the week. This time is now called Access Time because it gives teachers access to all students. This allows us the opportunity to work with students on reading and math rather than just one content at a time. It also provides the teachers with more flexibility to group and share students. Teams group students based on their specific needs as determined by a CFA or CSA, and then they distribute those students to the team member who has students showing the highest percentage of mastery. This approach is designed to make teams analyze their data and share openly what instructional strategies are working and what is not. We have also seen an increase in a sense of accountability amongst all team members for all students’ learning.
We also have students who lack the prior knowledge needed to be successful on grade-level essential standards. These students need additional time and support focused on foundational skills. We address these needs through Tier 3 Remediation. Our site-level intervention team works collaboratively to design and implement learning opportunities for these students that are timely and prescriptive. Students who receive Tier 3 Remediation are progress-monitored bi-monthly to make sure that appropriate progress is being achieved. Each student is given an individualized goal that they track to self-monitor progress and growth. Students are celebrated along the way to encourage them to reach their goals. Tier 3 Remediation is carried about a large team that is strategically placed for each student. Our assistant principal pulls small groups throughout the day to address phonics and fluency issues. One counselor works with small groups on reading comprehension. The instructional coach works with students on number sense and basic mathematical operations. We utilize our librarian to work with students in reading and math foundational skills as well. Our special education teachers work with students throughout the day in reading and math to ensure mastery of the learning targets. All of the Tier 3 Remediation groups are designed to include general education as well as students with learning disabilities. Our belief is that all of our students can benefit from this intervention plan and that all students in our building can and will learn at high levels.
This is an area we struggled with for some time. We thought that extension meant giving students work from the next grade level. It was not until our associate came to meet with our teams did we fully understand this concept. Our teams learned that it was not about jumping to the next grade level or providing harder work, it was about taking students deeper in their understanding of a specific standard. As our teams began to understand this concept, they began building the extension opportunities into their plans. Teams had to learn what it truly meant to differentiate instruction for students in the classroom. Our teams also implemented this into their Access Time. For example, a team of reading teachers would divide up all of their students based on each student’s needs. Two teachers may be working with students on a standard that they have not yet mastered, while the other two teachers are working with students who have mastered the standard and are providing a deeper understanding of a piece of literature. Our gifted teacher has taken groups to provide more critical thinking and problem-solving opportunities. Science and social studies teachers have taken the essential standards and aligned them to use opportunities for project-based learning, which addresses the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
At Moores Mill Intermediate School (MMIS), our Elite Teacher Teams (ETT) are guided by the three main ideas of a PLC. The teams focus on providing high levels of learning for all students, working collaboratively to ensure all students learn at a high level and focusing on results. If our students are not successful, then we have not done enough and must continue teaching until mastery. The teams are organized by grade level content areas. Each team has a team lead who facilitates the team time to be purposeful and productive. The team lead is also an active member of the Guiding Coalition to impact the learning of all students in the school. Teams are provided 120 minutes of collaborative time each week along with their personal planning time. The common personal planning time and collaborative time are connected so that teams have additional time to collaborate if needed. As our teams have evolved through the process with their understanding and watching their students grow and learn at high levels, more time has been needed to collaborate. As a school, we try to eliminate the need for frequent after-school meetings to allow teams additional time to focus on learning and planning, which they take advantage of.
Each team lead creates an agenda for their meeting with input from all team members in order to prioritize the use of time by the team. Team members bring student data and work to each meeting to sort, compare, and analyze with their team members. This promotes transparency amongst the team, and it also builds trust. The team discusses student outcomes and essential standards in each session. Teams collaboratively develop common formative assessments (CFA) and unit plans to achieve agreed-upon learning outcomes. Before a new unit is designed, the team must break apart the essential standards again into learning targets and ensure that there is consensus on what students are expected to learn and to be able to do.
Teams are given the professional autonomy of collectively determining what is best for all students. The school administration assists by providing clarity and support as needed. Our goal is to build leadership amongst all teachers and teams so they do not have to rely on the administrators. Training opportunities are provided through Global PD memberships for all team leads so that they can explore different topics and go deeper with their understanding as a team. On-site professional development is provided through a Solution Tree associate multiple times a year. The associate spends an entire day working with targeted teams to build capacity and relationships. Our school district offers us the opportunity to participate in off-site professional development such as RTI @ Work Coaching Academy, where Guiding Coalition team members can learn from an associate over a year-long process.
It is our goal to create high-performing collaborative teams that produce high performing teachers and therefore, highly effective learning. By creating and supporting a collaborative culture that focuses on learning, MMIS has seen tremendous professional growth and student achievement and learning through the PLC process.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
The past three years have shown us what is possible if we have a laser-like focus on the goal of all students learning at a high level. This past year we would have taken our 4th different state assessment in as many years. Our focus as a school has been strategic in that every decision is backed by data and monitored to evaluate success.
Over a 3 year period, our team has...
- Reduced Special Education Referrals by 50%
- Reduced the number of students needing Tier 3 Intervention by 60%
- Special Education achievement data has been sporadic and an overall area of concern.
- Closed the achievement gap for our students in poverty by 10% overall grades and subjects
- Closed the achievement gap for ELL Students completely in some categories.
- Raised the benchmark percentage in every category.
- In 2019-20 MMIS accounted for 40% of all 4-6 graders benchmarking in the district in Math.
- In 2019-20 MMIS accounted for 35% of all 406 graders benchmarking in the district in Reading.
State Accountability Measure- Report Card
- 2016-17: 86 B
- 2017-18: 93 A
- 2018-19: 94A
- 2019-20: Not released yet.
2018-19 CLAS Banner School Nominee for the State of Alabama. Area: Professional Learning Communities
2018-19 Grow Rural America Grant Recipient: $25,000 to establish a hydroponic aquaculture facility on campus.
2019-20 CLAS Banner School Nominee for the State of Alabama. Area: Professional Learning Communities
2019-20 Alabama Bicentennial School of Excellence: 1 of 21 in the state
2019-20 Ranked in the top 100 schools in the State of Alabama.
19-20 Moores Mill Intermediate was included as a Success Story in RTI at Work Plan Book by Austin Buffum and Mike Mattos
Highest Performing Title 1 school in the district.
3rd overall highest State Accountability Report Card Score in the District.