Clark Elementary

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

2016-2017 School Year

Our PLC story began with a volunteer book study of It’s About Time: Planning Interventions and Extensions in Elementary School by Austin Buffum and Mike Mattos. As a district we had adopted the Multi-Tiered System of Support -- MTSS framework and were really struggling with getting any positive results and articulating what the work should look like. As the new principal of Clark Elementary, Kimber Fessler came across the book It’s About Time and instantly knew this would help us gain some traction. She opened it up as a volunteer book study and encouraged all  teachers to participate.  Kimber even bought fancy flavored  K-Cups and brought in the Keurig with different coffee creamers to make it extra special! When we finished the last chapter, we came to realize that we could not move any further until we had a Master Schedule that built in the extra tiered support for students. From where Kimber was sitting as the “rookie” principal, this made her very uncomfortable and yet very excited!  She knew it wasn’t going to be easy but also knew this core group of dedicated teachers were up for the challenge.  So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work planning how we would get the rest of the staff up to speed. 

 

We began with a picture of our current reality and the need for change. Our students were in the midst of an “educational lottery” and we simply couldn’t function this way anymore.  We knew better, so we needed to do better on behalf of our students. We put together a presentation and gained staff consensus that our first step was to “blow up our Master Schedule”.  We needed to insert What I Need -- WIN time during the regular school day, interventions and enrichments could no longer be a choice for those students willing to come early or stay late. Just like any change, we were met with some resistance and hesitation.  Some of the concerns raised included: sharing students (my kids vs. our kids), sharing resources, planning as a team, and giving up classroom time. In response to this, our school leader, Mrs. Fessler made it a priority to meet with every team each week to address these concerns and scaffold their work to ensure the expectations were clearly articulated and implemented at every grade level.

 

The first year we learned by jumping in and following one school’s example (from It’s About Time) of having reading WIN (What I Need) time at the same time, so K-5 WIN time was from 9:10-9:35. We realized that was not the best use of our support and resources and adjusted the schedule the following year so that each grade level was flooded with support at different times during the day and also added another WIN time focusing on mathematics.

 

These seemingly small changes have led to big things for our school!  It forced us to ask and answer questions like, “How can we use this WIN time more effectively for all of our students? What do we really believe as a school about student learning? Which standards do we need to focus on and what do we really want kids to know and be able to do? How do we have conversations with parents regarding their student’s progress? What are we truly committed to as a staff?”

 

In hindsight, we “put the cart before the horse”. We began with the intervention/enrichment time but in doing so, this led to a sense of urgency to define the priority standards and determine how we would measure student progress using common formative assessments created by teams.

 

Luckily as we have evolved, so has our district. Our grade level teams have 70 minutes of common planning time daily so teachers have been able to meet during the regular school day. We have been blessed with the opportunity to have “Late Start Mondays” where teachers get two hours of embedded professional development and team time focused around the PLC process. As a school and district, we have worked with consultants from Solution Tree and Marzano such as Aaron Hansen, Maria Neilsen, Jan Hoegh and Tammy Helflebower to learn and implement the PLC Process and “learn by doing”.  During the 2019-2020 school year, Clark Elementary applied and was accepted to the Wyoming PLC Cohort. This has allowed us to send a group of five teacher representatives to dig deeper into the PLC process and return to our building to train and implement the tools and learning with our teams. Our teacher teams are meeting at least twice weekly in order to plan units of instruction around our Priority Standards, create CFAs, analyze data, and organize WIN groups.

 

This year 2020-2021, Kimber brought our school data picture to our Guiding Coalition to discuss whether or not we were in a place to put our application in. As we dug deeper into the schoolwide data we determined that we hadn’t made as much growth as we needed to at every grade level to apply. This led to tough conversations about whether we “polish it up” and submit the application or move forward with the work and get our growth data where we knew it could be. As a team, we decided we owed it to ourselves and our students to continue the process with a greater sense of urgency and get another year of growth data before applying. This was tough but it was the right thing to do for our school.

 

It has been exciting to see the transformation of Clark Elementary. We have truly gone from good to great! What started as a simple MTSS framework has grown into a culture of ensuring high levels of learning for ALL students, ALL the time.  

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

We refer to our Clark PLC Process flowchart to ensure our sacred team time is as effective as possible. We have revisited and revamped this flowchart each year. This is reflective of our growth and knowledge of the PLC process. This flowchart represents our work as a Professional Learning Community and supports the way we monitor student learning to ensure all students are learning at high levels. 

Each grade level team has worked hard to identify and consider all Four Critical Questions of the PLC process. Each year we have gotten better at clarifying what it is we want students to know and be able to do. As a district, we have determined the priority standards at each grade level. We then measure and monitor progress through the use of common formative assessments and team created proficiency scales. We also monitor student learning and communicate progress by standard using our newly adopted “Standards-Based Report Cards”. This has led to increased understanding and support with all stakeholders.  

Each month grade level teams meet to report progress towards proficiency of grade level standards with the principal.  This allows deeper discussion and decision making “by student by standard” and ensures team accountability. 

 

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

Our system is based on the Multi-Tiered System of Support -- MTSS pyramid of intervention with Tier 1 Core instruction, Tier 2 support based on current grade level standards, and Tier 3 support. After doing a book study of It’s About Time: Planning Interventions and Extensions in Elementary Schools, we needed to make sure the support was given during the school day and wasn’t optional. We also committed to the idea that in order to ensure all students were learning at high levels they could not miss core instruction, this support would be “in addition to” rather than “instead of”. This led us to creating a Master Schedule with built-in WIN (What I Need) time of 20-30 minutes by grade level for each content area (math and reading). This time is our dedicated “Tier 2” time within the MTSS framework. We learned that by staggering the WIN time at each grade level we could maximize the additional support staff and provide a lot of support to create small groups. We then use our priority standards and proficiency scales to create common formative assessments. These tools support the foundation of our WIN time to ensure we are working with students in small groups on the “right work” while still maintaining commitment to the current grade level standards.  After working with Maria Nielsen, we call this “ski, ski, skiing”! We are filling gaps and holes and then quickly applying these skills to the grade level standards. This leads to more students learning more! 

As we have gotten smarter with this process, we began to recognize that we needed a more strategic approach to providing Tier 3 support for those students that were struggling a year or more behind. This is done on a student-by-student basis with support from our highest trained professionals such as Reading Specialists and Special Education teachers as well as highly trained support staff. These staff members work with the classroom teachers to create a schedule to pull out individual students for a short period of time, around 10-15 minutes during NON-ESSENTIAL core instruction on a daily basis. These “skills shots” are laser focused and we monitor their progress on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. As you can imagine, this can get tricky but since we’ve implemented this support this year, we’ve seen tremendous academic growth with our most fragile learners.  

 

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

Our teachers are blessed with 75 minutes of daily, common planning time. We also have “late start Mondays” with dedicated time for teams to work together as well as whole staff professional development.  Every Monday morning we meet together in the media center seated as teams, roll up our sleeves and get to work!  The expectation is that teams meet at least once a week (outside of the late start Monday) to focus on the Four Critical Questions with an agreed upon agenda and complete products such as 15-Day Unit Plans, grade level CFAs, WIN groups/planning etc. The “tight” expectations are that each team has an agenda, organizes their data by standard, addresses at least one of their team SMART goals and includes appropriate components of the cycle based on where they are in the process. We’re finding that grade level teams meet multiple times weekly in service of the PLC process depending on where they are in the unit planning and assessment cycle.  This shift has taken place as teams have gotten smarter about the process and as they’ve seen the “fruits of their labor” in the form of student achievement.  

In the spirit of becoming a true Professional Learning Community, our Specials teachers (PE, Music, Media, Science) and our school counselor also meet together weekly. Their collaborative work focuses on teaching and developing teamwork and problem solving within our students. They decided that even though they didn’t teach the same content, they do share the same students. As a team, they have approached this work in a way that has focused on the social/emotional aspects of student learning. Our Specials team designs common formative assessments based on a teamwork and problem solving proficiency scale that they designed with input from our school counselor. They then administer the assessment and provide follow-up small group instruction based on student needs during their regularly scheduled Specials time. This is truly a collaborative effort and addresses the great need for strategic, Tier 1 and Tier 2 social/emotional learning, especially this year (2020-2021) and has led to improved student learning. 

 

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Achievement Data Commentary: 

Our clear next step to address is the achievement gap with our students who have IEPs, particularly in 3rd grade. The rigor and jump in reading skills has proved to be a big challenge. We are committed to the PLC process and are looking at data and planning accordingly, intervening quickly and strategically during our built-in WIN (What I Need) time. It’s important to note though, that while we didn’t move all students to the proficiency level yet, they showed growth in each area. 

Our school goal is 100% proficiency in reading, writing, math and science. We are gradually chipping away and every year we are moving closer to making this a reality. This year our Kindergarten moved from 20% proficiency in the fall to 97% proficiency this spring! Our staff commitment is evident in all aspects of our work. While we didn’t reach our goal this year, we have a lot to celebrate. Our commitment to the PLC process has led to steady growth in all areas over the course of three years. Students with and without IEPs moved from “below basic” to "advanced" in both reading and math. We grew EVERY student from fall to spring, some with large scale growth! Heading into this year (2020-2021), we knew it would be a challenge to fill in some gaps left from the COVID shutdown. Our staff was up to the challenge and worked every day with a powerful sense of urgency to ensure all students were learning at high levels. We knew the right work of the PLC process and got to work answering the Four Critical Questions. We couldn't be prouder of the work we’ve done and will continue to build on each year. 

 

Awards:

  • 2019-2020 school year selected into the Professional Learning Communities At Work Coaching Academy Year 2 Cohort through our Wyoming Department of Education

  • May of 2019 Certified as a Level One High Reliability School

  • 2018-2020 National PTA School of Excellence (currently reapplying for 2021-2022 school year) 

  • 2018, 2019 Wyoming Summer Reading Champions (this is an award given each year to the school whose students read the most minutes over summer break)

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