- Number of Students: 561
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 100%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 2%
- Percent of Special Education: 16%
- White: 64%
- Black: 22%
- Hispanic: 9%
- Asian: 0%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 5%
- Other: 0%
Rivercrest Elementary School Model School Application
Our PLC Journey
At Rivercrest Elementary, we began our work with Solution Tree as part of Cohort 2 in the 2018-2019 school year. Prior to that time, we did have a school guiding coalition and set aside intervention time daily for each grade level. However, our grade level team meetings were not always centered on student data, and interventions were not always focused on the remediation of specific skills. We had the basic structure in place - a staff willing to embrace the work as we began our journey; however, at this point in the process, we would be considered “PLC Lite”. This was evident in a statement from our application to become part of Cohort 2: “Teachers need professional development on effective practices to include working with one another, developing formative assessments, and analyzing data to guide their next instructional steps. An increased focus is needed on aligning curriculum, instruction and assessment. Teachers need instruction on providing constructive feedback to students. They also need support to recognize how to respond appropriately to what is and is not working effectively.”
Prior to work beginning, we had established pacing guides at each content and grade level and had begun some work to look at the essential standards. During the comprehensive needs assessment in the fall of 2018, teachers recognized their efforts and admitted that they had more to learn -“collaborative teams have time to meet but are not focused on the right work all the time” and when asked how they monitored student learning, they responded that they were not clear on this. The teachers also agreed that growing the strength of the school would require an understanding of “learning for all.”
As part of Cohort 2, we continued to pull out essential standards and identify learning targets for each standard. Identifying the essential standards at each grade level and what students need to exhibit to show they have mastered them was the first critical step in the process. This would enable us to answer the PLC question, “What do we want all students to know and be able to do?” We built common understanding of the need to always go back to this PLC question as we learned to build curriculum maps and to continuously review what standards we had prioritized and how much time we would spend on the essential learnings (see Appendix 1 RES K Proficiency Map and Appendix 2: 1st Grade Curriculum Map). During reduced instructional time during the COVID pandemic, this has become even more important for our collaborative teams to focus on as they constantly are identifying the essential standards and the learning targets that must be mastered at each grade level. During the first year, we also worked with our guiding coalition to understand our “why”. We established mission and vision statements and worked with our teachers to create collective commitments (See Appendix 3: RES Mission, Vision, Collective Commitments). These commitments continue to be revisited as we understand that our entire staff is the professional learning community.
We then began assessment work to create assessments that would give us the information we needed to know if the students met the targets. Our coach Karen helped many of our teams with designing rigorous assessments. Our teams began analyzing this data in their teams. The first year of the project they reported data out by standard. By the second year of our work with Solution Tree, they began reporting out data by individual learning targets. Our grade level team meetings were then very focused on data and the individual needs of each of our students. Over time, the collaborative teams have created data folders and are constantly monitoring data during their team meetings. (Appendix 4: Math Unit 3 - Section D - standard by standard data). They are focused on student-by-student/skill-by-skill approach as they continue to learn more about student needs from their data. The guiding coalition also meets regularly to progress monitor the school’s SMART goals based on student data (See Appendix 5: Data Wall image). This work enabled us to answer the question, “How will we know if they learned it?” We now have systems in place (collaborative teams, guiding coalition) where teachers can easily discuss exactly what each student knows and what they need help with. (See Appendix 6: Fifth Grade Team Meeting)
During the first year, we also worked with our guiding coalition to understand our “why”. As previously mentioned, we established mission and vision statements and worked with our teachers to create collective commitments (See Appendix 3: RES Mission, Vision, Collective Commitments). These commitments continue to be revisited as we understand that our entire staff is the professional learning community.
The second year of our work with Solution Tree was centered around the RTI process. With our teachers compiling detailed data sheets, our interventions were targeted specifically to student needs. However, in year two of the project, we realized that we were failing to provide tier 2 interventions to our students who were being provided tier 3 interventions. Previously, during the intervention block, tier 3 students received Phonics First interventions which is an extensive phonics intervention program. In this third year, we have worked to add additional time in our classroom daily schedule to allow students who are assigned to a tier 3 intervention to be able to also receive tier 2 interventions (See Appendix 7: Riverview Elementary Intervention Schedule). Collaborative teams are becoming very efficient at “naming and claiming” and using their data to plan Tier 2 interventions. ( See Appendix 8: Math Data Unit 3 Section C). At this time, we feel that we have an adequate plan in place in order to answer the question, “How will we respond when some students do not learn?”.
During our daily intervention time, we also have teachers providing extensions to our students that demonstrated mastery of the learning targets on our common formative and summative assessments. This group of students is able to work on above grade level or additional learning opportunities to enrich what they are learning in the classroom. This helps us answer the question,”How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient?”.
In year three, we have also worked to be more organized in our work so that as we have staff changes we have all of our prior work in folders that can easily be shared. As a district we have created a district wide Google site to house all grade level PLC information including; CFAs and CSAs, lesson plans, and pacing guides. This information will be stored in the district Google site so that in the event of changes in grade level teams, all information will be quickly and easily accessible by the new team member. (See Appendix 9: District PLC Organization Folder). We realized this year that some of our assessment work had been lost during the transition of staff members. In order to sustain the process moving forward, it is essential that we have our prior work readily available to share with newcomers to our district. This will help us with sustainability as we move into year four in the PLC process.
The last three years have been quite a journey for our staff at Rivercrest Elementary. Our staff has embraced the work of the PLC Project. Our team leaders at each grade level effectively guide each team through the process. We have seen a drastic change in the collaborative culture of our school and how all staff discuss and collectively own student success. Our staff focus on data and student needs goes beyond our weekly grade level meetings. These discussions are taking place during lunch, in the hallways, and anytime teachers are together. It has become a part of who we are and the way that we operate at Rivercrest Elementary.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Monitoring Learning on a Timely Basis
At Rivercrest Elementary School, prior to our work with Solution Tree, we were in the habit of “waiting for benchmark” data and “hoping” for improvement. We looked extensively at benchmark assessments on standards, but not at the day to day acquisition of student learning. We would look at ACT Interim data, Star data, and DIBELS data to get a picture of student performance on standards, but between those benchmark assessments we did not have a good way to monitor student progress. As we learned and implemented the PLC process, we shifted our culture to one where we faced the brutal facts and understand our current reality with ongoing progress monitoring.
Once teachers in collaborative teams worked together to create common formative and summative assessments with essential skills and learning targets identified, we were able to begin monitoring student learning to a much deeper level. Teachers are now able to discuss at any given time where individual students are in terms of mastering essential skills. For students that have not mastered essential skills, they are able to verbalize the parts of the standard, or specific learning targets, that the students still need help with. (Appendix 10: Data without student names).
This new information allows us to intervene in a timely manner. As teachers are administering common formative assessments during a unit, they are able to provide the specific intervention students need before they get to the summative assessments and the number of deficits has compounded. Teachers and the intervention staff are able to group students that have deficits with the same learning targets together in small groups and utilize different ways to teach the same skills so that students are able to learn. Collaborative teams are operating on various data cycles to collect and obtain information. At the end of each data cycle the data collected provided a clear picture of the very specific skills that students still need to master the identified essential skills. We are proud that monitoring of learning is also being transferred to the student as students track their own data and can talk about their learning goals. (See Appendix 11, 12 13,16: Examples of student ownership)
Our guiding coaliton and collaborative teams are holding data talks to understand evidence of student learning and plan next steps. During the pandemic, this work has continued and once we have all students on site again, we will increase our use of student data talks and data notebooks to engage students even more in their learning.
We are pleased that Rivercrest Elementary has moved from a school that monitors benchmark data, to a school that is in a continuous state of monitoring, intervening, and improving. This process of change took place not only in our practices and procedures but also in the culture of our school. When once we were a school who waited and hoped for improvement, we now have teachers who are intentional about assessment, intervention, and data cycles. We are focused on formative and summative assessments and are implementing new learnings from the assessment academy. (See Appendix 19: RL.1.3 Assessment Plan). Instruction is driven by the essential standards and determining what skills are needed to progress. Through progress monitoring and deep data driven discussions involving all members of our instructional staff, we are seeing student growth and improved classroom instruction. This process was very evident and most helpful as we prepared to come back to school for the 2020-2021 year. (See Appendix 14: Standards-Based Plan 4th grade RES Re-entry for 2020-2021). The conversations that take place concerning student data are rich and very student centered. In collaborative team meetings the discussion concerns learning targets, various ways that those targets can be addressed, and what can be done to make sure the students at Rivercrest Elementary are learning at high levels.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Creating Systems of Intervention and Extension to Provide students with Additional Time and Supports for Learning
In the beginning days of our PLC journey, the teachers worked diligently to identify the standards that were essential in all instructional units. They then broke down those essential standards into specific learning targets. Prior to this work, teachers were following district provided curriculum and administering the tests that went along with the curriculum. They were unable to speak about student learning in terms of actual standards much less learning targets.
Today, that picture at Rivercrest Elementary is very different. Units of study are carefully planned with essential standards identified. Assessments are created that identify specific learning targets that support each essential standard. When looking at grade level team data sheets, it is very easy to identify the overarching targets that are causing problems that need to be addressed by the whole group, and individual students need. This allows for proper interventions to be planned. Those interventions may look like the standard being addressed to the whole group in a different way, or small group interventions with specific students on specific skills.
Our daily schedules support this work. (See Appendix 7: Rivercrest Elementary Intervention Schedule). The teams have time daily that they can meet. Each team has a designated meeting schedule, but oftentimes those meetings happen daily. (See Appendix 15: Daily Collaborative Team Meetings). In the daily schedule there is also time for interventions scheduled for each grade level. During the scheduled time students may be receiving their tier 2 interventions or their tier 3 interventions. We have an extensive Phonics First trained staff that works with grade level students during their assigned time. Our special education staff also works with us during this time to provide tier 3 interventions to their students.
An issue we identified in year 2, was that although we had an extensive intervention plan in place for students, we had not considered students in tier 3 that also needed tier 2 interventions as identified on common formative and summative assessments. That has been corrected in year 3. All grade levels have carved aside time to make sure that all students have access to all tiers of interventions.
When the guiding coalition comes together to progress monitor, each team’s current data is discussed. Collaborative teams have deepened their conversations to name students and identify skills needed to be remediated or extended; this will be a continuous area of growth for Rivercrest Elementary School. Our RTI pyramid will continue to be a “living document” that the guiding coalition will continue to monitor and adjust. (See Appendix 17: RTI Pyramid).
As we continue learning more through the Assessment Academy, teachers are becoming more skilled at formative classroom practices. This is increasing our attention to tier 1 interventions. Individual teachers are using more small group strategies and are differentiating lessons based on timely and daily student data. As previously stated, students are also monitoring their progress through data folders. (See Appendix 16: Video of student discussing data folder). Collaborative teams also discuss instructional strategies to ensure that they are learning from each other to meet the needs of their students. Classroom observations and feedback are focused on supporting increased understanding of quality instructional practices.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Building Teacher Capacity to work as members of high-performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students
The guiding coalition at Rivercrest Elementary has developed strong leadership skills focused on improving learning for all. This team has participated in the PLC coaching academy, the RTI coaching academy and the Assessment coaching academy. As each member learns, the collective capacity of the team and their ability to lead their collaborative teams grow. A great example of this most recently occurred following a coaching academy day. Each team lead went back to their respective collaborative teams and led a learning opportunity with their team. First grade created exit tickets to bring to a team meeting to calibrate scoring and fifth grade participated in a conversation focused on instructional agility. Both of these were shared learnings with the guiding coalition and these lead teachers understood their role in building teacher capacity. The collaborative teams receive regular coaching from Solution Tree and the administrators follow up to ensure deep understanding of next steps.
The collaborative teams at Rivercrest Elementary School have become interdependent and focused on the work of improving the school. Whether an administrator or coach is present, the team is able to continue to answer the four PLC questions. (See Appendix 18: Video of collaborative team meeting). The “tights” of coming together to establish guaranteed and viable curriculum, assess for understanding of student progress and use data to inform instruction, interventions and extensions is “just how we work here”. Teachers new to the school are supported by both their collaborative team and the school administration to develop understanding of the PLC process. A great example of this is a new teacher in 2020-2021 being able to take over the lead role of a team.
One important aspect of the work of the guiding coalition is the continuous progress monitoring of the school’s SMART goals. Several data points (DIBELS, STAR, ACT/ASPIRE interims, summatives and team data) are used by the guiding coalition and these discussions continue to build the collective capacity of all teachers in the school. Rivercrest Elementary is on a mission to improve learning for all students and this collective goal requires our continuous attention to the professional development of our teachers as members of highly functioning teams.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
In addition to the traditional achievement data that we have included for consideration, we have also included a graph to tell the story of how we handled the year during the pandemic. The chart will show the percentage of virtual students that we had when the year began as well as the effort and dedication that was made to get students who were unsuccessful learning virtually, back on campus. It illustrates the dedication that the staff at RES has to student learning and achievement.
Univerity of Arkansas Beating the Odds in ELA 2018