Lake County School District

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

Lake County School District is a learning organization whose primary function is to be relentless in the goal of ensuring high levels of learning for all students. The implementation of the PLC process has been instrumental in our success. 

New Leadership

In March of 2017, Lake County Schools hired a new superintendent and assistant superintendent who both brought with them a belief system in supporting all students as well as experience implementing the PLC process in schools. The first steps of revisiting the district’s mission, vision, values and goals allowed us to determine the past and current thinking of the board regarding the belief in learning for all students. Through district-wide teacher focus group conversations with the Superintendent, meetings with school and district leaders, as well as conversations with stakeholders, the decision was made to maintain the mission, vision and values. These foundational elements embraced the ultimate goal of high levels of learning for all students. Deepening the commitment to our mission and vision statement would continue to illuminate the path to success for every individual student in Lake County. The LCS mission is to provide every student with individual opportunities to excel. The district vision states, “We aim to be a dynamic, progressive and collaborative learning community where every student will graduate with the skills needed to succeed in post-secondary education and the workplace.” Our fundamental district beliefs are shared in the Lake County Schools strategic plan and include each of the following:  

  • Students are the number one priority. 
  • Education is a lifelong process and the foundation for everyone’s future.
  • We must provide a safe, resource-filled learning environment.
  • All students will graduate prepared for work and post-secondary education.
  • We will pursue the highest levels in achievement and organizational performance. 
  • Parents, guardians, community and schools are all responsible for students’ education.

Collaborating with support staff and teachers, as well as school and district leaders, helped determine what was working and what wasn’t working for our students, which led to open communication and collaboration from the first day of new leadership. This created trust and a clear message that the three big ideas of focusing on results, collaboration, and learning would be a priority both at the district and school levels.   

Leading through Learning

Summer leadership institute in 2017, the first with new leadership, allowed all district leaders to come together and create a common vision for what we wanted students to experience in order to ensure learning for all students in all schools.  As a struggling school district ranking 47 out of 67 school districts in student achievement, the message was clearly articulated that the goal of the new leadership was to end the educational lottery of a system of schools and create a school system that guaranteed learning at high levels for ALL students. Each summer since, we have come together as lead learners with over 400 participants made up of district staff, principals, assistant principals and teacher leaders to check in on our progress as a system, set goals, and learn together. We have used anchor texts such as Learning by Doing, Transforming School Culture, Time for Change, and Overcoming the Achievement Gap Trap as our basis for learning. In June of 2020, even in the midst of a pandemic, we hosted almost 500 participants attending in person and virtually, to learn with Anthony Muhammad to support our work with eliminating our achievement gaps. This time together with an expert voice has been instrumental in creating conditions for our purpose of focusing on learning rather than being paralyzed by the fear of the pandemic. Principal meetings during the 2019-2020 school year included time to review student subgroup achievement at the school and district level, identify areas of focus, and determine next steps. As a result of this work, district progress monitoring results showed a reduction in the achievement gap in some areas. This year, the district, along with each school, has created a guiding coalition that has analyzed gaps in data and created an action plan to eliminate these gaps. Along with our district mission and vision statements, we also have an equity commitment that will continue to drive our work to eliminate disparities and ensure learning for all students. 

Knowing that learning for adults is key to increasing learning for students, the district is committed to sending school teams from every campus to a PLC institute. Since starting in 2017, 183 leaders and teachers have attended a PLC institute. Having a team trained at every school allows the district to create common vision, vocabulary and expectations for implementation of the PLC process. While COVID canceled several institutes that school teams were signed up for, we participated in a district wide virtual institute for 460 participants made up of district staff, principals, assistant principals and teacher leaders this past June. This learning opportunity allowed first timers to hear from the experts as well as provided an opportunity for those already immersed in the work to reflect and refine their practices. During team time at the institute, school leaders had the chance to work together to refine the PLC process at their own sites while making connections to our seven key leadership expectations. As a district, we are tight about those expectations which include providing intervention during the school day, collaborating during planning time, leading learning, and using the most current data to inform instruction.

Collaboration

Collaboration in our system begins with the superintendent and has a continuous through-line to the student level. The school system organizational structure at the district level allows for a more cohesive approach to supporting learning in schools. The assistant superintendent oversees all departments regarding teaching, learning and leadership and has an expectation that collaboration occurs weekly within each department and monthly between various departments. This expectation for district level teams was foreign to most district leaders at first, but is now accepted and seen as one of the fundamental practices that has transformed the district culture and has been instrumental in fostering shared responsibility for continuous improvement for all students in our system. School leaders also engage in collaboration. Our leaders meet monthly to come together to collaborate around the guaranteed and viable curriculum, high expectations for student learning in Tier 1 instruction, common assessment results, just in time support with intervention and acceleration, and grading practices. 

Time for collaboration at the school level for teachers has been in place for several years. The district system provides an hour of early release time every Wednesday as well as a minimum of one common planning time each week so teams of teachers can learn together. Over the last few years, the district has provided support through the use of district program specialists and school based literacy coaches to ensure this collaborative time is spent focused on the four questions to ensure teacher and student success. With new ELA and Math standards implementation in Florida, we have decided to allocate more resources, including a director of professional learning and regional intervention and acceleration specialists, to begin supporting schools with refining their work with determining essential standards, developing common assessments, analyzing results, and planning for intervention and acceleration. A video library of sample collaborative team meeting clips from within the district is currently under development. These resources will provide further clarity regarding work related to the 4-critical questions. As a next step in our journey, a district team will attend the RTI at Work conference and share learning with colleagues to further support schools. Finally, a new district podcast known as “Lake Learns Together” will feature a 7-part series highlighting the shifts we have made from a traditional district to a true professional learning community.

Creating Time to Support Learning

Understanding that learning occurs at different rates, the focus on intervention and acceleration during the school day became crucial to our way of work. During the summer of 2018, time was built into the school day and became an expectation for all schools.  Master schedules were changed and every school K-12 provided time for intervention and acceleration in addition to just in time support during core instruction.

After 4 years, the PLC process is a way of work in Lake County Schools.  Systems and structures are in place supporting weekly collaboration across the district.  Teacher collaborative teams rely on these systems to provide the highly effective instruction all of our students deserve, even during this most difficult year.  As we continually strive to improve, we know these practices have become beliefs.  This common vision for learning, the focus on results, and the work of collaborative teams have aligned expectations and provided a guaranteed and viable curriculum that ensures equitable experiences and high levels of learning for all students across schools.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

A guaranteed and viable curriculum is evident in the classrooms of Lake County. Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment documents are revised collaboratively with teachers each year.  These documents include a scope and sequence, aligned resources and formative assessments.  Collaborative teacher teams use these documents to build their common understanding of what students are expected to know and be able to do in all classrooms, as well as determine essential standards and develop common formative assessments.  They then use these to drive their planning for daily instruction and just in time intervention. 

A key priority for LCS is to support a common vision through grade appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement and high expectations. Each day students have multiple opportunities to read, write, think and talk through authentic learning experiences.  We utilize these strategies to meet the needs of all students as we continue to strengthen our Tier 1 instruction daily.  Professional learning is centered around the district instructional framework on every level.  Principals, assistant principals and district instructional staff attend monthly professional learning sessions embedded in a school with classroom learning walks.  These sessions enable leaders to norm their shared understanding of the curriculum and instruction while also building their capacity to lead the same learning at their school. This monthly learning is replicated with the literacy coaches from each school.  Professional development for teachers aligns to the same common focus: learning around what we want students to know and be able to do and how we will know they have learned it. As we build capacity with stakeholders around this common vision, our goal is to ensure all students acquire the essential knowledge and skills by design not chance. 


 

The monitoring of student learning is an on-going process within our district.  It starts by using district wide progress monitoring assessments for formative and summative measures.  We utilize these quarterly assessments to provide formative data at the teacher level that drives real-time teacher instruction, supports our collaborative teams, and helps answer questions 3 and 4 of the PLC process.  Investing in a data platform that allows all leaders and teachers to have immediate access to performance results, as well as a database to utilize in the creation of common assessments has been pivotal in the work of collaborative teams. 

Coupled with the district common quarterly assessments, teachers spend time weekly developing grade level common checks for understanding and use these common formative assessments to drive just in time student support during the intervention and acceleration block based on teacher expertise. Teacher teams analyze common formative assessment data on a student by student, skill by skill basis. Students who are in need of additional support are grouped accordingly and provided intervention. Students excelling and exhibiting proficiency are offered accelerated learning opportunities. Teachers use common formative assessment results as a tool to reflect on their teaching and improve practice. Those showing high-achievement or growth results in a given essential standard are tasked with providing student intervention while also sharing instructional strategies with colleagues to support professional growth amongst the team. Intervention and acceleration groups are continuously monitored and students are able to move fluidly within groups based on individual needs. Taking the approach of “all of our students are all of our students,” teacher collaborative teams engage in problem solving to decide which students need specific support and create intervention/acceleration groups based on the needs of students and strengths of teachers.   

Additionally, quarterly and semester data chats with principals, district staff and superintendent around local, district and state learning data, allows for that just in time support and provides clear direction to highlight and support our core instruction. The four questions frame these data chats and in turn, principals conduct school based data chats with their teachers utilizing the same format to formulate changes in instructional practices if necessary. 

 

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

One of our district leadership's seven key expectations focuses on ensuring intervention and acceleration time is built into the master schedule of every school. Providing time to support and extend student learning is a district priority, and systems to schedule and monitor students' needs, growth, and outcomes have been provided to support leaders and teachers. Collaborative teams have engaged in professional learning to deepen understanding around grading, retention, redos, and interventions; therefore, in all schools, targeted time during the school day ensures opportunity for students to work towards mastery and extend their learning through various structured opportunities. 

It was early in our implementation of the PLC process, that we began to see the need for time embedded during the school day for intervention and acceleration for all students. During a training session for leaders and teacher leaders, we presented the formula below as our WHY for embedding dedicated time in every school in the district. 

QI + T = L

QI (V) + T (V) = L (C)

The formula illustrates that while quality instruction and time equal learning, when quality instruction and time are varied, learning is constant. We recognize that students acquire learning with varied instruction and/or varied lengths of time; we do not all learn the same way or within the same time constraints. We further recognize that to provide varied time and instruction to all students, it must be built in during the school day. 

All elementary, middle and high schools have master schedules with built in remediation and acceleration time for all students. The use of a system called FlexTime Manager in middle and high schools allows for teachers to be able to schedule their daily intervention based on individual need. Students who have mastered essential standards have opportunities to schedule time with a teacher of their choosing to accelerate or enrich their learning.  

Continuing to examine causes for gaps in learning led us to a deeper look into each student and each cause. The notion of “by kid, by cause” led us to implementing new structures for students who needed more behavioral support. Sometimes students are late, absent or fail to complete work, resulting in learning loss and causes other than academic. The implementation of Restorative Practices has built trust, community, and relationships to determine root causes and repair harm. All schools have leaders trained in Restorative Practices. Each school has a Positive Alternative to School Suspension (PASS) program and a dedicated teacher to keep students in school and repair harm instead of suspending them as well as stop learning loss. 

We are committed to continuing to strengthen our systems of support to ensure that they are both systematic and timely. Throughout our journey to become a PLC district, we continuously renew our commitment to ensure every student learns at high levels.

 
 

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

As a learning organization, we know that we must be learners to create learners. 

The district's commitment to build collective capacity resulting in student learning is highlighted weekly through a newsletter called Transformation Tuesday which provides additional PLC aligned resources, videos and learning.  This communication goes out to every department and every employee in the district to ensure consistent communication of our expectations for all students in the district. This shared vision has transformed our district from one focused on logistics to a district focused on learning. 

Each month, the PLC process is reinforced through professional learning that is provided for principals, assistant principals, district program specialists, literacy coaches and instructional coaches.  The professional learning includes collaborative walks in our schools’ classrooms and focuses on instruction as it results in student learning. 

Regional teams provide job-embedded professional learning to assist schools’ leadership teams and provide real-time, day to day support based on students’ needs. Supports include collaboratively looking at student work to determine mastery of essential standards, creating common formative assessments, utilizing the district instructional framework to design learning experiences and determining targeted intervention and acceleration for student success. 

Our high-performing, school based collaborative teams start with the most current data on hand to provide students and teachers feedback about student learning on the essential standards. Team analysis of this data drives the shared responsibility of student learning. The effectiveness of the implementation of our common vision for instruction is examined through student results rather than teachers’ comfort level or preference. 

Evidence that professional learning and collaboration around grading practices  became apparent and schools began to refine their focus on student learning. Leaders have engaged in professional learning around best practices in grading thus resulting in requests for professional learning at the school levels,which has led to more standards based grading practices. New understanding around grading practices has allowed for a revision to our student progression plan and the implementation of redos and retakes. The shift in mindset around grading practices has allowed for a more student centered approach. 

Transforming a large district from a system of schools into a school system that thrives as a learning community is our ongoing commitment. 


 

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Graduation Rate Increase

In 17-18, the district graduation rate was 78%. New leadership set a goal of 90% and restructuring at the district level allowed for a leader to champion college and career readiness for all students. Each high school was allocated a graduation resource facilitator whose sole responsibility was to support each and every student to ensure he/she had an opportunity to pursue goals post-graduation. These facilitators took a laser-like focus of tracking each student’s progress towards graduation and implemented supports such as free ACT/SAT tutoring sessions as well as free testing opportunities to achieve concordant scores for graduation requirements. Data drove collaborative conversations and school leaders became proficient at knowing exactly how many students were on/off track for a 4 year graduation and understood the importance of creating a team of support (school counselors, data clerks, parents, community members, etc..)  that would ensure success for all students. In comparison to the state, Lake County is proud of the data that shows we are eliminating the disparity between our subgroups as well. Because we know eliminating the achievement gap is a national, state and local responsibility, this comparison allows us to determine the rate at which we are making a difference.  While we are proud of our 90% graduation rate district-wide, we believe that we will reach 100%. We often ask, “Which student doesn’t deserve it?” And, in our fifth year of this work, our entire learning community answers, “Every student deserves to graduate!”. 

Covid Data Comparison

With schools shutting down in March of 2020, we truly feel that the PLC process saved us in terms of minimizing the negative impact of student learning loss during the pandemic. We were able to quickly identify essential standards for virtual learning lessons across the district, reducing our learning loss as compared to the state. As the Covid Lake/State comparison data sheet shows, Lake County’s decreases in student achievement were less than the state average in many areas. In addition, math achievement saw an increase in the number of subgroups performing above the state average, rising from two above the state average in 2018 to six in 2021. As a result, students will have fewer gaps in learning to make up than their peers statewide.  Having teacher collaborative teams in place prior to the change to virtual learning allowed a supportive process for teachers to learn together to accomplish goals they could never anticipate needing. Once we returned to the buildings, teachers were able to continue the process of focusing on student learning, collaboration and how instruction is impacting student results.  

Other Information

In Lake County, offering multiple opportunities for students to gain college credit or perform at high levels to be college, career, and/or military ready.  For the past several years, students have had the following opportunities to show that they are ready to take on new challenges and have opportunities to grow as scholars:

  • Free NMSQT for all 8th-grade students
  • Free PSAT testing for all freshman.
  • Free SAT/ACT testing for all juniors
  • Free AP testing for all students enrolled in AP courses

 We also partner with Lake Sumter State College to offer Dual Enrollment opportunities for all students that qualify as well as other state and universities.

 

 

  • Summer Leadership/PLC Institute Spotlight Video
  • Graduation rate state ranking moved from 50th in 2017 to 22nd in 2020
  • 2019 District of Distinction by District Administration magazine 
  • Three high schools recognized as Cambridge schools
  • Two middle schools honored as AVID demonstration schools 
  • Florida State Teacher of the Year in 2018
  • Florida State Assistant Principal of the Year in 2017 
  • Finalist for Florida State Principal of the Year in 2020
  • Thinking Maps HIghlight District for building student-owned learning
  • Florida State Model PBS elementary school
  • Superintendent named top superintendent for the state by Education Foundation Consortium 2020
  • Superintendent winner of the Lake County Chamber Alliance's Education award  
  • 2017 Top 50 Education Foundation 
  • Three National Principal Supervisors 2021
  • 2020 Eighteen Schools awarded Golden School Award (Exemplary programs that promote parent and community involvement) 
  • National Distinguished Prinicpal for the state of Florida 2021 by National Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals

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