Brandenburg Elementary (2022)

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

Year 1:  2017-2018

Our journey began at Brandenburg Elementary over 5 years ago. The campus emerged in the PLC process as what first was a district initiative. The district supported sending each elementary school's guiding coalition to the PLC at Work conference in hopes to spark the needed change in our teachers, staff, and ultimately student progress. The guiding coalition from Brandenburg left the PLC at Work conference feeling hopeful, energized, and ready to do whatever it took to move our school to greatness. The process was not an easy one. Unpacking standards, planning as a team, targeting intervention, and working together were one of those "easier said than done" moments.  Instead, the team revisited the mission, vision, team norms, and learned to unpack the standards. Brandenburg's scores began to improve because of these changes.

Year 2:  2018-2019

Brandenburg welcomed a new principal and administration team in 2018-2019. The principal and administration used the PLC process to move the school from a state achievement rating of a "C" to an "A" in one academic school year. The guiding coalition, administrative team, and teachers engaged in data discussions that focused on a system that teachers bought into because students came at all different levels. Instead of focusing on students "passing" or "not passing" state assessments, we focused on students meeting minimal individualized progress goals. Additionally, we revamped the RTI process using the RTI pyramid and interventions learned in the RTI at Work conference and established a commitment for holding each other accountable.

Year 3:  2019-2020

In year 3, the Brandenburg administration collected feedback from discussions amongst teachers and teams about the RTI process. We developed processes to assist the teachers with more focused interventions and supports. Additionally, data showed that some teams were further in the PLC process than others. Additionally, team leaders participated in solution tree professional development on strengthening their norms, team accountability, and planning process. Additionally, teams worked to strengthen their formative assessments. Data suggested that gaps were closing but official data was not collected because students did not return to school after spring break because of the global pandemic.

Year 4:  2020-2021

During the global pandemic, we focused a great deal of time addressing concerns of health and safety in the largest elementary school in Irving ISD. We had both online and in-person learning with teachers having to balance teaching both simultaneously. The campus started the year with about 50% online learners and 50% in-person learners. Steadily, we increased the amount of in-person learners.  We had several teachers who could not control the learning environment of their remote learners or get in contact with those students, but we did not want to put a pause on our PLC journey or our student expectations. Our new theme was to "focus on what we could control." Administration and the guiding coalition met with a Solution tree consultant, Paula Maeker, for coaching on formative common assessments, narrowing our Essential standards, and adjusting our practices without lowering our expectations.  With Paula's help, we were able to narrow our essential standards to six solid essential standards per subject and continue our planning and discussions with a shift from "standard testing" to "closing as many gaps as you can." Although we have a lot of work to do with our students because of the anticipated learning gaps due to the pandemic, Brandenburg finished strong with the highest overall state scores in Irving ISD for elementary schools.

Year 5:  2021-2022

During the 2021-2022 school year, we were excited to welcome back 898 students to in-person learning. Our goal this year was to get back to go "back to the basics" but also to return to the safest sense of normalacy. Brandenburg teachers and staff were ready for the challenge but faced many obstacles that we quickly had to address. At least 300 of our Brandenburg students were virtual learners for 18 months, adding in 88 new pre-k students and 150 new kinder students, and half of the school needed practice with simple school routines. As a guiding Coalition, we reviewed our collective commitments as a school and knew that we could not continue this journey without creating parent commitments. As an entire campus, we discussed the challenges and decided to host our first-ever mandatory parent academy. Parents came to the campus for our first in-person night event and were shown their own student's progress and asked to commit to one hour of recreational screen time, turning off screens during dinner time, and getting their children to sleep on time. The parent academy was eye-opening for parents and a huge support system for teachers and students. In another collaborative discussion with the guiding coalition, we discussed vertical alignment. After 5 years of refining our processes among our collaborative teams, we realized that we have highly effective horizontal collaborative teams but we needed to include more opportunities for vertical alignment. We looked at our most highly effective Tier I teachers based on common formative assessments, summative assessments, and state testing. We paired 11 of these Tier I teachers with a teacher in the grade level below them. These teachers voluntarily gave up one of their planning times weekly to plan, intervene, co-teach, and model with their partner vertical teacher. After speaking with all 22 teachers involved in vertical alignment at the end of the year, the impact was tremendous. Teachers from both the receiving and traveling sides reported growth in their thinking, teaching, and student outcomes. Although still have a lot of work to do with our students to get them all performing at grade level or above, all students demonstrated growth in their learning as demonstrated by common formative assessments, district assessments, and state assessments.  

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Over the last 4 years, Brandenburg Elementary has gone from a campus of steady and subtle gains to three years of sustaining the place for the number one performing Elementary school in the district. Each year we learn more about the PLC process and tighten up what we are doing that is working for students and tweak what might’ve had less of an impact. Our positive culture helps us keep our focus on student achievement.

With the pandemic and teachers simultaneously teaching remote and in-person learners, we knew we had to tweak what we were currently doing if we wanted to effectively monitor student learning. At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, we reduced our essential standards from 10 essential standards per subject to 6. Teachers worked in collaborative grade-level teams to appropriately narrow and discuss which essential standards would be most crucial for student success among the already chosen essential standards. The team developed “just in time” warmups with common formative assessments to align with the new standards. The resounding theme was to “focus on what we could control” and to “close as many gaps as possible.”

Our data system, Edugence, allowed teachers to immediately see their student assessment data once each student completed the assessment. Teachers use our campus data spreadsheet to track their individual student data and guide them in planning for intervention and extension groups. Along with our data document, we also track student reading levels, sub pops, and special programs that students might’ve participated in that could impact their learning. Additionally, teachers include NWEA MAP Test (Measures of Academic Progress) data on their master spreadsheet and used the state standard continuum to set goals with students and track those goals.

These “just in time” warmups opened the doors for discussions amongst teams during their PLCs to reflect on what worked and what did not in their instruction. Additionally, teachers shared quick intervention tips for their common formative assessments. Teachers also learned quickly what they would do differently if they gave the same common formative assessment again. Our continuous reflection and progress indicate all students at Brandenburg Elementary students receive a guaranteed and viable curriculum, learn at high levels, and their learning is constantly monitored for success.

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

In the fall of 2018, the new administration quickly realized that teachers had a designated time for intervention but did not know how to effectively intervene and meet the needs of students at varying levels and skills that were significantly below grade level.  Additionally, most teachers did not know how to group students or plan intervention lessons. There were pockets of teams working together to plan for intervention but, teams were planning in isolation for intervention.

In 2018-2019, each team had an intervention time on the master schedule. This was a time that was designated for students who were below the 20% percentile on our master data sheets and needed isolated intervention in math or reading. Additionally, we requested that students who were pulled for special education or dyslexia services be pulled during this time as well so that the most at-risk students would not miss Tier I instruction.  

Teachers were also asked to turn in their intervention plans weekly and would receive feedback from teammates, interventionists, and administration on how to laser-focus their lessons and close the achievement gap in their Tier 3 students. 

During 2019-2020, we received STAAR scores and found that our campus moved students from a “C” to an “A”  in one academic school year and received 5 state distinctions for student achievement. We reflected on our interventions and how successful we were at targeting student needs and moving students where they needed to be to see where we can get better. After careful reflection, we wanted to better our RTI process and do more for our students so that we could sustain our success. We trained paraprofessionals and interventionists in scripted intervention protocols and hoped to group students according to skillset and ability the following year in addition to the protocols we already put in place. Because of the pandemic, we were unable to mix students and had to pull some of our paraprofessionals and intervention staff to cover classrooms, but we were still able to require teachers to plan together and honor their intervention lessons and times. Moreover, we had to reduce the number of students that could be in a group from 5-6 students to a maximum of 3 students due to social distancing. Despite these challenges and STAAR scores not counting toward state accountability, Brandenburg Elementary students still significantly outperformed other schools in the district. Brandenburg special education students and economically disadvantaged students still scored number one in the district. 

In 21-22, each of our 3 interventionists trained and oversaw two paraprofessionals. In total, we had 9 interventionists pushing into classrooms and simultaneously giving targeted instruction to students in a small group setting. Interventionists would observe and give paraprofessionals feedback or professional learning experiences to ensure that they were well-equipped to teach in the classroom. Additionally,  we paired 11 of our Tier I teachers with a teacher in the grade level below them. These teachers voluntarily gave up one of their planning times weekly to plan, intervene, co-teach, and model with their partner vertical teacher. After speaking with all 22 teachers involved in vertical alignment at the end of the year, the impact was tremendous. Teachers from both the receiving and traveling sides reported growth in their thinking, teaching, and student outcomes. 

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

True collaboration means that there is no such thing at Brandenburg Elementary as “my” students. We worked together so that “our” students are successful, making progress, and learning at high levels. The administration believes in shared leadership and cultivates team leaders through the guided coalition who cannot only sustain this motto but live it. In fact, our team leaders (guided coalition) attended The RTI at Work conference, sustaining the PLC process with Solution Tree, and participated in personal coaching lessons with Paula Maeker. Each team is headed in the right direction that all teachers are growing and learning as well as students. 

We also recognize that teams can collaborate, but teachers must continue to build their skill set so they will truly master Tier I instruction. Building teacher capacity does not just happen; it takes strategic planning. Our school has 2 academic specialists and 1 interventionist who led this effort. Our goal for these 3 master teachers was to not only be part of grade-level collaborations but to coach teachers who were “new.”  “New” constituted any teacher who was new to a grade level, subject area or language of instruction. In the spirit of growing and collaborating, these teachers would collaboratively set “bite-sized” goals in their instruction that they could attain in one week. This meant that they would be observed and have a collaboration conference once a week, over the span of one academic school year, the teacher would have achieved several goals in their teaching and grown significantly in their skillset.

Additionally, we also know teacher practice is improved through truly learning essential standards and analyzing and collaboratively reflecting on common and formative assessment data. Therefore, we create time in our daily schedule for this. Additionally, pre-pandemic collaborative team time included learning walks both vertically and horizontally to spark conversation and learn from each other’s practices.

In five years, a complete shift has taken place regarding how Brandenburg teachers plan and how they think about student learning. We have moved from “I taught it” to “what can I do so the students learn it?” All staff is loyal to moving all our students and doing whatever it takes for them to be successful. We recognize that teachers cannot do this alone process has led to a common understanding of quality Tier I instruction, effective and efficient intervention, and extensions. Data is now analyzed skill by skill and student by student on a consistently all students can progress from where they start.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

In addition, we went from 1 distinction in 2017-2018 in Science to state distinctions in 2018-19, 2019-2020, and 2020-2021.

in 2017-2018 Brandenburg was one of the top 7 schools. In 2018-2019, 2019-2020, 2020-2021, and 2021-2022 Brandenburg has remained the top-performing school in Irving ISD among Elementary schools in all areas (Special education, general education, and Economically disadvantaged).

Brandenburg has a low turnover rate with teachers. Our collective vision, mission, and commitments have created such a strong and cohesive culture that in the past 2 years, teachers have only left for promotions.

Brandenburg Elementary was recognized by the Commissioner of Texas and Lieutenant Governer for progress toward closing the achievement gap and moving the campus from a state rating of a "C" to an "A."

Brandenburg has received 5 of the 6 state distinctions for student achievement. 

Parent Seal of Excellence Gold Award

2020-2021, Brandenburg was named a Solution Tree Model PLC campus