Blytheville Primary School
- Number of Students: 0
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 100%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 3%
- Percent of Special Education: 8%
- White: 12%
- Black: 81%
- Hispanic: 4%
- Asian: 0%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 3%
- Other: 0%
Blytheville Primary began our journey over five years ago when we worked with Arkansas Leadership Academy to develop a mission and vision written by the staff rather than using one handed down from the district because our staff did not own or commit to something they had no hand in creating. We discussed what we wanted our school to look like and what our purpose was to develop our vision and our mission. It took us two years to come to a shared purpose. Then three years ago, our leadership team voted unanimously to apply to be part of cohort two of the Arkansas PLC at Work project. We realized we were actually PLC lite due to only having some of the basic structures in place (common planning for collaborative team meetings, a leadership team, built-in intervention time) rather than having a full commitment to the process. We knew that we needed to build a stronger understanding of what a focus on learning rather than teaching meant and looked like; how to develop a guaranteed, viable curriculum; and how to use our collaboration time to effectively use our data to plan instruction, intervention, and extension.
Through our work with Solution Tree, we developed our collective commitments as a staff. We decided which behaviors that we could all agree to do in order to reach our mission and vision. We brainstormed ideas in small groups and the guiding coalition used that brainstorming to group the ideas into similar themes to create written statements. The statements were sent back to the staff, and we used consensus and fist of five to determine which commitments we could all agree to do daily in our work with each other and our students. We celebrate implementation of collective commitments each week in our staff newsletter by connecting each celebration shared by a staff member to a specific collective commitment. Some of our collective commitments include:
We will interact professionally with all colleagues as we work interdependently using a common language to achieve shared goals.
We will create both common formative and end of unit assessments, administer them according to the teams agreed upon timeline, and use the results to improve our individual and collective practice to meet the extension and intervention needs of all of our students.
We will support each other as colleagues by collaborating as a team using open, honest, and respectful dialogue while analyzing data to positively impact student achievement.
As our school’s mindset shifted through our implementation of collaborative practices, focusing on learning for all, and using our data to drive instruction and intervention, we realized our mission statement did not truly capture what we do at our school, so we revised it. We are shaping the future one child at a time (our vision) by ensuring high levels of learning for all (our mission). Now when our grade level teams or guiding coalition is making decisions, we ask ourselves, “Will this decision support our efforts to shape the future one child at a time?” and “Will this decision support our efforts to ensure high levels of learning for all?”
Our leadership in our school has evolved over the last three years. Our leadership team became a guiding coalition. We focused less on operational, management issues and more on adult and student learning. Using the continuums in Learning by Doing we assessed ourselves and our progress and used those self-assessments to create action plans to move our school forward. We expanded our guiding coalition to make sure that every team had representation: added a special education representative and a paraprofessional representative. We track the progress of our school-wide SMART goal and plan next steps to support the teams in reaching their team SMART goals. We plan professional learning for our staff to make sure we are all continuing to learn about the process. For example, at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, each team in our school took a chapter in Learning by Doing and presented the learning from that chapter to staff, so we could continue to build a common language and review our why and purpose before the school year began. We continue to grow as a guiding coalition and have implemented next steps for ourselves to more deeply look at artifacts (like team agendas, common assessments, and data protocols) to determine where we are as a school and how we can better support each team as they work.
Before we began our work with Solution Tree and the Arkansas PLC pilot project, our collaborative teams had pacing guides for our content areas and had tried common assessments. However, we were trying to assess every standard and our interventions were all over the place because we had not established essential standards, so we started with critical question number one: What do we want students to know and be able to do? Each team used Learning by Doing to learn together about essential standards and the why behind them. They then chose their essentials and unwrapped each essential to build a common understanding of each standard through development of learning targets and mastery rubrics.
Using the guidance from our assessment coach and PLC at Work coach, our teams shifted focus from question number one to question number two: How will we know when each student has acquired the essential skills? Our teams developed common assessments together that focused on the learning targets for each of the essential standards in each unit, so we would be able to intervene in a more coherent and strategic way. Assessments now give us data student by student, skill by skill. When planning interventions, we have shifted from “I think Keshawn needs to work on phonics” to “Keshawn has not yet mastered decoding words with vowel teams.” Based on the data, teachers with the highest success rate share successful strategies to build teacher instructional agility.
Our common assessments and data conversations have shifted us to continually improve our response to intervention systems as well. We have always had a dedicated, scheduled intervention time during the day for students. However, we were not effective in using that time to provide targeted support to our students because we didn’t have essential standards and common assessments. The data we were using was too broad and teachers were working in isolation to intervene. Collaborative teams are now working on providing tier two supports together when students haven’t yet mastered essential skills while our site intervention team has taken over developing individual student plans using the pro-solve process for students who need intensive remediation and support academically and/or behaviorally.
Another big shift for us as we work to create a culture of continuous improvement is how we serve our students in need of special education services. Before we began our journey, we had a large number of students referred for special education testing and a large number of students being served by our special education teachers. Because our grade levelteachers were working in isolation and did not know exactly which specific skills students had not mastered, they did not know how to help students when they were struggling. They did everything they knew how to do and then referred them for special education testing. Now that we have essential standards with specific learning targets, common assessments, teachers working together to provide tier two supports, and a site intervention for tier three supports, we have seen a decrease in referrals and number of students staying in special education. Students are transitioning from self-contained services to resource services to indirect services while they are with us. Special education is no longer a life sentence.
Before we began our work with Solution Tree and the PLC at Work process, one of our teachers described our school as follows: “We were teaching but not with much purpose, not many of our students were learning, and our school was just existing.” We have grown so much over the past three years; the adults and the students. One of our newer first grade teachers said about how our work has shifted, “As a new teacher it makes it easier to know what to teach and when. We have our essential and supporting standards and there is more clarity around what those standards mean. Our end of unit assessments help us have the same scoring practices. We have common assessments to determine student mastery of essentials which ensures students are learning the same thing and to the same level of rigor across the grade level. The unit plans help share resources more efficiently. We look at the learning progression from kindergarten on up so that we know what students should know when they come to us and where they’re going in future years.” During a recent celebration we had, our special content area team described us as follows: “The PLC at Work process has made us better teachers. It has taught us the importance of collaboration and commitment to goals with fidelity.”
This work became even more important as we had to teach, learn, assess, and intervene through a pandemic and all the challenges that brought. In a letter to our school board written in support of the PLC at Work process continuing in our school, one of our second grade teachers wrote, “Coming back to an already established professional learning community was the reason we were able to land on our feet strong this school year.” Our teachers having a better understanding of their standards, what was essential versus supporting, allowing us to tailor our intervention and instruction better than ever to support our students.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
When creating and modifying a guaranteed and viable curriculum, we started by sorting the literacy and math standards into essential and supporting standards. We decided these based on the four criteria: readiness, endurance, assessed, and leverage. Teachers from each grade level met to vertically align the standards to fill the gaps. We then broke down the essential standards to better understand them and created learning targets for each one. Then, we ranked proficiency and what we expected for the students to know. This process helped teachers to have a better understanding of the standards and what their students should know and be able to do. We created common formative and end of unit assessments based on the learning targets. We also paced out the learning targets and created week by week unit plans based on the essential standards and included supporting standards where they fit best. We re-evaluated our essential and supporting standards, along with learning targets, based off of these assessments. Now, as a team, we all are teaching the same standards and following the same instructional plan.
After administering our common formative assessments throughout our units, we meet with our grade level teams to discuss the data of each student in our classrooms. Using that data, we group students for additional time and support based on a specific skill or learning target and assign them the teacher whose data indicates that she has a strength in teaching that skill. We also provide extension groups for the students who have mastered the current skills. After this, we then meet again to go over data from the common end of unit assessments. We repeat the process for the intervention and extension groups based off of that data. Students are then reassessed in a timely manner after being in intervention groups to see if they have mastered the skill. We also use this data to decide if the assessment assessed what we intended and modify the test questions and share strategies between teachers to improve our teaching practices.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
What do we do when students do not learn? To begin, the master schedule was changed to allow built in times for interventions and small group reinforcement of skills. This change allows our students to receive all core classes without missing new skills and, in turn widening the education gap.
Our Tier 2 team is comprised of grade level teachers who meet after giving end of unit assessments on essential standards. They use a data protocol to group students by needed skills. The students are shared across the grade level by teachers and/or paraprofessionals who intervene on the determined skill. Students who need the most support are assigned teachers with the most expertise in teaching that skill. Teachers reassess weekly and communicate with paraprofessionals and other teachers to determine when a student has reached proficiency. Students who have mastered the required learning objectives are provided extensions derived from supporting standards.
Blytheville Primary also provides tier 2 support for students who need additional support with social/emotional learning. The assistant principal, behavior interventionist, and counselor meets with grade level teams once a month to discuss individual students who are in need of support, their specific needs, and devise a plan and a goal for each student. Students who have been previously identified are continuously monitored and discussed to ensure that the plan is working and make adjustments as needed. Students in need of intensive social/emotional support are referred to the site intervention team for Tier 3 support.
When students show continued struggles during the Tier II intervention process or are significantly below grade level, the teachers have another line of support. Our Tier III Site Intervention team is made up of grade level teachers, interventionists, paraprofessionals, administration, special education teacher, speech-language pathologist, instructional facilitators, counselors, and the behavior interventionist. The collaborative teams created At Risk Criteria for their grade level based on essential standards. This serves as a reference for Tier III nomination. For students who meet the criteria for site intervention, the teacher completes the academic data, health and home, physical development, and social emotional information forms to provide a picture of the whole student. This information is discussed by the Site Intervention Team who creates a Pro-Solve Plan. This plan dives deep to determine the exact prerequisite skills required to meet each student’s individual needs in the classroom socially, academically, and emotionally. Once the prerequisite skill has been targeted, the student is assigned staff members to follow through with the intervention plan. Students receive one on one or small group instruction to explicitly teach the target. The team meets every three weeks to update the plan, monitor, adjust, and determine next steps.
In addition, the special education team is tracking student progress with the Pro-Solve Plan. They will begin to share students with grade level teachers to help bridge education gaps and help all children learn 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.
At Blytheville Primary School, every staff member is on a team based on their grade level or area of expertise. Collaboration for grade level teachers and special education teachers is built into the master schedule, allowing teachers to meet to discuss the four critical questions on a weekly basis. Other teams such as special area teachers and paraprofessionals meet on an as needed basis. Each team creates an agenda to remain focused on the work around the four critical questions, which includes job embedded professional development through the sharing of strategies and action research in order to continuously improve student learning. During data meetings, teachers and staff use student achievement data to improve collective knowledge and instructional practices.
Many collaborative team meetings focus on iStation, common formative assessments, and common end of unit assessments in literacy and math. During data meetings, teachers group students by skill mastery and plan interventions and extensions for each individual student. These students are shared across the grade level to receive their Tier 2 interventions from the most qualified educator. Grade level teams also take advantage of their collaborative time to look at student work to determine levels of proficiency and align scoring practices across the grade level. This also helps to identify misconceptions that students may have so that preventative measures can take place. Grade level teams have a coach that is on their team to help guide and support the members as they move through the work. If at any point more assistance is needed, the guiding coalition will meet to solve any issues that arise.
Achievement Data Files
Only school in the United States to have an after school and summer program funded by Tenaris
Arkansas Department of Education PLC Pilot Award Cohort II
Principal serves on the Arkansas Department of Education Statewide Guiding Coalition for the PLC Project in Arkansas
Team from our school presented “Determining Essential Standards” at the 2021 Arkansas Department of Education Summit