Riverton Elementary School
- Number of Students: 520
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 19%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 0%
- Percent of Special Education: 13%
- White: 66.73%
- Black: 17.31%
- Hispanic: 3.08%
- Asian: 0.96%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 3.27%
- Multiracial: 8.65%
- Other: 0%
In the summer of 2017, the administrators at RES attended the Solution Tree conference to learn about implementing PLCs in our district. Over the next school year, the administrators formed a Guiding Coalition and began the process of collaborative team meetings. Over the past four years, the amount of professional learning, collective growth, and student achievement in our school has been impressive. When we first started discussing the application process as a model school, our administrative team also found ourselves discussing, "Are we ready to apply?" But we were reminded this process is about growth and not a finish line. While there is work to do, the changes over the last four years have created a culture of continuous improvement and learning across our campus.
From 2017-to 2019, our school focused on establishing collaborative teams within grade levels and shifting our thought process from "my kids" to "our kids." During these two years, the focus was on establishing a structure for collaboration within the school, identifying our essential standards, and creating common formative assessments. During the 2019-2020 school year, our Guiding Coalition went through the RTI @ Works Academy, and we began refining our process of intervention and remediation. However, the Spring of the 19-20 school year to the current 21-22 school year brought many significant challenges and changes to our school. Like everyone else, we were facing the COVID pandemic and learning to fluctuate between in-person, virtual, and hybrid learning modes. However, we also had the following compounding changes occurring in our state education system and our local school:
- a shift in school administrators, both Principal and Assistant Principal
- a change in state assessments
- new standards in Math
- new ELA standards on the horizon (22-23)
- the Alabama Literacy Act mandating that all 3rd graders meet proficiency or face retention
- a new Student Information System.
During the summer of 2020, the GC met to review and revise our school's Vision, Mission, and Core Beliefs. With so many changes occurring quickly, we felt that this was an essential step in refocusing our faculty and staff to our purpose as a school. These elements are the driving force of all the work we do and set the expectations for all stakeholders. Our Guiding Coalition met in the summer and thoroughly evaluated our current programs and process to determine what we needed to keep, change, and omit from our day-to-day work. Then we went through a process outlined in the supplemental materials (Creating a Vision, Mission, and Core Beliefs System) to create our vision, mission, and core beliefs, along with a leadership framework for support. Once this was created, the Guiding Coalition took it to their collaborative teams for feedback and input. We continued this cycle until consensus was gained and then developed our SMART Goals for the school year. Each year, we re-examine our core belief system and make revisions as needed to continually assess our climate and culture. Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, our collaborative teams met weekly to continue working on the 4 Critical Questions and how to move our students forward despite the effects of the COVID pandemic. During this time, we realized a need for some structural shifts to our p[rocess. First, we needed a designated time to focus on remediation and enrichment. While teams were doing this in different ways across the school, there was a need to unite the process. Second, now more than ever, there was a need for Vertical Collaborative Teams due to gaps in learning created by the COVID pandemic. These gaps were created by the shutdown in March of 2020 and compounded by the interruptions to learning throughout the 20-21 school year (quarantining and the fluctuation between virtual/hybrid/in-person learning). Therefore, in the Summer of 2021, the Guiding Coalition revised the Master Schedule to allow vertical and horizontal teams and time for shared enrichment, remediation, and intervention.
Our horizontal collaborative teams meet once or twice a week to develop unit plans based on the agreed-upon essential standards CFAs, discuss data from CFA's, and discuss ongoing flexible groups for remediation and intervention. While our teams work well together to create unit plans, our new Math and ELA standards adopted across the state created a need to re-examine our essential standards and unpack those standards. The 15 Day Challenge is an excellent avenue for breaking the unit planning process into manageable chunks while also going deeper into our understanding of the standards. Our Vertical Collaborative Teams meet once a month to dive deeper into a specified area. Then they share their work with the Horizontal Teams to add depth to the understanding of our essential standards. As stated above, the past year and a half has brought multiple obstacles. The purpose of our Vertical Teams is to chunk these obstacles into manageable parts by sharing the load across both vertical and horizontal team structures. Every student works on " What I Need" during our shared enrichment, remediation, and intervention time (WIN Time). Students are in groups according to their individual needs for academic and/or social-emotional supports/extensions. Our horizontal teams use CFA data to determine the most effective group for each student, and these groups are fluid to ensure students always get the support needed. We know that these efforts are working because 100% of our students made growth this year on mid-year Reading benchmark data, and of those students, 66% made growth that was above or well-above-average growth. Due to the Alabama Literacy Act and the need to develop strong early literacy skills in our students, reading has been our most intensive focus in this process. Additional evidence of the success of these practices is evident in the Mid-Year PLC Survey data from the current school year. The survey was completed during each collaborative team meeting; then, the Guiding Coalition met to gain consensus among the team members. The survey data results indicate the status of our climate and culture surrounding the PLC process. The measures show that 12/14 of the elements are fully embedded throughout our school, and the remaining two are partially embedded. Our next steps will be to address the full implementation of the two practices that are partially embedded.
In addition to addressing academics, during the 2020-2021 school year, our GC led a shift in addressing behavior. The GC attended the Behavior Solutions Academy and began revising how we address behavior at all tiers. Our first shift was to develop a matrix of common expectations to be taught and used across the school as our Tier 1 preventative measure. It was evident in the beginning work that we did not have a solid Tier 1 structure regarding behavior. Tier 1 behavior expectations and learning needed to be addressed first to create a common language used across the school when communicating expectations. Once this element was in place, a vertical collaborative team was designed to support students at Tier 2 and Tier 3 levels. We developed several layers of support that ranged from in-school support to referrals to outside agencies to meet various social-emotional and behavioral needs that interfere with success at school.
Each year, our school will revisit the data and continuously improve on our supporting students to ensure all students learn at high levels.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Timely monitoring students’ learning is the only way to ensure that instructional practices and unit progression effectively improve student learning. The only way to ensure this happens is through intentional planning of units, CFA’s, and progress monitoring. Through the Unit Planning process, our teams take the standards identified as essential, define criteria for proficiency, plan out the monitoring of student learning through CFAs, and schedule time to discuss and sort student CFA work to determine remediation and enrichment needs. By scheduling CFA’s and discussing student work into the Unit Plan, we create a culture of intentionality and accountability across our collaborative teams. Sorting student work has been one of the most impactful routines in our collaborative meetings. It allows us to look for patterns in student understanding and more effectively group students to meet their needs. In addition to the intentional planning of CFA’s, we also have designated time for Progress Monitoring of students who receive ongoing interventions. This progress monitoring time is built into the Master Schedule one day a week. The data collected is discussed monthly in our collaborative team meetings to determine if the interventions are effective. Monitoring student learning must be intentional, timely, and ongoing, and our processes ensure that our focus is always on student learning.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Creating a System of Support for students starts with intentional planning and a structure to ensure that time is allotted specifically for this purpose. WIN Time (What I Need Time) is designated to meet the individual needs of all of our students, those who need intervention, remediation, and enrichment. During WIN Time, our students are assigned to flexible groups, and these assignments to groups can change according to the needs of individual students. Our groups range from social-emotional groups to academic intervention and remediation groups and span from vertical across grades to horizontal within a grade. Our Guiding Coalition carefully designed this process to ensure that all students, no matter the need, have a place to go for learning. WIN TIme may look different from classroom to classroom, but teh focus is always on the individual child. Examples of our WIN Time Groups include the following:
Reading and Math Intervention
Social Skills Intervention
Physical Fitness (for students who need an outlet for extra energy)
Individualized Pathways on a Computer adaptive Learning Program (Enrichment)
Book Clubs (Enrichment)
On-Grade Level Remediation for Reading and Math
We have moved away from the concept of hiring interventionists to work with our lowest students. Instead, we have invested time and money into professional learning for all teachers to help them meet the needs of our students. For example, every classroom teacher has completed Orton Gillingham Level 1 Multi-Sensory professional learning over the past two years to implement direct-explicit phonics instruction into the classroom. The beauty of this training is that teachers are now equipped to teach grade-level phonics skills and deliver interventions to students who have below grade-level gaps in their learning or enrichment to those ready to move beyond grade-level standards. Likewise, in Math, we invest in OGAP progressional learning for all of our teachers to ensure that our teachers have the resources and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of all of our learners. Again, intentional planning of the System of Supports is key to the success, and timely monitoring of student learning ensures that the process is working effectively or if changes are needed.
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 and efficacy is key to ensuring that the PLC process will work effectively across a school. The first step in ensuring teacher capacity and efficacy is establishing a framework for the function of all collaborative teams. Our Guiding Coalition determined that the following are necessary for highly functioning teams: Team Norms, Common Agenda Format, and Common Understanding of the 5 Tight Elements. Our collaborative teams meet regularly throughout the week, with an hour of collaborative planning time available for up to 4 days a week. Each team has created a set of norms that are regularly reviewed by the team and updated as the team deems necessary. A standard agenda format developed by the Guiding Coalition is used to plan out each meeting so that time is used efficiently. Additionally, our teams all understand the five tights and the areas in which flexibility is allowed outside of those five tight elements.
In addition to this framework, teachers need to have equitable, high-quality ongoing, professional learning opportunities that are strategically aligned to the school’s goals. This is an area where we have invested as a school to ensure that our teachers have the knowledge and understanding necessary to implement best practices in reading and math. Additionally, we have a reading coach and a math coach who engage teachers in ongoing coaching cycles to help them deepen their understanding and knowledge of the content areas and improve their instructional practices in the classroom. What makes all this work together is that our Reading Coach and Math Coach are also an integral part of the collaborative teams who provide a depth of resources and support to our teachers throughout the PLC process. Additionally, our coaches help lead our vertical teams designed to build the leadership skills of all of our team members. Initially, our Guiding Coalition members led the collaborative teams. With our vertical teams focusing on ELA, Math, and SEL, we build more leadership capacity across the collaborative teams. A highly-functioning collaborative team must be successful in the absence of any given member, so creating leaders within is vital to the team’s function.
Finally, as leaders, the Guiding Coalition must ensure that we create structures and expectations throughout our school that the PLC Process is “how we do business” at Riverton Elementary School. The expectations and structures should be so sound and cohesive that we know every faculty member owns the PLC process throughout the school. This means that as new educators join our faculty, we must teach them the process through knowledge and application. At the beginning of each year, all new faculty members get an overview of the PLC Process and what it means to be a part of a collaborative team. Then every new faculty member is assigned a mentor to help bridge the knowledge of the process into action over the course of the school year. We must instill our values in our new employees to take ownership of the process.
The only way for the PLC Process to be effective throughout the school is to ensure that collaborative teams function at a high level. These things listed above that we have implemented across our school ensure that all of our teams are highly functioning and are focused on what matters most, student learning.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
The Alabama State Department of Education began using the ACAP (Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program) as the summative assessment for the 2020-2021 school year. The initial administration of the ACAP is being used as baseline data to measure growth for future test administrations. When the new ACAP test was administered for the first time in the Spring of 2021, learning had been interrupted for the better part of 2 consecutive years due to the COVID pandemic. Our school system suspended in-person instruction for two consecutive years due to the pandemic. Despite the closure, our students scored well above the district and state averages on the 2nd and 3rd grade assessments. However, we did not achieve as well as we have in years past when comparing overall proficiency. Now that school is back in-person and we have made instructional shifts to close the learning gaps created by the pandemic, our data is showing a substantial growth in reading and math.
As stated above, our achievement data indicates that our students have consistently scored above the state and district average in ELA and Math on state and district assessments due to our implementation of the PLC Process. Unfortunately, we did not have end-of-year data during the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 school closure. Our data for Reading (District Assessments) presents our mid-year picture of the progress students were making during that school year.
For our subgroup data, we continuously evaluate the growth of our students with special needs and those who are economically disadvantaged. Students with Special Needs made tremendous growth from 2017 to 2019 in reading and math. Our students who are economically disadvantaged made growth in math during the 2017-2019 school year but declined in reading. As a result, we trained all of our teachers in Orton-Gillingham, multi-sensory, phonics-based instruction to help them better meet the needs of their students. These high-quality instructional practices from the training are a routine part of their collaborative team meetings. You can see reference to these strategies in the Unit Plans. Additionally, the collaborative teams analyze CFA data that drills into specific phonics skills to sort students into appropriate WIN Time groups for intervention and enrichment. The evidence of the success of these practices can be found in our Supplemental Data Report (Figure 5).
We feel that the most compelling story of our progress as a PLC School is indicative of the changes made in our Master Schedule to protect instructional time and ensure time for collaboration, remediation, intervention, and enrichment. Before the 2020 school year, our teams felt rushed in their collaborative time, and they wanted to maximize their instructional time once returning from the COVID closure. Therefore, during the COVID closure, our teams met regularly to plan to return to school. During this time, our teams began to discuss how we could be more intentional in our focus, and our Guiding Coalition Team started working on a Master Schedule. Our Guiding Coalition Team decided that we needed to build a schedule that prioritized the following:
- Time to Meet as Collaborative Teams, both vertically and horizontally.
- Protection of Instructional Blocks for Reading and Math, to include a protected time for remediation
- Protection of WIN Time (What I Need Time) for Intervention and Enrichment
Through this process, we made the following changes to ensure our priorities were met:
- Collaborative Team Time (Horizontal Teams) increased from 45 minutes once a week to 70 Minutes once a week with the option for teams to meet up to 4 times a week (up to 70 minutes each time) as needed to complete any unfinished work.
- Vertical Teams meet once a month on a rotating schedule for 40 minutes each time. We have four horizontal teams who meet monthly: Guiding Coalition Team, ELA Team, Math Team, Behavior Team.
- We moved from every teacher creating their instructional schedule to a structured format where teams have protected blocks of time for ELA and Math. These blocks of time were strategically scattered so our Reading and Math Coaches could work across the grade levels in coaching cycles.
- We increased our time for intervention, remediation, and enrichment, from one 30-minute block daily to two 40-minute blocks four days a week with protected time for progress monitoring the fifth day of each week.
We know that these efforts are working because of the data included in the Supplemental mClass Data Report. This report contains multiple data charts and data analysis for each chart.
Alabama Wildlife Federation's Certified Outdoor Classroom (2021)
Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Lighthouse School (2018)
CLAS School of Distinction (2017)
CLAS Banner School (2017) (Only eight schools in AL received this award)
Alabama Bicentennial School (2018) and Grant Recipient
Blue Cross Blue Shield Every Healthy Kid Two-time Grant Recipient
Project Lead the Way School/Grant Recipient