Central

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

Central’s PLC Story

Building a Shared Understanding 

The Central School family has a shared passion for learning, caring for, and providing the best possible educational outcomes for each student.  Over the past several years, we have looked for ways to improve student learning to ensure that all students are well prepared. We strive for every student to leave Central better prepared for high school than if they had gone to any other school in the state. In July of 2017, our administrators attended the first system-wide Solution Tree, Professional Learning Community focused,  professional development. This was presented by Geri Parscale and titled “The How’s and Why’s of PLC”. We immediately knew the PLC process was a natural progression in our growth as a school. We began our journey by coming together as a faculty, during a day of professional development, to create a new mission statement, vision statement, and collective commitments. After this first step, we began to introduce the PLC process. This process and the team times are giving our teachers the opportunity to improve and refine their practice; additionally, the time and process help teachers systematically work to ensure that every student learns at a high level. As a result, our collective thinking has shifted from believing that we were helping all students to succeed, to systematically putting students in the right places, providing  the targeted interventions they need, and having evidence to show student achievement results.

As part of creating an environment where all students learn at a high level, we began putting all of our middle school students in Advanced classes. In the beginning, students were all in Pre-Advanced Placement English Language Arts, Science, and History courses in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Over the last 3 years, we have worked to make sure all students are ready in the 6th grade for Pre-AP Math. This year all students are taking all Pre-Ap classes in 6th and 7th grade, and next year 8th grade we will be included as well. Having all students going into these Pre-AP classes has helped us to create a culture of achievement and high expectations throughout the school. The knowledge that all students will be in these classes helps to instill a culture of rigor throughout the elementary classes in preparation. 

To address the social and emotional well-being of our students, we have created a Care Team. Members of this team help organize a process where all students are surveyed and assigned a staff member as a mentor. We have also created time in our schedule to address these concerns during team time. Discussions on attendance, emotional well-being, and at-risk factors are held weekly during this time.

Central has always ranked among the highest-performing schools in our district, which in turn ranks among the highest districts in our state. While we do take pride in our place in these rankings, we are mindful that this is not just a number, but an indication of the quality education that our students take with them to high school. Our focus will continue to be our students leaving our campus highly prepared for the next step in their academic journey.

 

Facilitating a Culture of Improvement 

At Central our faculty and staff are focused on doing what is best for our students, helping them to grow academically, socially, and emotionally. Our teachers work together to put best practices in place to increase growth in each of these areas. We have always used student growth as the most important factor in measuring success, and teachers know that they must grow in their profession if they want to see continued student growth. We have created  a master schedule to give teachers release time to meet as collaborative teams. This time is built into their contractual duty day and used to plan meaningful lessons, and to collaborate about student needs. The process is built around answering the four critical questions; we work from this framework in our planning, scheduling, and assessment creation.  We have evolved from being a faculty that took care of our students, to a faculty with processes in place that ensure that each student is cared for, and receiving the data-informed instruction, interventions, and extensions they need to be successful.  We have increased planning from a 30 to 45 minute common planning, depending on grade level,  to having common planning for an hour each day for all grade levels.   This is in  addition to the two hours per week of dedicated time for collaborative teacher teams to focus on the work of our PLC. We have become more systematic and consistent in data analysis and planning to meet student needs in both academic and social-emotional growth. 

As part of the process of improvement, our Guiding Coalition participates in Solution Tree Coaching Academies. Last year, the team took part in the Response To Intervention at Work Academy. This year, they are taking part in the RTI at Work Coaching Academy Behavior Solutions. The Guiding Coalition then leads the implementation of this professional development with teacher teams. This process helps to not only bring the information to our teachers, but also to build leadership capacity within this team. Through this process, we are able to make needed changes using a documented process that gives our teacher teams ownership of the changes.  The focus of this coalition is to create and utilize proactive adult behaviors and processes to improve school culture for both students and staff. They have worked with the faculty to create a Colt Matrix and to survey both teachers and students.

One of the ways that we have encouraged improvement and seen growth is through instructional rounds. We use this process where stakeholders including students, community members, parents, local and state politicians, and members of other schools’ faculties join in by looking into our data and making classroom visits to find evidence of best practices. By opening ourselves up for outside review, we have given faculty the opportunity to receive feedback for improvement. While intimidating at first, it became part of our identity and something we looked forward to hosting each year. The teachers not only gained valuable insight into ways to improve, they were also rewarded with positive affirmations about their instructional practices.

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Process of Creating a Guaranteed/ Viable Curriculum

After system-wide professional development mentioned above, our teachers began meeting in the fall of 2017. These meetings were designed to look at standards and create a framework of essential standards. Teachers met first as vertical teams to discuss what each grade level needed from the previous grade, and then, as grade level teams, to discuss how to get each student the tools they would need to be successful at the next grade level. They used the REAL (Readiness, Endurance, Assessment, Leverage) criteria presented as part of the professional development given over the summer.  Over the last three years, our teacher teams have refined those standards based on formative and summative assessments as well as information gained from meetings with teachers from our family high school. After these standards were chosen, they began the work of building yearly pacing guides.  

As a part of this process, our instructional coaches and administrators are continuing to work with teachers through the fifteen-day challenge to create and refine unit plans as a team. During this challenge, created by Maria Nielsen, our teachers are creating unit plans which drive instruction and ensure student mastery of the standard. Common Formative Assessments are embedded in these plans to not only drive instruction but also to identify students who need intervention. They are using these plans to ensure grade-level mastery of each essential standard.  This professional learning will be ongoing throughout the school year. Prior to this unit planning, we used the unwrapping process to turn our essential standards into learning targets.  This process made our teachers learners of the standards and better consumers of the curriculum they are using.  In short, it led to a better understanding of what the standards were asking and made our assessments more targeted (which made our reteaching in Tier I prevention and Tier II responses even more targeted).  We were able to respond, by student, by standard, and by learning target. The unit plans built through this challenge include the following:  which essential standard(s) is being taught, what learning targets require mastery in order to achieve grade-level standards mastery, common check points after learning targets to drive teacher instruction, a common end-of-unit assessment to check for standards mastery, and a plan of intervention for those students who have not mastered the grade-level essential standard. 

We understand that all students do not learn the same way. Our common formative assessments help to identify those who have not achieved standards mastery based on tier I instruction. The common end-of-unit assessment is used to identify those students. Teachers analyze this assessment, then provide tier II instruction to the students who have not achieved standards mastery. Students who need intervention do not receive tier II instruction from their teacher alone but also from other teachers. This allows students to encounter different teaching styles and practices, and students engage in a different style of learning. 


Monitoring Student Learning on a Timely Basis

At Central, addressing question two is very important and data has always been the guiding tool we use to make decisions about what to do for our students. Administrators have broken down data and shared those results with teachers, made plans, and sought change based on all available data. This process begins with our big data meetings. We begin each year with a school-wide data meeting and then have quarterly grade-level data meetings to look at an overview of where we are and whether progress is being made. 

Through our Problem-Solving Team process, teachers meet with administrators every 3 weeks to look at students who have been identified as having gaps in their learning. We look at STAR progress monitoring reports as well as teacher data. A determination is made to continue with the interventions in place or to make changes to what the student is receiving.

The PLC process has helped us to entrust teachers with more of that data and with making the changes that are needed based on what they are seeing. During weekly collaborative team meetings,  our teachers are looking at both academic and behavioral data to determine the next steps in each student's education.

As a school, we have gone from doing well and looking at big picture data to working as a team, refining our focus, and looking for ways to become even more successful. We have created our lists of essential standards, worked from that list to create meaningful lessons and assessments, and found more precise ways to intervene for those who have not reached mastery. Our teachers are working together to not only look at data, but to plan, share students, and responsibility for all students as a team. We have made great strides since we first started this work, but we also know that we must look for ways to continue to improve. 

Our next greatest growing space is creating better, more consistent, and meaningful common assessments. In grades K through 3, teachers teach their students all subjects and work together to master the essential standards, and they are also working toward more efficient and effective common assessments. In grades 4 through 8, we have one content-area teacher per grade. Those teachers are working with each other to create assessments that are more similar in rigor and type across the grade level. We are also looking at ways to align our questions more closely with our new state assessment, the (ACAP) Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program. 



 

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

Process of Creating and Implementing Systems of Intervention and Extensions with Added Time

When we think of the third and fourth questions in the PLC process, we think about building time to intervene and to extend. For the 2021-2022 school year, we have created a middle school schedule that gives students both a tier II intervention and  tier III remediation  time. The tier II time is geared toward helping students gain a greater understanding of the grade-level standards they are currently working on in their core classes. This time keeps students with their grade-level peers and provides opportunities for students to work with materials a second time. Tier III time is in place to help those students who lack foundational skills and knowledge, as well as give extension opportunities to those who have already mastered taught grade level content. This tier III time is set up to allow 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students to go into groups where they will learn standards that data shows they need regardless of grade. Both tier II and tier III times are set up to be flexible for students and they move into and out of classes based on the current needs teachers are seeing in the individual students data.

We have also incorporated an elementary tier III time in the morning, to coincide with the middle school tier III time, where students are grouped based on need. Students are crossing grade levels to participate in groups that the data has identified as their next steps. Many of these students are participating in Specialized Program Individualizing Reading Excellence (SPIRE) and Rewards; these direct-instruction programs are designed to promote growth for struggling readers and those with dyslexic tendencies.  Other students are working to extend learning in FastForWord, a program that is brain-research based and offers both remediation and extension.  

With these interventions in place, we are seeing both a decline in the number of students referred for Problem Solving Team (PST) and the number of students who are qualifying for special education.

 

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

 

How Teams Focus Efforts on Improved Student Learning

Data has driven instruction at Central for years. This culture has transferred to our collaborative team meetings very well. Teams begin with big picture data like state assessments and filter down through quarterly monitoring using STAR, M-Class, and I-Ready. Teams use these assessments to guide tier I instruction. Our teams use these assessments to identify needs and create interventions. We then use the same tools to progress monitor those students identified bi-weekly to assess the effectiveness of the interventions. Moving forward we are creating better common formative assessments to guide our planning and instruction in all three tiers. 

An important part of the framework for ensuring all students learn at high levels is meeting regularly with our Problem-Solving teams.  These teams consist of grade-level teacher teams, administrators, reading and/or math instructional coaches, the math lab teacher, and others as needed.  These teams meet every three weeks with the following agenda:  review data for students in the (RTI) Response to Instruction Process, analyze all progress monitoring data,and discuss Tier III needs.  All teachers are expected to attend, and this is a time where professional learning goals may be recognized or noted due to overall data analysis.  Additionally, since Tier II and III groups are fluid based on current needs, this time is used for organization of intervention groups.  All students are in the RTI process; some students need interventions and additional monitoring, but the expectation is that all students will have equitable access to grade-level instruction.

At Central,  the Care Team guides the social and emotional learning. The team sets up a day for teachers to come and draft students to mentor. Teachers are then expected  to stay in touch with these students and monitor their grades, behavior and well-being. As we move forward with this work, we plan on creating more meaningful data points to use in distributing the students among the teachers. We are also making plans on how to systematically ensure that each student on their caseload is receiving the support they need. Through this process we hope to make each student feel that they are a part of the Central family and ensure they are receiving the support they need to feel safe and happy. With these processes in place, students are able to focus on meeting academic goals.

A next step for our school on our path towards our mission of high levels of learning for all is to continue to improve  our design and use of Common Formative Assessments (CFA) and Unit Plans.  While we believe this work has produced tremendous results in student learning, we feel we can become even more targeted in the way we create questions used in our CFAs and provide immediate, targeted feedback to our students.  The Reading and Math Instructional Coaches have begun this work with K-3 teachers, and administrators are beginning the work with content-area 4th - 8th teachers.  The ultimate goal of this work is to ensure mastery of all essential standards and streamline planning for instruction.

 

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Alabama State Report Card Grade by Year

2018-2019   A   93
2017-2018   A   92
2017-2016   B   87

Central School Awards and Recognitions

Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School - 2012-2017-(2022 Currently applying for renewal)

CLAS Banner School - 2012

Top Middle Schools in Alabama - Niche

Best Public Middle Schools in Alabama
34 of 382

Best Public Elementary Schools in Alabama
86 of 714

Best Public Middle School Teachers in Alabama
116 of 378

Chiquita Marbury Awards - 3 teacher winners The focus of the Chiquita Marbury Technology Innovation Award is to spotlight K-12 educators, administrators, and support personnel. The award, sponsored by the Alabama Department of Education, honors Chiquita Marbury's invaluable years of service as a technology innovator in Alabama by recognizing educators who are exemplary models of technology teachers and leaders. 

Karon Pyle Technology Award Recipient (Madison County Schools Award)

Recognition in Teaching Award, Social Studies-University of Alabama, College of Education 2017

A+ College and Career curriculum developer and presenter

Certified FastForWord Educator 

System Teacher of the Year Alternate 

CLAS Secretary of the Year - District 8  

University of Alabama in Huntsville, College of Education - Outstanding Elementary School Partner 

Huntsville Utilities Educational Field Trips - Most Enthusiastic and Well-Behaved Students

Future City Competition Awards

2020-2021 - Alabama Regional Future City Competition

                     Regional Champion/National Qualifier

                     Outstanding City Model

                     Outstanding City Presentation

2019-2020 - Alabama Regional Future City Competition

                     Association of Energy Engineers Energy Efficiency Award

State Report Card grade and rank in the system

Increasing  grade each of the last 3 years, 87-92-93

A for the last two years, 92-93

2018-2019 top 5 in system number 1 middle school

2017-2018 6th in system number 1 middle school

2016-2017 4th in system 2nd middle school

Test score ranking in our system

ACAP 2020-2021

Overall percentage of benchmark students

Math - +15  above the state and +10 above the system

ELA - +13 above the state and +1 above the system

Science - +17 above the state and +8 above the system

Top 3 in our system

4th Math - 2nd

5th Math - 1st

6th ELA - 3rd

7th Math - 1st

7th ELA - 2nd

8th Math - 3rd

 

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