Tongue River Elementary School

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

Five years ago, collaborative, grade level meetings were built into the schedule, however, Tongue River Elementary was not a functioning PLC but rather an emerging PLC.  During this scheduled time, the classroom teachers would come together and discuss student concerns and look at reading data.  The teams were missing the focus on the four PLC questions.

As a new principal, Mrs. Griffin understood that her first job was to get TRE functioning at a high level through the PLC process.  Mrs. Griffin attended a national Solution Tree conference and used this information to help revisit and revise the collaborative meetings. 

 It began by creating functional agendas and norms that were modeled and implemented at staff meetings.  The four critical questions (What do we want all students to know and be able to do? How will we know if they learn it?  How will we respond when some students do not learn? How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient?) were used to guide team meetings.  The teachers were eager to learn more about the process and improve their teams.  Principal Griffin attended scheduled meetings and worked with the teams through professional development to build their understanding of the process.  Special education staff as well as specialists were added to the appropriate meetings.  Tasks were assigned such as looking at common formative assessments, determining essentials, building proficiency scales and examining data to guide instruction.  

 In 2019, we took advantage of a state offered opportunity for teachers to attend regular Solution Tree professional development through a state funded grant.  Our guiding coalition was formed to create and lead professional development and support teacher understanding of the PLC process.  Our teams are now high functioning and continue to look at data prescriptively.  Our daily Intervention and Extension time is built into the schedule.  All hands are on deck to be sure the instruction our students are receiving during core as well as during Intervention and Extension (I/E) is tailored to their unique needs based on data.  Common district assessments and common formative assessments guide our instruction as well as common planning by grade levels.  Essential expectations (see examples in the Resources Tab of “Kindergarten, Fifth Grade and Fine Arts Essential Documents”) are distributed to parents.  Parents have expressed that these essentials give them insight into what their child will be taught and have expressed appreciation for the information.  SMART Goals are set based on these grade level essentials (see an example in the Resources Tab called “SMART Goals TRE”).   When a goal is achieved all students celebrate as a collective!  Teams are high functioning whether the principal is in attendance or not because it is the process that truly moves our students! 

We know the PLC process is not just a meeting, but rather an embedded culture to improve learning.  One of the most impactful ways to ensure this is through collaboration at grade or content level meetings.  Teachers communicate with their grade level cohort, as well as other specialists about students’ strengths and weaknesses.  Evidence is used to foster continuous school improvement.  This time is vital to brainstorm different approaches and teaching strategies together as a team. As we believe at TRE that our teachers will always be our best resource and the PLC process has allowed them to use data to make instructional decisions based on what is best for our unique students.  Standards Based Grading practices remind us along with the PLC process that we do not give up on any student.  We work until they have achieved mastery.  Our achievement has grown and we were awarded the 2021 National Blue Ribbon, which we believe is heavily tied to our deep implementation of the PLC process.

 Our relationship with families and the community is a priority.  We have increased and enhanced our community partnerships and we have added a school social worker position to connect our families to meaningful outside resources.  TRE has a powerful partnership with local early childhood and preschool programs.  This involves Project GIFT, a literacy program created by the principal where she reads and presents books monthly to the local preschool students (see examples in the Resources Tab called “Project Gift and Early Childhood Flyer”).  This partnership involves collaboration with early childhood programs in the area and the use of a common screening tool called the Brigance, which allows for conversations related to the placement of students well before entering Kindergarten.  This process is done with the directors from the two local preschools as well as pre-K special education staff.  The Brigance Early Childhood Screening Tool is completed before Kindergarten Screening for many of our students, by the local preschools.  The remainder of students are screened at our April Kindergarten Screening date.  This information is used to determine student placement to make sure there is a mixture of academic levels in the classroom.  Conversations take place with preschool and kindergarten teachers regarding class lists ensuring that an equal number of varied levels of students are placed in each classroom as well as whether a student is better suited in our KinderBoost program.  An early childhood liaison bridges the gap and makes the transition from the early childhood programs to the elementary school seamless.  During the pandemic, TRE found creative ways to stay connected with families. Administration and staff responded with an “all-hands-on deck” attitude to accommodate each student regardless of their circumstances.  In the spring of 2020, TRE transitioned via Zoom to collaborate most effectively to meet students’ needs.  The collaborative process was a key practice for us through these very difficult times and assisted in our continuous school improvement journey.  We wholeheartedly embrace collaborative teams and are becoming known for our PLC process. We have been sought out by other schools that are trying to follow suit.  We have facilitated three onsite visits this year by a school located over the mountain whom we have supported through conversations, document sharing and observations.  They are excited about the ideas and collaborative process and asked to come a second and third time so they could include all staff.  We also had another small school that came onsite to explore our collaborative process and culture.  This team included the principal and a board member.  We are happy to share what we have learned as we believe it is best practice.

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Providing equal access to essential standards for each student is a priority at TRE.  A three-year district process resulted in the creation of essential standards, individual components, pacing guides, proficiency scales, and common district assessments for every content area (see example in the Resource Tab called “Curriculum Breakdown to Include Proficiency Scales”).  These were determined using the Wyoming State Standards.  Essentials were determined based on the state assessment blueprints which indicate which areas are of high focus on the summative state assessment.  Our outcomes are broken into components which are used to write targets as well as build assessments (see an example in the Resources Tab called “Learning Targets”).  We do not believe in determining targets that will go from year to year.  Each year we use our Outcomes and Components, based on the state standards, to determine, based on data, the specific needs of the students in front of us.  We believe our students’ data guides our direction and instruction.  

Proficiency scales are written based on the level of knowledge needed to achieve the outcome.  The proficiency scale allows the teacher and student to see what is required to attain proficiency on the outcome and district assessment.  These are broken into level 4 all the way to level 1 based on our standards referenced grading system (see example in Resources Tab called “Curriculum Breakdown to Include Proficiency Scales”).  Teachers use this as the foundation to determine guaranteed and viable curriculum in all content areas.  During collaborative team meetings teachers use assessment data to determine what students know and do not know.  Teachers focus on understanding proficiency expectations based on grade level essential outcomes.  Professional discussions at collaborative team meetings focus on coming to consensus on proficiency expectations and calibrating scoring so all teachers and students will have the same understanding of grade level curriculum. The data gleaned from formative assessments including frequent checks for understanding is used to impact and differentiate instruction.  These checks are created based on the group of students in front of them.  Previous formative checks are saved and adjusted based on what teachers need to form groups for Intervention and Extension as well as to inform their instruction.  

We plan robust instruction to set SMART Goals based on the essential learning skills (see examples in the Resources Tab called “2021-22 Kindergarten, Fifth Grade, and Fine Arts Essentials”).  These goals are targeted and related directly to the most essential skills (see example in the Resources Tab called “Smart Goals TRE”).  Teachers set both 80% and 100% target dates for mastery.  Based on our PLC Model and Standards Referenced Grading system, students are supported during core instruction as well as I/E and provided accommodations as deemed by the IEP in order to meet the goals.  SMART Goals are tracked as a whole class and celebrated when they are met. Celebrations are based on class choice and have included dance parties, extra recess, free time, pj day as well as many other motivators for children.  Monitoring the SMART goals assists teachers in knowing which students are proficient at curriculum essential expectations and which students need more time and support.  Students who are not proficient are given more opportunities to practice the skills with varying approaches until they reach proficiency.  Students who are proficient are afforded opportunities for extension. 

A tight expectation is that effective instruction is planned from essential, grade level learning targets.  The loose expectation is that teachers can plan this collaboratively providing flexibility and differentiation as needed.

Teachers rely on data from formative checks and/or assessments based on essential district outcomes and components (see example in the Data Tab called “Aims Data Formative Checks Intervention”).  These assessments are given regularly and can take many forms.  The expectation of our standards referenced grading belief is that students achieve mastery of the essentials regardless of how long it takes.  A constant use of data is what drives the instruction at TRE.  

We have noted the decline in scores in 4th grade in both ELA and Math.  We have done an overhaul of that grade level and have worked tirelessly to improve the rigor of assessments as well as best instructional practices, as well as continued analysis of data to drive instruction (see an example in the Resources Tab called “4th Grade Improvements”). 

We rely heavily on our collaborative process to plan robust instruction and to set SMART Goals based on essential learnings. Collaborative time is built into our schedule as well as daily Intervention/Extension (I/E) time to meet individual needs.  This collaboration and commitment to instructional practice ensures that our teachers know exactly where students are, in terms of reaching proficiency, and what needs to be done to get students there.  Our teachers work together to discuss and share the information gained from student assessments.  We use assessments like AIMS Web to regularly assess student progress (see example in the Resources Tab called “Aims Data Progress Monitoring Grade 3).  This information is shared via technology like Google Drive in order to communicate with all staff that supports that student in real time.

 

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

Our pyramid of interventions includes all three tiers for both behavior and academics (see example in the Resources Tab called “TRE Inverted Pyramid”).   Our schoolwide expectations and Love and Logic belief system supports our students so they can be ready to learn.  We have greatly improved behaviorally and have seen a drastic decline in the number of yearly office referrals (see an example of the decline in the Data Tab called “Discipline Referral Sheet”).  The TRE staff provides best teaching practices in all academic and social/emotional areas.  During Tier I, all students receive Second Step, which is a social/emotional curriculum, and Sources of Strength lessons.  Sources of Strength is a suicide prevention curriculum for grades 3-12 that helps students identify people they can go to in times of emotional crisis.  This instruction happens during Family Time which is built into the schedule for the first 20 minutes of the day for every child at TRE.  

Tier 2 interventions for grade level essential standards are determined by collaborative teams and school-wide interventions are planned for students who need intensive support at Tier 3.  We color code and organize data in ways that allow us to organize students based on needs.  We see a direct correlation between our tiered focus and student achievement. We progress monitor at least bi-weekly on students who have shown they are below grade level in reading and math (see example in the Resource Tab called “Aimsweb Progress Monitoring Grade 3”).  Based on continued data points from progress monitoring students may be exited from the intervention. In math we follow a similar process using iReady, district, and formative assessment data.  We follow a process to be sure the data is driving instruction as well as I/E which is built into the schedule.  Constant evaluation of a variety of classroom, district and state data points, help us decide who needs intervention or extension.  When choosing which intervention is most meaningful for a student, teachers, who we believe are our best resource, provide intensive small group instruction using a variety of resources.  When we feel an intervention is not showing a change in data we come together as a team and discuss next steps.  An intervention is never discontinued without a student demonstrating proficiency in a variety of ways.  This could be something as easy as doing problems on a whiteboard or completing a verbal formative check, it all is dependent on the specific skill the child is trying to accomplish based on the learning target.  These small group interventions with the teacher allow us to meet students where they are in the academic process.  Examples are provided with further information regarding our process at various grade levels (see examples in the Resources Tab called “Aims Web Formative Checks and Interventions” and “Intervention and Extension”).

In Tiers I, II and III, Kagan structures, Reciprocal Teaching Techniques, the gradual release model, and the researched strategies of Marzano are present in all instruction. 

Our Title I teachers (Reading Interventionists) are working in combination with classroom teachers to ensure the success of all students with the use of Orton Gillingham, Heggerty, Fundations, Geodes, and Read Naturally.  For writing, Step Up to Writing materials are utilized.  SRA is used for spelling instruction at all levels.  For math, we rely on collaborative meetings, data, district assessments, and formative checks to help us determine the differentiated needs of our students.  Eureka Math, Ready Math, and Everyday Math materials, Singapore Math, and online sources like i-Ready Math, and Khan Academy, are used as supplemental planning resources as our teachers are our best resource.

Tongue River Elementary tailors instruction, interventions, and assessments to meet the diverse and individual needs of our special education population in various ways.  Our special education team is a viable part of our PLC team.  There is constant collaboration between classroom teachers and special education personnel.  TRE believes in inclusion whenever possible.  Special education professionals co-teach with classroom teachers to ensure that special education students are receiving adequate instruction with support as needed.  Special education teachers also pull students on their caseload into small groups, or one-on-one, to front load or remediate based on assessments and formative checks.

We also ensure our students who have mastered the content are enriched through our extension time.  The types of data we use to determine if a child is ready for extension include formative checks and district assessments that include opportunities for students to show level 4 knowledge which includes higher level application of thinking.  This level 4 is built into our district assessments. Specific lessons and programs are utilized to enhance their learning in the classroom (see example in the Resources Tab called “Intervention/Extension Information”).

Students that are identified as needing extra support in academics or behaviorally are given instruction based on what the data reveals.  These students are then progress monitored on a timely basis to check for growth.  This data is shared with all teachers who support that student.  Our I/E instruction focuses on research based practice, explicit teaching, and tiered instruction.  This flexible grouping, and team approach, guarantees that those students will get the extra support they need to close the achievement gap.

 

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

The Professional Learning Community (PLC) practice has made a significant difference with our academic achievements.  Each grade level team consists of grade level teachers, special education teachers, and the principal, who meet every week.  Our specialists are also a collaborative team at TRE.  They discuss best practice as well as how they are intervening or enriching in their subject areas.  Matrices are shared in these meetings and it is evident through their tracking of data that they are making time in their class periods to allow every student to reach proficiency.  We recognize that proficiency may not happen at the same time for all students.  We continue to strive until all students reach proficiency which is then celebrated and reflected in their report cards (see example in the Resources Tab called “Music Matrix”).  

Every collaborative member plays an important role on the team.  Weekly meetings are conducted to analyze data to drive instruction and meet individual student needs.  Each team follows a tight protocol to ensure that the meeting stays data focused and supportive of student needs.  Norms play an important role in these meetings.  Our norms include being on time, staying focused on the task at hand, and bringing necessary data to help guide instructional decisions (see example in the Resources Tab called “Sample Agenda”).  The data that is collected may be in the form of a common formative check or a common district outcome assessment based on our designated essential learning targets.  The four critical questions that are considered for both math and language arts at these team meetings include which students are proficient at the desired essential outcome, which students are not, how we will enrich those who are proficient, and how we will intervene for those who are not yet proficient.  Decisions affect the skill focus of intervention and enrichment groups for a daily non- negotiable time which is also built into the schedule.  Also through the PLC process, students are placed into small, individualized reading groups for consistent daily reading instruction.  Once a month, this meeting becomes solely reading focused.  Each grade level team meets with all of the reading intervention teachers to discuss individual reading needs based on the daily small group instruction.  Students are moved to different groups based on their area of need and the skill focuses being covered.  All instructional decisions that are being made are done so through analyzing the current data on each individual student.  Collaborative teams work diligently to ensure that the instructional groups are fluid and focused.  Once a student demonstrates the ability to master a targeted outcome, they move on to another group that is working on the next essential target.  Our data demonstrates that by the time they reach fifth grade they are at a high level of proficiency and ready to make the transition to middle school (see example in the Data Tab called “3-5 Evidence of Effectiveness Data Template”).  They are scoring well above the state level.  We are also seeing strong growth with our free and reduced subgroup of students as well as continued growth with our students in special education (see example in the Data Tab called “Special Education Subgroup Data”).  Through the PLC process, teachers are able to individualize education to ensure that every students’ needs are being met, every single day. 

 

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

3-5 Evidence of Effectiveness Data Template:

Note growth in the cohort subgroup of Free and Reduced students, as we are a Title I school.  Also note growth of our fifth grade class over the course of multiple years.

Discipline Referrals:

Note discipline referrals have reduced from 256 office referrals in the 2017-18 school year to 63 in the 2020-21 school year.

TRE State Report Cards:

Note that in 2018-19 we were exceeding expectations in all areas on our state report card.  Note we were meeting and above average in achievement on the 2020-21 State Report Card.

Aims Data/Formative Checks/Interventions:

This gives a sample of the Aims data we collect to assess oral reading fluency and other skills three times per year.  This document shows how we use that data to determine which students need further assessment to determine exact needs.  This document also outlines how the information is used from assessments to group students for reading intervention.  The students are given the intervention for a period of weeks and then given the formative checks to determine proficiency before moving on to the next skill.  Groups are flexible and students are no longer served in the group if they have achieved proficiency as determined by the formative assessments.

Special Education Sub Group Data

This document shows state achievement data for our special education sub group.  Yellow demonstrates growth by cohort.

 

 

2021 National Blue Ribbon School

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