Neosho Middle School
- Number of Students: 738
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 62.1%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 10.8%
- Percent of Special Education: 16%
- White: 66.5%
- Black: 0.9%
- Hispanic: 15.9%
- Asian: 1%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 6.9%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 2.3%
- Multiracial: 6.5%
- Other: 0%
Neosho Middle School’s (NMS) journey in the PLC process began over ten years ago. For much of that time, emphasis on the PLC process ebbed and flowed and was all too often in practice what has been referred to as “PLC Lite.” Most of the pieces of a PLC were present, yet teachers overall did not exhibit a commitment to the PLC process. Even past administrators described the PLC process as “hoops we have to jump through” in order to please district level administrators. Training in the PLC process became lax, as did teachers’ collective commitments and understanding of the PLC model. PLC was “what we did,” rather than “who we are.”
Five years ago, new administrators joined the NMS team. They brought with them a renewed focus on PLC’s and a true commitment to PLC culture. After the new administration joined, they were trained on PLC best practices and the building’s Guiding Coalition was formed. Finally, all certified staff were invited to the PLC at Work Institute. Many of our teachers have also participated in onsite training over the last two summers. In fact, at this time, 87% of NMS staff members have attended at least one PLC at Work Institute. Newly hired staff members are required to attend a PLC training within the first two years of their employment. This has allowed for all staff to understand and commit to the PLC process. At this point, PLC is at the heart of who we are as an organization. In fact, PLC is one of the four pillars of continuous school improvement for NMS.
Our NMS team annually evaluates our Mission and Vision statements, and our collaborative teams review their Collective Commitments twice each school year. Evidence of that work is on display in our building. Our mission is, “We prepare the youth of our community to be people who are intelligent, driven and make lives better for those around them.” Our vision is, “We envision a school in which students and staff:
Ensure high levels of learning for all students
Are goal-driven and results-oriented
Pursue active relationships with the Neosho community
Create a collaborative culture of continuous learning
Take purposeful action to improve their own lives and to positively influence the world around them.”
We ensure high levels of learning by holding students to standards outlined in proficiency scales developed to align with state standards. Proficiency is assessed through a series of common formative and summative assessments that are developed by collaborative teams and analyzed in those same teams. Decisions about RTI placements are guided by these data discussions and supported by the use of data analysis protocols. Even our students are goal-driven and results-oriented. Students use data notebooks to set learning goals, track proficiency, and reflect upon their own learning.
Our building is also unique in that it is designated as a Project-Based Learning (PBL) model demonstration site. Community partnerships are embedded in the project-based learning of students in all classrooms and are one of the ways in which we maintain active relationships within the community and foster a collaborative culture of continuous learning. Behavior Intervention Support Teams (BIST) also set us apart from many surrounding schools. BIST methods seek to empower students with behavior skills that will allow them to purposefully improve their own lives and to positively influence the world around them.
NMS staff members demonstrate a commitment to the PLC process with times for both collaborative meetings and Response to Intervention (RTI) built into our schedule as non-negotiables. Collaborative teams within the building meet two to three times a week during common team planning times in addition to the Mondays set aside in the district calendar for the work of PLC’s. Collaborative teams adhere to the norms and collective commitments they have developed and reviewed regularly. These are read at the start of each meeting to ensure the team is focused on the work at hand. The agendas for each meeting are centered around the Four Guiding Questions. Teams also take turns fulfilling group member roles in order to share the workload among all members.
Moving forward, staff members of NMS are embarking on a new phase of our journey as we work to further refine our response to guiding question #1. The district is adopting Marzano’s Critical Concepts scales, which collaborative teams are working to merge into existing instruction and assessment practices over the course of the next several years. This work will help to further clarify what proficiency at a rigorous level looks like for all stakeholders. We are also, at this time, beginning the process of becoming a High Reliability School (HRS). The PLC process at NMS is sustaining at such a level that staff are now asking, “What is next”. HRS is one answer to that question.
HRS will work hand in hand with our ongoing PLC process, continuing to foster a culture of continuous improvement. For example, HRS Leading Indicator 1.4 states, “Teacher teams and collaborative groups regularly interact to address common issues regarding curriculum, assessment, instruction, and the achievement of all students.” This focus on collaboration is foundational to the PLC practice Based on a perception survey of administrators and staff, collaborative practices are a strength of NMS and demonstrate a commitment to the “right work” of PLC’s.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
In response to PLC guiding question #1, NMS staff developed a viable curriculum through the analysis of state standards and the selection of essential standards. This work was refined, four years ago, through the development of proficiency scales that are used by teachers and students to monitor learning progressions. At the same time, our building adopted the use of standards-referenced reporting to clarify the relationship between student learning and grades for all stakeholders. Pacing guides were also established to ensure that student learning was aligned between classrooms.
In this, our 5th year as a true Professional Learning Community, work continues toward our response to PLC guiding question #1. Over the summer, district staff tackled the customization of Marzano’s Critical Concepts scales, which will ultimately replace current proficiency scales with the goal of improving student access to critical learning embedded within the standards. The adoption of these scales will also help to ensure vertical alignment of our guaranteed and viable curriculum within and among district sites as we work to sustain our PLC process.
Best practices in assessment are our building’s response to PLC guiding question #2. Prior to the implementation of PLC’s, assessments were developed, administered, and evaluated by teachers working in isolation. One important piece of work taken up by our collaborative teams is the development of Common Formative Assessments (CFA’s) and Common Summative Assessments (CSA’s) which are administered at roughly the same time by every teacher of the same subject and grade level.
Upon the completion of a CFA or CSA, collaborative teams meet again to conduct a data analysis protocol to identify group and individual areas of strength and weakness. One follow-up action for the use of data analysis protocols is the development of Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goals for each collaborative team. Another is the planning of RTI for students based upon the most current data available.
An additional source of data for monitoring student performance on a timely basis is the iReady benchmark assessment program, adopted during the 2020-2021 school year. iReady enables teachers to monitor student progress towards standards mastery while generating in-depth reports of what students are able to do and what they need to work on next. The program also includes instructional support materials for all student proficiency levels that teachers are able to access for RTI planning.
At NMS, students take ownership of their own learning through the use of student data binders. For each standard studied, students have a data sheet that outlines the proficiency scale in student-friendly terms, a place to track proficiency through the cycle of CFA’s to the CSA, and space for students to reflect upon their own learning and set goals. Student data sheets are also used during student-led parent-teacher conferences.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Information obtained through data analysis protocols following the completion of CFA’s is used in the creation of RTI plans. RTI is our building’s response to PLC guiding questions #3 and #4. It is conducted during time set aside for the purpose of implementing interventions and enrichment during the school day. General education, special education, Encore (electives) staff, and paraprofessionals are all utilized in implementing RTI plans. Early in our PLC journey, RTI was only conducted on Fridays. Now, students receive targeted interventions and enrichment four times a week.
Tier-3 reading interventions were introduced to our building just this year, as we were able to hire a dedicated reading interventionist to work with our most struggling young readers. The interventionist meets regularly to administer Comprehensive Intervention Model (CIM) interventions to fifth-grade students reading two or more grade levels below proficiency, as determined by a triangulation of reading data. As students gain proficiency, they are “graduated” from the program and new students are moved in to receive extra support. This is a continuation of a system of interventions that has existed in our elementary buildings for several years that will now benefit students once they have begun their tenure at NMS.
Another avenue for additional academic support is our recent focus on the development of co-teachers in the general education classroom. Last year, special education and general education teachers began training in the various types of co-teaching methods. Co-teaching benefits both students receiving special education services (as they don’t miss out on tier-1 instruction) and general education students, who may receive additional support from one of the co-teachers when needed.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Neosho Middle School has been committed to and continues to improve upon our PLC processes for the past five years. Continuous learning is an essential part of the culture at Neosho Middle School. NMS staff have completed book studies within their collaborative teams over the following: Learning by Doing, Taking Action, and Kid by Kid, Skill by Skill. In order to ensure all staff have the same knowledge and understanding, training is provided each year through a variety of professional development providers. These include Magnify Learning for PBL, BIST, iReady, District Continuous Improvement (DCI), and RTI training with Solution Tree. Learning from colleagues is highly valued, so our teams also participate in structured learning walks in order to gain new insights on instructional methods from teachers within our own building.
NMS has experienced quite a bit of staff turnover in the past five years; our commitment to the PLC process demands shared leadership among our staff members in order to persevere despite this. Every collaborative team is represented in regular leadership meetings, and every new NMS employee is properly inducted into our PLC process, beginning with the summer PLC institute experience before the school year begins. For the past two years, the expansion of leadership opportunities within the building has been a top priority. In addition to a PLC guiding coalition, teachers have opportunities to lead through our Tier 2 Team and our High Reliability Schools data team as well as several School Improvement Teams (SIT). Many group PD opportunities are also led by members of collaborative teams. For example, teachers will be presenting a newly adopted district model of instruction to staff members and guiding them through a customization process. As a result of this training, teachers will apply best practices they collaboratively deem appropriate to our work at Neosho Middle School.
There are additional mechanisms in place at NMS to ensure the work of collaborative teams runs smoothly. A district-wide PLC Guide outlines monthly benchmarks for the work of collaborative teams as well as the artifacts teams are expected to submit to administrators to reflect their work. Teams regularly conduct self-assessments of their efforts to guarantee they are doing the right work in the PLC process. In addition, NMS annually conducts a “Critical Issues for Team Consideration” survey of collaborative team members. The results of these assessments are used to determine the focus of upcoming collaborative work sessions. Teams are also free to reconfigure as needed to best suit the needs of the students of NMS. One example of this is the creation of a special education collaborative team this year, formed at the request of teachers.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
In 2021, NMS scores exceeded the state average in 5th and 6th grades for reading and in 6th grade for mathematics. Additionally, and perhaps more significantly, outstanding growth was noted for three major subgroups in the most current MAP testing data: ELL, special education, and economically disadvantaged students. For example, as the uploaded spreadsheets demonstrate, our 5th grade special education population improved from an average proficient and advanced percentage of 13.8 in reading for 2019 to 18.1 in 2021. Gains like this were typical and can be seen in the data across the board for all subgroups in all tested areas from 2019 to 2021.
The spreadsheets uploaded for this section also show that gains were consistent across subsets of subgroups. For example, our 5th grade Hispanic population improved from 24.1 percent proficient and advanced in reading in 2019 to 38.1 for 2021. Growth in the first testing year post-COVID is especially significant given the anticipation of learning loss for students across grade levels due to school closures and distance learning in 2020.
Though statistically significant growth in our subgroups is our “headline” story, overall improvements in our MAP data for 2021 can be seen in the graphical representations and are especially evident in 6th grade, for both English language arts and math.
State MAP achievement data for spring 2021 reveals that, despite potential COVID learning loss, NMS students either experienced less loss (from 2019 results) than the state average or even, surprisingly, growth over 2019 results for both 5th and 6th grade in math and English language arts. “Neosho” and “State” on the above table indicate results for 2021. Note that 2020 data is not available due to COVID.
In-house data, gathered from our iReady benchmark assessment tool, also tells a story of remarkable improvement during the 2020-2021 school year. NMS 5th and 6th graders experienced high levels of growth, far surpassing the national median (indicated by the horizontal dashed line), between fall and winter diagnostics in both math and reading. It should be noted that iReady data is used by collaborative teams throughout the school year as a progress monitoring tool.
Building Recognition and Achievement
-In 2019 Neosho Middle School was one of three schools in the state of Missouri to be awarded a grant from the National Foundation for Governors Fitness Councils, allowing us to create a student fitness center in our building.
-During the 2020-2021 school year, Curriculum Associates recognized Neosho Middle School as demonstrating outstanding student academic growth as identified by the iReady diagnostic tool.
-In 2021, Neosho Middle School won a Comprehensive Literacy State Development grant, which will provide training and resources as the building works toward implementation of a 5-year literacy plan.
-In 2021, Neosho Middle School was recognized as a PBL model demonstration site by Magnify Learning
Staff Professional Development Recognition and Achievement
-One Literacy Coach and one classroom teacher are currently certified by Magnify Learning as trainers in PBL, with two additional teachers in process to become certified trainers.
-29% of the Neosho Middle School (NMS) staff have attended PBL advanced training.
-80% of the NMS staff has attended PBL level one training.
-87% of the NMS staff has attended training in Professional Learning Communities offered by Solution Tree.
-100% of the NMS staff has been trained in the Behavior Intervention Support Team Model.
Awards and Grants
-Teacher awarded the Arvest Bank “We Love Teachers” grant in 2021.
-Library received a Neosho School District Charitable Foundation grant for new technology in 2021.
-Instructional coach received a Neosho School District Charitable Foundation grant for S.T.E.M. learning supplies.
- 3 students qualified for National History Day competition finals 2020-2021.
- Student won American Legion Auxiliary essay contest at local and district level 2020-2021.