Pinehurst Elementary School (2023)

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

Pinehurst Elementary School has served a small community since 1997 and has historically demonstrated student success with a very stable student body. However, in 2015, the composition of our student population expanded significantly with a local military base realignment. We quickly grew by more than 100 students and our student body suddenly was 48% military connected. Within two years, the transitioning of students into and out of our school reached an annual average of 30%. With this change in student demographics and the constant transitioning of students into and out of our school, our School Improvement Team quickly recognized that we must embrace organizational changes to positively impact all of our students as effectively and efficiently as possible.

While many components of effective Professional Learning Communities were in place, there were pieces that we had not yet implemented. From our research, we knew that collective teacher efficacy must be our focus to make a difference for all of our students. It was clear that fully implementing  effective Professional Learning Communities was our best step forward.

As a result, our School Improvement Team attended a Professional Learning Communities at Work conference in 2017 to fully understand each of the concepts expected for full implementation. This team transitioned into our Guiding Coalition. Upon the team's return, a deep re-organization of the PLC process at Pinehurst Elementary School began.

Our Guiding Coalition led the updating of our mission, vision and core belief process using tools provided from PLC at Work and recommendations in Learning By Doing and Professional Learning Communities at WorkThe “Four Schools Activity” and Timebomb video from Mike Mattos were instrumental in helping set the tone for the need for organizational change. The team’s commitment to changes led to intensive data reviews of our strengths and opportunities for growth. This Coalition led the initial professional development in 2017 that has turned into our annual onboarding experience as we bring new team members to PES each fall. 

Our faculty embraces “The Big 3” of PLCs:

  • We focus on learning.

  • We create a collaborative culture and share collective responsibility.

  • We are results-oriented.

Without a doubt, the focus on the Four Pillars of the PLC process and our “compelling why” were instrumental in aligning our commitment to the PLC practices with our beliefs, our mission and our vision. Our team embraces owning the learning of ALL students in our school and not just those within our own classrooms. A relentless commitment that all children WILL learn at high levels consistently reminds us of the critical importance of our work.

With a strong group of facilitators supporting each grade level and department, beginning the work of considering the Four Critical Questions became feasible. We developed grade level and department norms to ensure the structure of our meetings was organized and  intentional. Mission Mondays - our faculty meetings -  became solely focused on our Professional Learning Community work and ensuring that job-embedded professional development was reinforced throughout all of our work together in addition to our collaborative time built into our day. Using this time as a faculty to build a shared understanding of the four essential questions of the PLC Process helped us to move forward collectively as an entire school community.

We considered the Four Critical Questions repeatedly and these questions continue to drive all of our PLC work today:

  • What do we want students to learn?

  • How will we know they have learned?

  • How will we respond when they have not learned?

  • How will we respond when they have learned?

Using the Big 3 and the Four Pillars to continuously remain focused is deeply embedded in the culture of our school after several years of effective PLC implementation. 

Since our shifts have been in place, Pinehurst Elementary School has been recognized by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for the quality of the PLC process. In 2018, our school was recognized as one of the Top 25 schools in North Carolina for academic growth. In 2020, the NCDPI Office of Academic Innovation met with our School Improvement Team based on our success with the PLC process to use our school as an exemplar in videos for statewide distribution.* In 2022, the NCDPI Office of Early Learning returned to our school to observe effective literacy practices based on the significant success our students were demonstrating through mClass benchmarking and progress monitoring as we implemented the Science of Reading. PES was selected as the North Carolina pilot for the implementation of LETRS Volume 2, and in November 2022, our principal, Mrs. Ciccone, was invited to speak with the North Carolina State Board of Education regarding effective implementation of the Science of Reading due to the significance of our reading data in 2021-2022 in comparison to like schools across the state. We are proud of the “Dolphin Difference” that is evident not only to our families and our local colleagues, but to our state leaders who consistently notice the unusual learning outcomes at PES! 

Our commitment to the PLC process is the core of our work at Pinehurst Elementary School. Our faculty recognizes that implementation efforts must be sustained. We are committed to analyzing our work within the process and continuously training new team members to ensure sustainability of a highly effective Professional Learning Community at our school. 

*COVID-19 paused this NCDPI initiative. 


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

A schoolwide agreed upon guaranteed and viable curriculum is the heart of monitoring student learning. Annually, our teachers review our vertical curriculum upon returning to school with a focus on learning outcomes from our state end-of grade assessments.  Any necessary adjustments are made to ensure students are learning each critical standard in each grade level. Pinehurst Elementary School calls these Promise Standards (see Promise Standards 2022 attached).

Our Promise Standards drive our common formative assessments, our intervention plans, and our extension opportunities for all students. Unpacking documents for each standard are updated yearly to ensure all teachers expect the same level of rigor across classrooms. Common formative assessments are given first as pre-assessments prior to teaching a standard and then again when essential points of instruction are completed. This data is tracked each week by our PLTs and next steps are immediately implemented to support student growth.

Grade levels often utilize a system we call "Walk to Math" or "Walk to Reading" to ensure all students have access to the best instruction. This system is used  after the post-assessment to support those who have not yet met mastery. In this model, students are organized into small groups with teachers who demonstrated significant success with teaching a particular concept. Those students who have met proficiency are organized into other grade level classroms for extension of the standards. Students are re-assessed after reteaching to ensure proficiency of at least 80%. Our data consistently indicates that an additional three sessions of support is typically appropriate for most students to reach mastery. (see Promise Standard Tracking Document Examples - grades 1, 4, 5 attached).





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

Pinehurst Elementary School lives our mission - Relentlessly Committed to Learning for All - by incorporating a diligent and structured analysis of student performance to ensure intervention and extension. We utilize multiple data points including both universal screeners and diagnostics to ensure students needing support are quickly identified and placed in the most appropriate intervention. (see PES MTSS Processes and Procedures attached.)

Our Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) plan has been refined over time to ensure student learning across all students.  Our master schedule allows for cross grade level grouping for Tier 3 interventions in general education, exceptional education and gifted education. Core teaching staff provide all Tier 2 and Tier 3 evidence-based instruction to students in skill-based groups.Between benchmarking periods for universal screeners, progress monitoring for all students regardless of performance is utilized to ensure ongoing growth. This plan applies to both academic, behavioral and social-emotional needs for students. (see PES Master Calendar, PES EC Schedule attached).

Additionally, having a plan to support our transitioning students has proven essential to ensure timely intervention and extension when new students enroll outside of testing windows. Research-based measures to screen new students are utilized within five days of enrollment. This information allows us to quickly support new students. (see PES MTSS Processes and Procedures attached.)

For those who meet the criteria for proficiency initially, students are moved into extension groups that allow for deeper understanding of the same standard. 

Intervention groups begin by the 10th day of school each year. These groups are based on specific skill deficits to ensure that all students are receiving the most appropriate intervention. Progress monitoring is completed every five days for those in Tier 3 and every 21 days for those in Tier 2 to ensure students are making appropriate progress and to provide timely feedback to teachers when interventions are not helping students close the gap. Our Problem-Solving Team made up of teachers, administrators, and school psychologist and other professionals as needed review student performance in these groups and make adjustments as needed each six weeks. (Problem-Solving Data 2021-22 First Grade attached)

To best describe how this process works at Pinehurst Elementary School, let’s consider a student “John”:

  • John moves to PES in October.

  • Within the first 5 school days, he is assessed with both reading and math diagnostics. 

  • If these demonstrate concerns for grade level performance, John will join an intervention group of students organized specifically for the skill needed. If this is a grade level skill, he will be placed in Tier 2 intervention. If the skills are below grade level, he will be placed in Tier 3 intervention.

  • John will be progress monitored appropriately dependent upon the Tier of intervention he is receiving. (Tier 2=21 days; Tier 3=5 days).

  • Progress for these interventions is reviewed by our problem-solving teams each six weeks. The team reviews common formative assessment data, intervention data and any new universal screener data to determine whether or not John is making progress appropriately.

  • Concurrently, John continues to receive grade level instruction and participate in daily Tier 1 instruction with his peers. 

  • If John is not making progress in Tier 2 or 3 interventions, the team will increase duration or frequency of the intervention. 

  • John may continue to receive all tiers of instruction as the data indicates need.

  • If John does not make progress commiserate to his peers in Tier 3 intervention and the team suspects a disability, the problem-solving team will refer his case to an IEP team.

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

The concept of collaboration is a valued expectation at Pinehurst Elementary School. Our teams are focused collectively to ensure all students receive necessary instruction. Each team is led by a PLC facilitator who has been trained through Solution Tree regarding effective PLC practices. This facilitator also serves on our Guiding Coalition. Their role is to lead their grade level team as they set SMART goals for student learning, analyze data, spot and respond to learning trends, group and regroup students for intensive practice and extension, ensure each child is placed in the most appropriate intervention or extension group based on their current skills and to consistently track progress for all students. Additionally, they are responsible for identifying next steps, training, or support that a team may need.

Our hiring processes may best demonstrate the high level of commitment to the PLC process. We allow any team members to join in on interviews at PES as we all are expected to work closely together. The team is intentional about selecting candidates that match our mission, vision and core beliefs as well as to “set the stage” for the work we will expect new hires to actively participate in with us. 

Since 2017, our Master Calendar provides daily collaborative planning time for all teachers regardless of any teaching assignment. This ensures that there is time built into our day to effectively consider all four questions of the PLC process. (see Master Calendar attached)

Additionally, our administrative team participates actively in weekly Professional Learning Team (PLT) meetings as participants in unpacking standards, reviewing data and creating responses to the data we have. It is truly a schoolwide RELENTLESS COMMITMENT to high levels of learning for ALL students. Our weekly meetings are facilitated with an agenda that keeps us focused and moving forward throughout the year.

Each semester, our PLTs complete an evaluation of their current implementation of the PLC process and are empowered to make adjustments as needed. This sometimes requires additional support from members of our Guiding Coalition to ensure the processes are in place and functioning as expected (see PES PLC Self-Assessment).

To continue supporting our expectations, more than 40 Pinehurst Elementary School faculty members have been trained in the PLC process through Solution Tree since 2017. Our PTA contributes financial support to our faculty each year to ensure Solution Tree training is available to all. We utilize high quality texts like Learning by Doing by DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many and Mattos; Common Formative Assessment: A Toolkit for Professional Learning Communities at Work by Bailey and Jakicic; and Taking Action by Buffum, Mattos, and Malone to ensure our faculty is skilled in each component of the processes. Pinehurst Elementary School is consistently intentional to guarantee that our faculty is a high performing and  highly empowered Professional Learning Community capable of sustaining itself over time.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Pinehurst Elementary School experienced a redistricting initiative in 2021. These changes resulted in the movement of 250 students from PES to another school. With new enrollments and those students who shifted to PES, the school grew from 530 to 655 in 2021-22 with 50% of the students new to the school. This dramatic shift in population created a critical need for highly effective implementation of all PLC practices.

A change in typical proficiency for our fourth grade students in reading and math in 2020-2022 has been noted by our team (see PES Data Files spreadsheet - Tab End-of-Grade Testing). This newly developed team of teachers had not been fully trained in PLC concepts prior to the pandemic. We recognize the need for additional support and 100% of the team has been fully trained as of November 2022. All pieces of the PLC process are observably in place along with specialist and administrator support. We expect a significant difference in 2023 scores!

iReady and mClass assessments are new for our district in 2021-22. 

Since 2013, Pinehurst Elementary School has exceeded expected growth seven times and met growth two times.

In 2017-18, Pinehurst Elementary was recognized as a Top 25 School for Growth for North Carolina.

Pinehurst Elementary School was selected as a recipient of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill TESELA (The Efficacy Study for Elementary Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder) Grant to support growth of practices for students on the Autism Spectrum in 2017. PES serves a significant number of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Office of Innovation visited Pinehurst Elementary in January 2020 to learn about our PLC process for application in other sites. The intent was to use the PES model to create videos about effective innovative processes for distribution statewide. 

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's Early Learning Department visited Pinehurst Elementary School in April 2022 to observe our implementation of the Science of Reading. This visit was based on significant growth of our students in comparison to other similar schools using the statewide benchmarking system mClass.

Pinehurst Elementary School currently serves as the North Carolina Pilot School for the implementation of LETRS Volume II (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling).

Our principal, Mrs. Ciccone, was invited to present our Science of Reading initiatives to the State Board of Education in November 2022.

Pinehurst Elementary School was recognized by the NC Department of Public Instruction for effective progress monitoring in reading for 2021-2022.

The Pinehurst Elementary Exceptional Education Department was invited to present data collection methods for special education at the NC Exceptional Education Conference in 2022.

Pinehurst Elementary School was invited to present implementation efforts for the Science of Reading by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction - Office of Early Learning at their AIM Conference in 2022.

The Pinehurst Elementary Exceptional Children’s Department and Administration has been invited to present effective special education scheduling techniques at the 2023 NC Exceptional Education Conference.