Barber Middle School

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

In 2018, brand new administrators attended a PLC at Work Institute in San Antonio, TX and felt both inspired and compelled to begin the work of ensuring high levels of learning for all students on our campus.  Knowing that new learning had to be prioritized and rolled out accordingly, the only priority for year one was to establish and invest in a culture of collaboration. We focused on being explicit about our why - our high at-risk population was in danger of succumbing to the status quo, and that was unacceptable; if we did not intervene to ensure ALL students mastered grade level curriculum, no one else would. We spent time building connections with each other and forming collaborative teams with both norms and goals using our team norming document as a guide (attachment). We were successful in our collaborative efforts, but knew we needed to do more. We needed to establish essential standards, create Common Formative Assessments (CFA), and engage in a system of intervention, which would ensure learning for all. However, we did not have enough staff members trained in the process, and we knew we could not successfully tackle all of those components at once.

 

2019 brought about much excitement for the PLC process, but the budget only allowed for 6 attendees. All attendees were further inspired to expand on our work from the previous year and identified two priorities for the 2019-2020 school year. Our goal was to make our planning time more intentional by focusing on the four questions of the PLC, as well as creating a common campus-wide intervention time.  As we began to hit our stride in our two new focus areas, as well as in our collaborative priority from the previous year, COVID hit and shut down our plans. The 2020-2021 school year was a year of survival. While we continued our priorities from the previous years and continued to believe we were responsible for ensuring every student in our building mastered grade level content, we did not add any new initiatives or priorities.   

In the summer of 2021, we were able to bring 27 staff members to attend the PLC at Work Institute as our district live-streamed the conference. Our staff members were energized and inspired to transform the work we do as educators; in response to our new learning, we set several priorities for the year by collectively creating and following a Team Collaborative Outcomes document (attachment). We introduced this in August as a way to be explicit about our actions moving forward. We also collaboratively created and adopted our collective commitments - the agreed upon list of behaviors outsiders should be able to see us exhibiting. (attachment) We began the work of identifying essential standards for each unit of instruction, mapping out the unit, and identifying rocks, boulders, and butterflies to assist in creating weekly Common Formative Assessments.  From those weekly CFAs, we formed intervention groups and carved out time in each unit for reteaching. Our commitment to collaborative planning strengthens each day; we are explicit about mapping units and creating and analyzing CFA data using a collaboratively created planning tool. (attachment) This guides us through our collaborative team time together. A guiding coalition was formed and strengthened, capitalizing on teacher leaders, not just those with titles. The guiding coalition meets one to two times per month to address common issues facing the PLC at Work process and to ensure our level of commitment to learning for ALL remains strong. 

 

Our journey is ongoing, and our list of goals continues to grow. We are continually seeking to improve our systems and processes for ensuring learning for all - students and educators alike.  Our next goal is to improve our campus-wide intervention block to accelerate learning for our students. We also seek to improve our Tier 2 instruction inside each classroom through intentional small group instruction. Our campus collaborative culture continues to be our foremost priority because we know all of our success is contingent upon it.

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

At Barber Middle School, we implement several strategies that we’ve found effective in monitoring student learning in a timely manner, such as: intentional checks for understanding before, during, and after instruction, as well as weekly Common Formative Assessments with teachers conducting team data analysis afterwards. Our first step in monitoring learning is deciding what students have to learn.  Campus teachers, along with district curriculum specialists, started the process of identifying essential standards for each content and grade level.  These essential standards are what we guarantee students will learn, and we build our Common Formative Assessments and intervention around these standards. By implementing this guaranteed and viable curriculum, we help close gaps and ensure equity. 

 

Our monitoring of student learning begins before the students enter the room. This year, a common campus strategy -  “door cards” - is used to both greet students as they enter, as well as review previous learning.  Invented by one of our 6th grade math teachers, door cards allow us to get a frame of student understanding before the lesson starts, thereby allowing us to make needed instructional adjustments in the moment. Further, we use this strategy as a means to give instant, individualized feedback to students. Additionally, every classroom provides a warm-up for students upon entering the room; warm-ups are targeted, spiraled, supportive of weak skills, commonly missed assessment questions, and essential standards. Teachers provide individualized feedback to students as they complete this task. 

 

Quick “check for understanding” questions are planned for each lesson during collaborative teacher team time. These quick checks come in various forms during instruction including: structured turn and talks, number talks, formative writing, and engaging questioning strategies. These quick checks allow teachers to gauge current student understanding, as well as tailor instruction based on student needs and responses. We focus on in-the-moment instructional adjustments based on student feedback.  Throughout the lesson, we intentionally plan our level of questioning and use randomized responses to help continuously monitor student progress throughout the lesson. All of our lessons are concluded with some type of exit ticket or closing question to monitor student understanding. This often includes structured turn and talk, written response with the use of sentence stems and academic vocabulary word banks, or call and response.

 

As Barber truly embraced the PLC process this year, Common Formative Assessments became a big driving factor of how we monitored student progress. Currently, the goal of each content team is to give weekly CFA’s to measure student mastery of the targeted essential standard in that unit. We give timely feedback so students are able to reflect over their score, identify mistakes, celebrate successes, and address common misconceptions on the CFA. Then, teachers meet in content planning to analyze the data, celebrate strengths, break down our weaknesses and plan our reteach. Our collaborative culture allows us to learn from high-scoring, practice teach-backs, and even plan for switching kids into different classrooms for the re-teach.

 

Barber Middle School’s fundamental purpose is student learning, and we strive to continually improve our monitoring of student progress to ensure learning for all.

 

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

Students at Barber Middle School begin their day with a 30 minute block of time dedicated to campus wide intervention. Mondays and Fridays are dedicated to character building, college and career awareness, and student organization skills, while the remainder of days are dedicated to content interventions and pre-teaching prerequisite skills needed to master upcoming essential standards. 

 

During campus wide intervention time, all staff are hands on deck.  Paraprofessionals and support teachers take strategic groups of students for intervention. Based on student Common Formative Assessment, MAP, and previous state testing data, some students stay in classrooms to receive accelerated instruction, prerequisite skills, and vocabulary for upcoming essential standards, while others go to the library for extensions and enrichment of essential standards. During our collaborative planning process we discuss the required prerequisite skills students must master prior to teaching the current grade level standard. Teams also discuss a lesson that addresses these skills to ensure students are more confident and walk in the classroom ready to learn, and how our students will be grouped for intervention. Equally as important, extension opportunities are provided to students who have demonstrated mastery on essential standards, which include inquiry, choice, and collaboration opportunities to enhance and stretch student learning. Extension menus have been created to assist in providing students with the opportunities of choice, self-assessment, inquiry, and collaboration. These extension menus are used in class, as well, while other students engage in re-teaching. We have also focused on behavior interventions inside the classroom through the use of Restorative Practices, our Character Strong program, ongoing character lessons, interventions from the behavior coach team, as well as building strong and authentic relationships with students. 

 

This year, Barber Middle School created a goal for our content teams to provide at least one CFA per week to reflect essential standard data based on student need.  Each team creates their CFA prior to implementing, and then meets again post-assessment to analyze student data and work. The data assists in planning tier 2 intervention. Teachers build their in-class small groups, schedule reteaching time, and determine how  to reassess student learning. Individuals who require tier 3 intervention are scheduled to work with a content expert during non-essential standard instruction within the school day. Data is collected and maintained to show mastery of the essential standard for each student with a post tier 3 formative assessment.

 

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

BMS has embraced the PLC process to become effective at building high performing, collaborative teams focused on student learning and growth. As our staff members become immersed in the PLC process through Solution Tree trainings and campus experiences, we understand our work to embody a culture of high-performing collaborative teams is constantly evolving. Our staff collaborative culture is of utmost importance, and we understand we must implement and uphold consistency, goal-setting, collaboration, and reflection in each of our campus teams.

 

Our first priority at the beginning of each school year is to revisit our school wide norms. Our Guiding Coalition, with input and approval from the entire staff, works to create our list of agreed upon behaviors that will work to uphold our positive culture and ensure learning is our fundamental purpose. Similarly, each content team meets to establish the norms to guide the team’s behavior when meeting to collaborate throughout the year. As we garnered more support and buy-in for the PLC process, norms have become the cornerstone of our culture. Our guiding coalition as well as every collaborative teacher team on campus, reviews the norms, mission, and vision at the start of each meeting.

 

Since embracing the PLC process, our planning time has become more productive, efficient, and rewarding for teachers.  Prior to becoming a PLC, we knew planning time was important, but we approached it through a compliance lens rather than a culture lens. We had an agenda, looked at standards, and reviewed data, but without norms, collective commitments, and a culture of high expectations, we were just going through the motions and planning for day to day activities rather than long term student success. Our Guiding Coalition worked on an overhaul of our planning process to revolve around the 4 Questions of the PLC with a focus on essential standards; What do we want kids to learn? How will we know when they’ve learned it?  What will we do if they don’t get it? What will we do if they master it?  Rather than day-to-day activity planning, each content team looks at the whole unit and deeply analyzes the four questions in regards to essential standards. Before embracing the PLC process, we rarely planned collaborative formative questions and activities. Now, the CFA design, implementation, and reflection process is a hallmark of our Content Team Time. 

 

A defining characteristic of BMS is our culture. We are committed to high expectations for students, support of our colleagues, and an understanding that the success or failure of our students is within our locus of control. We have worked to become a culture where teachers learn from each other rather than compete. We have strategically implemented colleague classroom observations - “Mining for Gold” - where colleagues observe teachers on campus, look for useful takeaways, and leave positive feedback.  At Barber, we learn from each other, lift each other up, and celebrate the successes of both students and staff.

 

Additional Achievement Data

Barber Middle School has continued to make progress in achievement data, as well as Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions. We have continued to close the achievement gap in our student groups, specifically our English Language Learners, Special Education students, and our economically disadvantaged group. 

 

Barber Middle School has shown continuous improvement in Reading and Math as well as with our Special Education, ELL, and economically disadvantaged student groups. We are consistently performing above the state average in Math and Science. In the last five years, our Special Education students have increased from 20% to 31% in 5th Reading, 23% to 69% in 5th Math, 30% to 32% in 6th Reading, and 35% to 53% in 6th Math. We have accomplished a larger improvement with our ELL performance. In the last five years, our ELL students have increased from 3% to 40% in 5th Reading, 43% to 56% in 5th Math, 13% to 34% in 6th Reading, and 24% to 59% in 6th Math. Barber Middle School has also decreased the achievement gap between our economically disadvantaged and all student data.  We accomplished a greater improvement in each of these student groups in the 2018-2019 school year prior to COVID. 

 

As with all other schools in the United States, Barber Middle School faced many new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we knew we needed to continue to keep student learning and student achievement at the forefront of our work. We continued to analyze data from common assessments, Curriculum Based Assessments, Interim testing, and released STAAR (state testing) tests. We were committed to closing the gaps students were experiencing from the shutdown in March of 2020. Students were provided with rigorous, grade-level instruction that held them to high standards. We continued to foster the mindset of ALL means ALL and refused to make excuses and allow students to lose any more learning.Through the commitment of the staff, our students were able to perform at high standards. Most importantly, we focused on celebrating students and their successes throughout the year. Students tracked their own data in each of the content areas to see how much growth they were making, as well as to take ownership and be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses. We believe students need to be praised and applauded for their efforts and their continued growth, so several awards and celebrations were planned throughout the year. Through collaboration and the PLC process, we were able to maintain or increase our student achievement data in Math and Reading in 2020-2021, despite the disruption of education that students and teachers were experiencing during the pandemic. 

 

Barber Middle School has implemented a strategic RTI process that provides students with necessary interventions to ensure academic success. Students in Tier 3 intervention participate in daily, intensive reading and math interventions with support staff. In December 2021, 54% of students in Tier 3 interventions were exited from RTI based on their Middle of Year MAP data. These students showed significant progress in their reading levels from August 2021. The RTI process is fluid and continually changing based on student needs.

 
  • US News and World Report - Best Middle Schools Badge - for placing among the top 30 percent of schools in the state as assessed by student performance in math and reading

  • Certified AVID Campus 20-21

  • 19-20 Honor Roll - Educational Results Partnership - for demonstrating high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in achievement over time, and reduction in achievement gaps

  • Distinction designations from Texas Education Agency based on state accountability:

    • 2016-17 (earned 5 out of 6 Distinction Designations)

      • Mathematics

      • Science

      • Top 25% Student Progress

      • Top 25% Closing Performance Gaps

      • Postsecondary Readiness

    • 2018-19 (earned 6 out off 6 Distinction Designations from state testing)

      • ELA/Reading

      • Mathematics

      • Science

      • Comparative Academic Growth

      • Postsecondary Readiness

      • Comparative Closing the Gaps

    • 2019-20 - All Districts and Schools Were Not Rated in 2020 Due to COVID-19

    • 2021-21 - TEA did not award any Distinction Designations this year

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