Lake Hamilton Intermediate School (2022)
- Number of Students: 580
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 63%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 12%
- Percent of Special Education: 12%
- White: 75.43%
- Black: 4.67%
- Hispanic: 12.11%
- Asian: 0.69%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.17%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 1.04%
- Multiracial: 5.88%
- Other: 0.01%
Lake Hamilton Intermediate School started the PLC process in the summer of 2016 when Dr. David LaRose provided professional development to our staff in a district-wide hybrid event. While it provided healthy conversations about PLC topics like the functioning of collaborative teams and the development of common assessments among teachers, it also brought a fair amount of confusion. This confusion was largely the result of the overwhelming amount of information gleaned from this week-long professional development event. The majority of staff had no understanding of what a PLC was, and in the short span of a week they were introduced to all things PLC- collaborative teams, common planning, essential standards, common assessments, data protocols, reflection on results, SMART goals, shared responsibility for all students, and intervention/extension. Teachers were so blown away by the vastness of the task ahead that they did not know where to start.
As a school that consistently outperformed state test score averages, there was a confidence- supported by the community- that we were a “good” school. We quickly realized that “Good is the enemy of great.” While the majority of our students were achieving on grade-level, we recognized that our true goal was for ALL students to succeed at high levels. In order to achieve this goal, we knew that major shifts would have to occur. For example, teachers had planning time to work together; however, the time was not utilized for data collection, intervention, and assessment purposes. Teachers were practicing “PLC Lite” with more basic lesson planning occurring than true collaboration. In order to facilitate growth on this improvement journey, a leadership team was created. Made up of teacher representatives from both grade levels and a variety of content areas, as well as a counselor, instructional facilitators, and administrators, this team started to meet regularly to look at building shared knowledge among themselves so that they could help lead the learning of their collaborative teams.
We continued this PLC Lite journey until our Arkansas Department of Education PLC grant for three years of onsite job-embedded professional development provided by Solution Tree associates was approved in 2019. At this point, Joe Cuddemi began working with our leadership team intensively; through our sessions with him, we began to understand the four pillars of the PLC process. With this new, deeper understanding of these pillars, the entire staff worked to develop our mission and vision, followed by our collective commitments, and our school-wide goals. We then began to understand what collaboration truly meant and continued our learning on how to effectively use data to benefit our students’ academic success. In our team meetings, we started with the collective agreement on team norms; these norms were reviewed at the beginning of each meeting to help them become ingrained in how we conduct ourselves during collaborative team times. Over the first full year- including our summer professional development days- collaborative teacher teams worked to identify essential standards and to break them down into learning targets. They also worked to create and/or revise common assessments to ensure they matched the rigor and intent of the standard.
In the midst of implementing a true PLC culture, the school also transitioned to a Standards-Based Grading (SBG) system and started using proficiency scales. While the shift in focus from teaching to learning went hand-in-hand with SBG, it also widened the learning curve for teachers. They not only had to continue working in their collaborative teams to create a guaranteed and viable curriculum based on agreed-upon essential standards, but they also had to change from a 100-point traditional grading scale to a 4-point standards-based grading scale. In addition to the changes brought about by the dual implementation of a PLC culture and the use of SBG, this work, which would be challenging under the best of circumstances, occurred in the midst of a global pandemic. Teachers were faced with additional challenges that made teaching and assessing student learning even more difficult- like switching to virtual teaching when schools shut down and learning how to use new educational platforms to provide instruction- all while striving to ensure high levels of learning for all students.
Through this journey, teachers no longer feel like they are working in isolation. Instead, they feel like they are part of a true collaborative team, and all students receive our guaranteed and viable curriculum- regardless of who their teachers might be.
Through our work in collaborative teams as a true PLC school, we are facilitating a culture of continuous improvement. We face the unique challenge of being a 4th and 5th grade level school- rather than a more traditional K-5 elementary school- with approximately 600 students. This configuration poses special roadblocks for both horizontal and vertical alignment. In the beginning of our PLC journey, work had been done to create weekly collaborative time for teams and weekly intervention time for students, called “Paws” time. The original goal was to have Paws time twice a week for each grade level, but then school was shut down in mid-March 2020 due to COVID. When we returned from virtual to live instruction in August, we faced the new, added challenges of social distancing and contact tracing. These mid-pandemic changes moved our Paws time away from how it was originally designed- with students regrouped by need, regardless of teacher/quad, to a system where all intervention occurred within homeroom groups to prevent unnecessary intermingling of students.
When Dennis King began working with the leadership team on Response to Intervention (RTI) practices during the second year of our PLC journey, our leadership team faced the additional challenge of creating a new master schedule that would not only include daily intervention time but that would also embed time for intensive remediation- both without causing students to miss Tier 1 core instruction. Because we felt a change this daunting called for the involvement of all staff, leadership team members took various proposed schedules back to their respective teams to discuss merits and concerns. By May 2021, we had worked collaboratively as a building staff to develop a schedule that guaranteed no student would miss any Tier 1 instruction; this schedule also gave all students access to Tier 2 and Tier 3 instruction on an as-needed basis. When we piloted this new schedule the last few weeks of the school year, we quickly discovered that it would be very difficult to maintain over an entire school year; therefore, members of the leadership team worked to create a more manageable schedule that would still provide all students with access to all three tiers. This new ‘revised’ schedule (5th Grade Schedule . 4th Grade Schedule), which still guarantees that no student will be pulled from Tier 1 instruction for any reason but also provides time for intervention and remediation within the school day, was implemented in August 2021. All students now have daily access to a 40-minute Tier 2 intervention block and a 40-minute Tier 3 remediation block. Students who do not need Tier 2 intervention receive extension or enrichment- often outside their normal classrooms from other staff members. Students needing Tier 3 remediation are taught by specialists who were hired this school year to provide intensive help for students multiple grade levels behind in math and/or literacy. With all the changes in culture and scheduling that were put into place during the 2021-22 school year, there has been a sharp decline in both special education referrals and behavior referrals.
While we recognize that our efforts to continually improve have created successful pathways for all students to get what they need to learn at high levels, we also recognize that this journey to facilitate a culture of continuous improvement never ends. For this reason, our leadership team- with feedback from all staff through their representative members- constantly considers what we are doing and actively searches for ways to get better. We have created a culture at LHIS where staff work tirelessly as a team to achieve the goal of high levels of learning and success for ALL students.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Our school uses a variety of strategies to monitor individual student learning on a timely basis. Prior to starting a new instructional unit, each team collaboratively develops a proficiency scale (of 1-4, where 3 is proficient) to build a common understanding of what constitues proficiency for each standard/learning target being addressed in the unit. The main source of data we rely on to monitor student learning on a timely basis surrounds our team-developed, content-area formative and summative assessments on essential standards. Student learning is monitored continuously during instruction using observations and questioning strategies; teachers further do quick checks to informally assess students’ learning using things like exit slips or interactive activities. Both the constant formative assessment throughout the lesson and these quick informal formative assessment checks allow teachers to provide timely feedback to redirect students’ learning when misconceptions are occurring; instantly addressing students’ misunderstandings helps overcome small obstacles that, left unaddressed, might impede on students’ mastery of the learning targets.
Embedded into our instructional units, teachers also utilize more structured team-created common formative assessments (CFAs) to gauge students’ understanding of individual learning targets. These CFAs are followed by team-created common summative assessments (CSAs), the results of which are discussed using a data protocol. This data protocol includes the use of spreadsheets with scores and the regrouping of students based on specific learning target needs. Targeted intervention is then planned for the students who have not achieved full mastery of that identified essential standard. Intervention is followed by reassessment to monitor the success of the strategies utilized and to plan for subsequent actions. Along with these team-created CFAs and CSAs, we utilize ACT Aspire and NWEA as common interim assessments to get an overall picture of where students are in relation to grade-level standards on a national test. Results from these interim assessments are used to create groups of students to be pulled for intervention classes. Growth of students served in intervention classes is monitored more frequently and more in-depth using assessments like DIBELS, Lexia, Reflex, and standard trackers in MasteryConnect.
Our school went through a difficult and lengthy process to create and implement a guaranteed and viable curriculum that would ensure all students learn essential standards at high levels. Before our staff became deeply embedded in the work of becoming a true PLC school, teachers largely worked in isolation from one another. Those who taught the same grade level and content area would often share materials and resources with each other, but that was the extent of the team’s collaboration. In fact, to say that these groups worked as teams would probably be a stretch. Passing conversations about students’ struggles with learning targets was mostly accidental sharing; these conversations were not purposeful in nature.
The first step in this process of developing a guaranteed and viable curriculum involved the revision of the master schedule to provide common planning time for teachers within each content area. During this common team time, each content group identified their essential standards; some of the conversations surrounding which standards are most essential for student success (as gauged by meeting the REAL criteria- Readiness, Endurance, Assessment, and Leverage) were difficult. However, for the betterment of our students, each team worked through these tough conversations and came to an agreement about which standards were truly “essential,” which were “important to know,” and which were simply “nice to know.” This narrowing of our focus to guarantee that all students mastered these standards deemed essential was a critical part of creating a viable curriculum since our fifth-grade English Language Arts state standards includes forty-six individual standards; additionally, within these forty-six standards, there are sixty-three additional “substandards.” Teachers had to shift from a “covering” perspective- focused on the teaching aspect of instruction- to a “mastery” perspective- focused on the student learning aspect. Rather than rushing through every standard to ensure all were taught or “covered,” teachers became focused on ensuring student learning of the essentials, using a data-driven intervention system.
The next step was for each content team to unpack their newly-identified essential standards to create student-friendly learning targets for each one. As this process continued, we began to really analyze our current understanding of assessment and worked to develop common formative and summative assessments with which to gauge our students’ progress toward mastery of these essentials. We found that our assessments were not always targeting the true rigor of the verbage found in the standard itself. Therefore, teams worked collaboratively to identify what mastery of an essential standard’s learning targets would look like in order to create common assessments that would truly reflect student learning of the outcomes intended. For example, when assessing RL.5.6, which says, “Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view and/or perspective influence how events are described.”, we found that our questions focused on a lower Depth of Knowledge (DOK) than the rigor of the standard; we had students identifying the point of view but not taking it to the deeper level of explaining how that perspective influences the events that occur in the text. While we are still continually working toward matching the rigor of the standards with our assessments, this process of analyzing the learning targets so explicitly has prompted us to recognize this gap and to work to address it.
With the collective understanding of what mastery of the standards looks like at these higher DOK levels, teams met to continue developing instructional units focused on the four critical questions surrounding what we want students to know and be able to do, how we’ll know if they know it, and what we’ll do when they do know it (extension/enrichment) and when they don’t know it (intervention). As we continuously worked through the PLC cycle of instruction and assessment, we discovered that data was the key piece to improving student learning; therefore, at this point, we incorporated a data protocol into our team meetings. In these discussions about data, teachers within teams began sharing strategies on how they taught particular learning targets, as well as the best resources with which to teach each. In order to monitor progress toward all students’ mastery of essential standards, each content area team began to create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals for their instructional units.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
While creating and implementing systems of intervention has been a looming topic on the horizon of our PLC journey, we did not fully know how to incorporate that part of a true PLC into our normal school day. In August of 2020, Jon Yost provided our staff with training on creating a systemic process that meets kids where they are and addresses any needs they have; we learned the difference between remediation, intervention, extension, and enrichment. Through this training, we came to recognize that our “Paws” time was not truly providing our students with the necessary time and support for learning; therefore, we began working with Dennis King on becoming more effective at the Response-to-Intervention (RTI) process. The leadership team knew we would have to revise our current schedule in order to meet our students’ needs. This revision process was long and difficult. Prior to the 2020-21 school year, we had tried several different scheduling options to successfully intervene when our students struggled. Although we felt our intervention program was helping some students, we knew we were still not succeeding in addressing all students’ needs. After several failed attempts to redesign our intervention/extension system, we realized that we actually needed to revamp our entire master schedule and that we needed to create a true intervention team.
By creating a new master schedule that allotted time for both intervention and remediation to occur, we are finally able to provide all students who need it with additional time and support. Students who have not yet demonstrated mastery of a given essential skill on a CFA are given an opportunity to work with another teacher in that same content area. This Tier 2 instruction allows for the targeted skill to be retaught in a smaller setting by someone with different strategies. The students can then work through that particular skill to clear up any misconceptions to gain a better understanding of the content. The intervention team is made up of the following staff members: the assistant principal, both the reading and the math interventionists, a counselor, a special education teacher, the dyslexia specialist, a district behavior specialist, and both a fourth-grade and a fifth-grade content teacher. This group oversees the intervention schedule and reviews data on the students who are being served, as well as on others who might need to be served.
With our multi-tiered schedule in place, there is also time allotted in the day for students to receive Tier 3 instruction during our Go Out And Learn (GOAL) time. This instructional block is set aside for students who are several grade levels behind and who are lacking foundational skills in reading and/or math. In addition, the school district created two new interventionist positions starting with the 2021-22 school year; these reading and math interventionists work with our special education staff and dyslexia interventionists to provide students with the more intensive remediation that is needed. The intervention team meets quarterly to look at student growth data to determine which students could possibly exit GOAL time and which students might need to enter the program. GOAL time is also used for extension/enrichment of students who have demonstrated mastery of essential standards. Developing this system of intervention and extension also helped build our collective commitment that every student belongs to all of us and that it is the collective responsibility of all staff to ensure all students’ master the identified essential standards.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
In order to stay focused on improved student learning, our high-performing, collaborative teams concentrate on the four critical questions during their bi-weekly team meetings. These questions prompt them to continuously revisit what they want all students to know and/or be able to do, how they will assess mastery of students’ learning, and what they will do both with the students who do master the learning targets (and need extension/enrichment) and with those who have not yet demonstrated mastery (and, therefore, need intervention). Our collaborative teams utilize data spreadsheets to track mastery of essential standards and to determine which students have not yet mastered each so that interventions continue until all students demonstrate mastery.
In order to provide these timely interventions needed for all students to succeed in learning at high levels, our school implemented a daily What I Need (WIN) time. During this time, teachers group students by need- rather than by teacher- to provide more targeted intervention to those needing additional time and support. Students are assigned to intervention groups based upon collaborative review of both student data and teacher instructional strategies that were most effective. Support staff are also involved in the extension of learning during WIN time; these team members work with students who are performing above grade level. Not only do collaborative teams share students, but they also create common assessments and score them together using an agreed-upon proficiency scale based on their collective understanding of what proficiency looks like. This calibration of the scoring of student work, combined with selection and/or development of exemplar items, provides a consistent expectation for all students to learn at high levels. Our teams’ work is never complete; each group is constantly reviewing their essentials, common assessments, and instructional practices to better meet the needs of our students and to ensure high levels of learning for all.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
Above is additional data that was asked for by the committee for clarification. We have gathered additional celebrations of achievements and attached the evidence to the application. We have revieved the data from both a micro and macro level as suggested. Thank you!
Math Intervention Data: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pjdGKioGVq6jF4G1Vba2XvUe9rgwnS5FjAD-UqtcnC0/edit