Eureka Springs Elementary

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

Our PLC Story

At Eureka Springs Elementary School, we began our PLC journey primarily focusing on Response to Intervention (RTI).  We had many students performing below grade level in math and literacy, and so we believed that the RTI model would be the solution for closing the learning gap for these students.  We found that while our students were indeed making progress in intervention, they were not making progress on grade level standards.  And, despite our best efforts, more and more students were being added to our intervention list. What were we doing wrong?

We began seeking out professional development, and we happened upon a Solution Tree training with Mike Mattos that led us in the right direction for the work we are doing now.  While the workshop focus was on RTI, Mattos also discussed scheduling and the importance of an accessible and viable curriculum for all.  While we were proud of our level of support for our struggling students, we had not taken into consideration that they were missing grade level instruction.  Our students just continued to stay behind.

Our classroom teachers were overwhelmed, often teaching below grade level because so few of their students were “ready” for grade level work.  The mindset was that students should be pulled by an intervention teacher for tier 3 services and return to grade level learning when they were “caught up.”  Obviously, we see now, we were creating a bigger gap for ourselves and our students.

In 2017, we applied to be a pilot school with the Arkansas PLCs at Work grant.  We did not receive the grant that year, but we began building the structures that would prepare us for our award in 2019.  Our teachers were given collaborative planning blocks of 80 minutes per week in addition to daily common planning time. We began educating our staff about tier 2 interventions, and teachers provided support to students through small group instruction in their classrooms.  But, because this time was not built into the schedule, interventions were often inconsistent.  We also had yet to understand or commit to common formative assessments.  We also could see we had a tier 1 issue (core instruction), but we mistakenly thought this could be fixed with the right math or literacy curriculum.  We made all the common mistakes in a PLC we would later read about in our PLC books.   But, in all fairness, we were really trying and doing the best with what we knew at the time.

Our journey since we began working with our Solution Tree coaches has had less pitfalls, but has required a change in mindset and culture in our school.  As we began to address the four critical questions, it became evident that we were not clear about our core content.  So, we began the work of unpacking our standards and identifying our essentials using REAL criteria (Is it relevant, endurance, assessed, leverage?).  As teams narrowed down and identified their essential standards, we began to have a manageable amount of instructional goals.  We also saw that our curriculum materials, while a helpful resource, were just that… a resource.  We had to empower our teachers to be the experts and make instructional decisions outside of our prescribed curriculum.

Establishing our Guiding Coalition (GC) was a key factor in our PLC development.  Each team and department has a representative on the GC, and the GC meets weekly to provide input into all school decision making, address issues, celebrate successes and share team progress.  These leaders communicate directly with their teams, and GC minutes are shared schoolwide.  This improvement in communication gives every team a voice and insures that important information is shared with all staff members.  

We also began working on our mission/vision and collective commitments.  It was important that we shifted from a “my students” mentality to an OUR students approach.  We needed the best of what each member brings to the team in a collaborative effort to close the gaps.  We also needed to have all staff members committed to this work.  And, our Solution Tree coaches helped us understand the why of the work and coached us and empowered us to actually DO the work as we learned.  At times it felt like a leap of faith as we struggled with old mindsets and challenged the work we had been previously committed to.  Yet, we had many structures in place that we built on, and we had a hardworking instructional team.  

When the pandemic hit in spring of 2020, we were so thankful for the opportunity to address these new challenges with our coaching team.  Our coaches helped us continue our learning while at the same time supporting us through changes in instruction (virtual) and identifying essentials to address two months of lost learning.  In a sense, the work became more urgent.  Teachers who were still hesitant to work in teams now found that they needed to work together to manage the heavy load.  We also needed to be clear in our instructional goals and assess students frequently to ensure learning was happening and to respond appropriately when it wasn’t.  

As our understanding of team processes grew, our teams became more effective in creating and administering CFAs and responding as a team.  Once having experienced the growth students have when tier 2 is focused and timely, working any other way was not a consideration.

We are very proud to have gone from beginning stages of implementation to sustainability in all areas of the PLC continuum.   While we will always be working to improve our team processes as we address the four questions, we have the tools and mindset to successfully address (and even minimize) future challenges.  In spite of all the challenges and missed learning that the pandemic has brought, our students are above the state average on testing, and we continue to move up in our ranking among area schools.  The outlook is so positive for our staff and students moving ahead.  We look forward to sharing our journey with others and will be presenting at the DESE Summit this year on question 4 (extending learning).

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Once our faculty became clear on our essential standards, we began planning instruction and assessments unit by unit. Teams created learning progressions to clearly map pathways to mastery for each essential standard.  Initially teams would administer common formative assessments but would not promptly analyze student data or plan responsive instruction for students.  Through our work with our assessment coach, we learned how to quickly analyze student work, identify misconceptions, and group students for tier 2 interventions in a timely manner.  

Our interventionists and special education teachers have also benefitted from the grade-level unit plans and learning progressions, many of which they developed collaboratively with grade-level teachers.  The learning progressions assist with instructional support in special edication and tier 3 intervention by providing the scaffolds necessary for success on grade-level standards.  Our grade-level teams meet tri-weekly with interventionists and special education teachers to plan intervention and monitor student progress. This coordination of services has greatly improved a  skill-by-skill, student-by-student approach to teaching and learning.

Our biggest change has been in scheduling tier 3 and special education services outside of core instructional time.  This has had a major impact on student learning.  Scheduling is tricky but doable.  We also have created before- and after-school tutoring for students.  This extra time for instruction and practice has helped many of our students in meeting their learning goals.

Our number of special education referrals has decreased, and we are even exiting students from special education services. 

By working as collaborative teams, a student may be successful in any classroom as he/she has the benefit of the entire team supporting his/her learning.  Before, there was some inequity in instruction depending on student placement.  The team approach to OUR students has helped create a more equitable school environment insuring high levels of learning for ALL students.

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

 

We began our PLC process with a strong intervention team.  Students were pulled for instructional support by two highly qualified interventionists, and we were utilizing all available support staff for additional academic support based on our high number of students below grade level.  While we were proud that we were able to meet students wherever they were in their instructional progression, it took time for us to realize that these students were not catching up with their grade-level peers.  Essentially, students were not getting additional support for learning; they were getting interventions in place of grade-level instruction.

As we worked with our PLC coaches, we created protected time in our schedule for core instruction.  Students may not be pulled for any services during literacy and math instructional blocks.  We also realized that most of our intervention students also needed tier 2 support in their classrooms.  As a result, we identified an intervention block for each grade level during which students work with an interventionist without missing important essential learning or tier 2 instruction.

Tier 3 interventions are typically 4-5 times per week for 30-40 minutes.  Students are grouped by need, and skills are taught based on learning progressions toward grade-level essentials.  These groups are fluid, and students may move in our out of intervention as needed.  All students who receive tier 3 services are progress monitored by the interventionists and grade-level teams. 

We also have two strong online learning programs in place, Lexia and Dreambox. We originally purchased Lexia Learning for our intervention students but quickly realized all of our students would benefit from this individualized literacy support.  Students are assessed and placed in the program on their appropriate levels.  The program helps identify any skill gaps, and students progress through both online practice and in-person lessons as needed.  This blended approach has helped our students move into grade-level reading and beyond.  Our math program, Dreambox, follows the same adaptive progression as Lexia. The skills targeted in Dreambox align with our math program.  Students set goals in both programs and their progress is celebrated weekly. Both programs benefit students of all levels, extending learning for students who are ready to progress beyond their current grade level.

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

We are very fortunate to be a PLCs at Work school through grant-funding provided by the Arkansas Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  The grant provided three years of job-embedded coaching, including working with some of the nation's top leaders in education through Solution Tree.  Our PLC Coach was the amazing Tim Brown, who met and worked with our teams on a monthly basis.  Our coaches helped us understand the why and how of the work.  Most importantly, we learned by actually doing the work with the guidance and support of our coaches.

Teams have collaborative time scheduled daily, with a double-block team planning time of 80 minutes scheduled weekly.  This team time is "protected", meaning teachers are not scheduled for other meetings or conferences during this time.  Teams plan instruction together, but more immportantly, design and respond to CFAs to guide teaching and interventions.

Teams also meet tri-weekly with interventionists and special education staff.  Tier 3 student progress is analyzed, and any students not making progress in tiers 1 and 2 are discussed.  The team coordinates intervention services and also recommends additional supports, ie. dyslexia program screening, behavioral programs, etc.

Since creating both the time and the direction for the work (answering the four critical questions), the collaborative teams have become an essential part of our school system.  Establishing and following norms for how we work together has been critical for all teams, including the guiding coalition.  This is especially true when new teams are formed or when we have a conflict within the group.  Fortunately, our teamwork together is very positive and has helped to bring us closer together as a faculty. 

The shift in focus from MY kids to OUR kids has helped us approach student data in a completely different way.  Teams share instructional strategies and collaboratively plan tier 2 instruction for students who have not met mastery yet.  We have a shared form for CFA analysis, and the identification of student misperceptions also helps us in planning instruction for the next year.  This team approach to assessment and learning brings all the strengths of the team together for each student, regardless of their classroom placement.  With social distancing loosened at this point, we look forward to grouping students between classrooms for more effective intervention support.

Accountability has been another key factor to our forward momentum.  Team expectations are frequently discussed in guiding coalition meetings.  Team leaders are held accountable for agreed upon decisions.  The principal and instructional facilitator check in on team meetings.  Agendas are also posted within our Google drive. 

This year, we are creating a master calendar that includes unit timelines and assessment dates.  This will help with accountability and pacing.  We will also be using a form provided by our assessment coach to share guiding coalition decisions with all staff members.  This will share the why and any other specific information related to the decision with all teams unilaterally.  This improved method of communication will help our team leaders as well as their respective teams.

In response to a team member retiring this year, the team's main concern was finding a candidate that would be an asset to our PLC, primarily in regard to team collaboration.  We were able to utilize interview questions originally shared by Rick Dufour.  These questions helped us find a teacher who wants to be a contributing member of our PLC.  It also shows our commitment to this work and to the work continuing no matter if there is a change in staffing.

 

  

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Our achievement data does not show sub-populations other than Economically Disadvantaged due to numbers being less than 10 in each category.

In spite of school closures and numerous quarantines of individual students and teachers, our student performance has held steady.  We utilized PLC processes whether students were onsite or virtual.  Virtual students were assessed with CFAs and provided additional support through electronic means.  This included both Tier 2 and 3 supports, primarily delivered via Zoom.

Our performance on state assessments prior to beginning our PLC work was below the state average.  However, our current performance is above the state average.

Our school assessments document student growth and are used to progress monitor students as well as to plan and deliver interventions.  CFAs are a huge part of our work, and data is collected and analyzed by teams to guide instructional/intervention planning.  We also plan to use the data moving forward to plan instructional response by standard for students who already have mastered the standard.  This is the next step in our assessment cycle.

Nine teachers in graduate programs, 2021-22

Students invited to EAST Conference in Hot Springs, 2022

Arvest Bank Teacher of the Year, Carrie Gay, 2021-22 

Third grade teacher, Carrie Gay, selected for Arkansas Literacy Standards Revision Committee, 2022 

Arkansas Rural Education Teacher of the Year, OUR Cooperative, Mandy Elsey, 2022

First-place award for math problemsolving at OUR Cooperative Math Canival, Third Grade Team, 2022

All Things PLC Blog - Our Story published

Principal Clare Haozous selected as AR PLCs at Work Practitioner to assist other schools

ADE Summit 2022 (state conference) - team presenting on Question 4

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