Owens Cross Roads

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

  Owens Cross Roads School began its PLC journey in the summer of 2017.  OCRS remains on this journey and continues “learning by doing” daily.  

  In July 2017, Owens Cross Roads School’s newly named principal and instructional coach attended an introductory and informational meeting on Professional Learning Communities.  We received additional training in the fall and it became obvious that the Professional Learning Community process was the right path forward. The new administration perceived that the teachers at OCRS were special in regards to their professionalism and expertise.  However, OCRS was an island chain school.  Over the previous years, the reading and math data had a negative trend. The administration was puzzled because the level of expertise and knowledge that was perceived did not add up to the current state of schoolwide data.  Our early introduction into the PLC world seemed to be the perfect recipe of focused collaboration to set us on an upward trajectory in regards to evidence of student learning.  Our classroom teachers needed more common collaborative time.  We decided to take a leap of faith and change the master schedule at Christmas. During the first semester, the teachers had 30 minutes of common collaborative time. The first day after winter break, OCRS moved to an altered schedule. Classroom teachers now had eighty-four minutes of common collaborative time twice weekly.  The altered schedule became a baseline for the future in regards to the master schedule. The teachers were professionals with the newfound time.  Their attitudes were tremendous in regards to working as a collaborative team and commitment was evident.  

  Simultaneously, we hammered out our vision and shared values for OCRS. The mission was recently established the previous year before the PLC process at OCRS had begun.  In one faculty meeting after some document sharing and pre-work, the staff collaboratively established our shared values and vision.  At OCRS, we are collaborative, friendly, results-oriented, safe, nurturing, and engaging.  We collectively and steadfastly work to realize our vision of high levels of learning, high levels of safety, and high levels of well-being.  

  As a staff, we dove into our norms while not truly realizing how essential they were to our work to come.  We revisit our norms every year and sometimes during the middle of the year.  We learned the importance of the four critical questions, and they drive our work to this day.  We began the process of selecting essential standards and quickly realized the work is tedious but worthy of our commitment, time, and attention. 

  Going into 2018, we continued to unwrap standards and create learning targets.  We began to analyze our assessments and create new ones.  Discussions and work were focused on rigor, guaranteed and viable curriculum, evidence of mastery, common formative assessments, and depth of knowledge.  Our Reading data was improving and we had come a long way in regard to Math practice.  Our Math assessment was initially Scantron, but we went without a summative assessment for two years. However, our formative data was trending positively on our self-developed common formative assessments.  It was fair to say, we were thriving in many ways but we were not close to all students achieving high levels of learning.   While our data showed tremendous improvements, all means all.  Clarity issues arose during this period.  The administration had made errors in guidance in regards to essential standards with how many were needed and the process for selection.  Also during that time, some interdependent teams were spending hours a week during school and after to effectively plan, while some were finished in just a few minutes.  We had made great strides but we needed more CLARITY.  The administration and teachers had some frustration seeing some that seemed to be working hours on end but not accomplishing as much as they wanted to and others completing a checklist and wondering why it takes others so long.  We had become more streamlined in some cases, but unable to fully address the key aspects of the four essential questions in others.  Admittedly, the administrators did not know what to tell them.  So… we began to search.

 The administrators and staff began to dig deeper into norms and protocols.  We began to experiment with time limits on our agendas.  We became more agenda-focused.  But something was missing.

  Madison County Schools had laid out professional learning for our guiding coalition on a yearly basis. Our year two focus was PLCs at Work: RTI.  We realized that OCRS was not utilizing the guiding coalition as intended. A second realization was that unit planning and implementation encapsulated the essential work and rigor for teams better than anything we had been exposed to.  OCRS had to better utilize the Guiding Coalition and make the essential work of the collaborative teams clearer. 

  The instructional coach and assistant principal were charged with finding a way to train teams on how to unit plan and focus on the essential questions more strategically, timely, and uniformly. They found Maria Nielsen and the 15-Day Challenge.  They went to South Carolina and came back on fire to teach and share with the guiding coalition.  We wanted to bring Mrs. Nielsento OCRS but we could not match our schedules for her availability.  We were disappointed but were excited about our newfound path.  Then Covid hit.

  Covid was an obstacle, but… it actually freed up Mrs. Nielsen’s schedule.  We trained virtually with Maria the first two days of summer 2019.  While our journey would be hindered, we were still on the path to creating high-quality units in the fashion of the 15-Day Challenge. Collaborative teams began the process of unit planning and it was realized that more TIME was needed to kick start the process. We were able to provide four stipend days for grade-level teachers to unit plan that summer and the summers to come. For two years, Maria made follow-up visits to help us refine our craft.  The guiding coalition and administration were strategic on the implementation during Covid, but we made the decision to keep learning by doing.  Many great units have been created at OCRS both before and after the 15-Day Challenge training, but it has provided a framework to base collaborative time around.  Our past assistant principal was named the principal in a fellow county school allowing our new and current assistant principal to come to OCRS.  She was trained in the 15-Day Challenge process and immediately began to pull from her coaching background.  We were able to provide subs for a few days when Covid numbers were low and she was able to work with teams through the 15-Day Challenge throughout the school year.  Recently, our guiding coalition chose to slightly alter the 15 Day Challenge method of collecting units and essential collaborative data.  Led by our assistant principal and guiding coalition, we have created an OCRS PLC Hub that will house our data collection, horizontal planning, vertical planning, and unit data going forward. The hub is an effort to make it more user-friendly for collaborative teams and administration. The main goal for creating the unit plans is to ultimately improve our service to our children.  We track student mastery of our essential standards.  Students that do not master essential standards receive TIER II until they do. We adhere to the TIERED instruction framework at OCRS.  The unit planning process requires teachers to plan out their unit interventions and extensions before they execute the unit.  

  During the pandemic, due to space, we transitioned from a pre-k through sixth grade to a pre-k through fourth-grade configuration.  This was a difficult transition for the culture of our school.  We lost two grades but in regards to students at the end of the school year in 2021, we had three groups leaving our building.  Our school also lost four veteran and respected teachers in the transition.  Staff emotions ran high.  While this was difficult, the collaborative culture enabled by the PLC framework allowed us to pour ourselves into our work. With that noted, nothing can eliminate the separation of respected colleagues and friends on top of an early transition for over one hundred students.  Owens Cross Roads owes a tremendous amount of gratitude to the staff that we lost for their commitment to the PLC collaborative process.   Despite a planned exit during the implementation, they were a big part of our PLC transition. The following year, for data during OCRS’s last year as a Pre-k-Sixth grade school, we were recognized as a High Flyer School by al.com. Al.com's education research team searched for schools beating the odds.  To achieve this recognition, a school had to outperform peer schools despite some research-based barriers.  To qualify, a school had to have forty-eight percent or more free or reduced lunch and have low local funding.  They also had to outperform the state average on our summative assessment by one hundred twenty percent or more in Reading and Math.  The state-recognized forty-three schools out of the several hundred that were eligible.  We were one of the forty-three schools and outperformed the state average by well over one hundred and twenty percent in Reading and Math. This was an affirmation that we were on the right path.  In 2020-21, despite being top three in free-reduced lunch numbers in our school system of 27 schools, we were above county average in every grade level in Reading.  We were also significantly above county average in Math on the summative assessment.  In 2019, OCRS was one of only two schools in the nation to achieve the Blue Ribbon Lighthouse Award for the third time.  Again, this provided more evidence that we were on the right path.  For early efforts during the PLC process, the principal on behalf of the efforts of OCRS staff and students accepted the Madison County Rookie Principal of the Year.   Also during this process, Ms. Davina Mann made the final four of Madison County Teacher of the Year in 2018 and Mrs. Deanna Spencer won Madison County Teacher of the year in 2019!  Mrs. Eunice Stone won the STAR Alabama Pre-K Teacher of the Year Award in 2019.   Our school was selected in 2018 to be a part of cohort 1 along the professional development journey because we had taken some key steps to starting the PLC journey early.  Madison County is one of the highest-performing large school systems in the state. Our system has seventeen elementary schools and hundreds of elementary teachers plus thousands of elementary students.  

  As we have moved through this process and stretched beyond COVID, it has become essential for us as a school to expand beyond just academics for our focused collaboration.  Character and positive behavior traits must be taught in a systematic method.  This past school year, we began to award principal pride recognition for positive behavior.  Hundreds of students have received positive behavior referrals this year while we had only seven suspensions.  Collaboratively, led by our assistant principal, our guiding coalition worked on a character behavior matrix that we plan to implement fully in the 22-23 school year.  Next year, we will teach our students to Be Safe, Be On-Task, Be Accountable and Be Respectful in key areas of our school.   Our Social-Emotional Learning Team, an offshoot of the guiding coalition, will spearhead our work to help our students SOAR no matter the setting.  We see the need for more involvement from our students in regard to our Guiding Coalition.  This year we began to involve our Leading Eagles in some of our end-of-year planning.  We look to have them more involved in our SEL team and guiding coalition next year.

  Recently, our data has been trending up in a major way.  Using our state assessment  (ACAP) for grades two through four, in math we saw an average increase of eighteen percentage points.  In English Language Arts, we saw an average increase of four percentage points.  For Science, we only test grade four.  We saw a whopping increase of twenty-seven percentage points.  In STAR Reading and Math, we have seen large increases as well.  In Star Reading, we grew eleven percentage points from the previous year and were seven and a half percentage points above the county average.  In Star Math, we grew ten percentage points over the previous year and were ten and one-half percentage points above the county average.  Our system has adopted mClass for our kindergarten through the third-grade universal reading screener.  The two years prior to starting our PLC journey, sixty-eight and sixty-nine percent of our students were able to reach the benchmark on the assessments at the end of the year.  Immediately after we started the process we saw positive results.  At the end of the year 2018, seventy-eight percent of our students were able to reach the benchmark.  In 2019, at the end of the year, eighty-eight percent of our students were able to reach the benchmark.  We were not able to assess in 2020, but in 2021 were able to reach the seventy-eight percent benchmark.  This year, we are back up to eighty-six percent achieving the benchmark status.  We are striving for one hundred percent.  Our lower grades also use iReady to measure Math proficiency in grades k-3.  We were able to increase the percentage of students reaching the benchmark by nine percentage points over the previous year.  We were able to score above our system average by four percentage points.  Sixty-four percent of our students were able to reach the benchmark.  High Flyer schools will be announced no earlier than September, but we were able to again achieve the threshold al.com has set for high flyer status for the 20-21 school year.  We were one-hundred twenty-plus percent above the state average in ELA and Math.  To add to it, we were also one-hundred twenty-plus percent of the state average in Science!  For a deeper dive into our data, please review the attached data slide show.  In the school year of 2020-2021, we were able to achieve the elite honor of a High Flyer School, our data drastically improved in almost all areas that are measured no matter how you look at it.  We are not there yet but we are on the path.

  The future is bright.  Our staff and students have done so many noteworthy actions that it is impossible to include them all.  We are proud of our success and humbled by those students still missing the mark of high levels of learning.  We hold steadfast on the journey for high levels of learning, safety, and well-being for all. 

 
 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

 

In 2019 grade level teams began utilizing the REAL criteria to determine which standards are essential for students. After the work with Maria Nielsen, grade level teams were tasked with developing unit plans around these essential standards. Teams collaborate to work through this process, which includes identifying the standards, creating the assessments, pacing the instruction and assessments, as well as tier II intervention and extension.  


Teams utilize their collaborative time weekly in order to determine cfas, review student work and learning, and determine next steps for learners. Teams are encouraged to work within the four critical questions during their meetings. 


Across all grade levels teachers analyze standards and create learning targets. They create common assessments, they discuss student learning in relation to these assessments and standards. Classroom teachers provide tier II instruction as needed for students who have not mastered the standard or target. They discuss student learning and how to meet the instructional needs of students. 


Grade levels also track student mastery of essential standards. This allows teachers to monitor progress across the year, as well as allow for a team approach to student learning. 


At our quarterly data meeting, we utilize universal screener data in Reading and Math to light our path forward.  When things are going well, we stay the course.  When adjustments to instruction need to be made, we make adjustments.  The collaborative team meetings allow for more timely adjustments based on progress monitoring and common formative assessment data.


The following is input from each grade level collaborative team: 


Kindergarten: As a Kindergarten team, we use our unit planning to break down our standards and create a pacing guide as a road map of our curriculum. During our collaborative planning time, we create CFAs to administer, discuss student data, and adjust our instruction for the following week based on student mastery. 

 

First Grade: We monitor student learning through the teacher created CFAs and provide Tier II instruction to students as needed or who have not mastered the content standards. 


Second Grade: Our second grade team has created a pacing guide and units based on our essential standards. During our collaborative planning time we create common formative assessments, plan lessons, dig deeply into student data from the previous week’s cfa, and plan Tier 2 lessons to assist students who did not master the content.


Third grade: As a grade level team, we select the essential standards and unwrap them to create measurable learning targets. From there, we create our common assessments first and design our instruction around our assessments. We track student mastery and intervene when students have not met the mastery criteria for each learning target. 


Fourth grade: Fourth grade has a unit plan with essential standards. CFAs are created around these standards with learning targets. The learning targets are monitored during Tier 1 instruction and CFAs are given to see who has understanding. After the data is gathered from the CFAs, Tier 2 groups are created and tracked until mastery will occur. Summative Assessments are given at the end of a unit and data is tracked to see who has mastery. The Tier 2 instruction will continue into the next unit if students are still having a difficult time with the standards. STAR is also given in math and reading during the school year that allows us to track data to see where to help students grow. 

 

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

Across the school, we utilize the tiers of instruction. All students receive tier I instruction. As a school, we know that strong tier I instruction serves as a prevention for many students needing intervention. Teachers collaborate to strengthen their tier I instruction. 

 

Kindergarten is more of a prevention rather than intervention. We check to make sure our holes and gaps are filled before they occur. We use our DIBELS data, CFAs, and observation to reach students who need support in mastering standards, and provide extensions for those who have already mastered the standards. 

 

In first through third grade, if a student is below benchmark on the mClass reading assessment he/she is placed in a tier III Spire group. When students are proficient on the mClass assessment, the student comes out of the Spire group. We analyze this data and regroup at least three times per year. 

 

In first through fourth grades, students receive tier II intervention when they do not master a standard or learning target. These groups are fluid, and change as students demonstrate mastery of a given standard. This applies for reading and math standards. 

 

In the 2021-2022 school year, our master schedule allowed our PE teacher, PE aide, and STEM Aide to also serve as “Math Amigos”. In this role they spent time in K-4 classrooms supporting student learning in math. Some of the amigos provided tier II intervention, while in other classes  and other times, they provided extension opportunities. 

 

Grade level teams discuss student performance weekly and make adjustments to intervention groups regularly. We also have monthly Response to Intervention/Instruction meetings (MTSS/PST) where we discuss student progress in relation to math and reading standards and benchmarks. We also utilize this time to monitor progress of students who have Social and Emotional Learning needs. This is a time for a larger group of specialists to support the classroom teachers in determining next steps for student learning and success. 

 

—Additional Information from individual grade level teams.

 

First Grade:

We provide extensions for students who have mastered content standards - chapter books and AR tests above 1st grade level

 

Second Grade: We use SPIRE for Tier III intervention and teacher created lessons using the ARI model for Tier II lessons based on the specific interferences. Extensions  occur daily in Tier I small groups. Multisyllabic word reading, higher level text, writing extensions, and close reads are all provided based on student needs in Tier I small groups. Accelerated Reader has been an important tool for all second grade readers to thrive. Students read books on their independent level and choose their own books based on their preferences.

 

Third grade: Based off of quarterly data, we determine what each student needs. If their deficiencies are in the word recognition strand, we assess and place them in the appropriate SPIRE intervention group. For students who read accurately but do not meet their oral reading fluency goal we work with them in a fluency group. For students who benchmark and are above benchmark expectations, we extend them by placing them in a peer led literature circle or allow them to use Fast Forword which naturally differentiates what they need.  

 

Fourth Grade- Each week CFAS are given. When the data is collected a Tier 2 group is created that allows students extra support for the standard. Students are grouped according to the data and are given extra support during the day from the classroom teacher. Students who need Tier 3 instruction are given SPIRE daily. Fast Forward is also a resource used to help students with reading. Fast Forward tracks and lets students work at their own level. Fast Forward will increase the rigor and provide data needed to access mastery . We also use IXL for math. It allows students extra time to work on math skills. STAR data, from the instructional report,  for reading and math helps to know what standards the student(s) need more intervention and or extension.

 

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

The teams at OCR are high-performing teams. Each team has established norms which they revisit and revise at least yearly. They strive to form their agendas around the 4 critical questions. Teams collaboratively select essential standards, unwrap them to identify learning targets, and utilize the unit planning process, including creating the assessments before planning the instruction. They analyze the data, they discuss next steps for learners and whether the next instructional steps occur in tier I or tier II. They include the special education teachers,the media specialist, the stem aide and others in their planning. Each grade level tracks mastery of essential standards. They review this data and make adjustments as students become proficient. The teams at OCR are effective in their work because they continually utilize the teaching learning cycle. It is a never ending process of adult learning in order to maximize student learning. 

 

 

Input from grade level teams: 

 

Kindergarten: norms, prescriptive planning process, using data to create detailed targeted CFAs

 

First Grade: choose essential standards, unwrap standards, 15 day challenge, create learning targets, create unit assessments, CFAs, summatives, develop mastery tracking, continually track data, provide tiered instruction, alter as needed to meet student needs

 

Second Grade: Working as a collaborative team is vital to success.  We make it a priority to discuss student performance on cfas and student data from progress monitoring. We take time to discuss the causes of each interference and create a prescription for  individual students, then implement the plan, come back the next week and discuss the effectiveness of it. 

 

Third grade: We begin with coming to consensus as a team on the essential standards. From there we unpack the standards into measurable learning targets and create our end of unit assessments and common formative assessments around our learning targets. This allows for us to track mastery by target and make the appropriate next steps based on the data we obtain from the assessments. We use our weekly interdependent team meetings to discuss next steps for student learning, whether to intervene or extend students accordingly. By keeping our meetings centered around data, we can have vulnerable conversations about our instruction and learn from one another’s strengths. This also keeps our meetings hyperfocused on our controllables in respect to student learning. 

 

Fourth grade: During PLC meetings the team discusses what standards have been worked on during the week and brings CFAs to the meeting to look at and discuss what students are meeting the standards. The students who are not meeting the standards are put into Tier 2 groups. These groups are also monitored during the week and discussed at the PLC meetings. Some students move out of Tier 2 and some are added to Tier 2 groups. They are changing weekly based on the data. 

The goal is for all students to achieve mastery in every fourth grade standard.

 

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

  Recently, our data has been trending up in a major way.  Using our state assessment  (ACAP) for grades two through four, in math we saw an average increase of eighteen percentage points.  In English Language Arts, we saw an average increase of four percentage points.  For Science, we only test grade four.  We saw a whopping increase of twenty-seven percentage points.  In STAR Reading and Math, we have seen large increases as well.  In Star Reading, we grew eleven percentage points from the previous year and were seven and a half percentage points above the county average.  In Star Math, we grew ten percentage points over the previous year and were ten and one-half percentage points above the county average.  Our system has adopted mClass for our kindergarten through the third-grade universal reading screener.  The two years prior to starting our PLC journey, sixty-eight and sixty-nine percent of our students were able to reach the benchmark on the assessments at the end of the year.  Immediately after we started the process we saw positive results.  At the end of the year 2018, seventy-eight percent of our students were able to reach the benchmark.  In 2019, at the end of the year, eighty-eight percent of our students were able to reach the benchmark.  We were not able to assess in 2020, but in 2021 were able to reach the seventy-eight percent benchmark.  This year, we are back up to eighty-six percent achieving the benchmark status.  We are striving for one hundred percent.  Our lower grades also use iReady to measure Math proficiency in grades k-3.  We were able to increase the percentage of students reaching the benchmark by nine percentage points over the previous year.  We were able to score above our system average by four percentage points.  Sixty-four percent of our students were able to reach the benchmark.  High Flyer schools will be announced no earlier than September, but we were able to again achieve the threshold al.com has set for high flyer status for the 20-21 school year.  We were one-hundred twenty-plus percent above the state average in ELA and Math.  To add to it, we were also one-hundred twenty-plus percent of the state average in Science!  For a deeper dive into our data, please review the attached data slide show.  In the school year of 2020-2021, we were able to achieve the elite honor of a High Flyer School, our data drastically improved in almost all areas that are measured no matter how you look at it.  We are not there yet but we are on the path.

  • Alabama High Flyer School for summative assessment from 2020-2021

  • One of only two in the nation for 2019 to be a 3 Time Blue Ribbon Winning School (present)

  • Only Alabama  AMSTI Pilot school for 2019-2022

  • STAR Alabama Pre-K teacher of the Year (Eunice Stone) 2019

  • Madison County Elementary Teacher of the Year (Deanna Spencer) 2020

  • Madison County Elementary Teacher of the Year Finalist 2019 (Davina Mann)

  • 21st Century Learning Community School (present)

  • Madison County Rookie Principal of the Year (2018)

  • Alabama Outdoor Classroom Site (present)

  • One of few free sites for Camp Invention.  Over the last five years, we have won approximately $90,000 to support a week long camp each summer.

  • Power Scholars Academy site since 2018.  We have won hundreds of thousands of dollars of grant money to attack summer learning loss.  Several field trips and activities such as swimming lessons are provided by our 5 to 6 week camp each summer.

  • Led Professional Development Sessions at the National Blue Ribbon Conference (2018)

  • Led Professional Development Sessions at the North Alabama Teaching Conference on Unit Planning (2022)

  • Principal Leadership Academy Graduate sponsored by the Schools Foundation

Add any supporting documents and additional documentation you’d like to include. Be sure to read page 7 for tips and make certain you refer to your uploaded documents in the narrative. In other words, don’t upload 8 documents that you have not mentioned in your PLC story. (images/files)

 

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