Union Street School

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

Beginning in 2015, we started building a shared understanding of and commitment to the professional learning community (PLC) process. This was initially via a district-wide PLC training from Solution Tree. Peter Noonan facilitated workshops for our administrative and leadership teams across the district to emphasize the “Big Rocks” of a PLC. At the building level, we developed an agenda, a template is included in the resources, that includes the main components of the PLC process and still includes those “Big Rocks” as well as norms so that we are consistently reminded that student learning drives our collaborative mission. 

Three of our collaborative teams are grade-level teams, consisting of teachers for that grade level, special educators, and Title 1 teachers. Our fourth collaborative team is the specials team (art, music, P.E., and library). The instructional coach is the leader for the third grade team, but also visits other teams and the principal, dean of students, and behavior interventionists also float among the various teams to offer support. Having the additional consistent, contributing special education, interventionist, and coaching members of our collaborative teams not only promotes inclusion, but these members also have ideas specific interventions and extensions to offer for all students. Each team meets twice a week for at least 45 minutes each meeting. The meetings center around student and teacher learning and growth through curriculum work, development of common assessments, and protocols for both change ideas and formative assessment cycles. While these are the designated collaborative meeting times, we continue our collaboration during common planning times, before and after school conversations, emails, and even passing hallway conversations.

The team leaders meet regularly (once a week during the school year) to keep each other informed and updated on grade level progress, as well as to continue working towards whole school improvement in student learning and growth. Our leaders also meet every summer to analyze school-wide and grade-level data, determine some “big ideas” for the year, and to develop agendas so teams can get to work as soon as school begins in the fall. We have been sure to include a representative specials teacher (the art teacher) and a special educator on the leadership team so that all voices and roles are represented. Having a special educator on the team also keeps us centered on the idea of inclusion and high expectations for all students.

As a whole school, we analyzed academic and social-emotional data three years ago, when our new principal began.  Based on our collective data study, we came up with two continuous improvement goals: one focused on math improvement and one based on the social-emotional needs of our students.  Next, we held root cause discussions:  why are we struggling in these particular areas?  Our root cause discussions allowed us then to create driver diagrams, visual representations of our continuous improvement process.  As a school, we continually refer back to our driver diagrams and add change ideas to implement in our classrooms.  Teams focus on math change ideas and integrate them in their classes by grade level.  For example, our 4th grade team decided to include more real-world, relevant math problems in their classrooms to see if that would have a positive impact on math achievement.  

Additionally, each week in team meetings (including the specials team), teachers use the same formative assessment protocol to group students according to level of proficiency on a common formative assessment. These common formative assessments are collaboratively developed and given to all students in that grade level. The formative assessment protocol is the same across all grades/subjects and is intended to list all students “by name and by need.”  In teams, teachers brainstorm interventions and extensions for students according to where they fall on the proficiency continuum. We are beginning to pre-plan these interventions and extensions to include in all curriculum maps. Our teams are becoming more skilled at rapid cycles of inquiry, following the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) model, to determine next steps in the classroom and then reflecting on the interventions and extensions to determine if they were effective in improving student learning.  

We have also developed backmapping, where each grade determines what is absolutely essential for the incoming students to know. This has helped us to select essential standards and build guaranteed and viable curriculum. In our leadership meetings, we discuss student learning and progress on these essential standards, as well as the rigorous expectations of SBAC testing, across all grade levels to determine if school-wide and/or grade-level adjustments need to be made. The use of curriculum maps with a consistent design allow everyone including grade-level teams, leaders, specialists, interventionists, and special educators to see our focus, where we are heading in our teaching, and allows for grade level teams to be more aligned and consistent.

 
 

 

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Several years ago, the district had K-12 and specials teams select coherent Power Standards (Ainsworth) across grade levels and content areas.  These power standards still exist and serve as a starting point when discussing essential standards.  As a school, we recognize that essential standards represent what all students should learn by the end of the school year.  Our leaders begin every fall by revisiting our essential standards as a reminder for teams and to make revisions where necessary, using backmapping and examining SBAC trends via sample test items and blueprints.  Our teachers recognize that teaching a standard is different from learning a standard, and our goal is guaranteed learning for all students, all essential standards.

Vertical alignment is established among team leaders, who represent all three grade levels, special education, and specials. Vertical alignment is further refined within grade level and specials teams, along with looking closer at SBAC blueprints and sample items to look for gaps and overlaps and ways that specials teachers can support the learning that is happening in the classroom. We also provide support on best practices in instruction (based on data reviews) through professional development, leader meetings, coaching, and team meetings.

These essential standards and learning targets are built into curriculum maps that were created by grade level and specials teams with the support of instructional coaches and consultants. They are regularly reviewed and revised to ensure that not only are they incorporating required and engaging content, but that they also focus on what all students can realistically learn in a school year. Allowing for interventions and extensions (including in the specials maps) to be sure that all students can access the curriculum. Common formative assessments are also built into the curriculum maps to monitor student learning. We follow a formative assessment protocol to determine whether or not students are learning the essential standards and whether or not adjustments in teaching need to be made.

Our grade level and specials teams meet twice weekly and have increased the amount of time devoted to looking at student work (common formative assessments), typically that is the primary focus of one agenda per week.  Last year, the principal developed a formative assessment protocol for analyzing the student work and for grouping students according to levels of proficiency. Prior to facilitating a common formative assessment, each team decides what assessment will be given for their grade/group of students, what learning target(s) it assesses, and what proficiency will look like. The students then take the common formative assessment, each class within a couple days of each other. Each classroom teacher then sorts their student by name and by need (listing out each student into a category of proficient, approaching proficient, and not yet proficient. The team compares these lists to look for trends: what were common errors/misconceptions? What were common strengths? If one class stands out with a higher level of proficiency, what was done differently in that group? The protocol concludes with a section for instructional next steps, so that there's a sense of immediacy for classroom implementation of specific interventions and extensions. Even though they are working across different content areas, the specials teachers have also developed and embedded formative assessments into their curriculum maps and also this formative assessment protocol collectively. They each follow national standards for their content area and while they have different standards, they are able to collaborate on instructional practices and reflect on student learning. Sharing out the data and collaborating on next steps has been beneficial for the specials teachers' practice and student learning.

Aside from common formative assessments, we are revising our school's assessment matrix, and will be shifting to the use of more accurate progress monitoring assessments.  For example: in literacy we will use DIBELS to progress monitor student vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Grade level and specials teams also develop change ideas based on the school wide data driver diagram. This is over a larger stretch of time than the formative assessment protocol (while the formative assessment analysis is done weekly with a rapid turn around, the change ideas are done over the span of a month to two months and are based on data collection that may or may not be the same as the formative assessments). Teachers also monitor student learning through informal observations, note taking, and other forms of informal data collection that are shared out.

 

 

 

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

As noted above, our common assessment protocol asks teachers to group students according to levels of proficiency on common formative assessments.  According to their level of proficiency, students then receive timely, specific interventions or extensions in the classroom and interventionists are able to lend their expertise with recommended interventions and extensions.  We have adjusted our master schedule to include common intervention blocks (the same time at each grade level) for both literacy and math.  These intervention blocks allow teachers and special educators to target the skills students need to reach proficiency and extension activities/projects for students who have reached proficiency.  We recognize that these groups should change from week to week due to the standard(s)/learning targets assessed. Particularly in ELA we have made a dynamic shift from guided reading groups based on benchmark assessments to small group instruction targeting specific skills based on formative assessments. We utilize progress monitoring to measure whether or not the interventions used have been effective or if they need to be adjusted.

Teams have preplanned and included some interventions and extensions for units in the ELA, math, and specials curriculum maps. The specials teachers have reflected that given their instructional time constraints, being intentional in the inclusion of intervention and extension strategies and activities in their curriculum maps is crucial. Additionally, district instructional coaches have created an online instructional playbook with research-based strategies that are already being used effectively in the district. These cover a variety of academic and behavioral targets and can be modified for use in any K-12 setting. There are technology integration modifications for each strategy as well and additional resources for teachers to find more research-based intervention and extension strategies. Specific intervention strategies for K-5 are included in the new assessment matrix for ELA as well. These are to target the five essential components of reading addressed in the Science of Reading (Phonemic Awareness, Phonics/Decoding, Fluency, Comprehension, and Vocabulary). Both the instructional playbook and the assessment matrix are new resources that are being rolled out and teams are beginnging to use them in their planning of interventions and extensions.

Outside of our grade level and specials teams, we have other teams in place to address student needs and provide more targeted interventions. We have a Child Study Team (CST) that is similar to our grade level teams in its structural makeup and frequency of meeting. We have included a flow chart that shows the relationship between all of our collaborative teams. If the grade level or specials team notices that a particular student is consistently not meeting proficiency and the selected interventions are not working, the child study team will look more closely at that student and his or her data, recommending more targeted interventions that are monitored. From there, we hope the more intensive interventions are effective and the student’s needs are met. If not, an educational plan is created for that student. 

 

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

Our leaders meet on a weekly basis, our grade level teams meet formally twice each week (though they typically also utilize common planning time to continue working together), and the focus is always on improved student learning. Although our commitment to the PLC process is relatively new, we've had the same leaders for a number of years.  This stability in leadership allows for consistency and coherence across the school.  There has been an intentional shift away from what is being taught to what learning is taking place; this drives our meetings and conversations. We have multiple levels of student learning data:  broad/universal data, progress monitoring data, and common formative assessment data. We consistently look at this data together and sort students by name and by need and then utilize pre-planned or other interventions and assessments to immediately target student learning needs. This data is also used to identify trends in students' learning and determine what is working and what is not. As mentioned previously, students are then progress monitored by the teacher/interventionist and that information is shared out with the grade level team. If a student is identified as continuing to not meet proficiency, the data for that student is then shared with another collaborative team that focuses on improved student learning: the Child Study Team. 

Our collaborative teams are primarily grouped by grade level plus an additional cross-content team of specials teachers, but the teams also work collaboratively amongst themselves. For example: the specialists noticed many students struggled with reading texts and producing writing in specials, so they reached out to the grade level teams to get a clearer picture of the reading/writing data for each grade. They then asked for specific scaffolding ideas to support students in the specials classrooms that struggled with reading and writing proficiency. Another example is in the backmapping that we do. When the third grade team struggled to find an effective intervention for students who needed more support in a math concept, they collaborated with the fourth grade leader for ideas that would not only address student needs in that moment, but also set them up for success in fourth grade. While specials teachers have different content standards, they work collaboratively on backmapping as well as ensure that each content area's curriculum maps are guaranteed and viable. They track data through formative assessments and dive into that data together, brainstorming interventions and extensions for students who need it. In some cases, this has lead to discovering patterns in learning and/or behavior that the team was able to address together.

Outside of structured meeting times, grade level teachers also have common planning time that has been intentionally built into the school-wide schedule. While it is a less structured time (no agendas), their learning and collaboration often continues here. It has helped to create an environment where teachers share ideas with each other and there is consistency across the grade. The team built curriculum maps also aid in this.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

The 2019-2020 school year was interuppted in February/March of 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our school, like most, shut down and went remote, meaning we did not have spring/end of year data and some classes had not finished the mid year data. Additionally, we had just started using the iReady assessment program and our data on that for the time period is limited. We have included what information we have for that school year, as well as both SBAC and iReady data for the prior three years and the two school years since.

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