Oak Ridge Elementary School (2022)

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

We began our PLC journey as a district in 2009. As a leadership team, we worked with various consultants to understand the big ideas and characteristics of a Professional Learning Community. Professional development and feedback of actual team meetings from Jack Baldermann and Jonathan Vander Els helped guide us toward having highly effective teams. As a leadership team, we also learned by reading Learning by Doing by Rick DuFour and Plan Book for PLCs at Work by Chris Jakicic and Kim Bailey. We met weekly to discuss the books, reflecting on how the big ideas and characteristics of a PLC were developing in our grade level teams and how we can be more effective with our teacher collaboration and development of interventions for students. In addition, we observed highly effective teams in other schools and reflected on how to improve with our own teams. 

Our previous learning and work helped us develop a yearly process that we currently use and continue to improve upon. Currently, at the beginning of each year, we discuss the big ideas of a Professional Learning Community - learning for all, collaboration, and a focus on results. We talk about how collective inquiry and action orientation will help us meet the needs of all of our students. We also discuss what our team collaboration meetings will look like, continually looking at fresh data to create interventions for our students. Then we develop norms with each team to hold us accountable to positive teacher collaboration and high levels of student learning. We set SMART goals for each unit based on our essential standard(s) for that unit, which has been decided upon collaboratively by the teacher teams. Then during the course of each unit, we monitor student growth by bringing fresh data weekly, decide which students need more support or extension, determine the interventions or extensions our teacher teams will use, and decide what data they will bring back to ensure our interventions worked. As the year progresses, we work closely with our teams to build their capacity in being highly effective and collaborative teams. We support, coach, and celebrate their successes as a team to ensure their continued growth.

Building a culture of continuous improvement is the foundation of a successful professional learning community. One way Oak Ridge creates a culture of continuous improvement is through the master schedule that allows teachers and grade level specialists to have a daily common plan time. One of these common times is used to answer critical questions 1 and 2 (What do we want students to learn and how will we know they have learned it). Teams create clarity by reviewing necessary information (such as state/district summative assessments, state standards documents, and team planning templates) and set expectations for student mastery. The teams then determine how to assess student mastery through their team-created common formative assessments. Another team plan time is dedicated to critical questions 3 and 4 (what will we do for students who did not understand and those who have understood). Our teacher teams and administrators meet to discuss how students are performing on the essential standard(s) for the unit. We structure our weekly team meetings using the following process:

  • Before weekly meetings:  Team members review the student performance data from the common formative assessment. The results are broken down by student and learning target.

  • During weekly meetings: Team members learn from each other and the data. They share what worked and what gave students challenges during instruction. Then they identify which students did not understand and those that did and develop interventions for those targeted students.

  • After weekly meeting: Teachers utilize the strategies discussed during the weekly meeting and re-assess students on the individual learning target.

  • Next weekly meeting: Team members check in on the reteaching data, review progress toward their SMART goal, and celebrate any and all student growth.

Teams regularly meet to answer the four critical questions during scheduled times during the school day. However, it is extremely common to see teacher teams meeting outside of these times to ensure all students are getting the support they need as well as develop their own professional growth as educators. The teams truly embody being a Professional Learning Community by their continuous collaboration each and every day.

Another way Oak Ridge builds a culture of continuous improvement is through grade level data dives throughout the year. One such data dive occurs at the end of the first semester, which consists of local assessments as well as a referenced normed diagnostic assessment. This allows teachers to determine which students are meeting their expected growth and which are not, discuss trends in the data, and develop action steps for students for the upcoming semester, especially for those not meeting growth targets. This process has proven effective based on our student’s growth percentiles on the state assessment each year.


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Within our school district a viable and guaranteed curriculum is implemented by having a board approved curriculum cycle. The District 117 curriculum cycle includes the following stages:

  • Research;

  • Create a vision;

  • Develop or Pilot; and 

  • Implement with ongoing support.

Content specific committee members for each grade level meet during the school year to review, analyze, and modify the current curriculum to ensure it meets the needs of all of our students. Throughout the curriculum cycle, committee members learn about best practices and use the new learning to create units of study in ELA and Math that are rooted in the common core state standards and rigorous expectations. To establish a viable curriculum, we choose essential standards for each unit to ensure all students are receiving an equitable education. These essential standards are chosen based on the following criteria:

  • Endurance - Will this standard provide students with knowledge and skills that last over time?

  • Leverage - Will it provide knowledge and skills that are valuable in multiple disciplines?

  • Readiness - Will it provide students with knowledge and skills essential for success in the next grade or level of instruction?

  • External Exams - Is this important for national, state, college, and career exams?

In addition, local district summative assessments are created by the committee, which allows teachers to focus on fresh and relevant common data during our weekly data team meetings. 

Team members play an integral role in providing a guaranteed and viable curriculum at the school level. Collaborative team meetings offer teachers the necessary time to focus on critical questions 1 and 2 where teachers and specialists build understanding of the essential standards and the most effective strategies to teach these standards. They also take the diverse needs of students into consideration to promote one of the big ideas of a Professional Learning Community - learning for all. In addition, team-planned common formative assessments ensure curricular units are taught in a timely manner and ensure the essential standards can be learned in the time allotted.

Unit SMART goals, weekly formative assessments, and unit summative assessments are all used to monitor student learning on a timely basis. Collaboratively, teams develop SMART goals at the beginning of each unit based on the essential standard(s) chosen. Teams set their SMART goals based on the district/school goals of student proficiency and growth. They also set their goal based on baseline data of either a pretest or previous assessment data. Each week, teams review formative assessment data to continually monitor student progress towards the unit SMART goal.  During a weekly team meeting, teachers analyze data, student by student, learning target by learning target using disaggregated data spreadsheets, allowing teachers to design interventions based on specific student needs. Local summative assessments are then used as means to determine the teacher/students’ success on reaching the SMART goals. Monitoring our student’s learning on an ongoing basis has contributed largely to our students' results and success at Oak Ridge and statewide. Setting unit SMART goals and devising student interventions to give students not understanding more time and support has allowed our teams to reach their goals. Consequently, Oak Ridge students have shown tremendous growth and high proficiency on local and statewide assessments, performing in the top 10% of the state each year.

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

North Palos uses a multi-tiered system of support which allows students to receive interventions at their appropriate level. Our Tier 1 intervention aims at instruction within the classroom, focusing on essential standards and student data from our weekly team meeting time. Tier 2 intervention aims to fill specific student learning gaps focusing on grade level standards. Students do not miss tier 1 instruction to receive tier 2 instruction. These interventions are in addition to Tier 1 and may include Reading, Math, and English Learner Intervention, or our after school program known as ASSETs, in which students receive additional time and support on essential standards. Specialists who provide these interventions meet to analyze student performance data within the program to ensure students are learning and growing. In addition, teachers and administrators work to determine placement of current and newly eligible students in need of these services. The goal of these interventions is to ensure students meet the needs of the rigorous curriculum, and team members fluidly adjust placements according to student data. Tier 3 interventions are focused on identifying students who are in need of foundational skills. At Oak Ridge, we focus our efforts and resources on reading and language development through Reading Intervention in our youngest grade as well as English Learner intervention in all grades. For students who are in need of enrichment opportunities that extend beyond the classroom we offer an after school program called Learning Links. This program allows students to further develop their passions in math, science, art, technology, and physical development.

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

The administration creates a master schedule that allows for daily teacher common planning and collaboration. This enables teams to learn together, discussing what mastery looks like for our students, reviewing student progress on essential standards, and choosing effective strategies for student interventions. During a weekly team meeting, teachers review the disaggregated data which shows how students are performing in each classroom. If more students are meeting mastery levels in one classroom than another, teachers ask each other what they are doing to get more students to understand the learning target. Teachers are vulnerable with one another to share what is working and what is not. In addition to that, all collaborative teams and specialists have shared planning documents which they use to meet the needs of all of their students. The focus is on the learning target rather than activities to be taught. Formative assessment from a variety of sources is identified in their plans to ensure teachers are aware of how students are progressing toward the unit SMART goal. 

Other effective strategies teams have used to improve student learning include department level vertical articulation of student learning and effective strategies, team book studies (examples:  I Read It but I Don’t Get It by Cris Tovani for ELA and Principles to Action by National Council of Teachers of Mathematics for Math), 12 week plans where teams choose 3-4 weekly action steps to improve student learning, and quarterly collaboration meetings where teachers discuss student mastery on upcoming learning targets and effective strategies.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Oak Ridge is a school of about 700 students. Our demographics have consistently been about 70-75% white, 5-8% Black, and 12-13% Hispanic. We have about 35-40% English Learners, and 10-11% of students with disabilities. In addition, Oak Ridge has about 60% of students living in economic poverty. Typically schools with similar demographics do not have high performing student results. However, Oak Ridge is a different story. By fully embracing the big ideas and characteristics of the professional learning community and constantly referring to the four critical questions, we have been able to become an outlier on the statewide state assessment data scatter plot. Comparing Oak Ridge with other schools statewide, we are one of few schools with a large percentage of students living in economic poverty and still exhibiting high proficiency on the state assessment. On top of that, Oak Ridge has consistently performed in the top 10% of the state, receiving Exemplary status each year from the Illinois State Board of Education. Few schools have achieved this status with similar demographics, and we attribute the success of our students and staff to the core ideas and attributes of the professional learning community.

From 2017-2019, consistent growth was demonstrated in math and ELA. Grade levels and subject areas improved about 10% with 5th grade ELA increasing 20% on the state assessment. Student demographics (English Learners, Low Income, Students with IEPs/Disabilities) also increased in math and ELA from 2017-2019. Comparing statewide student performance data with Oak Ridge, Oak Ridge consistently performs higher in nearly all subjects and demographics each year than the state. While the pandemic lowered overall scores temporarily, 2022 data showed improved growth with some teams back to pre-pandemic student achievement levels. One team even surpassed its highest proficiency to date. With another year removed from the pandemic, Oak Ridge expects its student performance results not only continue to be in the top 10% of the state, but also be one of the top performing schools in our student demographics statewide.

An effective way Oak Ridge ensures this continued growth is through the use of team data tracking sheets consisting of summative and formative assessment data. In the beginning of the year, the data tracking sheet is created and shows the student results from the previous years summative assessments, which gives a baseline of the student's understanding coming into the grade level. Then as the year progresses, additional data is added to each student's row on the data tracking sheet, including results from district-level assessments, team unit assessments, classroom quizzes, common formative assessments, and recheck assessments. The data tracking sheet allows teams to easily see how each student is progressing, plan for interventions, and ensure growth throughout the year.

  • ISBE Exemplary School Status (top 10% of the state - consistently each year)

  • 2023 Niche Standout Elementary School in Illinois 

  • 2022 Math Bowl: Students placed in 6 out of 7 categories 

  • 2019-2020 Bilingual Education Award

  • Recognized by the Midwest PBIS Network in the following areas:

    • Tier 1 Teaming and Leadership

    • Tier 1 Learning Expectations

    • Tier 1 Teaching Behaviors

    • Tier 1 Acknowledgement Systems

  • Academic excellence award, 2008-2011

  • Academic improvement award, 2005