Webster Middle School (2023)

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

The 2022-2023 school year marks my 11th year as principal of Webster Middle School. After several years of different district initiatives making limited impact, Webster Middle School embarked on the PLC at Work process in the summer of 2019. While student achievement has historically been strong, it was stagnant, particularly when it came to individual student growth. We needed to shift our emphasis on student learning outcomes rather than teaching content.

A Webster team composed of administrators, educational specialists and teachers attended the PLC at Work Institute in Minneapolis, MN in June of 2019. That was followed up by another team attending the RTI at Work institute in Madison, WI in December of 2019. Those who attended the sessions created and implemented professional development plans to help educate the staff at Webster on the tenets of the PLC process, particularly focused on the mission and vision of our school. This was an arduous task as it is nearly impossible to recreate the learning that takes place over a three day institute; however, the work completed then still drives our work today.

Throughout the fall of 2019, building administration, coaches, and teacher leaders led a collaborative process with the staff in the creation of our school mission and vision statements. All grade level and department teams incorporated these philosophies into their weekly planning meetings which resulted in a greater sense of school community and coherence around student learning.

Staff quickly realized that this was only the beginning of building a culture driven by student learning. Teachers and administrators engaged in school-wide professional development around identifying essential standards based on their endurance, leverage, and readiness. Teacher teams were coming together around standards, determining proficiency in those standards, and refocusing conversations on learning versus teaching. Teams worked as departments to ensure these appropriately spiraled throughout the grades.

As the pandemic forced us to go virtual in the spring of 2020, it ironically catapulted us toward a focus on superhero standards. This work was supported by our leadership team’s participation in the Solution Tree Virtual sessions on essential standards and carried us through the 2020-2021 hybrid school year. The impact of the work went beyond mitigating any student learning loss, rather we continued to increase student achievement in addition to growing our target group at a faster rate compared to national norms.

The focus on student mastery of essential standards created a ripple effect throughout the building that continues to anchor our work. Teachers began planning and creating units based around essential standards. This led to departments being able to effectively spiral curriculum ensuring a coherent 6-8 experience for students that is reflected upon each summer. Our current emphasis is on common formative assessments, reviewing assessment data and reflecting on teaching practices in order to ensure all students earn proficiency on essential standards. This has also led to regular reviews of our grading policies, standards of proficiency, and assessment rubrics.

Webster is now three and a half years into our PLC journey and our continuous improvement approach has resulted in a systematic process that is more streamlined, transparent, and reflective of student learning. Each summer we review data from the previous school year and make adjustments as needed to our essential standards. We continually make improvements to our quarterly universal screening meetings which guide intervention and extension groups as well as allow regular opportunities to reflect on student growth. Lastly, our staff routinely improves units of instruction and assessments that engage students in deeper levels of thinking which has led to increased student outcomes.

Staff are engaged, present, and are stewards of the PLC tenants which has led to improvements in student achievement, staff retention and school culture. It is evident that our improvements and results are a product of continuous learning and growing in the PLC model. Our state issued school report card has improved each of the last five years continually earning the highest rating possible. We are now the top scoring school in our district, we are the 4th highest achieving middle school in the state, and are the only middle school in Wisconsin in 2021-2022 to be recognized as a RTI Gold school in all content areas: reading, math and behavior. We are also the only middle school to earn this distinction in two consecutive years. Perhaps more importantly is that these PLC tenets and processes are ingrained in our school. Regardless of staff or administration turnover, we know that we have reached sustainability for our students, staff and community.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Cedarburg School District uses a 7-Year Curriculum Review Cycle to address all content areas and ensure that we are providing research-based instruction supported by data. Our district believes in having a guaranteed and viable curriculum that is transparent and easily accessible to students, parents, and community members. We utilize Canvas as our Learning Management system to highlight essential standards and map out the curricular scope and sequence of our courses. All grade level content areas are reviewed with regularity to maximize student learning.
Each summer, leadership teams review data from the Wisconsin Forward Exam and the previous years district-level assessment, i-Ready, to identify in which standards student performance was weakest. Curricular departments work together to update the upcoming year’s essential standards and create student learning objectives to measure student proficiency in the identified standards . In addition, curricular teams identify units in their scope and sequence that need to be updated to better address standards where student learning did not reflect mastery of those standards.
As the school year progresses, these curricular teams plan together each day to create a shared experience across classrooms and norm proficiency expectations for standards. On days where there are opportunities for professional development and building-wide collaboration, sixth through eighth grade teachers vertically review essential standards to ensure that proficiency and rigor appropriately spirals throughout the grades. Common formative and summative assessments are administered with regularity and data is reflected upon weekly which drives instructional changes in classes so all students reach proficiency on essential standards.

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

Webster has a comprehensive multi-tiered system of support for all learners. Core classes are 89 minutes long and meet every day. Science and Social Studies meet every day for a semester, while Math and Communication Arts classes are every day for the entire year. Math and Communication Arts classes contain “flex time” within the eighty nine minute period. Flex Time is a Tier 1 strategy to help all students reach proficiency on the content standards. Flex Time allows for small group and individualized support for students who need additional instruction. Similarly it is a time to provide extension activities for students who are already demonstrating proficiency on the learning standards. If Flex Time is not entirely meeting a student’s learning needs, we then utilize our PAW time. PAW time is a thirty minute block of time where students can receive Tier 2 support working with teachers on grade-level essential standards. We have core teachers available to assist small groups and individuals on essential standards across all content areas. Additionally, PAW time is used to deliver targeted Tier 3 interventions by content specialists to students who are missing key foundational skills in reading and math.
All of the aforementioned strategies flow through our comprehensive Universal Screening process. This collaborative process includes core teachers, special education teachers, student services personnel, instructional coaches and building administration where student learning is synthesized through a review of classroom assessments and standardized testing data to determine which students need additional support in reaching mastery of essential standards and which students need opportunities for extension if they’ve already mastered the content. This process identifies the students selected to receive additional Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 support across our system of services. Progress monitoring occurs when grade-level teachers in Communication Arts and Math work with small groups of students to review content at their level to help close gaps. This flexible process allows us to be both proactive and responsive, allowing us to add and remove students quickly to provide just in time support.
At the end of each school year, we make an action plan through our Universal Screening process with the goal of continuing individualized support right when the next school year begins. Teachers immediately begin Booster Groups with identified students to bolster their confidence through pre-teaching essential standards that are a focus for the first quarter of the school year. It is evident that starting Booster Groups before the district’s fall standardized testing is having a positive impact on student learning based on the reduction of students testing in the bottom 25% that would be identified as needing additional Tier 2 or Tier 3 support.

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

Webster’s school schedule was built with teacher collaboration time in mind in order to facilitate the PLC process. Each grade level department has ninety minutes of dedicated time each day to collaborate with fellow teachers and special education staff. Teams utilize this time to answer the four questions of a PLC. There is a focus on planning rigorous lessons that are highly engaging and responsive to student needs, the creation of common assessments, data review, and planning for students who have already mastered the content versus those who have not. Teachers engage in regular professional development focused on how to analyze student data and using data to determine areas for growth. Collectively teams work together to research, improve instruction, develop and improve common assessments, and maximize student engagement with the ultimate goal of improving student outcomes. Our grade level content meetings, grade level team meetings, and Universal Screening meetings all epitomize the collaborative efforts of all staff members working together to service all students.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

At the bottom of the school achievement data attachment, we have included the Wisconsin Forward results as reported out on our Wisconsin State School Report Card from 2012-2013 to 2021-2022. Schools and districts in Wisconsin are assessed in four priority areas: Student Achievement, Student Growth, Target Group Outcomes (lowest 25% in school, formally called Closing Gaps), and On-Track and Postsecondary Readiness. These results show an increase in Webster’s overall academic score by 8.5 points throughout the nine years, a remarkable increase despite external factors such as Covid and hybrid teaching.

Significant school growth started in 2018 and exponentially increased as we started the PLC journey in the summer of 2019. While Covid forced us to go remote in the spring of 2020, internally we assessed students in the fall and winter using NWEA MAP testing. As noted in the School Achievement Data, we saw growth from fall to winter in all areas except for 8th grade math where we saw a slight decline in the 2019-2020 school year. Our concerns were alleviated after a narrow focus on essential standards as students performed admirably on end of the year assessment via remote instruction. This was followed by a year of hybrid teaching and learning in the 2020-2021 school year. We held true to the tenets of the PLC process and continued our professional growth leading to our two highest state report card scores in Webster history while state averages declined.

Two categories we are particularly proud of are Student Growth and Target Group Outcomes. Student Growth saw a one year increase of 10.5 points which we attribute to our school wide focus on the growth of all students, particularly students of color, low socioeconomic status, and students with IEPS. Perhaps more notable is our 26.5 point increase from the 2018-2019 school year, which marked the beginning of our PLC process. It’s important to note that teacher teams made a focused effort throughout these years to analyze and respond to student growth data in addition to achievement data. This is vital in a school like ours where achievement for many students tends to trend high.

Target Group Outcomes focuses on our school’s bottom quartile, where again we increased our score in this category by 10.3 points in the span of our academic year. Since the 2016-2017 school year, we have improved our score in this category each year netting an increase of 34.5 points over the five years. In addition to improved PLC practices, we implemented school-wide strategies targeting student attendance in an effort to increase in-person learning. This helped us ensure that students were present and accessing essential standards at school in the post-Covid era.

This School Report Card data builds upon the attached required achievement data and allows for a more comprehensive reflection of the positive changes Webster has created as a result of implementing a continuous improvement process focused on Professional Learning Communities.

2021-2022 Wisconsin RTI Gold Rating in Behavior, Reading and Math. Only middle school in the state to receive the award this year. Only school in Wisconsin to earn this in two consecutive years.

2020-2021 Wissconsin RTI Gold Rating in Behavior, Reading and Math. One of four middle schools in the state to earn the award.

2019-2020 COVID No awards were given

2018-2019 Silver rating in Behavior and Reading. Bronze in Math.

2017-2018 Bronze rating in Behavior and Silver rating in Reading.

2016-2017 Silver rating in Behavior and Bronze rating in Reading.