Orchard Farm SD Early Learning Center (2023)

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

The Orchard Farm School District Early Learning Center opened in the fall of 2016. Before that time, the district operated two preschool rooms in an elementary school.  Students requiring additional support through an IEP were served off-campus through a contractual agreement. The principal’s contract began on July 1, 2016, and she was tasked with ensuring the Early Learning Center was ready to open in August, fully staffed and ready to serve the district’s youngest learners with and without disabilities. In August 2016, we opened four classrooms.  Two rooms were tuition based and provided a full-day preschool experience, and the other two rooms provided a half-day experience (AM & PM), with 50% of the students supported through an IEP and 50% of the students without IEPS.  Since that time, we have grown significantly and now offer inclusive services to over 250 students by the end of the 2022-2023 school year.  We have 5 inclusive full-day preschool rooms and 8 half-day preschool classrooms (AM &PM) serving both students with and without developmental delays.

 At the same time, the district announced its Professional Learning Community initiative and committed time and resources to each school by partnering with the MO-EdPlus.  Staff and administrators attended a series of professional developments throughout the year and were assigned PLC coaches to support each school’s commitment to the process. Since most of our staff were new to the district, there was an energy and excitement about revamping how we, as early educators, viewed teaching and learning and developing a shared purpose among ourselves.  

The first task we worked on was developing our mission, vision, and collective commitments.  As a collaborative group, we took this very seriously and made sure to include all staff members, such as teachers, paraprofessionals, office staff, custodians, related service providers, our school nurse, and Parents as Teachers.  The entire process of carefully crafting, dialoguing, revising, debating, and then developing our shared purpose took close to an entire school year.  


The Orchard Farm, Early Learning Center, will guarantee a supportive, safe, and engaging environment in which all students learn at high levels.


The vision of the Orchard Farm Early Learning Center is to create an organization based on respect for all individuals regardless of abilities and/or financial capacity and to serve as a model for other preschool programs.

 Collective Commitments:

  • We are committed to fostering the social-emotional development of each child.

  • We are committed to providing excellent customer service to all of our families and community members.

  • We are committed to researching and implementing evidence-based instructional strategies in order to ensure student growth for each child.  

  • We are committed to a culture of staff collaboration in order to better support the development of every child and the continued growth of our staff.

During this time, we also began working through the initial stages of the PLC process, which included the following: developing and implementing processes throughout our entire school, such as systematic lesson plan design, an agreed-upon pacing guide, and norms and procedures for our professional learning teams.  We also worked hard to establish roles and responsibilities for all staff members, short and long-term goals, professional development opportunities, and data collection procedures. 

After the first year, our team was finally ready to dig into the standards and chose to begin the journey with mathematics.  As a collective team, we identified essential and supporting standards, worked to unwrap those standards, and developed common formative assessments to track student progress.  Additionally, we worked with EdPlus to revamp the “Mama Book” most elementary schools use within our region to coincide with our early childhood’s cyclical instructional pattern in the areas of math and ELA.   As we continued through this process, we developed Tier-1 Instructional Practices and used concrete, pictorial, and abstract learning strategies to create strategic lessons for our youngest learners. 

We worked with our local elementary schools to ensure we achieved vertical alignment with our standards and collaborated with kindergarten staff to develop an “ins and outs” chart to show what we wanted our students to know and be able to do before they left the Early Learning Center (ELC).  We also created a data committee to teach our teams how to review, reflect on, and analyze student data, which would drive our instructional practices. The team frequently met to review students' common formative assessment data (CFA’s) while developing Response-to-Intervention Programming based on each student’s needs.

By digging in and doing the work together, our team of teachers became accountable to each other and developed an enthusiasm for the teaching and learning process.  Seven years later, they continue to strengthen their practices to ensure a continuous culture of improvement. 

Each year our teams review and reconnect to the ELC’s mission, vision, and collective commitments.  We have worked diligently to determine if we truly are who we say we are by identifying strategies, supports, events, learning practices, and policies/procedures in each one of the categories.  This annual review and reflection of our mission and vision help guide our next steps as we continue to seek out ways to ensure all of our students learn at high levels.  Additionally, each year we review our essential/supporting standards, common formative assessments, data books, and in/out charts to determine if we need to make additional changes or increase the rigor of selected standards.  At one point, we determined, based on the data, that many of our students were picking up rote counting relatively quickly within the first trimester; therefore, as a collective group, we decided to change our common formative assessment from rote counting to expressively identifying all numbers from 0-10. Although our students did not meet this goal as quickly, we knew this was a higher-level skill that needed to be taught.

 Soon after we began our PLC journey, we developed a Leadership Team that met each week to develop weekly PLC agendas and planned for meaningful professional development opportunities throughout the year.  Our Leadership Team consisted of administration, regular education teachers, special education teachers, related services providers, school psychologists, a social worker, and office staff.  To ensure all staff became familiar with the Leadership Team and the many roles associated with the PLC process, all teaching staff and related service providers were rotated in on a monthly basis to ensure active participation and sustainability.  Once we had an established Leadership Team focused primarily on the PLC process, we began to branch out into many different areas to encourage learning for all.  For example, as a collective group, we spent two years learning about Developing Assessment Capable Learners through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Virtual Learning Platform and began working to implement student-identified goals in each classroom.  Each classroom developed student clubs, as well as created and taught student learning targets daily to our three to five years olds.  Rather than using “I can” statements, we chose to use “I am” learning statements, which is more developmentally appropriate and aligned with our cyclical learning process.  Each teacher also developed a “Focus Wall” within their classroom, which students reviewed daily.  Eventually, our three, four, and five-year-olds could verbalize what skills they were learning about each week, which was incredibly exciting for all of us as we began to see the fruits of our labor.  We also implemented data binders, data weeks, and learning walks for our teachers and paraprofessionals and began to create our own professional development rotations. During these rotations, we taught progressions of skills, response to intervention strategies, Tier-1 instructional strategies, and lessons in the area of mathematics, phonological awareness, writing, and social skills development.  After each professional development opportunity, our principal would observe classrooms to ensure new strategies were being implemented and would provide support/feedback when needed. Additionally, our team created weekly child chats in which a multi-disciplinary team worked collaboratively to develop specialized programming and social-emotional support for those students who continued to struggle.

This school year, we have focused much of our efforts on the area of social-emotional development. We have worked to identify our essential and supporting standards, and we are in the process of unwrapping those standards.  Incredible dialogue has occurred regarding measures to pinpoint student growth and the tools needed for each child to be successful.  Our center uses a variety of resources such as Second Step, Zones of Regulation, and Trauma-Informed Responses to effectively teach and model pro-social behaviors and provide students with replacement/calming strategies to ensure a successful school day.  As a team, we understand how difficult it is for our students to learn if they are stressed, anxious, or dysregulated; therefore, as a collective group, we felt it was crucial to add social-emotional skills to our PLC work. 

For the last seven years, we have strived continually to improve our practices associated with teaching and learning, and we have worked as a collective group to develop systematic PLC practices throughout our building. Although the work is always evolving, we continually review, revise, and rethink our programming. We have worked through Mathematics and English Language Arts, and this year, we began our journey working with the Missouri Early Learning Standards in the area of Social-Emotional Development. 


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

The Orchard Farm Early Learning Center’s curriculum is driven by the Missouri Early Learning Standards.  In order to develop a shared understanding between all team members, we took the time to identify priority and supporting standards in each area.  By unwrapping each standard as a team, we were able to gain a deeper understanding of the foundational skills necessary for students to achieve proficiency in each area.  We identified pre-requisite skills, as well as extensions for those students who achieved mastery. Focusing on the skills necessary to achieve proficiency in each area gave us a better understanding of what our students needed to know and be able to do to master the skills presented. Based on what we had learned, we were able to target the skills that needed to be taught during Tier-1 instruction as well as develop lessons that truly aligned with the standards and the progression of skills we had detailed in our proficiency scales.  Additionally, we developed common formative assessments and continually calibrated our assessments as needed to ensure consistency throughout the building. We also spent time aligning activities to the concrete, pictorial model to ensure teachers truly understood how and when skills should be taught sequentially.

 The OFSD Early Learning Center monitors student learning continuously to ensure all students are learning at high levels.  Each teacher has a data binder detailing the skills each student is working towards based on their age level and skill development.  Data collection weeks have been established at the building level, and teachers, as well as paraprofessionals, collect and record student data.  The ELC also utilizes the “Mama Book” and records students' progress initially at baseline and then on a trimester basis.  The “Mama Book” has been designed to automatically place students in the following categories: Intervention, Far to Go, Close, and Proficient. Although this workbook is a wonderful tool, our teams also use their data binders to create Response-to-Intervention groups and develop individualized programming

The ELC has created a data committee that has been tasked to ensure authentic reflection and focus occur during our PLC meetings as it relates to student data.  Reflection sheets have been created for each class, and the committee has worked with each teacher to gain a better understanding of their student’s data and the necessary steps to improve teaching and learning. Additionally, teams work together to identify students’ strengths and areas of improvement and work together to develop engaging activities to present during each classroom’s established RTI schedule.  The ELC developed and continues to modify RTI programming for our youngest learners.  The ELC does not have an established RTI schedule; however, each teacher must identify when RTI will occur in their classroom. For example, many teachers prefer to structure their RTI activities during arrival, which allows thirty minutes for the teacher and/or the teacher assistant to work with small groups of students or work with them on an individual basis. Presented activities range from 2-8 minutes based on the child’s ability level and/or endurance, and activities have been developed to be fun and engaging to keep students’ attention. 

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

As an early childhood center, one of the most important foundational skills for our students is the ability to gain learning-how-to-learn-skills.  Initially, our teachers and therapists spend a great deal of time teaching students how to successfully sit and attend to a speaker, follow multi-step directions, understand the concept of contingencies and learn to follow a schedule/join a group to receive instruction. These basic skills are taught and practiced continually, and as our students become more successful in navigating a classroom environment, our team begins to add more depth and rigor to the day. As our students demonstrate these basic learning skills, we can begin to transition them to more academically-focused goals.  

The ELC’s Response-to-Intervention Framework allows teachers and paraprofessionals to provide specific, individualized, targeted instruction to support each student's growth and development. All of our staff are trained on how to provide response-to-intervention support and on how to collect and record data appropriately.  We continue to work together to develop strategies and activities to support our youngest learners in order to keep the learning interesting and play-based.  Additionally, we also provide extension activities for those students who have mastered our priority and supporting standards by moving to the next level or by introducing a more challenging application of the skill.  

An important part of monitoring student learning is providing timely and meaningful feedback to students. At the ELC, we have created student clubs, which is simply a goal each student is striving to achieve. For example, a student may be working towards expressively identifying 26 letters of the alphabet. As the student masters each letter, the child colors in all the letters they have learned on an individual tracking sheet. The tracking sheets are used in conjunction with specific teacher feedback and provide students a way to visually track their growth in a developmentally appropriate manner. This simple activity has been a great way to teach students about their own learning and how to identify and meet a goal. 

 Each classroom has numerous clubs, and teachers are careful to provide opportunities to ensure each student is celebrated for their individual achievements while working towards their next level of mastery.  For example, clubs can consist of a range of skills, such as identifying letters (expressively, receptively, matching) and letter sounds.  For students who achieved mastery of the above goals, enrichment clubs are introduced, which may include word families and sight words. All “clubs” are aligned to our progress notes, and once each student achieves their goal, a new one is developed. 

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

The Orchard Farm Early Learning Center is dedicated to building teacher capacity among all of the staff to improve overall outcomes for our students. Each year the teachers at the ELC review priority/supporting standards along with the hierarchy of skills and progression of learning established in our proficiency scales.  Additionally, we review our common formative assessments making changes as needed and review our pacing guide to revise any necessary changes as it relates to skill introduction. 

Although difficult to coordinate, we have successfully carved out time to implement Learning Walks for our teachers and our paraprofessionals to observe specific instructional strategies they may be struggling with. Additionally, we have recently introduced peer modeling and coaching to our teacher mentoring program. The introduction of the peer coaching model has been a positive addition and allows colleagues to learn and support each other. Seasoned teachers are able to model instruction and specific strategies in real-time, helping our new teachers develop a better understanding of how this level of support can work in their individual classrooms. 


At the ELC, our paraprofessionals are included in most of our professional development days.  Staff members volunteer to create professional development rotational sessions in which participants learn about a variety of topics.  These have included the following: Tier-1 instruction, Response-to Intervention Activities, Trauma Awareness and Support, Strategies for Low-Language Learners, Fine-Motor/Sensory Supports for the Classroom, Behavior Management Tricks and Techniques in an  Early Childhood Setting, and Communication Styles and Conflict Resolution. Additionally, all of our professional development rotations are videotaped and uploaded; therefore, staff has the opportunity to review them as needed.

 We also have a highly effective Leadership Team that meets regularly.  Building issues and solutions are discussed, as well as professional development needs and the next steps for PLC.  Although the Leadership Team is composed of various staff from a wide range of disciplines, the remainder of the building staff rotate into Leadership Team monthly. The rotation allows staff to learn the dynamics of the Leadership Team, participate in the dialogue, develop the PLC agenda and facilitate the next team meeting.  We have been rotating staff onto the Leadership Team for the last three years and have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from staff regarding their experience and increased confidence level. 

 As our informal motto is “growing leaders,” we decided to hire a consultant through Character Education to work with our entire staff on leadership skills, teamwork, communication, and conflict resolution. During our sessions, we practiced communication techniques, role-played through difficult situations, and built trust.  These sessions helped our team during PLC meetings.  Additionally, almost immediately, we noticed our younger staff stepping into more leadership roles and sharing their voices. As ELC staff members, we continue to seek ways to improve our craft, sharpen our skills, and become more effective team members in order to provide the highest level of instructional support to our students and their families.


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Assessment Data 


The ELC opened its doors in August 2016.  We knew our PLC journey was just beginning; however, we wanted to begin collecting and analyzing data as soon as possible.  Our small team of teachers decided to collect data on two goals that year based on the student's ages. For example, our goal for students transitioning to kindergarten the following year was to be able to identify 23/26 letters, while students with another year of preschool would be able to identify 13/26 letters.  Our goal in math was to have our students transitioning to kindergarten be able to rote count to 20, while our students with another year of preschool would be able to rote count to 10.  Our hope was that 80% of our students would meet this goal.  


Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, we had many discussions related to adding additional building-level goal areas, as well as incorporating a modified response-to-intervention program to support those students requiring additional support in the area of pre-academics, which was outside their IEP goals and objectives. As we moved through the year and continued our PLC journey, we noticed our students were making gains with the additional RtI support, and these gains only solidified our mission to continue to revamp data collection, data analysis, and the implementation of a PLC at the early childhood level. 


During the 2018-2019 school year, we also focused our time on ensuring students were making adequate growth throughout the year.  During this time, we focused heavily on calibrating our CFAs, developing developmentally appropriate activities to keep students engaged during RTI, and training new teachers on our PLC Practices.  We also spent the 2018-2019 school year working with EdPlus to modify the “mama book” so that we could use this tool within our own building.  The data shown for the 2018-2019 school year is student growth rather than goal met, which was another piece of data we analyzed during PLT meetings. 


We rolled out the “mama book” at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year and added a few more goals. We noticed our students were meeting the rote counting goal relatively quickly; therefore, we decided to add more rigor by adding a CFA on identifying numerals from 0-10. We also decided to add a CFA for identifying shapes. Our new data collection tool helped us to easily identify which students required what level of support.  This added component also paved the way for us to align our activities to each intervention group. As you can see, data was not collected in the 4th quarter due to covid; however, we did continue instruction virtually during that time. 


During the 20-21 school year, we decided we no longer needed to have a CFA in the area of rote counting and shapes, although we continued to collect and report on this data as it was part of our progress notes.  Teachers simply collected this data and kept it in their teacher binders.  During this school year, one of our classes was held virtually (Teacher 9).  Our virtual teacher was able to assess identifying numbers and letters virtually; however, she found it was too difficult to complete the writing CFA and Phonology CFA online. Additionally, we included our self-contained classroom (Teacher 8), and she collected data where appropriate.


At the beginning of the 21-22 school year, we felt fairly confident in our PLC Process and the decisions we had made as a collective group up to this point.  We created numerous activities, incorporated shared lesson plans, developed scaffolding lessons, and trained our paraprofessionals to provide instructional support and collect data.  One area we continued to work on was how to successfully track goals for our self-contained students, which also included our low-incident population. We also spent a great deal of time focusing on developing assessment-capable learners by working with students to choose appropriate goals and developing a protocol to provide teacher feedback in a meaningful and developmentally appropriate manner. 

ELC Awards

  • 2018-Missouri School Board Association: First Place Early Childhood Education Program in a Mid-Size School District Category

  • 2018-Dr. Kari Schriber-The Leading Edge School Administrator Award - “The Missing Piece” Adam Morgan Foundation

  • 2022-Cardinals Care: Champions for Character: Celebrating Excellence in Service Learning

  • 2022-State School of Character

  • 2022-National School of Character

  • Presentation: 2019-Missouri Collaborative Conference: ECSE: Kindergarten Transitioning 

  • Presentation: 2020-DEC (Division of Early Childhood) Presentations: PLC at the ELC

  • Presentation: 2021-DESE: DCI (District Continuous Improvement)

  • Presentation: 2022-St. Charles School District:  Building Blocks for Handwriting

  • Presentation: 2023-Conference of the Young Years: Food Explorers/Fantastic Four Foundations/Infants and Toddlers Learn By Moving

  • Community Partners with St. Louis Food Bank

  • Community Partners with St. Louis Diaper Bank

  • Community Partners with True Life Community Church: Loads of Love

  • Community Partners with Parents as Teachers (National Center)