Jean E. Stewart Elementary (2023)
- Number of Students: 824
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 12%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 2%
- Percent of Special Education: 11%
- White: 73.4%
- Black: 2.3%
- Hispanic: 19%
- Asian: 1%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.1%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 4.2%
- Other: 0%
Building a Shared Understanding and Commitment to the PLC at Work Process - Our Story
Stewart Elementary opened in 2013 with approximately 350 students. The community was growing rapidly and by 2016 the enrollment increased to approximately 850 students. It was at this time that the administration changed. In the spring of 2017, a Core team of teachers was established, and we decided it was time to review the vision and mission statements and develop a set of collective commitments. This was accomplished through a staff survey with carefully designed questions to determine how statements should be written.
When the 2017/2018 school year began, teachers received professional development about Professional Learning Communities (PLC). This staff development provided teachers with clarity regarding why we should function as a Professional Learning Community (PLC) and how the work would help us grow. Teachers began to develop a deeper understanding of the Professional Learning Community process and moved from just being interested in PLC’s to becoming committed to the work.
Our school district develops a scope and sequence based on state standards. During the 17/18 school year, our Core team met regularly to learn how to lead the PLC process for each team. We began with developing norms and agendas to help teams function collaboratively. Teams were developing plans; however, they were not always developed collaboratively. Each team administered common assessments that were generally developed by one or two people on the team. Teachers evaluated the results of common assessments, but intervention plans were not always discussed.
As we began the 2018/2019 school year, the staff was beginning to see how alignment allowed teams to be more collaborative and collaborate about the right things…student learning. We provided professional learning for all teachers and focused on improving instructional practices. Some teams on campus were embracing the four essential questions and utilized them to guide collaborative meetings. Other teams were collaborating but not necessarily always focused on the critical questions to guide decisions and planning.
During the 2019/2020 school year, our campus grew to a population of over 1,100 students. We were continuing to grow as a PLC and developed shared knowledge and mutual accountability. Because our campus had grown so much, the Core team decided it was time to re-evaluate our Collective Commitments. We collected feedback through surveys and used the responses to develop our current Collective Commitments.
Then in 2020, Covid hit. Our school shut down and before we knew it, we found ourselves in uncharted waters…online learning. I will say that everything we had done to develop strong, supportive teams with members who focused on learning, collaboration and results was what helped us began teaching online within a few days. The level of collaboration and mutual accountability allowed teams to work at high levels. Students were learning despite not being inside our building.
When students returned to school the following school year, we saw huge learning gaps in all grade levels and subject areas. In addition to facing learning gaps, our campus population grew, and our building was over capacity. Stress levels were high, and morale was taking a hit. Despite all this, our teacher teams continued the work and focused on student learning and closing gaps. Teachers were committed to the work.
During the 2021/2022 school year, our teams continued the work of ensuring a guaranteed and viable curriculum; they were laser focused on essential learning and established learning goals. Student learning was continually monitored, and systematic plans of interventions and extensions were implemented. That year, we closed learning gaps and saw huge gains in learning. We also saw an increase in our state assessment results. Our students made progress and our campus received an A rating and two Distinctions. We were able to do all this despite the challenges of a very challenging school year.
Here we are now, beginning the 2022/2023 school year. We are getting stronger, and teams are becoming interdependent. Our teachers have made the shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning. We have developed our own instructional model, systematic levels of intervention and instructional expectations. Our teacher teams collaborate daily and are laser focused on student learning. Teachers work to collaboratively create formative assessments and then design instruction to ensure students learn at high levels. Teachers develop SMART goals and regularly analyze results of formative assessments to determine if students have reached an agreed upon level of mastery. We have refined a schedule that allows for a system of intervention and enrichment every day where the focus is learning that teams have determined essential.
Facilitating a Culture of Continuous Improvement
All collaborative teams at Stewart are committed to sustaining a culture of continuous learning and improvement for students and adults on campus. This includes grade level, problem solving, core, team leaders, content, safety, and family involvement teams. Roles for each team are clearly defined, however, we are all focused on student learning. Team members believe that the best learning occurs when the collaboration is focused on students learning.
Our master schedule is developed around a common planning time for teams and intervention and enrichment times for students. We have also found creative ways for additional planning time. We have determined that Thursdays are “sacred” days. We made a commitment to reserve this time for collaborative meetings. We also take time out of professional learning days to allow grade level and department teams to create big picture plans, plan lessons through backwards design, develop assessments of learning and create systematic times to evaluate the formative assessments.
Our teams are committed to analyzing learning through frequent formative assessments throughout our units, semester, and year. They understand what it means to let the data drive the instruction. If it is determined that a standard must be retaught, teams follow a protocol of scripting the reteach, sparing ideas and taking turns practicing with feedback. Teachers are beginning to see how this process impacts their practice as they clarify what to teach, how they will assess, the level of expected mastery and how to improve the instruction in the classroom.
All staff members honor the campus collective commitments we have implemented. These commitments define our beliefs and the actions we take each day to ensure student learning. All our teams have developed and adhered to collaboratively created norms. The norms are reviewed regularly to determine if any adjustments need to be made. Team members understand that the norms define their collective beliefs of how team members behave and the expectations for effective collaborative meetings.
Stewart teachers are always searching for the best research-based teaching strategies to help students learn. Our teams are not stuck in a fixed mindset, rather a growth mindset. Teachers are results driven, and continuously adjust instruction as student data is analyzed and monitored through common formative assessments to measure growth.
We have worked the last five years to develop systems that drive our Professional Learning Community (PLC) process. Our teachers believe that the collaborative process has made a difference in student learning. Teachers have worked diligently to establish a culture of continuous improvement. They believe in collective accountability and work to ensure all students learn at higher levels. Teachers at Stewart believe in the work of PLC’s and continuously strive to improve processes as students change and times change. This is our culture, and it will continue to be vital for the students we serve.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Stewart’s Strategies to Monitor Student Learning:
Monitoring student learning on a timely basis is a priority at Stewart
Stewart is a campus that immerses itself in the professional learning community work of Rick DuFour. Stewart focuses and aligns itself during the planning process. We always address the PLC four guiding questions for essential student learning while incorporating a backward design model . As a fundamental campus that is committed to our students, we are consistently checking each student’s learning in a variety of ways in a timely manner.
A Stewart fundamental belief
Our staff believe we are doctors of educational best practices; not triage emergency room doctors. We believe in systematic, intentional, and purposeful progress monitoring of student learning before, during, and after each unit of instruction. We proactively disaggregate data at the end of a unit of instruction to assess, however our campus efficiently responds to student needs prior to the end of unit assessment. Stewart teachers and staff do not wait to conduct an “autopsy” of lack of student learning at the end of each unit.
How will we know if they learn it?
Stewart teachers believe in consistently monitoring student learning through frequent informal assessments. Informal assessments/exit tickets are created, aligned and shared across each grade level teacher. These are
administered to students regularly at the end of each block of instructional time. This is an informal way to track student learning while the unit is still in progress.
Throughout each academic block, teachers utilize different forms of informal assessments to continually monitor each student’s learning .
Technology questioning strategies: Kahoot, Plickers, Peardeck, Seesaw, Canvas
Observations and conversations
Questioning strategies across each instructional block
Formative Pre-Assessment and Formative End of Unit Assessment
Grade level teams create their pre-assessment and end of unit assessment at the beginning of each new unit.
Pre-assessments give each teacher a temperature check on what each student knows or does not know about each essential standard within the unit before the unit is even taught. This helps guide each teacher’s level of whole group and small group instruction.
End of unit assessments give us data on each student’s learning of each learning standard at the end of the unit. It provides prescriptive student information that guides teachers and staff on where to go next: re-teach, intervene, or extend.
How will we know if they learn it? Strategies the campus utilizes
Assessment Data Meetings
After an assessment has been administered, campus leaders and instructional support staff meet with each grade level to discuss where to go next: re-teach, intervene, or extend.
District Universal Screeners
Our campus administers universal screeners in the area of reading, writing, and math. These universal screeners track and monitor student learning, and help identify students who may need additional support.
Response to Intervention
Students who are below grade level are provided with intensive interventions and their learning and progress is monitored.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Creating & Implementing Systems of Intervention and Extension:
Stewart’s Strategic Plan to Address Individual Student Learning Needs
Teaching is not what it used to be. Any educator would agree with that statement, and if not, they might be in denial. Gone are the days where a teacher teaches a lesson, gives an assessment, hands back the test, and moves on to the next concept without looking back.
This all sounds lovely on paper, but how do we do it? How do we ensure each child's individual needs are being met swiftly and appropriately? It all goes back to teacher collaboration, a focus on learning and truly understanding that the "One Size Fits All" cliche does not work in education. When teachers come together to analyze student data and identify struggling students they quickly determine if a standard should be retaught or determine which students need intervention or extension. We adapt, change, and try something new until all students have shown mastery and growth.
Targeted, small group instruction is administered daily in classrooms across the campus and across content areas. For example in Reading, teachers use the Reading and Writing Workshop model. In math, we utilize the Guided Math instructional model. All of these practices lend themselves to small group instruction. RtI (Response to Intervention) is also in place at Stewart. Through ongoing progress monitoring, we ensure students are only in Rti for as long as it is working for them. The goal is to get these students back to Tier 1 instruction in the classroom, or referred for testing through our Multi-Tiered System of Supports collaborative meetings.
Our campus has implemented STANG time, (Supporting Thinking And Nourishing Growth), a 30 minute time period built into our master schedule. During this time, all new instruction stops. Grade level teams share students and provide intervention and individualized support or extensions for students who have already mastered standards. This system is proactive and multilayered. Flexible groups are ever changing and students receive the specific support they need from expert teachers in that standard. For teachers who might need a little inspiration in regards to what type of intervention/extension they should provide to a student, we offer a teacher created "Menu of Instructional Strategies" that lists various proven strategies (based on student data) that support learning. GT students utilize this time to extend their learning through a Texas Performance Standards Project. These projects provide students with opportunities for inquiry across multiple content areas. The project is aligned to our state standards and allows for creativity and connections to real world applications in an area that interests them.
Today, our job as educators is not done until all students have mastered essential standards. Stewart's recipe for learning is to adapt and implement innovative systems of intervention and extensions until all students have shown growth.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Stewart’s Collaborative Teams’
Collective Efforts to Improve Student Learning
Stewart Elementary is a proactive campus that is always pursuing student progress and growth. Our teachers work together to provide high-quality, effective instruction (Tier 1 best practices) that is consistent throughout every single grade level classroom. When a campus has a focus on student learning, a mind shift occurs. Our focus has shifted from not just teaching a great lesson, but to ensuring our students actually learned the content at expected levels.
As collaborative teams, we grow students academically, socially, and emotionally while also having an on-going focus on student learning. It is one thing to say we have a focus, and it is another to actually do the work. We start with the end in mind by asking ourselves, "What do we want students to know and be able to do?"
Collaborative teams meet daily to unpack essential standards, dig into student data to let it drive instruction and track student progress. We set SMART goals for each essential standard and monitor learning through formative assessments. Our campus instructional coaches and administration facilitate data meetings where we look at diagnostic assessment data to swiftly identify struggling students and provide support as needed in a timely manner.
Our campus has implemented STANG time, (Supporting Thinking And Nourishing Growth),a 30 minute time period where all new instruction stops, so teams can share students and provide intervention and support, along with extensions for every child. This system is proactive and multilayered. Flexible groups are ever changing and students receive the specific support they need from expert teachers in that standard.
Stewart is the quintessential "pilot school" for innovative instructional practices. A couple in particular that we have been implementing is the labsite model and instructional rounds. These models have proven to be highly effective for our teachers by providing opportunities for collegial conversations and authentic professional development.
Campus teams such as vertical alignment, team leader, core team and MTSS teams at Stewart continually work together to plan collaboratively with students in mind. These teams are driven by student data and make collaborative decisions that are hyperfocused on student growth and success.
This approach allows for the utmost quality and equity of student learning that we strive to achieve every single day. Being a PLC model school means not just having a focus, but actually doing the work.
Achievement Data Files
Stewart Elementary received an overall Accountability Rating of an A in 2022. This was based on Student achievement. Stewart also received an A rating for Student Academic growth and met 100% of indicators for Academics and Student Success. In addition to these ratings, Stewart received Distinctions in student progress in Mathematics and Post-Secondary Readiness.