Clinton Elementary (2023)

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


Clinton Elementary School (CES) serves students and families in a rural area of north central Arkansas. Currently 70% of students are reported as low income, nd the entire school receives free lunches through the Community Eligibility Program based on families in the district who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.  Both Clinton Elementary and the surrounding communities are predominantly white with a very high level of poverty. As a result of the poverty, 22% of our students are identified as homeless and/or live with relatives. This unique situation provides a great challenge in educating these students but we realize we must do everything we can to break the cycle for these students. Their circumstances do not define their ability to learn at high levels. 

Despite barriers of high poverty, staff at CES strive to meet students’ needs. Breakfast and afternoon snacks of fresh fruits or vegetables are provided to each student daily. A clothes closet is maintained by volunteers. Transportation to doctor appointments is provided as needed. Before and after-school programs provide extra-curricular activities and extensions. Methodist Counseling provides school-based mental health on campus. Addressing hurdles in physical, emotional, and social skills are priorities to ensure students grow academically. 

After the first year of the PLC journey on our own, it was apparent staff did not understand the “why” behind the changes that the administration was pushing on them.  Back to school sessions with staff focused on activities to establish why the work was so important. Staff members started the year by bringing a picture of the kid that meant the most to them. They were guided through activities each time with questions being asked, “Is it good enough for them?” in reference to the picture they brought in. Once the change became personal, the staff was ready to start making changes to ensure we had a guaranteed and viable curriculum across CES. That first year kicked off with the motto  “Celebrating Every Success.” CES started recognizing students and staff members at monthly pep assemblies, also daily in the hallway with shout outs which the counselor shares in morning announcements. Positive office referrals from teachers acknowledge academics and good deeds with a parent call and social media post. The culture began to change as our “WHY” began to take hold.

PLC teams at CES began deeper conversations around standards to determine the guaranteed and viable curriculum by deciding which ones met the criteria of endurance, leverage, and readiness. To help establish time for the collaboration, district principals approached the school board with a presentation on the importance of Professional Learning Communities in our schools. Districtwide, 83% of staff wanted the early release time. The one-hour early release each week was approved to allow teachers dedicated time to answer the four guiding questions in the PLC process. In addition to the one hour of early release time, teachers have 45 minutes of common planning time each day for collaboration. Teams must have a pre planned agenda that focuses on the 4 guiding questions of a PLC and teams hold each other accountable to staying on topic based on their team established norms.  New teachers are supported more than they have ever been in our district through this model. Team members are encouraged and supported to visit other classrooms and learn new instructional strategies.

Despite early efforts of implementation, CES had to revisit our mission, vision, and core beliefs as it had only been developed previously for compliance. As a school, we got clear on our mission of “Ensuring high levels of learning for ALL.” Through our Core Beliefs we began to hold each other accountable for making decisions that reflected our mission. Decisions became student focused rather than based on adult convenience. Our staff began to really live the practice of OUR students rather than MY students. A shift in culture began as everyone considered teaching versus learning. The implementation of identifying essential standards had started but became more clear in the first year. We began unpacking the essential standards into learning targets and intervening with students on specific targets.  The process of completing common formative assessments started, but we soon realized that until the learning targets were determined, it was difficult to create a good assessment that measured what students needed to know. 

The previously established leadership team moved from the sole purpose of sharing information to including others in being a part in making decisions and leading the work of the building. The Guiding Coalition meets at least every two weeks and team members have become comfortable sharing practices and strategies with other teachers across the building. Data sharing is a common practice within the guiding coalition. We built leadership not only in the guiding coalition but also within the teams. 

When CES felt like the process was well underway, Covid hit and it became obvious that the essential standards must be revised every year. Cultural shifts continued as everyone considered teaching versus learning. A shift from standard grading practices to standards-based reporting took place in K-2nd, then on to 3-5 grades. The use of assessment data has shifted from compliance to action as CES learned how to interpret the data and provide interventions for each standard. The need to provide additional time and support resulted in the creation of a schedule with a common time for intervention, protected instruction times, and shared planning for each grade level daily.

Data showed our special education population wasn’t growing in achievement as compared to regular education peers. CES implemented initial inclusion practices in Grades 4 and 5, and expanded to include all grade levels this year. We continue to examine the needs for our resource students receiving special education services and are truly making individualized education plans based on individual needs. Decisions are based student by student rather than by historical practices. 

An SEL team looks at data weekly to consider needs and improvements, mentoring schedules, and resources. A reset form was added to the discipline forms  this year to support struggling students in a way that increases relationships and reduces loss of instruction time, with the intention of reducing discipline overall. 

CES has evolved in how it faces obstacles and proceeds to pursue excellence collaboratively for students and staff by applying processes learned from the Professional Learning Communities, but realizes the work is never done. We are  facilitating a culture of continuous improvement by constantly reflecting on our data and making adjustments to our lessons, unit plans and practices based on student need. Many teachers have enrolled in graduate level programs to obtain special education certification to be able to better support resource students and ensure success with our inclusion model. 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

CES had to begin with the first question of the PLC process, “what do we want students to know?” to create a guaranteed and viable curriculum. We began this task by working with teams in selecting the essential standards for each grade level. Staff members were trained in how to identify essential standards based on the criteria of endurance, leverage and readiness for the next grade level. Teams selected essential standards for math and literacy. After the initial selection, vertical teams met to make sure there was alignment from one grade to the next.  The essential standards were unpacked and broken down into learning targets and learning progressions. 

After the essential standards were determined, teams paced them across a 36 week instructional calendar to make sure that every student had access to our guaranteed and viable curriculum. Once pacing was established, teams began the work of unit planning, beginning the process with the end in mind for the essential standards. As part of the backward planning process, teams created common formative assessments that could drive instruction along the way. In addition, teams refined their previously-designed summative assessments to make sure they were aligned to the end in mind. Teams are continuously refining their units and assessments as they continue to learn.

As teams teach units with the essential standards, they administer their team developed CFAs at agreed upon times. They meet to grade the assessments and determine which students need more support and which students need extensions. Teams grade student work together to calibrate their grading and have conversations about instructional practices. The results of the CFAs determine next instructional steps for the teams. The scores from each team assessment is recorded in a common grade level gradebook. The teams specifically chart by student how they are attaining the essential skills and concepts for each unit. The team groups students needing additional support based on their needs and provides the support during Tier 2 instructional time. Students are provided additional instruction by the most qualified teacher and re-assessed until they show mastery on the standard. Teams have an essential standards electronic tracker that allows us to see student achievement across the year. 

Teams set overall unit SMART goals as well as individual student goals around the standards. Students are aware of their learning targets and know what proficiency looks like to master each standard. Students track their progress toward mastering the standard. The culture of the school has shifted to ensuring learning and students know that mistakes are accepted and expected in the learning process.

Our universal screener, the iReady diagnostic assessment, is administered beginning, middle, and end of year to track growth of students in math and literacy. Foundational literacy skills are monitored with DIBELS literacy probes at the beginning, middle and end of year. These benchmark/screeners are used to monitor learning of all students, and identify any student demonstrating significant gaps and needing intensive support (i.e., Tier 3). 

iReady data is tracked on a school-wide data wall in our collaboration room. Teams literally move student pictures to the different grade bands when students grow in their achievement levels. Students not meeting the benchmarks are provided with targeted interventions in the low areas and progress monitored until they reach benchmark in the areas. Both the collaborative teams and the intervention team closely examine this data. Information from the various reports in iReady, along with other assessments, give teachers the data that they need to make decisions about whether students should be moved between the different RTI tiers.

As learning targets and standards are taught, student learning outcomes are measured both formatively and summatively using with team-designed Common Formative Assessments (CFAs) and end of unit assessments.  Teams have spent considerable time refining their assessments to ensure that they align with the essential standards, and the rigor and format required for success on the high stakes assessment (ACT-Aspire). Assessments are immediately graded by team members and data is entered into a shared spreadsheet. Teams use a protocol to analyze results and determine the next instructional steps. Students who need additional instruction to learn the skill are provided with additional time and support during our Buzz Time (Tier 2) daily. Following interventions, teachers can update the proficiency levels of their students on the essential standards tracker. 

By using common assessments, both formative and summative, teams have become much more clear about the expectations for their students’ learning and the alignment needed in their instruction. They have also identified trends in their grade level that point to their team’s professional learning needs. 






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

Prior to being involved in the PLC model, teachers were responsible for providing interventions in their classrooms whenever their schedule allowed. Our high-needs students were often sent to work with our least trained staff. This was most convenient for the adults at the time, with very little thought about the student missing the instruction occurring in the classroom while they were at intervention. Our practices have shifted to include structured intervention times that allow for Tier 2 and 3 interventions to occur around protected time so students are not missing Tier 1 instruction with identified essential standards. 

In the first year of PLC work, we designed a school wide Buzz time from 8-8:30 every morning where students could receive interventions in Tier 2 skills, and extensions for those that have already mastered the skills. All staff members were involved in Buzz Time working with students across the building. Students were grouped and instructed based on common formative assessment data scored by teachers. Every CES student participates, which reduces the stigma associated with needing more help where historically only “low” kids were pulled. The teams are responsible for determining the need and assigning the groups based on the identified essential standards. These groups are very fluid based on the changing needs of the students that is determined by common classroom assessments. Through this process, we began to see students as our students instead of “my students'' as they were assigned to various staff members who were all responsible for closing the gaps. Grade level teachers began to take ownership of high-needs students and ensured the most qualified staff members are providing the interventions. 

Moving into our second year, we decided to implement multiple, staggered Buzz Times so that we can utilize our most trained staff members across multiple grades. Through our staggered Buzz times, we are able to provide classrooms with push-in support services from our interventionists that allows students to get assistance during Tier 1 instruction.  Throughout the day, we also see some teams adding additional time for interventions and sharing students based on identified learning targets. The teams have become very proactive in addressing the learning instead of the teaching. 

Through the implementation of protected time in the master schedule, we are more focused on scheduling Tier 3 interventions and wrap around services at times that do not interfere with Tier 1 instruction. 

Our Tier 2 and 3 interventions focus on social and emotional needs as well as academic. Our RTI team identifies students who are struggling socially and emotionally to provide extra support. Our specials team, which consists of Art, Music, PE, Library and Computer teachers, sees every student in the building every week. They have led the behavioral interventions for our struggling students. They gather data and provide instruction across all grade levels during their activity classes to address student behaviors and poor social skills based on the data and input from teachers and counselors. They have also been providing 1-1 mentoring for students who are still struggling by providing specific support with information gathered on a Reset form. For students needing more support than we are able to provide, we have school based mental health services available for those needing more intensive Tier 3 support.  With the intentional focus on our PBIS model, we have seen a great decrease in student discipline issues. 

Although we have a lot of great systems in place to meet the needs of our students, our next steps will include a more intentional focus on extensions to make sure we are meeting the needs of our high achieving students.

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

An important step early on was seeking a one hour  early release time each week for collaboration to focus on the 4 guiding questions of a PLC, which the Clinton School board approved. Since then, the emphasis at CES to provide collaboration time shifted to the master schedule. A daily scheduled time for intervention, called BUZZ Time, allows all staff to collaborate on student needs based on data. Common daily planning periods for each grade level enables teachers to collaborate as a team, share resources, look at data, and problem solve frequently. The final piece of the puzzle for collaborative teams was protecting instruction time that places a focus on essential standards to ensure ALL students have access to the guaranteed and viable curriculum. Expectations were set to schedule support services such as therapy and counseling to take place outside the protected time. However, the time and effort resulted in strong collaboration practices across grade levels which streamlined meetings such as RtI and SEL. Data reviews are held during each activity block, throughout a day. The purpose of the Guiding Coalition shifted its purpose from sharing information to focus more on building capacity in instructional practices and making decisions that support our mission. It meets at least every two weeks to  share celebrations, data, instructional practices/resources and make decisions to move the building forward. The Guiding Coalition participates in multiple days of coaching on PLC and instructional practices that they take back and share at their team level. A data wall for math and reading is a visual reminder that all of these efforts contribute to student growth.  

New teachers to the district are provided with a mentor within their team to help new staff members learn the foundational pillars of the PLC process. New teachers as well as experienced teachers are encouraged to peer observe in other classes to learn new strategies. 

Team members are eager to hear about strategies from teammates that had better results meeting the learning goals of lessons. Teams share strategies and students, and also flip classrooms to let the more successful teacher teach the skills. Teams continuously revisit SMART goals and celebrate success with teams and students. Collaboratively, they reflect on needed change if goals aren’t met. 


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

We are still working to recover from the impact that COVID had on our achievement scores. However, our data has consistently shown us achieving above the state average on state mandated assessments. We have systems in place that are showing great improvements at the team level; such as reducing the number of tier 3 students at each grade and reducing the number of students that are identified as having characteristics of dyslexia. Our tier 1 instruction has become stronger which is decreasing the need for interventions at each grade level as teachers are tracking progress student by student on the essential standards.  There is a school wide Google document tracking all student’s performance on all essential standards that teams update regularly. Teams are taking action based on data and empowering students to monitor their own growth and progress in relation to the grade level standards.  

Teams have begun tracking data by cohorts as well as individual students to better gauge the effectiveness of instruction and make actionable decisions based on that data. This information is used to make adjustments to unit plans and future instruction. As we have enhanced our instructional practices, we have also worked to meet the social and emotional needs of our students. By focusing on Tier 1 behavioral strategies, we have significantly reduced office discipline referrals allowing students to remain in the classroom on task. 

While we are sustaining achievement above the state average, our staff continues to collaborate to ensure systems are in place to increase cohort achievement from one year to the next.


CES Awards/Recognition

  • Alternative Education Academic Achievement Award - January 2022 - awarded by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education based on student outcomes identified in the Alternative Education program

  • 2022 RISE School Award-Reading Initiative for Student Excellence

  • #24 in the NICHE Standout Elementary School in Arkansas

  • 2021 Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators- Arkansas Elementary School Principal of the Year-Clinton Elementary School Principal, April Hagans