White River Early Learning Center (2023)

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

At the White River Early Learning Center, every Monday morning begins with the gift of time for teachers and paraeducators to collaborate within Professional Learning Communities teams. Students arrive one hour late, giving teachers and paraeducators time to focus on improving their professional practice. Teachers, paraeducators, and administrators understand the importance of this gift, and nothing trumps collaboration.  

The White River Early Learning Center is in its fourth year, opening in the Fall of 2019.  Opening a new school brought together teachers and staff from across the district, allowing for the opportunity to serve our youngest students in preschool, developmental preschool, early kindergarten and kindergarten.  Staff came together to brainstorm, and share ideas regarding our goals for the students and building.  A mission statement was crafted for the ELC, including our beliefs for students, families and community.  Building a Foundation of Lifelong Learning:  Every Child.  Every Day is at the heart of everything we do.   Currently, the Early Learning Center has 13 sections of preschool, developmental preschool and early kindergarten as well as ten kindergarten classrooms, housing 375 students aged three through six.   

At the Early Learning Center, we work to bring our mission statement to life, as well as the district's core priorities.  Our school Learning Improvement Plan reflects our action plans related to each priority. These action plans were created with thoughtful input from the Early Learning Center leadership team and have been shared with all staff, families and the community.  The Early Learning Center staff believe in continuous improvement for themselves and every student.  Through our weekly Professional Learning Communities, team time and focused interventions based on skills, there is a commitment to a collaborative learning environment, where we all work together to improve our practice. There is a positive culture, focused on caring about each other, teamwork and effort that has been built and is continuously nurtured.  We are also building the courage to be vulnerable so we can inspire and learn from each other on a daily basis.  Our mission and growth mindset help us keep focus on learning and our “100% Goal” in Reading and Math.  Our goal of 90% of students meeting the Reading and Math end of year goal and the other 10% learning and making growth inside the standards is what keeps us focused on the right work. The 2021-2022 school year saw over 90% of our kindergarteners meeting the math goal.  90% of our kindergarteners ended the year reading fluently.

The Professional Learning Communities work at the Early Learning Center is grounded in this question: How can we ensure high levels of learning for every child?  To do this, our teachers concentrate on the four critical questions of a PLC and the work layered under the four critical questions:

  1. What do we expect students to learn?                           

Power standards, proficiency scales, learning targets, pacing, clarifying standards, what standards look like in student work,  instructional strategies and engagement, and rigor (Grade level and content standards and SEL)

  1. How will we know if they learn it?

Benchmark assessments, pre-assessment, common formative end-of-unit assessments, in-unit quick checks for understanding, interim assessments, and results analysis using the TACA process

  1. How do we respond when students experience difficulty in learning?

Differentiated Tier 1 instruction, teacher interventions connected to Tier 1 instruction, team interventions connected to Tier 1 instruction, and the RTI/MTSS process

  1. How do we respond when students do learn?

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Grade-level teams begin by identifying the essential standards that need to be taught and agree to a common pacing guide to help ensure a guaranteed and viable curriculum across all grade-level classes.

High-quality, solid Tier 1 instruction is the most critical component of student learning. Tier 1 instruction begins with grade-level teams building units of instruction across content areas based on essential standards.  

Each unit starts with an essential standard, proficiency scale, learning targets, and a pre-assessment to determine mastery of prerequisite skills. Each unit plan also contains several common formative assessments to determine student mastery.  This includes a formative end-of-unit assessment and small formative assessments to monitor student learning.  These assessments give teachers the data needed to give feedback to their students and make instructional decisions and additional time, support, and extensions. Teams respond promptly to the data in various ways, including re-teaching, small group intervention in the classroom, grade-level team intervention time, partner work, or individual time and support.  This data also gives the teachers and the team information regarding which instructional strategies and resources positively impact learning. 

Teachers continue to enhance their unit plans by reflecting upon the earlier unit. Reflections include instructional strategies that help teach a specific concept, interventions to aid in a particular skill, and formative assessments that lead to an understanding of student mastery. Moving forward, teachers have high-quality unit plans with proven success to support teachers when teaching that unit next year. This is especially effective when new teachers join a team, as a unit plan and a collaborative team is in place.

When the pandemic hit, we had to monitor student learning differently.  Teams collaborated to determine what student work would look like while at home. Teams narrowed and pruned the essential standards for their grade level that must be learned for students to be prepared for their next level of learning.  Teachers used a variety of modes to identify proficiency in student work including flipgrid, seesaw, small formative checks on zoom, and most importantly they sat down with kids one on one and asked them to show how they solved a problem or found an answer on zoom.  Then, teachers could give immediate feedback to support student learning.  While our instructional model during the pandemic looked different the expectation for students learning grade level standards remained the same.   


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

The multi-tiered system of support/Intervention at the Early Learning Center begins with the grade level team in the planning process for Tier 1 instruction. Teachers and teams are intentionally planning weekly for every student in their classrooms. The UDL (Universal Design for Learning) process is alive at the ELC. Teacher teams plan ahead for students with challenges engaging with grade-level power standards.  They purposefully discuss, record in Unit Plans and plan for activities that students can engage in actively.  Intervention is directly connected to Tier 1 instruction when a small group of students receives additional time and support from the classroom teacher on a specific skill.  The time and intensity in these intervention groups are highly fluid, as students may move through this quickly if they show growth. These groups are constantly changing based on formative assessments and progress monitoring.  

In addition, an intervention block is a part of our master schedule in ELA and math to provide every student with additional intervention or extension based on assessment data.  Teachers and administration meet in Response to Intervention teams every four-six weeks to review the weekly and bi-weekly data and make instructional decisions based on that data.  Using student data, teachers and paraeducators provide interventions.  The students with Tier 3 needs receive intervention in the smallest groups with our most qualified teachers.  Students at or above the benchmark receive support to extend their learning needs.  Again, these extensions are directly connected to level 4 on the proficiency scales. Intervention and extension time is never canceled and is taught with fidelity to maximize learning opportunities.

Students who fall far below the benchmark also receive a triple dip during the day.  These students are identified based on their data. This small group or individual intervention provides a re-teaching or pre-teaching of skills to help the student succeed in Tier 1 instruction.  This additional support is another way to support students and close the skill gaps. The collaborative team determines the time and intensity of support.

The pandemic, specifically distance learning, also provided challenges related to additional time, support, and extensions. However, our goal remained the same.  Teams still provided additional time and support for students based on formative assessment data.  Our intervention blocks stayed the same; they just moved to small group zoom meetings with teachers and paraeducators.  These small groups focused on the Tier 2 skills students needed to access and be successful with grade-level standards during Tier 1 instruction.  Teachers used collaboration time to plan the student interventions and then developed short formative assessments to track their growth in the intervention. Ultimately, the team worked to meet the SMART goal.


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

Building high-performing, collaborative teams is a critical component of the PLC process. This process begins with a late start Monday, where every grade level team (teachers and paraeducators) has time to work collaboratively.  This time is sacred!  No other meetings are scheduled during this time.  The work of a PLC takesprecedence.

Grade-level teams also have 22 hours of collaboration time built into their contract to work as a team.  Teachers use the time to continue their work as a collaborative team, typically focusing on unit planning connected to the essential standards, creating common formative assessments, and planning interventions/extensions to increase student learning.  In addition, all teams have common planning to ensure additional time to focus on the work of the team.  Teams meet every 6-8 weeks with TOSAs (Teachers in ELA and Math on Special Assignments) to improve their instructional practice. Examples of work during these PD sessions include unit planning, planning instructional rounds, developing formative assessments, and adjusting intervention plans. 

Another area to build capacity is by working with team leaders.  Each grade level has a team leader to guide the work of the PLC.  The team leaders make up the school leadership team. The team leader assists the team in establishing norms, and accountability protocols to maximize the effectiveness of the team.  Team leaders also meet monthly with the principal to focus on the school improvement process. In August team leaders receive training. During this training, they review school and grade-level data to set SMART goals. The “School Leadership Team” meets throughout the year to review unit-by-unit data as it relates to meeting our SMART goals. 

The Early Learning Center grade-level team leaders meet quarterly with grade-level team leaders from across the district. This team reviews district grade-level data and discuss instructional strategies linked to student achievement across the district.