Willow Creek Elementary School (2023)

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

Willow Creek prides itself in being a school where every student matters. We are lucky that we have a diverse student population where those who need extra time to master essential skills are working alongside students with behavior support structures as well as students with gifted and talented tendencies. We opened Willow Creek in 2016 and started as a PLC centered school. The inclusive nature of our school meant that we had to bring every staff member into the fold when creating our Professional Learning Community. We don’t “have PLC meetings.” We embody the professional work of the ever changing learning community and the practice and purpose is embedded in every decision we make. The open and trusting nature of our staff meant that relationships were deepened through crucial conversations about what was in the best interest of all students at Willow Creek.

The staff at WCE has undergone extensive Data Teams for Learning training, coupled with PLC training offered by Solution Tree. Coupled together, both of these practices have given meaning to the work of collaborative teams. The school set aside an hour every week for the first four years we were open where staff at every level had opportunities for deep data dives and high quality curriculum training, modeling, and revising. The school was also afforded extended time for planning and individual classroom work.

Post Covid, the hour each week was replaced by other school district initiatives but the work ethic developed during the weekly collaborative meetings afforded the staff a deeper understanding of how to accomplish greater tasks, meeting broader goals with less extra time. The professional learning community culture was now embedded at Willow Creek and it was our purpose to find time within our day, even when the school district didn't set it aside. We also credit our success to the close and transparent working relationships among campus and district instructional facilitators, interventionists, and administrators who trusted that teachers would make student centered decisions at every turn.

Willow Creek has a deep belief in continuous improvement for both certified and classified staff. Our Guiding Coalition is made up of the campus principal, Title 1 Facilitator, academic interventionists, grade level representatives, paraprofessionals, and the chair of each sub committee. Our Guiding Coalition has attended several Solution Tree conferences and always returns to find new ways to implement with more fidelity. Each of our sub committees seek understanding of the four guiding principles of professional learning communities and structure their meetings accordingly with student data and adult practices at the core of SMART goal planning.

Sub committees of the Guiding Coalition include Tier 1 Academic and Behavior support teams at the grade level, Tier 2 Academic and Behavior support teams to focus efforts on 15% of the student population, and Tier 3 Academic and Behavior problem solving teams focused upon eliminating every potential intervention before referring a student for special education screening. The MTSS or RTI Process and Problem Solving Team is made up of grade level, special education, and intervention specialists who advise the classroom teacher with ongoing and continued support throughout the intervention cycle.

This year we found that we could collaborate even better if we formed a Literacy Leadership Team and a Math Leadership Team where our best practices are refined even more through a vertical lens. Members are made up of grade level specialists in each core area. Their main focus is to answer the four PLC questions from a broader, school level perspective. This team reviews data every month to determine what our screeners say about student growth and how our teachers can be more flexible with instruction and responsive to student needs.

Embedded within the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan, Willow Creek Elementary provides opportunities for short trainings called Snapshot PD’s delivered twice a month by campus teaching experts. The content is derived from teacher and paraprofessional feedback and may range from implementing vocabulary instruction to scoring check in/check out sheets for Tier 2 behavior students to refining math screening practices to identify student strengths and weaknesses. The staff at Willow Creek is empowered to work collaboratively and collegially within the grade level as well as vertically throughout the school.


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Willow Creek implements a guaranteed and viable curriculum by starting with district adopted essential standards and assessments that are constantly reviewed through grade level and vertical teams at the building and district wide. The process began in earnest long before Willow Creek was a school with teacher teams meeting to unwrap and prioritize Wyoming state standards. Once standards were aligned by teacher team, the next step was to collaboratively build proficiency scales and to formulate district summative assessments "of learning" and common formative assessments "for learning."

While standards are constant, the proficiency scales and assessments are in constant review and revision by teacher teams, adjusting them based on the needs presented by the students in front of us to make them more rigorous and meaningful. The building and district both continue to ask the 4 PLC questions when it comes to clarifying standards and writing assessments. What do we want students in our school to know? How will we discover they know it? What will we do if they don’t know it? And what will we do if they have mastered it at a level of proficiency?

Once those questions have been answered, team members participate in alignment teams to adjust scope, sequence and pace of instruction to continually monitor student growth and achievement. These meetings happen at the building and district level on a regular and continuous basis, implementing research-based materials and practices. Additionally, once standards and assessments are set, the work at Willow Creek allows for grade level teams to meet daily for embedded short term planning and lesson adjustment as well as quarterly for long-range planning to ensure the implementation of guaranteed standards and viable curriculum and instruction. Taking this process a step further, grade level teams meet to review screening and progress monitoring data to determine intervention groups using targeted, short term lessons and common formative assessments to inform instruction at Tiers 1, 2 and 3.

Willow Creek teachers use a variety of formative assessments daily to guide planning and monitor student learning on a timely basis. Examples of these types of common formatives include exit tickets and number talks as well as math and literacy screeners, based on the work of Math Recovery and the Gallistel-Ellis battery of assessments. Teachers and paraprofessionals are trained to deliver FastBridge screeners and progress monitoring tools to ensure that students are measured against national norms when determining proficiency levels and interventions. These tools inform short cycle interventions called WIN (What I Need) at Willow Creek, based on the models offered by Rendezvous Elementary, the Model PLC campus for 4th and 5th grade students in our district. Every decision made about student learning is tied to timely feedback gathered from a variety of sources. From Tier 1 content lessons to informal games and deep questioning of students during learning activities to screeners like FastBridge, the math interview, Gallistel-Ellis and PAST assessments all provide insight to tell us what students know, what they don’t know and at what level will will need to respond to ensure they are learning with higher yield.

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

Willow Creek built a master schedule five years ago to provide building wide intervention times where the majority of staff could be available to provide WIN (What I Need) interventions on a daily basis. This allowed for students to work in Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions and enrichments at their learning level based on universal screeners and regular progress monitoring to determine the value of the intervention. Students who show mastery are moved to the next level and students who were still falling behind were provided minor changes in intervention to dial in what would work consistently and specifically. That may mean that a student had more time in intervention (from 20 minutes dialed up to 40 minutes) or that they were provided intervention twice a day for 10 minutes (instead of once a day for 20 minutes).

These minor adjustments allowed for students to work above expectations in enrichment. It also meant that students who were working below expectations could go to a teacher providing support aligned to what they needed to access Tier 1 instruction (though not necessarily their age level teacher) for short cycle interventions providing practice and reteaching at Tier 3 levels. This horizontal and vertical placement of students for a fraction of their day provided homogenous skill practice to heterogeneous age groupings. The unintended outcome was stronger alliances between older and younger students when they could serve as models and mentors for each other throughout the intervention window. Eventually this practice was modified to be scheduled at specific times for each grade level to have a greater impact and use staff three times a day instead of once, though students that still need that Tier 3 intervention still have options to work with skill-aligned teachers at designated WIN times.

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

At Willow Creek, we build the capacity for teacher leaders to support each other during grade level collaborative planning as we encourage collegial rounds where early adopters model lessons for teammates. This embedded professional development practice allows for continuous improvement and transparent discussions among team members. Teachers are then empowered to share their own learning and expertise with the entire building through twice-monthly Snapshot PD’s offered on Thursday mornings prior to student arrival. Additionally, grade level and content level experts share and reflect upon lessons and interventions through collaborative meetings.

Willow Creek interventionists lead the Math and Literacy Leadership Teams, composed of grade level experts. These groups provide vertical leadership and insight to Willow Creek teachers and also serve as content leaders on district level teams. This transparent and collaborative type of teacher leadership has built trust among team members because they all are working toward a common goal and vision. They have also enjoyed a deeper focus on Tier 1 instruction and Tier 2 and 3 intervention protocols that are honed through honest discussion and teacher vulnerability and eventual accountability. The inevitable outcome of this collaboration has been aligned skills-oriented interventions and extensions with rigorous student work and high level lessons.

Since the professional learning community practices are embedded in our work, new teachers hired to the district go through extensive background training in "all things PLC" as part of the induction process. They are also paired with mentor teachers, veteran collaborators within the Willow Creek structure. Finally, it is our goal to build the leadership capacity of new teachers and encourage them to lead Snapshot PD sessions within the second year of their employment at Willow Creek ES.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

We have provided achievement data for the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress. Wyoming does not report statewide subgroup data publicly, but we included subgroups for Native American students as that is what is readily accessible. Our school was above state standard in all but one reporting category in 2020-21 and above state standard in all reporting areas each of the other years.

Data is missing in 2019-20 due to Covid assessment protocols and state accountability waivers. A similar set of reporting standards was common during Covid for the FastBridge screeners, however we were able to use winter screening data for comparison purposes.

FastBridge data indicates growth in 3/5 instances. In fact, some are quite significant. We accounted for the downward trend in 2020-21 after Covid interrupted end of year testing cycles, however started trending upward again in 2021-22 and anticipate the same in 2022-23. Since we had to use winter screening for the COVID reporting period, we skipped that year in determining color coded data trends.

  • Featured Presenters - RTI Innovations Conference - The Willow Room Tier 2 and Tier 3 Behavior Interventions
  • Featured Presenters - Wyoming Counselor's Conference - The Willow Room Tier 2 and Tier 3 Behavior Interventions
  • Science of Reading Pacesetter School - Visit from Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Chief of Staff, Dicky Shanor
  • RTI/MTSS Behavior Model School - Wyoming Department of Education
  • Featured Presenter - K-3 Literacy Model - Wyoming Native American Education Conference
  • Numerous teachers with advanced degrees
  • Numerous teachers with National Board Certification
  • All general education staff and majority of paraprofessionals are being trained by LETRS to implement the science of reading theories at a deeper and more consisent level
  • All general education staff and some paraprofessionals have been trained to implement executive functioning techniques in classrooms and small groups
  • All staff have been trained in Restorative Justice and Willow Creek is a model RJ schoool, providing insight and implementation strategies for neighboring districts and schools
  • Willow Creek is a certified and trained Energy Bus School