Powell Middle School (2023)

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

Powell Middle is located in the northwest quadrant of the state in beautiful Park County, Wyoming, and sits between the Big Horn and Absaroka Mountains, which offer a great deal of outdoor recreation.  We are 90 miles away from the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  The community is rural with a strong heritage of hard-working farming and ranching families.  The community is instilled with strong values, morals, and ethics and is supportive of education.  Powell is very family oriented and supports community activities with schools and the community college as well as a great recreation program for our students.  Powell educators feel very fortunate to be the recipients of families that support and value education and students who work hard.  Our schools and staff are fortunate to have the necessary resources and time to reach the desired expectations of the community.  Ideal working conditions lead to very little turnover, while most open positions are generated through retirement.  

Our journey with the Professional Learning Community framework started in the fall of 2008.  It was then that teachers began collaborating regularly and staff began attending institutes and the ideas and practices began to spread throughout the school.  “Learning By Doing” was frequently the reference to push Powell Middle School to higher limits and change past practices.

In 2018, Powell Middle School changed significant practices in our focus on daily team time, weekly team time, master schedule instructional time, professional growth, and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) practices that have paved the way for the successes we are experiencing today.  In 2019, our school was recognized on the Wyoming School Performance Reports as one of the four middle schools in the state that was, “Exceeding Academic Expectations.”  This was an honor and affirmation of the collective efforts of every staff member, parent, and student as well as some of the changes to our systems, strategies, and schedule to reach this level of achievement.  We revisited our Mission, Vision, and Commitments to ensure all commitments were student focused.  The staff at Powell Middle School has embraced the Professional Learning Community framework and adapted to the many system changes such as our weekly team time with a commitment to collaboration and a mindset of growth for every learner.  One other key item to note that has a direct correlation to our academic success was the schedule change that took place in the 2018-19 school year.  That year, we made changes to our master schedule to allow for a daily math block of 84 minutes and also made changes to English Language Arts and split those standards into a literature and composition classes block for a combined time of 84 minutes.

We hold tight to taking the time to celebrate together and focus on the positives as well as what we can control.  PBIS is our foundation and roots us in all of our celebrations.  In 2018-19, we implemented the following to recognize and celebrate our students:

·         Principals “PAWS”ative 100 Board:  Students are recognized by staff for both positive academics and positive behavior.  Winning students receive Cub gear as well as a $5 gift card to our entrepreneurial class concession store.

·         Classy Cubs: These are given by all staff for positive recognition, and the administration leads the kids in “Friday Live” and draws names from a wheel for cookies and concession store bucks.

·         Our staff takes time on a weekly basis to send home “PAWS”ative postcards to students and parents for positive recognition.  These private celebrations have paid dividends, as parents regularly reach out thanking staff for taking the time to recognize their child’s positive attributes. 

As a staff, we feel the time taken to provide positive reinforcement minimizes our distractions and puts more emphasis on all the great things happening at Powell Middle School.  We realize that what we focus on grows, so we must recognize and celebrate all the great things taking place at Powell Middle School. 

The communities of Powell and Powell Middle School carry themselves with a lot of pride.  From the first day students step foot on campus as sixth graders until their last day as eighth graders and every day in between, it is clear that all staff and students carry themselves with a high level of pride.  Staff spends a significant amount of time developing relationships with students and fostering the love and pride of hard work while at Powell Middle School.  Our staff follows the motto, “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  All staff work tirelessly to get to know the students at a deeper level so students know they are cared for, and in turn, we make learning fun so that students want to work hard to maintain past traditions. We feel this culture and climate created at Powell Middle School provide the foundation for the teaching and learning that happens in the classroom. Teachers provide engaging and high-quality instruction that allows students to interact and work collaboratively, set goals, and realize accomplishments. Our staff stresses the power of “yet” and continually works with students well beyond school hours to help them see their potential. Systems and practices are in place to ensure no student falls through the cracks, and everyone has an advocate.

Our staff sets goals with students both behaviorally and academically and frequently celebrates them. Rewards vary from time outside, shortened assignments, trips to McDonald’s, or any other creative ideas, but they maintain a positive focus on hard work and achievement. As mentioned above, our school is rooted in PBIS, so we have systems in place that recognize the daily positives, as well as some of the larger accomplishments. These rewards and celebrations can be public or private as well as simply through appreciation postcards sent home to parents. We have found great success in focusing on the positives and utilizing positive reinforcement over corrective behavior. Approximately once a month, we have built in activity days to reward and recognize students’ hard work. These days celebrate hard work and allow students to pick an activity for an afternoon, while it also allows us to set up an opportunity room for students that may need additional time and assistance getting their work completed.

As mentioned above, we have a district goal of 95% of our students participating in either extra-curricular sports or clubs. Our student participation rates in sports is consistently higher than surrounding schools of our size, and we attribute that to a quality recreation program, strong coaching and heritage, and pride in school, wearing the orange and black. Over the past three years, we have really taken an intentional approach to provide more activity and club offerings both within the school day as well as outside of the day to catch the interest of students who do not enjoy competitive sports. A few of the clubs I have mentioned are our Jr. BLT and Breakfast Club, but I would also like to mention a few more clubs that have recently been recognized locally and won awards.  In 2019 and 2020, our Robotics Club recently won state and was recommended for nationals but could not attend due to COVID-19.  Science Bowl won the state regional competition in 2021.  Our Challenge of the Books Club recently won the Big Horn Basin competition.  Our Math Counts recently had individual winners at the state level. We also have recently added the following clubs: Science Olympiad, Science Bowl, Girls Who Code, Creative Writing, Lego, and soccer. 

At Powell Middle School, we feel all of the above mentioned speaks to the whole child and allows them to grow academically as well as socially and emotionally. We fully understand the necessary balance to reach all kids is through positive interaction and allowing students to grow in all areas.

For future years to continue to grow, we have committees working on how we structure our opening night, Title I Parent Nights, and parent teacher conferences.  We realize we have limited access to parents, so we want to do our best to entice them to come to our school and build stronger relationships.  We also realize when our teachers are feeling valued and appreciated,  they are better teachers for our students, so we look to find ways to keep the workload manageable while providing them time to reflect and collaborate on practices and look ahead at how to get better.


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Since 2008, our district has remained committed to the Professional Learning Community (PLC) framework to increase student achievement as per the Park #1 Strategic Plan.  The PLC framework focuses on answering the four questions:

  • What do we want all students to know and be able to do?

  • How will we know if they learn it?

  • How will we respond when some students do not learn?

  • How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient?

Curriculum and assessment are interconnected and our focus on answering the first two PLC questions. 

Question 1 - Identify Essential Skills and Content:  Departments will meet periodically to check alignment and agree on “essentials” 6-8 grade.  The essentials are developed from prioritized state standards and assessment data.  Each teacher or co-content teacher will teach and assess essential skills and knowledge (what to learn and how well) for their grade level and content area.   The essentials should have a scope and sequence for the year.  This should be developed and adjusted every year as necessary.

Question 2 - Common Assessments:  Common assessments are standard assessments that measure essential skills and content (Mastery).  Common assessments are administered to all kids in the grade level, content (class) and administered at the same time— within a week is recommended.  By doing this our students receive the guaranteed curriculum from each co-content teacher.  Please note that it is never an option for any teacher to decide not to administer a common assessment, to change a common assessment, or to deviate from the timeline whether they collaborate with their co-content teacher or not.  All concerns about assessments and timelines should be proactively addressed and problem-solved by the co-content teachers.  Common assessments should be documented on the assessment calendar for communication purposes.

As a Professional Learning Community, Powell Middle School provides a guaranteed and viable curriculum that is engaging to our students.  Our master schedule provides the foundation for PLC’s to thrive, as there is allocated time for our teachers to routinely collaborate and share best practices which allows our students to grow and learn, as we are all continually in an effort to get better and grow.  Grade level content teachers often share students when the opportunity arises to allow for students to learn from varying styles and ensure we are doing all we can to meet their needs.

Our core grade level teacher teams including English Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies have routinely worked through and revisited our identified essential standards drawn from Wyoming Common Core Standards.  These standards were identified utilizing the work of Tom W. Many, Ed.D in the areas of Readiness, Endurance, Assessed, and Leverage (R.E.A.L.) criteria.  These essential standards provide the material to be covered as well as help us to determine the scope and sequence of when assessments will occur, both horizontally in particular grade levels as well as vertically.  These essentials are deconstructed into learning targets to guide our teaching leading to our common assessments.  Our staff also works on answering questions number three and four in the PLC process of what we do when students do not grasp the concepts (intervention) as well as what we do when they master the concepts (enrichment).  Our teachers share the locally designed common formative assessment data with each other to perform an item analysis, as well as look for any trends in commonly missed questions and opportunity to change future practices and time spent.  The data collected in all assessments, whether that be through daily formative observations and work completed, or data from our common assessments, lead to adjustments made to differentiate and ensure we are meeting all the learning styles of all students.  Our content teachers share students in interventions and enrichment and several of these rooms are merely separated by a barn door to allow for fluid movement.  Paraprofessionals are used to break out in small groups to target students that need additional support.  Lastly, the district has invested in strong instructional strategies to ensure high levels of teaching as well as consistency amongst staff.  The staff has received training in Quantum Learning; therefore, you will see a lot of student engagement through pair/share, callbacks, and frequent student questioning to encourage high student engagement.  Typical lessons follow gradual release of responsibility in the typical, I Do, We Do, You Do format, which allows for students to have a clear understanding of the work to be completed prior to receiving the assignment.


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

All components of our building, schedule, systems, culture, climate and practices make a strong Professional Learning Community.  There is time allocated for all core teachers to both have a planning period as well as team time where they have a dedicated focus that will be spent collaborating with each other on professional practices, curriculum and planning, assessment work, as well as intervention and enrichment opportunities for our students.  We follow the mantra, “By Name, By Need”; we must know how each student is performing, as well as how we will push each student to reach their maximum potential.  Data is tracked from both locally developed common formative assessments as well as Wyoming’s Statewide Assessment, (WY-TOPP), modular, interim, and summative assessments and utilized to drive the decisions that are made in the classroom.  Following the interim assessment our staff engages in data analysis from fall to winter to track growth and design a plan following our data analysis questions.  We value our time together and make certain our focus is on the right work and we are not distracted with items that are out of our control.

It is Powell Middle School’s vision to inspire, engage, and prepare all students for their future, and we feel that it is through high quality, research-based instruction that is ultimately tailored to the needs of each student.  As a school that is committed to the PLC framework, we follow the four questions and work diligently to help all students achieve mastery in Tier 1 instruction.  Our Tier 1 instruction is focused on “prevention” as much as possible instead of relying on “intervention” to ensure students are learning. We feel we are very successful with the level of mastery due to utilizing formative and ongoing assessment prior to the common assessment, as we are able to provide additional support with the use of classroom teachers and paraprofessionals to intervene before the assessment.    Our English Language Learner students have additional support in their core classes and receive small groups and pull out instruction to help ensure they have a strong understanding of the content covered.  When there are students that do not achieve proficiency through Tier 1 instruction, we have systems in place to respond to each learner's needs.  With intervention time built into the schedule, we utilize small group instruction for our students performing below grade level, focusing on the concepts missed on the common assessment through an item analysis.  We believe in knowing the individual students’ names and their academic needs.  During interventions, you may see a teacher or paraprofessional pull out small groups to a different setting, as well as flooding in paraprofessionals into a classroom to drive down the teacher to student ratio.  After one to two weeks of required intervention and targeted instruction through various teaching and learning styles, these students are provided another attempt to complete the common assessment and gain proficiency. 

In addition to these supports mentioned above, pullout evidence-based intervention programs to remediate more significant academic delays at Tier II/III level are provided through Title I and Special Education during designated intervention blocks as well as Extended School Year services after school and into the summer.  Our pyramid of interventions provides a detailed list of programs and services offered at Powell Middle School.

Beyond the school day, tutoring and further intervention are offered to students in need of more support.  Therefore, students have opportunities to learn essentials in the core instructional program through differentiated instructional strategies and high-quality intervention programs.  These efforts are designed to close achievement gaps and we have seen significant gains in confidence from students that stay after school as they develop stronger relationships and become more comfortable with asking questions.  

We also use an opportunity room to provide time within the day for students to receive support while being held accountable for their work.  As you can see, students have the opportunity to complete work within the day during part of their lunch.  If the assignment extends beyond three days, after school support is provided to ensure the learning takes place.

Powell Middle School strives on a daily basis to, “know our students by name and by need”.  This motto assists us in targeting our students that need additional support, whether that be through small group instruction, a certain style of teaching and learning, or frequent checking for understanding and feedback.  This belief allows our staff to intervene well before the common assessments and provide what each student needs early and often.


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

Teachers at Powell Middle School have the single greatest impact on student learning.  We realize we are the ones that can ultimately make the difference in the future of each and every student.  With that said, we all have to continually strive to hold on to that passion of making a difference and maintain our love for education.  As a school committed to the PLC framework, we allow time on a weekly basis for our teachers to collaborate and that time is built-in to the school day.  Teachers continually reflect on teaching and learning, analyze data, share successful strategies, and reflect with their team and co-content teachers.  Administrators and counselors also meet with all teams on a weekly basis to discuss celebrations, school items, students, curriculum, technology, and general topics.  As you can see from our principal and team agendas, these meetings are evidence that our teachers are supported and we are all working as a team for all students; they know they are never on an island and can always look to their peers or administration for support.

Our district has taken a very intentional approach to professional development and we routinely have professional development every other Friday afternoon.  The professional development days are split between district and building days and the schedule is established before the start of the school year.  District days allow for curriculum work, such as essentials, common assessments, outcomes, and vertical articulation.  School days allow for building administrators to cover all necessary and relevant topics in order to keep all staff members informed of initiatives and decisions, time to collaborate as whole, share new strategies, technology, planning, and safety.  Agendas are created from staff input, then shared three days in advance with staff and supervisors to review and provide feedback.

In addition to scheduled and structured collaboration and professional development meetings, our staff has developed the culture of thanking each other and providing administration with staff “Shout-Outs” that are then communicated in our weekly Cub Column.  We stress that we should never overlook all the positives happening around us, both with our students as well as with each other.  Gratitude from colleagues and administrators is the largest contributing factor to job satisfaction; we all have to know that we are valued and appreciated.  A few ways we go above-and-beyond to show our gratitude for each other are staff appreciation tokens such as coffee cards to our Cub Café, 30-minute break cards, written postcards, pictures and celebrations on our Facebook page, time to work in their rooms, and making a habit of verbally letting staff know they are appreciated.

At Powell Middle School, collaborative leadership is the means by which the principals operate and continue to grow as a learning community.  The principals view themselves as servant leaders and are quick to respond and support students and staff as well as reflect on practices and policies to help ensure Powell Middle School is always moving forward.  Our mission, vision, core values, and commitments developed by the staff set the stage for putting kids first, and “doing what’s best for kids!”  In all team meetings, we maintain our focus on what we can control and what we need to do to support all students’ unique needs.  Decisions are made through vetting ideas and initiatives in the individual teams before they are taken to the staff as a whole.  This process allows for teams to collaborate, ask questions, and provide input in a smaller setting, as opposed to a room full of forty adults.  In teams and discussions, we take pride in keeping our conversations professional and never personal, and we are committed to be honest, positive, maintain professionalism, and come to meetings with solutions to proposed problems. 

As a school committed to the PLC framework, we continually reflect on what we feel we are strong at as well as where we can grow.  Principal’s survey staff to seek input on their thoughts and ideas to make Powell Middle School an even better place to learn and work.  We feel this process demonstrates trust and transparency when showing the staff the results and working together to grow in areas that appear to be deficient.  We also grow as a staff and in teams through book studies, and educational articles that allow us to grow professionally and share professional dialogue with our peers.  These discussions lead staff to try new ideas and take risks and know that it is ok to fail.  As mentioned above, the culture of gratitude and trust has to be ingrained in all conversations and initiatives so staff know it is ok to take risks, learn and grow.  Administration places a lot of trust and autonomy in the teams and in the teachers in their classrooms, and trust that they are the expert in their fields, and do not micromanage.  With that said, administration performs frequent classroom walkthroughs and observations to provide both feedback and praise.  Dialogue and discussion is created through the walkthroughs.

Lastly, it is an expectation that all staff continually strive to grow and get better as an educator.  In 2018, administration shared a principal’s memo with staff explicitly stating what we are tight on.  It was clear we had the expectation that all staff would have a quarterly growth activity.  Staff could choose one of the four quarterly activities:

  • Visit another teacher’s classroom for a 20 minute visit and provide feedback and praise

  • Survey students to solicit feedback on what is going well and would could be changed

  • Attend a monthly Board Meeting

  • Record lesson with a swivl for self-reflection and share with administration areas of strength as well as identified areas to grow 

Receiving staff buy-in to grow professionally has had a bigger impact than expected and broke down barriers that previously existed.  Staff now regularly visit other grade level classrooms and share dialogue on strategies.  Simply put, ongoing improvement and ensuring academic growth of every child is a team effort.

In the community of Powell and at all the Powell schools, you routinely hear the word, “pride” and along with that, the commitment to do what is best for kids.  There is a tremendous amount of pride in the community of Powell and that is true when speaking about Park County School District #1.  Although there are currently several strategies for success, and there will continue to be many more as we continue to collaborate and grow within our Professional Learning Community framework, we are quick to realize and see the changes that have happened and are continuing to happen in our society and community. With that said, the bottom line that sets us apart from other schools is the commitment and willingness to make whatever changes necessary to do what is best for our students. 

We are quick to realize these changes and adaptations are not small and take a significant amount of time, energy, collaboration, and laser-like focus, but when we know the changes are necessary and in the best interest of our students, this staff is 100% committed.  Most staff members live in the small town of Powell because of the community and the schools.  We realize Powell has a first-class education which is evident from academic results and several recent National Blue Ribbon schools to offer to our students, and if we want that for our own children then we owe that education to all students that enter our doors.

We are very fortunate to work in a school and a district that is committed to Professional Learning Communities, as the collaboration and planning that is necessary to stay ahead of the curve takes commitment and time.  Collaboration is not necessarily something that happens on a given time on a given day, it is something that is happening before, during, and after school and is woven into the practices of our educators.  We continue to push ourselves to be the best, so we can offer the best.


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

As you can see from the attached data sheet, we are very proud of our students for their academic success.  Since the 2018-2019 school year, Powell Middle School has consistently outscored the state of Wyoming on our statewide assessment.  In fact, if you look at our overall proficiency in each subject at all grade levels, we consistently outscore the state average my more than 10%.  

I also attached 2019-2020 Interim data from our state testing site that showed the growth in Math & ELA our students had achieved prior to shutting down in March.


  • 7 of 7 state tested areas scored in the top 7 in the state on our state standardized test with two classes scoring 1st in the state.

  • In 2019, our school was recognized on the Wyoming School Performance Reports as one of the four middle schools in the state that was, “Exceeding Academic Expectations”. 

  • 58 students earned Wyoming Hunter Education certification

  • Conference Champs in the following sports:  

    • 8th grade girls track & field

    • 8th Grade Boys: Cross Country

    • 7th Grade Boys: Cross Country, Football, Basketball, Track & Field 


  • 39 students earned Wyoming Hunter Education certification

  • Conference Champs in the following sports:  

    • 8th Grade Boys Wrestling

    • 7th Grade Boys Wrestling

  • Wyoming Robotics State Champions

  • 1st Place Regional Math Counts


  • Powell Middle School was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School.

  • 6 of 7 state tested areas scored in the top 5  in the state on our state standardized test with two classes scoring 1st in the state.

  • 45 students earned Wyoming Hunter Education certification

  • Conference Champs in the following sports:  

    • 8th Grade Girls: Girls Basketball & Track

    • 8th Grade Boys: Football

  • 2x Wyoming Robotics State Champions

  • Wyoming State Science Bowl Champions

  • Northwest Regional ‘Challenge of the Books” Champions

  • 1st Place Regional Math Counts - Student recognized as National Competition Qualifier


  • 5 of 7 state tested areas scored in the top 5  in the state on our state standardized test with one class scoring 1st in the state.

  • School fundraiser of over $3850 for a student that was treated in Denver with life-threatening symptoms

  • Egg Roulette Fundraiser - $1265 raised

  • 51 students certified with Wyoming Hunter Education

  • “Lunch with Leprechauns” fundraiser where the school raised over $2500 for a building teacher fighting cancer.   

  • Science Bowl won the state regional competition in 2021

  • Conference Champs in the following sports:  

    • 8th Grade Boys: Football & Track 

    • 7th Grade Boys: Track 

  • 1st Place Regional Math Counts

  • Wyoming State Science Fair Champions

  • Regional Knowledge Bowl Champions

  • Wyoming State Science Bowl Champions

  • Northwest Regional ‘Challenge of the Books” Champions