Spearman Elementary School (2023)

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

Spearman Elementary School is located in Anderson County, South Carolina, in a rural area that serves a broad spectrum of neighborhoods and families. Spearman’s 794 students represent a diverse population from K4 through fifth grade. It is a Title I school, and 52.3% of the students receive either free or reduced lunch.
Mr. Lesley, Spearman’s principal, and Mrs. Ayers, one of the school’s assistant principals, became a catalyst for change when they were hired as the administration team in 2009. Their priority was to move our school from a small country school to a leader in the district for academics. The two began creating a significant shift in culture from an isolated staff to a more cohesive, collaborative team by moving the school personnel’s mindset from “mine” to a culture of “ours”. The school leadership team provided a clear mission:
“Spearman Elementary School is committed to providing each student with world-class knowledge skills and life characteristics based on the individual needs of each student.”
With this clear mission in place, the pursuit of excellence for all students began. While the shift toward collaborative teaching started immediately, the investment in Professional Learning Communities began in earnest in 2018 when district members attended a PLC Institute event in Atlanta. As a result of this training, our teachers and staff continuously use data to reflect on instructional practices and the overall needs of our students. To ensure all students are learning at high levels with world-class knowledge and skills, our teachers have shifted their focus to prioritize those essential standards which need to be mastered before students leave elementary school.
In 2019, we committed to giving teachers time during the school day for grade levels to meet with no other obligations other than to unpack essential standards and adjust lessons and assessments so that all students were learning at high levels. Grade level teams had specific guidelines to follow for each of these meetings which currently occur every six days. Teams have norms for behavior expectations, roles that each team member plays, and agendas to follow so that time is used most effectively. They spend this protected time addressing the four questions to ensure all students are learning at high levels. These changes were all challenging however they propelled our school for PLC Lite to PLC Right. Since 2019 we have continued to strengthen the foundation of our PLC's by focusing on our agendas for meetings. Each meeting has an agenda with a specific question selected from the 4 essential questions. Our Time Keeps then helps the Facilitator maintain the correct pacing for our meetings. If conversations needed to take longer than the allotted time our note takers would document these and ensure topics be moved to the next agenda as needed. Our Guiding Coalition has continued to help develop teams by providing needed structure for data protocols and with a centralized PLC Hub. These two things allow teams to all have a common resource page and a common language. These changes at the school level have greatly increased our capacity.
Our teachers from the guiding coalition team, along with administrators and others from around the district, attended two training sessions with Luis Cruz before implementing PLCs in our buildings. He trained the group to hold effective meetings and on the importance of holding all students to the highest of standards. It was at this point our school made the renewed commitment that all students will learn at high levels. The guiding coalition then trained their colleagues on the best practices of Professional Learning Communities.
Based on this training, each PLC time is spent focusing on the essentials that we feel our students must know. After identifying the essential standards, our teachers analyze student data. From the analysis of this data, our teachers face a common set of questions which boils down to: “Now what?” Guided by the four questions, our grade level teams determined they needed specific teams to enrich the skills of students who have already mastered the concepts they taught, and other teams to intervene with students who have not yet mastered the skill set. Their solution was Storm Time. Storm Time groups are based on grade-level common formative assessment (CFA) data. During this time students are grouped based on their CFA data. Interventions and enrichments are provided based on the individual needs of each student. With our school having a mindset of “ours” rather than “mine”, teachers group students during Storm Time regardless of their homeroom teacher to individualize specific instruction identified by the CFA data. In addition during the 2022-2023 school year, our district provided CFA-specific training led by Cassandra Erkens. This additional training has led to a strengthening of tier 1 instruction and higher learning results for all students.
As the PLC process has continued to become embedded into our culture, we continue to evolve. It has become a foundational factor in our daily lives. In the summer of 2022, Literacy Coach Judy Griggs and Assistant Principal Chad Love accompanied a group of teacher leaders to the PLC Institute in Charlotte. This was made possible by our Parent Teacher Organization which helped fund this development. While at the institute, our group focused their learning on goal setting and meaningful assessments. This team of teachers brought these objectives back to the staff. Our team left the PLC Institute deputized by the Solution Tree team to empower teams of teachers in an ongoing process of learning. They led multiple sessions of trainings to provide a more in-depth skill set of goal setting and meaningful assessments.
Recently professionals in our district have read the “Six Shifts to Improve Special Education: A Common Sense Approach for School Leaders”. As a result of this book study, we have prioritized protecting Tier I instructional time for students with disabilities and have provided daily Tier II and Tier III time for every student. We feel this will allow students to truly receive the intervention or enrichment they need. This renewed focus on questions 3 and 4 will help us reach all students more effectively.
This school year we have also added the Leader in Me program across the district for all of the elementary schools. This will help provide greater cohesion within our school and further our mission to help foster and grow leadership skills in our students. We have dedicated our school to our PLC journey. We truly believe Professional Learning Communities will allow for all students to learn at high levels. During our journey, we have been and will continue to do our
B.E.S.T for every student.

B: Be effective with instruction
E: Excelling in all things we do
S: Supplying students with a safe environment
T: Treating all students with love and respect

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

At Spearman Elementary School, we are flexible in how we monitor data, but we are precise in when and how we use this data. With a wide range of students from 4K to 5th grade, our data tracking may look different from team to team. However, each team uses this data to drive their instruction to ensure that all students are learning at high levels. Our school district has adopted a specific curriculum for reading, writing, and phonics for all grades in our building. Each grade level uses the R.E.A.L. approach, a systematic method of ensuring that a standard meets the criteria.

Readiness: Is the standard important for the students' longitudinal success in the same subject?

Endurance: Is this standard important long after a student has left school?

Assessed: Is the standard vital to end-of-the-year assessments?

Leverage: How important is this standard in other subject areas?

Grade-level teams use this process to select their essential standards every year. All teams utilize pre- and post-assessments based on these standards. We use this data not only to determine what we need to teach but also to confirm that each student has mastery over a specific standard. Our teams have selected their essential standards and broken each standard down into learning objectives, Common Formative Assessments (CFA), and Common Summative Assessments (CSA). Our school provides uninterrupted time dedicated to the PLC process during the school day, occurring on a six-day rotation. These systems are embedded in our culture and ensure timely and effective monitoring of student learning.


We utilize data monitoring for all students. Our general education teachers constantly monitor data with their grade-level teams. They also utilize any related service provider to help students reach high levels of learning. Our Multilingual teacher pushes into classrooms to help students generalize skills and to help students have a successful day-to-day learning experience.  These students have seen tremendous growth with this model. In addition, our self-contained special education teachers meet together as district teams to help collaborate and monitor student learning in this subgroup. We have seen tremendous success with our LD self-contained. 

Our school district has made it a priority to give elementary schools time after students are dismissed to meet bi-weekly as PLC teams. In addition, to this scheduling change our master schedule now has a daily protected time for tier II and tier III intervention. These times will help students reach and achieve their SMART goals. We feel that we have traded quantity of minutes in Tier I for quality of minutes overall during the school day. 


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

We currently use a variety of interventions at our school. At Spearman, we provide interventions regardless of job titles. Our school uses STORM (Students Taking Ownership of Reaching Milestone) Time across all grade levels. Students use various systems to maximize the value of their time during the intervention. Younger grades use different weather patterns to help students identify their learning groups and which teacher to report to. This is a fun way to help navigate some of the logistic issues associated with switching students. Older grade levels have students set individual goals and control their learning progression. Our goal is for students to set SMART goals, achieve them through hard work, and take ownership of their learning not only during Tier 1 instruction but also during intervention and enrichment times. Students are grouped based on common formative assessments. Teachers, interventionists, and classroom assistants all participate in answering PLC questions 3 and 4. Our interventions constantly change based on our needs. Our Guiding Coalition has representatives from every grade level, including special education and related arts. These representatives provide a voice for all grade levels that can help teams workshop plans for intervention and enrichment.


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

At Spearman, we believe in constantly building the capacity of our educators.  During our protected meeting times, teachers model the best instructional strategies, create Common Formative and Summative Assessments, break down standards, and fulfill their PLC roles. As a school, we send teachers to various Solution Tree professional development. Our Special Education teachers meet with district Special Education Teachers to improve their instructional practices. During individual grade level PLC meetings, each member has a role that they carry out to enhance the team's effectiveness and individual teammates. Teachers at Spearman all have a voice, and our goal is to empower all voices for the betterment of student learning. At the building level, our Guiding Coalition members drive and conduct necessary trainings on a regular basis. The members will either present or help those presenting to increase our staff's knowledge base. Each training mission is to further teacher learning and, as a result, student achievement.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Assessments play a significant role in our PLC process as it impacts everything we do. Summative assessments are particularly important, and in South Carolina, students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades are required to take SC Ready, while 4th-grade students also take SC PASS, which is a science assessment. Currently, the state does not have any requirements for k-2 assessments. Previously, our district used MAP Testing as a district summative assessment and as part of our universal screening process. This was administered three times a year: once in the fall, once in the winter, and once in the spring. However, for the 2022-2023 school year, we have replaced this with the STAR assessment. We utilize all of these assessments to drive our instruction, professional learning, and resources to ensure that all students are learning at high levels. In 2020, our school was negatively impacted by the Covid-19 epidemic. Consequently, South Carolina did not issue any spring statewide assessments, and our district did not conduct the MAP assessment.


-Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School of Excellence

-Excellent on State School Report Card 

-Palmetto Gold and SIlver Awards based on overall achievement on state assessment 

-Perfect Scores on SC Ready and SC Pass (State Summative Assessments)

-2019 Blue Ribbon School. 

-4th Grade highest SC Ready math scores in the district (2021-2022)

-4th Grade highest SC Pass science scores in the district (2020-2021, 2021-2022) 

-International Amistad House of the Year (2020-2021, 2021-2022).This is one of  our PBIS house teams)