Benton Elementary (2023)
- Number of Students: 515
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 71%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 31%
- Percent of Special Education: 12%
- White: 52%
- Black: 0.1%
- Hispanic: 27%
- Asian: 0.1%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 12%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.1%
- Multiracial: 8.7%
- Other: 0%
Benton Elementary began their PLC journey during the school year of 2020-2021. The first major focus was to start building knowledge of the PLC process the administration at the time began by creating a time that grade levels could collaborate during the school day. Using the resource Learning by Doing, the admin dove into chapter 3 with the staff to define the difference between collaboration and “co-blaboration”. They spent time analyzing agendas, and defining what the four critical questions of PLC mean to ensure that the agendas are aligning to these questions.
Benton also put together their first guiding coalition, leveraging the natural leaders they already had in the building. The guiding coalition continued to build their knowledge of how to incorporate effective PLCs at Benton Elementary using reproducibles such as Critical Issues for Team Consideration and the rubric for building a collaborative culture through high-performing teams. These resources allowed them to build a foundational understanding of how to implement PLCs.
The following year, the teams wanted to shift their focus to chapter 5 and 6 of Learning by Doing to develop their knowledge of focusing on learning and effectively designing common formative assessments. Benton was able to work with the District Continuous Improvement Team provided by the state of Missouri to identify learning targets in our essential standards, developed by the district of Neosho, as well as to analyze their assessment to ensure that they are designed well, and assess the appropriate depth of knowledge of the standard.
Beginning in February of 2022, Benton Elementary began undergoing significant changes in an effort to carry out the mission to ensure that ALL students are learning at grade level or higher. The district of Neosho hired a new principal, Dr. Joshua Depoe, for Benton who felt the best first step would be to meet with each individual staff member to get a sense of the current climate of the building. During those conversations, the teachers had to answer three questions: What is going well currently at Benton, What would you change at Benton, How can I best support you as your administrator? Those conversations set in motion a wave of goals that would begin to make great changes for Benton Elementary.
Throughout the rest of the spring semester in 2022, Dr. Depoe, Mrs. Gunlock (assistant principal), and Autumn Mosby (instructional coach) continued to collaborate to develop a deep trust and a common vision for Benton. In order for the staff to buy in on any future changes, it was important for the administration and instructional support of the building to be on the same page. These conversations included how student behaviors will be supported and addressed, expectations for lesson planning, expectations for professionalism, and establishing our current reality by looking at current data. Coming together to share these different perspectives allowed the administrators and coach to identify overarching goals for Benton.
The next significant step was to visit with the guiding coalition that was already in place and create clarity of their purpose and to be transparent about the current perceptions of the building. Professional learning teams and a guiding coalition had been in existence for several years at Benton, but with a new shift in administration it was necessary to extend the idea to develop trust and common vision beyond just the principals and the instructional coach. The guiding coalition met in August of 2022 for a GC Retreat, and the first activity they were asked to do was to individually write down what the purpose of the guiding coalition was. The most common answers were to be a support system for the staff in the building, to help carry out new initiatives, to serve as leaders of the building, and to help create goals that will benefit the students at Benton. The GC felt that being intentional about carrying out their purpose would help continue to build that communication to the rest of the staff would increase transparency and the sense of belonging in the building.
After all members had a common and clear understanding of their purpose as a GC member, it was important to re-establish clear norms because it was vital that the GC was modeling the same behaviors and expectations that would be expected during their PLT times. They agreed on the norms to be punctual, be prepared, be present, and be professional as it creates simplicity and consistency for all collaborative settings. In addition to creating these new norms, the GC ensured that a schedule for the following year was created to include times to meet collaboratively with grade-level teams, as well as other key teams in the building such as the specials staff.
The final focus of the GC retreat was to establish goals for Benton Elementary for the 2022-2023 school year. The current reality was that Benton was performing lower than the area schools in the same district, so it was important to go into the next school year with a solid plan. In that moment the GC had to commit to taking collective responsibility for current data and commit to creating a culture of collective responsibility with their grade level teams so they could carry out their goals. The goals established to make significant changes for Benton were to provide strong Tier 1 instruction to ALL students centered around essential standards, to increase Benton’s overall building-wide MPI on each iReady diagnostic from the 2021-2022 school year to the 2022-2023 school year, and to use formative assessment data to drive instructional decisions in PLCs.
At the 2022-2023 back to school staff meeting, subsequent staff meetings, and weekly PLCs the administration continued to support the staff in understanding the components of the PLC process and to build collective responsibility. The following is a list of action steps Benton took to help cultivate continuous improvement:
Established a list of loose and tight expectations such as planning strong Tier 1 instruction using essential standards for reading and math, creating formative assessments and a data tracking system, and using data notebooks for student goal setting.
Created a usable data wall broken into domains to give staff current reality in several areas of reading and math, as well as the building’s overall proficiency. PLTs began creating SMART goals around domains that students were performing low overall as it pertained to their Tier 1 instruction. The data wall is updated with new data three times a year.
Created an MPI (MAP Proficiency Index) tracking document to give every teacher in the building an overall baseline score they can track throughout the year using iReady. The goal for Benton was for each to be a score of at least 350 MPI by the end of the year. The focus was to move as many students out of below basic as possible, which created healthy urgency for each individual teacher.
PLCs and agendas are centered around the PLC cycle: Discuss and review essential skills, design common assessments, design effective instruction, analyze data, remediate or enrich learning, reflect on instructional practice.
The building instructional coach planned coaching cycles with teachers to strengthen their Tier 1 instruction, as well as increase their knowledge of instructional strategies and pedagogy. The coaching cycle topics were chosen by the teacher based on student data that revealed areas for improvement.
Created a “stop doing” list as a staff, which was then flipped to determine a “keep doing” list. This list morphed into a list of collective commitments. Benton’s collective commitments are to be proactive, set high expectations for all kids, be confident in who we are as educators, be kind to all, be professional in all situations, and set boundaries for ourselves, creating a work/home balance.
The administration and the GC at Benton continue to utilize resources such as Taking Action, Behavior Solutions, and Learning By Doing to increase the capacity of the staff. The data at Benton is continuing on an upward trajectory, and the staff is motivated to continue the work necessary to achieve the mission of ensuring all students learn at grade level or higher.
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1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
The Neosho School District had worked with kindergarten through fourth grades in previous years to establish essential standards and proficiency scales in each grade level. Grade level representatives from Benton were part of this process, and would report back to their teams the work done at the district level. These standards and proficiency scales became the foundation of the guaranteed and viable curriculum that teachers used to expose kids to grade level essential skills.
Benton created reading and math essential standards unit plans for each quarter to ensure students are guaranteed to receive instruction on vital standards, as well as ensure that all standards can be taught in a sufficient amount of time to achieve mastery. The unit plans are created with the gradual release of responsibility in mind so that skills are taught and given multiple opportunities to practice in different ways. In addition to the Tier 1 instruction planned out in the unit, there is also a section for Tier 2 instruction in the unit plan to remind teachers what skills still need to be revisited and reassessed for some students, as well as a section to list dates for when common formative assessments will be administered for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 standards.
It was also important that the administrators developed a master schedule that would provide teachers enough time during the day to deeply teach and provide time for students to apply the standards they are learning. Each teacher schedule included time for direct instruction where standards are intentionally modeled, then provided students 30-60 minutes of time for scaffolded and independent practice daily for both reading and math.
The following were the steps Benton took to develop a way to closely monitor student learning and track their proficiency of essential standards..
Benton’s data tracking sheet Mode of Mastery (MOM), was created using google sheets for every grade level. The sheet has a tab for iReady assessment data, writing benchmark, and running record progress monitoring data. Each additional tab is an essential standard. When teachers gather formative data, they will enter a score showing where they are according to the proficiency scale. The data sheet is also color coded so that the teacher can easily see which students need Tier 2 instruction, as well as the growth over time the students are showing.
Teachers determine which tab they will be entering data on each week in PLCs and agree on a date to enter data. This helps keep the team accountable for keeping up with their data.
After data is entered in the sheet on a common formative assessment, teams complete a data analysis protocol (DAP) during PLC to reflect and plan next steps.
SMART goals are created around essential standards that students have not yet mastered using both MOM and iReady data. Teachers address SMART goal instruction in both Tier 1 and Tier 2, and continue to use MOM to update progress toward their goal. Teachers spend time in PLC to revisit, reflect and update SMART goals.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Benton has had a multitiered system of supports operating in the building for several years, but had not been able to attend an RTI at Work Conference after COVID in 2020. With shifts in staffing and new administration, it was time to realign their practice with the RTI at Work pyramid.
Several staff members attended RTI at Work in Rogers, AR in October of 2022 to begin evaluating their teacher team responsibilities and their schoolwide team responsibilities. It was important for those who attended to explain to the staff who are responsible for Tier 1 essential standards, Tier 2 for additional time and support, and Tier 3 for intensive remediation, as those lines were blurry for some. As a result, Benton was able to take the pieces they already had in place, and fit them into the systematic RTI at Work pyramid. The following are the systems that Benton has in place:
All students have access to Tier 1 essential standards within their grade level classroom. The standards are organized using a unit plan, are commonly assessed, and the data is used to identify students for Tier 2 instruction.
Students use data notebooks to track their proficiency level for each essential standard, and are given feedback on their performance.
Teachers organize groups of students based on their data and provide them additional time and support using small group instruction. This is time that is already built into the master schedule. As students work and show evidence of mastery or growth, they will update their data notebooks, and the teachers will update the data in MOM.
Students who have holes in their foundational skills that are contributing to their performance on grade level standards are placed in a Tier 2 group in the classroom, as well as a Tier 3 group. Our Tier 3 team consists of 3 special education teachers, 1 reading recovery teacher, 1 reading interventionist, 1 instructional coach, 2 English Language teachers, and 2 counselors. This team utilizes MOM to determine what grade level skills students are struggling with and focuses on the necessary foundational skills to help close achievement gaps. In addition to academic skills, the counselors are utilized to visit with kids who need social or emotional support.
Students who have already mastered their essential skill are also met in a small group and are given extension activities such as picking a project or participating in tasks that increase the depth of knowledge of the standard.
For students who are not showing evidence of accelerated achievement, teachers fill out a problem solving form in which the school-wide team, CARE Team, will get involved. The instructional coach will schedule meetings with the teacher including any other support staff who can help consult with the teacher on their students. This staff includes the speech pathologist, physical therapists behavior support team, interventionists, principals, and counselors. During a CARE Team meeting the teacher discusses the data and behaviors they are noticing in the classroom, and the support staff will provide strategies for the teacher to implement in the classroom, or will decide on additional diagnostic data to get a well-rounded picture of the child’s strengths and weaknesses. The CARE team will meet with the teacher every 6-8 weeks to update the team and track students’ progress.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
The district of Neosho and the administration at Benton are committed to provide teachers access to PLC Summits and other Solution Tree workshops to increase their capacity and knowledge of the PLC process. During the summer of 2022, 13 staff members from Benton attended the PLC Summit in St. Charles, MO. These teachers represented at least one of each grade level, as well as the special services department. Benton will continue to send new staff members to attend these summits to deepen their knowledge of working as a high-performing and collaborative team.
The building principals and the instructional coach are present at all PCLs to help guide and support the grade level teams. Teams are held accountable for the norms and having an agenda ready for each PLC maintaining focus on the four critical questions (What do we want all students to know, how will we know if they know it, how will we respond if they did not master the skill, how will we respond if they did master the skill?) in their unit planning, their discussions, and their action steps. The principals also continually support and empower the GC to act as leaders in implementing quality collaboration, and work with their team to allow them all a chance to share the role as facilitator.
The teachers at Benton continually immerse themselves in the PLC process to put into practice the elements that make a true team; where all members are working interdependently toward a common goal to ensure that ALL students learn at high levels.
Achievement Data Files
Level 1 High Reliablity School Certification - February 2023
Autumn Mosby, instructional coach at Benton, became a literacy consultant for Solution Tree - December 2022