Emily Dickinson Elementary School (2023)
- Number of Students: 531
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 15%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 5%
- Percent of Special Education: 15%
- White: 81.4%
- Black: 2.2%
- Hispanic: 8.1%
- Asian: 4.9%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 3.4%
- Multiracial: 0%
- Other: 0%
A form of PLC implementation began years ago in the Bozeman School District. Schools implemented a form of "PLC Lite," where teachers were working in grade level teams to review data and to improve student learning, but because of the constraints of building schedules, the collaborative teacher team meetings were not a weekly expectation. It was not until the district invested in outside consultants to help rework the elementary master schedule during the 2019-20 school year that the true process of PLC implementation became a district priority. During that year, the elementary master schedules were redone to provide collaboration time built into the school day. The schedule was reworked so that students are now dismissed at 3:15, and teachers attend collaborative team meeting twice a week for forty-five minutes.
The following year, 2020-2021, PLCs became a district goal as outlined in the district's Long Range Strategic Plan. The goal reads as follows: PLC Goal: By spring of 2025 all BSD7 schools PK-12 will have fully implemented PLCs in place that will support the closing of the achievement gap, thus qualifying BSD7 as a Solution Tree Model PLC District. With this goal at the forefront of the district's work, the implementaiton of PLCs across the district began. The new schedule was put into effect, teachers participated in a book study about PLCs, and common curriculum and assessment tools were adopted in all elementary schools. Collaborative teams began meeting twice a week to do the work of a PLC.
The PLC journey at Emily Dickinson involved all the steps outlined above, but with the addition of robust professional development that was conducted only at our school. We are excited about what we have accomplished as we know we are doing the work of PLCs the right way. This process is outlined in the following sections of this application.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
To monitor student learning in a timely manner, the following processes are used in the Bozeman School District and at Emily Dickinson Elementary.
Board Policy/Curriculum Improvement Matrix/Priority Standards
The District utilizes Policy 2120 – Curriculum and Assessment to guide curriculum adoption, selection of instructional resources to support the educational program, and the assessment of the progress of all students in achieving content standards and content-specific grade-level learning progressions in each content area. This work is completed on a schedule mandated by the state of Montana. Other policies associated with this work are 2131 – Bozeman Comprehensive Assesent System, 2311 – Instructional Materials
A motto used in the Bozeman Public Schools is “All Means All.” In order to implement a guaranteed curriculum, all stakeholders must understand the essential content that all students need to know, understand and be able to do. Thus, the District utilizes a transparent standard operating procedure for curriculum adoption/revision/continuous improvement while providing meaningful professional development and support for research-based best practices in teaching. This is a cyclical process that standards review and adoption based on research, vertical and horizontal alignment, primary/core resource alignment, assessment alignment, implementation with fidelity, monitoring and feedback, and data review. Fundamental to each aspect of this process is the ongoing support provided by central office/curriculum office/school leadership, which includes professional development for administrators, site-level capacity building, professional development for educators, and professional learning for stakeholders.
Consistent understanding of the essential content by all instructional staff is critical. Working in committees and facilitated by the curriculum office, our teachers identify the most important parts of the curriculum that students must learn to prepare them for academic success in that subject. The District has completed significant work on priority standards in the past three years. BSD7 priority standards identify what students should know and be able to do by the end of the school year. All standards are used to guide instruction; however, priority standards guide teachers and focus student learning on critical concepts. Each standard also has a “proficiency descriptor” which explains, on a four-point rubric, what the student knows and is able to do for each proficiency level. The district provides then written guidance to instructional staff, including scope and sequence, priority standards and proficiency descriptors. At the school level, teachers work in teams to ensure this is implemented in the classroom
A viable curriculum means that teachers have adequate time to teach the content and that students have adequate time to learn the content.
Evidence of student learning is pivotal in a PLC culture and drives teacher, collaborative team, school site, and district wide decision making. Collaborative teacher teams come to agreement on common assessment tools and associated timelines for unpacking the given assessment. The District uses consistent benchmark assessment tools across the eight elementary schools for literacy and mathematics:
Literacy - Acadience reading assessments are used formally three times a year with all students. Additionally, Acadience progress monitoring probes are used to track and measure specific literacy skills that are being addressed within core instruction and Tier II/III intervention. Additional diagnostic tools are used to probe further with students who are showing need for intervention on the benchmark probes. Those diagnostic tools help collaborative teams to develop with precision interventions for individual and and/or groups of students. All reading assessments are viewed through the lens of the science of reading, specifically the Simple View of Reading: Decoding X Language Comprehension = Reading Comprehension
Math - STAR Math assessments are used formally three times a year with all students. Similar to the Acadience literacy assessments above, students who are flagged during benchmark assessment periods are discussed with collaborative teams and additional diagnostic measures are used.
In addition to the benchmark and progress monitoring tools discussed above the linchpin of PLC work is team developed common assessments. Collaborative teams lean on the excellent in-program assessment tools within Bridges mathematics to pull together common formative and summative assessments that are given and then discussed during collaborative team meetings. Pre-assessments are also used to help inform potential areas of strength and likely student misconceptions prior to delivery of core instruction. Teacher teams are provided systematic data analysis tools/protocols to help unpack data from benchmark assessment periods. Those formal protocols are tweaked and modified by collaborative teacher teams to unpack data in a recurring cycle that helps ensure instruction is modified, and interventions and extensions are provided.
As a school district we use Teachers On Special Assignment (TOSAs) to provide support in regards to curricular materials vetting, adoption, professional development, and implementation. Our team of TOSAs, in collaboration with our Deputy Superintendents have worked to guide three resource vetting committees to adopt core resource materials for K-5 math, K-2 Reading/ELA, and most recently 3-5 Reading/ELA. The vetting process includes: 1) reviewing the learning standards for each content area, 2) creating a rubric that aligns with our district’s mission, vision, and Long Range Strategic Plan to evaluate possible resources, and 3) providing multiple avenues for input from all levels of stakeholders. Once the vetting process is completed, the TOSAs work to prepare a recommendation to the Board of Trustees for formal adoption. Once a resource has been adopted, the TOSAs work to develop a plan for professional development and work with building leaders to determine the best way to evaluate the fidelity of implementation. They serve as instructional coaches to support our administrators to lead the work in their respective buildings.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Systems of intervention have been built into the elementary school master schedules, resource mapping work, and district policy.
As mentioned before, during the 2019-2020 school year all of our district’s elementary schools collaborated to develop and implement a common master schedule that provided consistent and dedicated time for our teams to engage in the work of PLCs. This work included the coordination of master schedules among all eight of our elementary schools in order to ensure appropriate and equitable learning opportunities for all of our students. This common master schedule allowed for designated times for core instruction as well as additional Tier II and Tier III supports during each school day to deliver multi-tiered levels of support.
Beginning in September 2022, the District began the process of resource mapping, i.e., engaging school teams, as well as central office, in a review of “what is” so that as a district, we can make thoughtful and intentional decisions about “what can be done” to meet identified needs. The resource mapping work is based on Leading Equity-Based MTSS for All Students by McCart and Miller (2019).
Resource mapping is being conducted in the following areas: personnel (to understand the human capabilities within our school and our system), facilities (to generate innovative ideas that maximize all available space), curriculum and instruction (to take stock of all of our curricular, instructional and other resources and supports for academic, behavioral and SEL), time allocations and requirements (to understand time factors that influence options for scheduling teaching and learning), and data sources (to understand the sources of data that help us make decisions related to improving outcomes), and additional resources (to make sure we don’t overlook hidden treasures that could help to support students).
During the 2021-2022 school year the District underwent a community conversation process regarding equity that resulted in student success policy #3610. The policy collectively puts the District on the hook for high levels of student learning. The following bold commitments are made within the policy:
Providing all students with access to resources, opportunities, supports and interventions to maximize the success of each student.
Assuring that all BSD7 staff members, with deliberate effort, continue to examine and eliminate beliefs, policies, practices, and teaching that may perpetuate disparities in achievement.
Raising the achievement of each student while eliminating any identified or perceived opportunity or achievement gaps.
Filtering programs, initiatives, and budget supports to maximize student success.
In addition to policy #3610, the District adopted an associated decision making filter in Board procedure #3610 that filters decision making through three important lenses:
Does (insert Item/Topic/Decision) directly help close identified achievement gaps?
Does (insert Item/Topic/Decision) directly tie to established district goals?
Does (insert Item/Topic/Decision) have a substantial research base of support?
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
The work of PLC implementation began during the 2019-20 school year with the development of the IMPACT schedule. As described above, the schedule allows for common teacher preparation times, common teacher collaboration times, and tier two and tier three instructional blocks. Teachers also engaged in a book study of Learning by Doing and participated in the district developed PLC course to better understand the PLC process and the work of collaborative teacher teams.
At Emily Dickinson, teachers began the "right" work of PLCs during the 2020-21 school year after the schedule was created and a district PLC priority was established. While this year was a very trying time due to COVID restrictions and half time, alternating student attendance schedules, teachers began the work of collaborative teacher teams to talk about student learning. That year, our school recorded some of the highest student growth percentages in the district in both reading and math based on STAR Reading and Math reports. The screenshots below show the progress our students made at the end of that year.
This work continued during the 2021-22 school year, and while teachers were doing excellent work as collaborative teacher teams, the stress and strain of the third year of instruction during COVID took its toll on our staff. At the end of the year, we had a number of teachers take leaves, resign, and retire; in fact, we had eleven open teaching positions to fill that spring. After hiring new team members, building administration made the tough decision to assign new teams at all grade levels except kindergarten. Balanced teams were created based on experience and leadership qualities amongst staff members. Administration recognized that the new teams and the new hires would need to reestablish the purpose and work of collaborative teacher teams.
To help begin this work, a team of seven staff members attended Solution Tree’s TEAMS Conference in Irving, TX in July 2022. Attendees included one member from four of the six grade level teams, the interventionist, the vice principal, and the principal. The conference was terrific, and attending members came back energized and excited to reenergize the work of the Emily Dickinson PLC. The team also determined that because we had numerous new staff members, it would be beneficial for all staff to go back to the basics of PLCs through a step-by-step study of the parts and practice of collaborative teacher teams. This would ensure that all staff fully understood and participated in all aspects of the process.
After the conference, administration synthesized the materials presented at the conference and designed an eight week PLC professional development series. Using some creative scheduling, all staff attended three hours of PLC PD at the start of the year, and then an hour of PLC PD every Tuesday for eight weeks. The PD began with reviewing and revising the mission and vision statements, and then developing strong collaborative teams by understanding each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, assigning roles and determining accountability, and writing norms. From there, all aspects of the PLC process were discussed and implemented. The sessions ended with a focus on analyzing data and creating tiered intervention. Along the way, teachers did each step of the work in their collaborative teams during these sessions. While much of this work was done in previous years, working as new teams, they were able to do essential work to begin collaboration the right way.
Grade level teachers were also given an additional half day of release time to finish and finalize the PLC tasks so that all teams were ready to dive back into the essential work starting in November. The PD sessions and the links to the presentations are as follows:
In addition to focused professional development, the conference attendees created a Guiding Coalition Team. Other interested staff members also joined. This team meets once a month to discuss all things PLC at Emily Dickinson. Because this team has an in-depth knowledge of the PLC process that they learned and developed at the conference, members are able to thoughtfully assess where each team is in the process and develop next steps to keep teams moving forward in the PLC journey.
At the semester, administration conducted a check-in to determine where teams need additional professional development. This data was gathered and the Guiding Coalition presented ideas for moving forward. A plan to give teachers another half day release to work on the "nuts and bolts" that they do not have time to do during their meetings is being planned.
We are proud of the fact that the staff at Emily Dickinson, all 40 certified teachers, have a common understanding of the work of collaborative teacher teams and have common expectations for the work.
Finally, an additional five staff members will attend the TEAMs conference in Orlando, July 17 - 19, 2023. Our goal is to continue to build and maintain knowledge, excitement and momentum for the process by sending staff members to a Solution Tree National Conference each year. We know that we will continue to work and improve our PLC process, and we are committed to this work.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
Emily Dickinson's achievement data is presented in the two attached files. Additionally, as discussed in the data discussion section of the application, Emily Dickinson had some of the highest growth and proficiency scores as measured by STAR reading and math assessments in the district during the 2020-21 school year. The screenshots outlining district wide proficeincy rates and student growth percentiles in both math and reading data are shown below.
During the 2021-22 school year, the district discontinued the use of STAR Reading. The 2021-22 STAR Math scores for Emily Dickinson and other schools are shown below.