Washington Middle School (2023)

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

As we all know the PLC process is a journey that cannot be implemented overnight because collaboration around practice has not been common in most schools.  The norm instead has been teachers working in isolation.  This could be said about our school just a few years ago.  As we began learning more about the PLC at Work process, we found it to be exactly what our district and our school needed to ensure the best education was provided to all students.  Over the last three years, our district and our school have worked diligently to shift our focus to fully immerse ourselves in the PLC at Work Process.  

Additional Details about our PLC Story:

  • Our district began talking about the importance of the PLC at Work process in early 2019.  That work was centered around building the knowledge of principals and assistant principals.

  • There was no expectation at that point, however, that schools would begin to function like professional learning communities.

  • Washington Middle School began conversations about the importance of collaboration, but had not yet established formal structures or processes for doing that work or for providing interventions to students.

  • We began to fully lean into the PLC at Work process in 2020, when our current principal --- who had experience with implementing a system of interventions at other schools --- joined our staff and when our district’s leadership began to fully invest in the PLC at Work process.

  • Funds were provided by the district that allowed us to send regular groups of teachers to Solution Tree PLC and RTI events.  That facilitated both knowledge of and commitment to the core work of professional learning communities. 

  • Our school also invested in a Virtual PLC Institute in 2020 that allowed every teacher in our building to be exposed to the underlying tenets of the PLC at Work process and the technical steps necessary to collaborate meaningfully around practice.

  • In the 2022-2023 school year, we began to explore the “Will” side of our response to intervention period, working with Jessica Hannigan to develop systems for teaching essential academic skills and behaviors to our students.

  • All of these individual moments on our journey have helped to jump-start our work with collaboration, establishing a baseline of knowledge and understanding that we didn’t already have.

  • Our baseline of knowledge has been continually developed by an investment that our district has made in providing us with access to Solution Tree coaches, who work with our principals, our guiding coalition and our collaborative teams on a regular basis.  

  • Those coaches help us to take stock of where we are and to identify next steps that can move us forward.  They are essential guides on our journey. 

  • We believe that we are in a spot now where every teacher is ready to accept responsibility for ensuring that students learn grade level essentials without alibis and is ready to lean into their peers for support in reaching struggling students and in improving their instruction.  Those core beliefs are now a part of who we are as a school.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Creating a guaranteed and viable curriculum is vital to the success of our school.  Ensuring all students receive an equitable education in all of their classes is of the utmost importance.  Asking teams to develop a list of essential standards and to study those essential standards during cycles of inquiry ensures that all students have access to the same essential outcomes regardless of their teacher assignment.   All teams use their common assessments and a data analysis protocol to not only evaluate whether or not students have mastered the essential standards, but to evaluate the efficacy of Tier 1 instruction.  

To ensure all students have access to additional time and support to master essential grade level standards, we created a thirty minute AO (Academic Opportunity) block in our daily schedule to allow dedicated time for Tier 2 intervention.  This is the time students receive reteaching of grade level essentials by their core teachers on specific learning targets.  These groups are determined based on common formative assessment data collected at least every two weeks.  Teachers evaluate the data in collaborative teams to continuously provide students the support they need to reach mastery.

Details about our efforts to monitor student learning: 

  • Three years ago, Michael Maffoni worked with our collaborative teams to identify a small set of grade level essential standards.  Under his guidance, our teams used the R.E.A.L. criteria to determine which standards were truly essential in their curriculum.

  • Teams then worked to unpack those essential standards to the learning target level.  This process was designed to provide teachers with shared clarity about the level of rigor covered in the standards.  

  • Once this understanding was developed, teachers used their unpacked standards to create a common pacing guide, unit plan, and assessments for their content areas.  (Resource Unit Plans 22-23 6th Grade Math/6th Grade Pacing 22-23)

  • Each year, during our beginning of the year PD days, teams reevaluate their essential standards to determine if those standards remain essential for students to master.  These moments of reevaluation give new teachers to content teams the chance to engage in conversations about the standards our students are supposed to master.  They also serve as a reminder to existing teachers about the level of rigor expected in our essentials.

  • During these conversations, teams can revise their list of grade level essentials.  Sometimes, teams realize that individual standards chosen in previous years were not as important as they originally thought.  Other times, teams realize during their cycles of instruction that standards left off of their lists were truly essential.  Those revisions are made annually.

  • For example, our math teams recognized that, with some standards, their original list of unpacked learning targets were too long for them to ensure that all students learned them to mastery.  They worked together, then, to identify priority targets within those original lists to focus their collaborative time and attention.

  • Once teams have clarity around their essential standards and learning targets, they create team-developed common formative assessments.

  • These assessments are deliberately short and given every one to two weeks.

  • The data collected from these assessments is analyzed by the team with a data analysis protocol that is common building-wide (Resource 6th Grade Data No Names/Student Reflection Form Template).  The analysis is used by the team to identify students in need of additional time and support for learning.  

  • Students are assigned to intervention groups across collaborative teams.  When teachers discover that individual members of their collaborative team had success at teaching essentials, struggling students are assigned to that teacher for intervention.  

  • Other teachers on the collaborative team are given groups for extension or for pre-teaching vocabulary and concepts required to master the next essential standard.

  • There is always one teacher on each collaborative team who is continuing to intervene on previous essential standards that small groups of students have yet to master.  Our goal is to ensure that all students master every grade level essential even as we have to move forward in our instruction. 

  • We also have our students regularly monitoring their own progress towards mastery of grade level essential standards.  Each student has a self-reflection form (Resource-Student Reflection Form) that they revisit after every common assessment.  This self-reflection form helps students to identify the learning targets that they have mastered after each common formative assessment.  Our Math teams have also created student trackers where students can monitor which essential learning targets they have mastered and which ones they still need work on. (Resource-Math Self-Tracker)

  • We believe in this work because it helps students to both accept ownership over their own learning and to celebrate victories within a common assessment.

  • Most recently, we have developed a guaranteed viable curriculum for academic and social behaviors for students with the help of Jessica Hannigan and Behavior Solutions.  We have worked collaboratively as a school to identify essential academic and social behaviors that we want our students to master.  We are now developing plans to teach those behaviors systematically to our students and to provide interventions when students struggle to master them.

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

In the PLC at Work Process, we want to ensure all students are able to learn at the highest levels.  An essential first step in meeting this goal is to create systems of intervention and extension to provide students with additional time and support for learning.  Our school has worked to develop a systematic plan that ensures all students have access to grade level interventions, interventions in the universal skills of learning, and extensions throughout their day.  Here are the steps we have taken as a school to ensure this occurs. 

Details about our efforts to create systems of intervention and extension:  

  • As referenced above, one key element of our system of interventions is our AO (academic opportunity) period.  This period runs 30 minutes per day for four days a week.  Students are assigned to this period by their core content teachers for prevention, intervention and extension.

  • Any students who are not selected by a core teacher for AO get to choose an open AO period to attend with elective teachers.  

  • Students are assigned based on results of common formative assessments given by the team and the group are flexible and updated weekly.

  • Each content team has a “priority day” in our schedule, where they get “first dibs” on students in need of intervention.  Those choices for groups are made by teachers using a tool called RTI Scheduler.  Once teachers with priority for a given day have chosen their students for intervention, the remaining students are assigned for additional practice or for extension based on need.

  • Our school is working harder at providing students with extension during our intervention period.  Recently, our math teachers have piloted a collection of “doing tasks” that students who are working beyond mastery can tackle during our AO period.  These “doing tasks” are designed to extend student thinking with grade level essentials. (Resource Female Student Unit 4 Doing tasks/ and Unit 4a Add/Sub Fractions)

  • Many of our teams are also experimenting with using nonessential standards to extend learning for students during our AO period.  The thinking here is that while not every student may master a nonessential standard, those nonessentials make for a great starting point for extension tasks. 

  • We also have a “breakfast bunch” period for students who are struggling with grade level essentials.  This gives us an additional chunk of time to work with students beyond our AO period.  This time is staffed by classroom teachers who are paid to provide intervention to students at their grade level.

  • Tier 3 interventions in reading and in math happen in our building during a separate, 45-minute period that is a part of a student’s daily schedule.  We use ACT Aspire and STAR data to identify students who are two or more grade levels behind in reading and mathematics.  

  • We offer three different intervention classes in our building: One for students who are two or more grade levels behind in reading, one for students who are two or more grade levels behind in math and “combination class” for students who are two or more grade levels behind in both core subjects.

  • Students are progress monitored quarterly using STAR testing data in these Tier 3 intervention classes.  Once they are back on grade level, they can be exited to either an intervention class on another content area that they are struggling with or they can have a second elective class added to their schedules.

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

Building teacher capacity to work as members of high-performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students is a crucial part of the PLC at Work Process.  This is an effort, however, that cannot be left to chance.  Instead, schools must act deliberately and intentionally to provide teachers with support in all of the cultural and technical changes necessary to become a member of a high-functioning collaborative team.

Details about our efforts to build teacher capacity:

  • Our teachers have had regular coaching from a range of outside experts in the core elements of the PLC at Work process.  

  • Early on, their coaching focused on the steps that teams take to identify essential standards and to unpack those standards.  Then, teams were exposed to strategies for developing assessments that align with both the rigor and the expectations within an unpacked standard.  Finally, teams have been exposed to high quality instructional practices that they can use to deliver instruction in essential standards.

  • Working with our Solution Tree Coach who comes to our school monthly, teams use the continuums from the book Learning By Doing to evaluate their current reality and to develop S.M.A.R.T goals to help move their collaborative work forward. (Resource-Washington Middle School 6th Grade Reading)

  • More recently, we have been pushing our teams to use common formative assessment data as efficacy of their instructional practices instead of simply as evidence of student mastery.  That shift in thinking is taking hold in our building, leading to great conversations and improved instruction.

  • One of the efforts that we are proudest of is that we have implemented what we are calling “Cowbell Standards” in our building.  These are standards that teams are challenged to get 100 percent of students to mastery on without any exceptions.   

  • Each time that a teacher gets 100% of their students to mastery, we do a “Cowbell Celebration” in class.  All students are awarded a sticker to put on their computers.  When teachers have 100% mastery of a Cowbell standard across their entire class load, they are awarded a Cowbell Trophy.

  • This effort has three real benefits in our school:  First, it allows us to reinforce the message that “all means all” when it comes to mastery of grade level essentials.  Second, it allows us to prove to our teachers that all of our students DO have the capacity to learn grade level essentials.  Finally, it allows us to reinforce the notion that the core work of collaborative teams is to put their heads together and find solutions to help students master grade level essentials.

  • We have also reimagined the work of our Guiding Coalition.  Members of this team build shared awareness about the core practices of collaboration and then share that knowledge throughout the building.  They also provide professional development to teams in things like identifying standards, developing assessments and providing interventions.  We see our guiding coalition as champions for the processes that we are trying to implement and we are constantly working to build their capacity as leaders.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

In Arkansas, student progress is measured at the state level through ACT Aspire testing. After taking these exams, students are sorted into four groups: In Need of Support, Close, Ready and Exceeding. 

We use that data at Washington to monitor students in need of support and to evaluate the efficacy of our actions.  

Ready and Exceeding-Washington Data by Student Groups

The spreadsheet that we have chosen to include in this application --- named Ready and Exceeding - Washington Data by Student Groups -- shows the combined percentage of students who have either met or exceeded grade level expectations on that state assessment.  

In this data, we see lots of patterns to be proud of.  They include:

  • Fifth Grade Reading:  

    • We have moved from 31% to 40% proficiency.  

    • 40% proficient in 5th grade reading is 4% higher than the state, which is an accomplishment to celebrate, given that our student population has a higher percentage of school dependent children than the state. 

    • We have seen growth in three out of four subgroups over the past three years, including a 13% increase in the performance of our African American students.
  • Fifth Grade Math: 

    • Like many schools, we saw a drop from 2019-2021 because of the COVID pandemic.  Our data from 2021-2022 shows that we have fully rebounded from that drop, moving from 26% proficient to 33% proficient.

  • Sixth Grade Reading:  

    • We have moved from 35% to 39% proficiency.  That 39% proficiency is the same as the state average --- which, again, is an accomplishment to celebrate given that our student population has a higher percentage of school dependent children than the state.

    • We have seen growth in three out of four subgroups over the past three years, including a 7% increase in the performance of our African American students.

  • Sixth Grade Math: 

    • We have moved from 36% to 46% proficiency.  That 46% proficiency is close to the state average --- which is an accomplishment to celebrate given that our student population has a higher percentage of school dependent children than the state.

    • The cohort of students who were in fifth grade in 2021 were 26% proficient.  That same cohort who were in sixth grade in 2022 were 43% proficient.  

    • The cohort of students who were in fifth grade in 2022 were 34% proficient.  That same cohort were in sixth grade in 2023 were 46% proficient. 

    • The cohort of African American students who were in fifth grade in 2021 were 11% proficient.  That same cohort who were in sixth grade in 2022 were 25% proficient.  

We are also tracking the number of students who we are moving out of the In Need of Support category on our state tests.  In many ways, our work in this area --- WMS 4 Year Data ---- is even more impressive.  

Here are the patterns we are proudest of:

  • In the 5th grade cohort for the 2021 school year, 47% of our students were In Need of Support in reading. In that same cohort, as 6th graders in 2022, we decreased to only 40% In Need of Support. 

  • In the same cohort, the 5th graders in 2021, 13% were exceeding in reading, and they increased to 20% exceeding in reading.

  • In the 5th grade cohort for 2022 school year, 45% of our students were In Need of Support in reading.  In that same cohort, as 6th graders in 2023, we decreased to only 37% In Need of Support.  

  • In 2020-2021, 52% of students in 5th grade math were close. As 6th graders, these students decreased to 38% close. 

  • In the 5th grade math cohort in 2020-2021, 25% were ready. This increased to 32% ready in 2022, which is a 7% increase in one year.

  • In the 5th grade math cohort in 2021-2022, 26% of our students were In Need of Support.  In that same cohort of students as 6th gradersin 2022-2023, only 17% of those students were In Need of Support. 

  • In 2021-2022, 5th grade math had 1% exceeding, and in 6th grade, this same cohort had 11% exceeding.

  • In 6th grade math, in 2020-2021, 23% of students were In Need of Support. In the following year, only 19% of 6th grade math students were In Need of Support.

  • In 6th grade reading in 2020-2021, 13% were exceeding. In the following year of 2022-2023, 20% of 6th grade reading students scored exceeding.

We are starting to receive recognition for the academic progress that we are making as a result of our efforts to function as a professional learning community.  Those recognitions include:

  • #InNOV8STEM Social Media Campaign Winner

But the awards that we are the proudest of are those that our students are earning.  They include:

  • Our archery team has been able to travel and compete in Nationals the last two years in Salt Lake City.  

  • Our 5th grade archery team placed first in regionals and will go on to compete at the state competition this year and hopefully Nationals.  

  • Last year, we sent 4 students to compete in the National Amazing Shake competition at the Ron Clark Academy and this year we are sending 10 students to compete in this competition. 

  • Two of our students took first and third in our county spelling bee and first place will get to travel to the State Spelling Bee.


These awards are important because our school and our district pays to send our students to national competitions to represent us.  Not only does this help students feel a sense of commitment to our school that goes beyond academics and builds a real sense of pride in our community, it gives many of our students who come from economically disadvantaged homes the chance to experience something that they may never have had the chance to experience on their own.  

We believe that these life experiences --- both through travel and competition at the highest level --- are a part of both building the confidence of our learners and seeing the value in the whole child, both in and beyond our classrooms.