Palmetto Middle School (2023)
- Number of Students: 785
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 65%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 11.1%
- Percent of Special Education: 18.5%
- White: 80%
- Black: 4%
- Hispanic: 15%
- Asian: 0%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 0%
- Other: 1%
Palmetto Middle School’s PLC story began in 2018. One of my assistant principals and I went to a Solution Tree PLC conference in Atlanta, GA, along with several other administrators in our district and our minds were blown. We heard from Luis Cruz, Mike Mattos, and Anthony Muhammad as they discussed ”Science” behind our craft. It was so simple yet it was something that very few people were doing. My AP and I absorbed as much as we could over the course of this conference and came back to our school on fire. We brought the entire administrative team into the loop and devised a plan to turn Palmetto Middle School into a “Model PLC School” by the end of the month. It was hilarious! We obviously did not understand anything that we were talking about or anything that we were trying to do. We knew the words to the four questions but did not understand any of them or the work that it would take to get them established across the board. Nonetheless, we got started and fumbled our way through the balance of the year. By March of 2019, we had a plan to utilize our Spring Professional Development Day to create our “Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum/Essential Standards.” We created them to the best of our abilities on that day, placed them in a Google Folder, moved on and never looked back. We did not understand that Essential Standards must be constantly reviewed, tweaked, and modified by both the PLC groups and the Guiding Coalition. Our next task was to create a Guiding Coalition. Our very first Guiding Coalition consisted of the principal, two assistant principals, 3 school counselors, the reigning teacher of the year, and one representative from each content area PLC. We were huge. The Guiding Coalition would meet once per month with an agenda that was created by the building administration. These meetings were also driven and led by school administration. We would participate in great discussions surrounding teaching, assessment, re-teaching, reassessment, data-driven instruction, and how we would use all of this to ensure that “ALL” students were learning at “High” levels of, at least, one grade level of growth per year! We did not understand “Tight and Loose.” We did not understand “Common Formative Assessments.” We did not understand how to collect manageable chunks of data each day to drive our instruction for the next days to come. We were a very high functioning staff that loved each other and loved working with each other. It blew my mind how much we were “Not” on the same page about any of this. In the Fall of 2019, Luiz Cruz came to our district and I was able to bring representatives from each grade level to the training. After working through what we had learned, unsupervised, for a year, it was clear to us many of the mistakes we were making and how much we didn’t understand nearly as much as we thought. We convened our Guiding Coalition that week and returned to our grade levels with corrections and a plan to revamp, correct, and improve upon the things that we were doing. We had momentum, we were improving each day, and the pandemic hit! We lost 9 weeks of instruction, were filled with uncertainty, but knew and believed as a staff that if we ever needed the good work of the PLC, now was that time and it was critical not to lose any of our momentum. We committed as a school to continue to meet as PLC groups during the 2020-2021 school year. We did not create a 2020-2021 Guiding Coalition but, as an administrative team, we monitored the work of the PLC’s. Our goal for this was to maintain our momentum and to be ready to continue our work as normal once the restrictions were lifted. We achieved this goal well! At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, The Guiding Coalition was reconvened with a few fresh faces, the PLC meetings continued, and we began to really carve our Essential Standards into manageable and “Guaranteeable” plans of action. Math and ELA began to participate in Vertical Planning Meetings and we could all begin to see the results of our efforts, only one year removed from the Pandemic. We knew that we were doing good work and that this work needed to continue and needed to get better. At the end of this school year, I set a goal for our school and put a plan in place for the school’s administration to surrender control of the Guiding Coalition and for it to govern itself. We began the 2022-2023 school year with district-level training and a district-level commitment to “Question # 2.” We focused on “Question #1” the year before. Solution tree provided training, deep-dive discussion on the Instruction and Assessment Cycle. We finally learned the difference between Tier II instruction and the Tier I prevention loop. As we prepare this application today, we are continuously monitoring our Essential Standards and making monthly improvements, we are at consensus on how we measure how much our students know (while daily improving our consensus making process on how we interpret rubrics as we grade), and we are turning data into information that drives our instruction and determines how we reteach and reassess so that “ALL” students are learning at “HIGH” levels!
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Monitoring Student Learning on a Timely Basis
In 2019, we began tackling the Four Questions of the PLC one at a time. Through several vertical meetings, we were able to establish our school’s Core “Essential Standards.” As we really began to focus on this work, we discovered that establishing “Essential Standards” and a “Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum” were not a single task but rather a task that required constant monitoring and tweaking throughout the school year. Our Essential Standards were based on the “R.E.A.L” (Readiness, Endurance, Assessed, Leverage). This was and remains a constant work in progress. We become better at this each and every year and hone our standards down into more manageable learning targets. Once our Essential Standards were established, we began unpacking these standards into Learning Targets and Learning Progressions. This work really helped us to lay out our instructional and assessment timeline for the year. As a result, we were able to plan and prepare much more effectively. Learning to more effectively use the “Common Formative Assessment” (CFA) required more work. We have always been a school that analyzed data, and also a school that used that data to inform our instruction. We just weren’t very efficient at it. Learning how to scale down the CFA so that it represented a single learning target was a game changer. This allowed us to come more prepared to our PLC meetings and for the first time, we were turning data into actionable intel. In 2022, we really began to focus on our teaching/learning/assessment cycle especially as is pertains to the tiers of instruction. We knew we needed to improve upon this. In the summer of 2022, we worked with a Solution Tree team and really dove into the tiers of instruction, gained true understanding of the differences between “Tier I Prevention Loop” and “Tier II” instruction. Our Guiding Coalition established a “Re-Teach/Retake Process” and have established a process when this is still not successful.
Don’t pass the reassessment?
-Preventative Loop - Use formative data to inform instruction and prevent
-Reteach required before reassessment
-Reach out to the IEP case manager and/or interventionist. If it is a student with an IEP the case manager can adjust IEP goals or look at the placement of the child.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Palmetto Middle’s mission is to provide a safe, authentic, and rigorous learning environment for all students, while motivating and preparing them for life in and beyond the classroom. At the heart of this mission, the “right” work ensures all students learn at high levels while receiving the support needed to master the guaranteed and viable curriculum. Our students have many opportunities within the school day to learn at high levels. In addition to four 60 minute content classes, students have 45 minutes of WIN time daily, and two exploratory arts classes. “WIN” stands for “What I Need.” Students have WIN time once weekly with each academic core teacher. Friday WIN period is a flexible time to be used by all content teachers for reassessment, make up work, reteaching, etc.
Content PLC teachers decide how best to group students and use the WIN time to meet the needs of our students. Tier 1 instruction includes preventative, intentional grouping and reteaching by the classroom teacher and/or interventionists based on common formative data. Students receive Tier 2 intervention based on common summative data during class time and/or WIN time. Students participate in reteaching and reassessing during this Tier 2 component. These tiers are fluid and change frequently based on formative and summative data. Any student who isn't proficient yet within these two levels of instruction is referred to the MTSS team. Our MTSS schoolwide PLC team is composed of the academic support teacher, an assistant principal, an interventionist, and a school counselor. This team meets monthly to reflect on Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 instruction, provide intervention plans for students and to monitor/adjust intervention plans already in place. Additional teachers and staff are included in meetings based on the meeting agenda. Our school has an MTSS flowchart with resources, next steps, and contact information to equip teachers and staff in this “right” work.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
The foundation at Palmetto Middle for building teacher capacity to work in high-performing collaborative teams was solid. Before beginning the PLC process, almost all content and grade level teams had common planning time, many of them at regularly scheduled intervals throughout the week, and we're meeting for common shared goals. However, these common planning times did not necessarily translate into classrooms aligning with common formative assessment, much less aligning data from these assessments to inform instructional decisions. Much of the discussion was focused on the weekly and monthly plans, and establishing groups to retake assessments based upon whole scores. Although students were being reassessed, reteaching was not necessarily part of the process. Test corrections, sometimes supported by the teacher or without, made of the majority of systems for reteaching or intervention. Oftentimes, teacher focus at our school was primarily on the collection of work or missing assignments, which means that gradebooks did not necessarily reflect what a student knew about the content, but their effort level in class. This meant inflated grades for some and deflated grades for others. Additionally, there was no real MTSS process in places to identify students that needed Tier-II interventions. While some students would be recommended for extra help, support was often based on the symptoms and not the root cause with no distinction provided from one student to the next. Realistically, everyone was putting their best effort forward, but this really led to spinning our tires and having the same students struggle again and again without a game plan to push them out of this cycle. In order to improve these often fruitless efforts, teacher capacity was built through professional learning communities.
The first thing established in our shift to the PLC process was the vision we all wanted to achieve: move and grow students who continued to struggle. Each grade level content team poured through their standards to identify what are the essential bits that students need to walk away with in order to be successful in the next grade, next school, or in life as an adult. This process was both eye-opening and freeing. Teachers worked through collaborative efforts to refine their lists and a handful of non-negotiable standards were identified for each grade and content-level. Ultimately, it allowed teachers to focus their efforts and pick instructional battles more effectively. Next, the administrative team established a regularly scheduled time each week devoted to the work of the PLC. While many teams meet multiple times throughout the week, this guaranteed a time administrators could come in to collaborate, coach, and observe, with a focus on student intervention through common formative data. Through the establishment of a purpose and the refinement of this process through practice, administrative teams brought the best practices observed within the school with them. Additionally, a reteaching and enrichment time was built into the daily schedule. This time, called WIN (What I Need), establishes student performance growth groups, allowing teachers to tier instruction based upon student needs. This time is often the basis for reteaching, going after deficit skills, or presenting a challenge to those who have already mastered a content skillset.
Also, our district has provided a series of professional development through SolutionTree to better equip teachers with understanding the process. During these instructional days, extensive time is spent looking at the teachers’ real classroom data, and emphasis has been placed on developing common formative assessments and addressing unmastered content through the prevention loop in order for teachers to authentically teach and reassess in a way that best demonstrates a student’s growth in a deficit skill. Additionally, district-held TALK days (Teachers Advancing Learning for Kids), half days hosted within the school year to focus on professional development, allowed for content areas to vertically align within the school or horizontally align across the district to have an open discussion about PLC practices and further align essential content standards. These discussions are productive and provide a window into the process of other teams within the building, allowing for extended peer collaboration. Through this weekly refinement, exchange of ideas, and adherence to the data-informed professional learning community process, on any given Thursday within our school you will see:
PLC discussions establishing WHAT they want students to know through formation of learning targets from essential standards as a content-level team.
Teacher teams addressing HOW we ensure a student knows the essential content via a focus on data, with an emphasis on understanding why students miss each question, rather than scores as a whole
The development common formative and summative assessments for each grade-level content area PLC that is focused on evaluating learning targets and essential standards
Planning for groups to intentionally reteach and enrich in a collaborative manner through sharing of data and each student belonging to the whole of the PLC, not a single teacher.
As stated, teacher feedback is essential to this process. Because of this, the school-wide Guiding Coalition, a governing body on teacher instructional practices, has been revamped to be teacher-led, which focuses on refinements to the PLC process within our school. Throughout the course of the last two years, this group has established schoolwide procedures for assessments and reteaching. With the support and approval of administration, these ideas are shared in a section of the monthly school meeting called Thoroughbred Thursday (Monthly, job-embedded professional development sessions where PLC processes and practices are explored, discussed, and taken back into the classroom and collaborative sessions). Also as previously stated, an MTSS team has been established in order to address student concerns when prevention loops and Tier II instruction are not proving effective. This team is made up of professionals throughout the building who have a holistic understanding of student concerns. These professional groups also report to a districtwide MTSS and Guiding Coalition with a representation from each school, where discussion further refines the PLC process across all buildings within our school.
Our work refining this process is not done. The next steps with our school include moving from the identification of essential standards to designing a viable guaranteed curriculum that exists from grade level to the grade level. By doing this within our school, we each know the role we play in establishing the foundational knowledge within our students and can begin the process of further aligning with our friends at the elementary and high school, an essential piece of the transitional group from both. Additionally, within each building-level PLC, aligning instructional strategies, vocabulary, while continuing to fine tune assessment language. By having a common language we all speak, student understanding and capacity can truly be assessed, allowing rigor to be increased across all grade levels. Finally, continuing the refinement process in our building through continued administrative observation and feedback. As the instructional leaders for the school, the administrative team has seen the process playout across the school and hold teachers accountable to the norms that have been established. The goal is to shift administrators from the role of enforcement to support, making each teacher the true owner of this process which allows all students to grow through the collective effort of all professionals in the building.
Achievement Data Files
2019 and 2022 Schools to Watch Redesignation Award
2019 Palmetto Silver Award
2022 Excellent Report Card Rating
2022-2023 i-Ready Math and ELA Leader in Growth for Anderson School District One