Cedric C. Smith Elementary (2023)
- Number of Students: 747
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 55.82%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 31.86%
- Percent of Special Education: 20.08%
- White: 38.32%
- Black: 3.08%
- Hispanic: 52.74%
- Asian: 1.47%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.27%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.27%
- Multiracial: 3.35%
- Other: 0.5%
Cedric C. Smith Elementary School had a good reputation in the district with our past achievement record, however, we knew we could serve our kids better. As we were looking for ways to improve, COVID-19 reared its ugly head, and we knew that our old way of doing things would not be enough to get our kids where they needed to be. It was now “game on” with PLC.
We knew we had to make up for the learning loss while continuing to push our kids to grow, so we began with a book study from Solution Tree, and the phrase, “one of us is not as strong as all of us” became our mantra. We borrowed from Solution Tree when creating our mission statement, stating that the fundamental purpose of Smith Elementary is to ensure all students learn at high levels regardless of the experience of the teacher. We looked at data to convince our team that we needed a collaborative culture and collective responsibility for every student on our campus. In addition, we lost some of our veterans to retirement during the pandemic, so we knew we needed a culture where novice teachers could be as strong as veterans through our shared knowledge. We made commitments to each other to ensure that everyone was mutually accountable, not only for the student learning, but for each other’s learning. Finally, we made time in our schedule for extension and intervention, calling it Grow Time, where kids move to other classes according to their progress and their needs.
We are now in our third year of our PLC process, and we celebrated when our kids performed even better on the state assessments than they had before COVID. By creating a strong guiding coalition that first year, we were able to make believers of the other teachers and onboard teachers new to the campus quickly so that everyone was accountable for all learning. We also developed more efficient ways of reflecting on data and putting that knowledge into action, shifting from what was taught to what was learned. When we hire new teachers, we show them a visual of our PLC process and discuss it so they have more buy-in when they agree to join our team.
Although we are a Title 1 bilingual campus, because of the PLC process, we are now one of the highest performing schools in our district, and we have received more accolades from the state education agency than any other Magnolia school to date. We often revisit our mission, our vision, and our collaborative commitments to ensure that we are on the right track and making the best decisions for all kids. At Smith, we expect the best, and we are on our way with our strong professional learning community.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
The guaranteed and viable curriculum begins with our district curriculum department. They provide teachers with a scope and sequence and unit planners, which are documents that list the learning standards, work examples, and resources for that unit. Our school developed a 3-week PLC cycle so that our teachers were using their time wisely and walking away with a product. Week one is unpacking standards and writing the summative assessment, week 2 is making the 15-day challenge and creating the common formative assessments, and during week 3 they model lessons for each other so that we can get to the how of the teaching and not just the what This has been very effective because by the close of business that week, they have resources ready to go that they have created and vetted.
Each year, we train all teachers in the PLC process, and our facilitators receive extra ongoing training to ensure that each team is operating efficiently, sharing the workload, and supporting our collaborative culture. We have created PLC documents to track the 3-week cycle and documents for our data protocol that we periodically review with our facilitators to make sure they are easily accessible and user-friendly. In addition, we have a PLC hub and a PLC process slide (screenshots are attached) to make sure everyone understands our PLC process.
We have dedicated time in the schedule for teachers to do the above work in addition to their regular planning time, and we also have time for intervention and enrichment based on the students’ achievement with each standard. We also have a student intervention team that meets with the teachers every six weeks to track the progress of all tiered students.
To monitor student learning on a timely basis, the teachers put the data from formative assessments to action on either the same day or the next day. For summative assessments, they have a 48-hour time limit to review the data, create a plan, present it to the leadership team, and then put the plan into action.
Finally, we believe in continuous growth for our team, and we continue to read articles, books, and receive training about the PLC process to ensure that we are doing the right things to meet our vision and mission.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Meeting kids where they are and pushing them to their highest level is our mission, and we have created a system to support that goal. Kindergarten through fourth grade has a dedicated intervention block called Grow Time, where regular instruction stops and intervention and extension happen. The length of the Grow Time depends on the grade, with kindergarten at 25 minutes and fourth grade at 40 minutes.
Teachers are constantly taking formative assessments through observations, small group notes and exit tickets. For summative data, they have a 48-hour turnaround where they create intervention and enrichment groups based on that data. This quick turnaround allows them to target standards before learning loss and before moving on to the new material. All teachers track each students’ progress by learning standard.
Based on assessment data, students are placed into their Grow Time groups, and skills are targeted by learning standards. The teachers whose students performed the strongest take the kids who have the greatest need, and overall, students are flexed among the teachers and interventionists. We are a Title I school, so we have many students who have extra needs. Because of our needs, the Grow Time block has been extremely helpful and successful in growing our students academically. In addition to the Grow Time, teachers consistently teach small groups in their classes every day where they gather qualitative and quantitative data about their students.
Small groups are also based on assessment data, and they are to either help students who need extra time with the current learning, or they are to fill in learning gaps for kids. Teachers keep their whole group lessons short so that they can get to small groups as soon as possible, which is much more powerful and differentiated. While the teachers meet with kids in small groups, the other students “out in the wild” are at stations that are reviewing specific skills. These stations are also differentiated for different needs, and each station is required to have accountability so that they kids are working and not just playing. Even in the younger grades where they cannot fully write, the kids are creating video responses to a story they listened to our drawing a picture to match a concept.
To track all students, we have Student Intervention Team meetings every six weeks. This team is made of the teachers, administrators, and the Academic Coordinator, and we quickly review the data on each student and determine next steps based on their progress. We celebrate when tiered students move up, and we give strategies and resources when students are not growing. In addition, we consult with the GT specialist to ensure we are pushing the kids as much as we are intervening. A team approach ensures all students are growing.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
At Smith, we use the mantra from Solution Tree that “one of us is not as strong as all of us,” and we have created a system where all teachers are supported in collaborative teams that lead to improvement for all students. We began by training a facilitator on each team about the PLC process and how it can affect every person on our campus. However, we ran into the issue of the facilitators pulling most of the weight on the team, so we then shifted to giving that training to all teachers in our second year of implementation. In addition, we had the teachers design documents for tracking the PLC process and maintaining effective data by standard for each child.
Now that we are in year three, the teams are stronger than ever because every teacher is bringing something that can be used to strengthen the learning. Facilitators send out the agenda at least three days in advance, and everyone is assigned a task, such as bringing an extension activity for a certain standard. These assignments also help teams answer the four questions and have resources available for all learners.
This year, we also improved our Week 3 in the 3-Week PLC process, which is to have teammates model for each other. They choose a boulder lesson and perform it as they would to their kids. The other teachers watch and give feedback so that they walk away with strong lessons that they will be delivering to their kids. They also model small group instruction as well. This process help veteran teachers sharpen their skills and it helps new teachers truly learn from the veterans. Teaching is a performance, and this rehearsal allows the teams to perfect those lessons before they go on stage in front of the kids.
In addition to the work of the teams, the instructional team, which consists of the administrators, the instructional specialist, GT specialist, and Academic Coordinator, create personalized professional development sessions at each workday so that teachers can attend based on his or her needs. We survey the teachers to see what they would like, and we also use student data and our walkthrough data to offer meaningful trainings. The instructional team and strong teachers lead the training sessions.
The final step of creating a collaborative team is getting parents involved. Teachers train parents through Academic Parent Teacher Team meetings. These meetings allow teachers to show parents strategies, set goals for the students with them, and show them the expectations for that grade. Our collaborative efforts among teachers, parents, and the administration creates the strongest possible team to support student learning.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
When Texas first began assigning letter grades to campuses, Smith Elementary was rated an A, which was a wonderful achievement. Unfortunately, the next year, fifth grade moved to a different campus, and losing that growth measure dropped us to a B, which is where we were in the 2019-2020 school year.
That 2019-2020 school year is when COVID hit, and we did not take state assessments that year or the next, which made us unahppy because we did not like getting stuck with that B. However, for the 2020-2021 year, we knew we needed great improvement to make up for the pandemic learning loss, and that is when we dedicated ourselves to the PLC process, and it paid off. For the 2021-2022 school year, we again achieved our A and had higher achievement than before the pandemic.
In addition to increases in our achievement data, Smith Elementary earned four out of five Distinction Designations from the Texas Education Agency. To date, Smith Elementary has earned more Distinction Designations than any other Magnolia ISD school since TEA began awarding them in 2012.
- 21-22-3rd Grade Team recognized as the District PLC of the Month
- 22-23- 4th Grade Math Team recognized as the District PLC of the Month
Texas Education Agency Distinction Designations based on state assessment results:
- Academic Achievement in Reading
- Academc Achievement in Mathematics
- Postsecondary Readiness
- Closing the Gaps