Eagle Springs Elementary (2023)

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

Eagle Springs Elementary has always had a general culture of teamwork, but despite good intentions, they weren't always doing the right work. During meetings, they were collegial rather than purposeful and more focused on teaching than on student learning. They were working hard, but we weren't maximizing the power of true collaboration. They spent a lot of time admiring students’ problems and accepting the status quo. Dr McGee had always been interested in the PLC process and the positive outcomes shown at schools who had started this process. In 2014, Dr. McGee and two teacher leaders attended the PLC at Work Institute in Atlanta. They were a part of a group from Houston County and Eagle Springs was chosen to be one of 3 pilot schools in the district to begin working on the PLC processes. This team began to share the knowledge they had gained from the institute with the school’s Collaborative Leadership Team and began to put some of the PLC structures in place.  However, it was obvious that more members of the Collaborative Leadership Team and other teachers needed to experience the same professional learning that Dr. McGee and the two other teacher leaders had experienced, if this work was going to take off.  In 2016, Dr. McGee and the entire Collaborative Leadership Team attended the PLC Institute in Atlanta. After this institute, it was apparent that the entire team had caught the vision of what a PLC was and why it was necessary for Eagle Springs Elementary. After the conference the Collaborative Leadership Team debriefed and developed a plan to introduce the PLC process to our school. When school started in August, Dr. McGee introduced the “Why” behind PLCs and gave a brief introduction of PLCs at the first faculty meeting of the year.  Each grade level had a Collaborative Leadership Team member that knew about facilitating the PLC process to the grade levels. The PLC process and structures were beginning to become our way of doing business. There was a focus on Tier 1 instruction, schedules that provided support for students throughout the day, and daily extended learning time (academic opportunity time– SOAR). We used resources such as Learning By Doing, “Time Bomb” Video and Global PD to bring the PLC work to life and help others catch the vision for the PLC work. The Collaborative Leadership Team also benefited from hearing Anthony Muhammad at our district’s Leadership Summit. His focus was on culture and the importance of culture.  We realized we also had the need to work on culture along with structures and processes.

Through the Covid shut down and the unconventional year to follow, our commitment to the PLC work continued.  We still collaborated, whether it was by Zoom or 6 feet apart.  We still used data to drive instructions, provided interventions, and we were still committed to helping all students succeed.  In the Spring of 2021, there was a change in school leadership.  Dr. McGee retired and Dr. Jeff Washington came on board to lead Eagle Springs Elementary School.  He was from the school district and had worked as an assistant principal in another elementary school.  However as mentioned earlier, Eagle Springs was a PLC pilot school for the district and their work was a few steps ahead of some other the other schools in the district.  Therefore, in order to support the new principal and allow him to get a clear understanding of the PLC work, several strategic meetings and resources were planned. 

Dr. Washington had a good foundation in the PLC work, because of the work done within the district.  One of the first steps taken was to invite Dr. Washington to attend Collaborative Leadership Team and Intervention Team meetings in the spring of 2021.  This would give him insight into the level of teacher leadership and processes already in place.  He also visited the school during our Academic Opportunity Time (SOAR) and in the Summer of 2021 the school Collaborative Leadership Team participated in a virtual RTI event with Solution Tree.  The two principals were able to work together for over a month to ensure that even though there was a leadership change, there would be no ground loss in our PLC work.  Dr. Washington would have the opportunity to begin his work on a firm PLC foundation.

It was now Dr. Washington’s turn to take on the mantle by focusing on new MAP Growth data and providing the growing culture of teamwork. Our meetings are intentional and focused on what each student needs and how our teams of highly qualified teachers can work together to support them. There is a culture of no excuses--every student will get exactly what they need, whether they are already high achieving or whether we need to move mountains to make sure they achieve grade-level expectations. Instead of having students' needs fit our structures, we have transformed our structures to fit student needs. We are laser-focused on essential standards, and we have provided a guaranteed, viable curriculum to our students and their families.

In order to sustain our growth as a PLC, we began by making sure our Collaborative Leadership Team and administration attended institutes, and then we branched out to other teacher-leaders on each grade level. Our focus was ensuring that we had key leaders on each grade level who were committed to the PLC process and could communicate our "Why." Several teachers and new Leadership Team members attended PLC Institute, in Orlando, Florida in July 2022. We also knew that we had to make it a priority to send as many of our staff as possible to receive training from an institute. There is nothing like being a part of an institute to get educators fired up about this important work and how it is so powerful in impacting the lives of children and their families.

As a school, we continue to concentrate on a shift in culture. We focused intentionally on establishing and recommunicating our "why" and on getting the right people in the right places. The process was not easy. We had to be honest and authentic with each other, and that meant that we had a lot of work to do in establishing new norms and learning how to be comfortable with the storming process so that our teams could begin performing together. As our culture began to shift toward the power of combined expertise and true collaboration, some chose to move on to other places and others found their best fit at different grade levels or with different teams. We strengthened teams, established task forces, and hired new teachers who were open to our new perspective and process.

We recognize that the PLC work is focused and intentional. In order to maintain staff morale and support culture, the Encourage Eagles task force was established. The Encouraging Eagles task force is a culture-building collaboration for our teachers and staff based on feedback we have received from within our professional learning community teams. The foundation of this committee is to meet monthly to collaborate in shared decision-making that helps boost morale and support the culture of Eagle Springs Elementary School’s faculty and staff. To accomplish this, Encouraging Eagles is an open committee that welcomes any teacher or staff member to join and works with the Parent Involvement Liaison and PTO. The goal of Encouraging Eagles is for every teacher and staff member to feel welcomed, loved, and also appreciated for their efforts in making our school and students successful. The committee is in charge of several aspects of morale-boosting activities such as Food Truck Fridays, thematic monthly appreciation events, specific appreciation days, and monthly teacher and staff recognition.

These events target different themes and the specific ways that people like to be appreciated based on interest surveys. The teacher and staff recognitions are based on peer votes which select one teacher and one support staff member each month. The winners are surprised with baskets of their favorite things, and an Eagle of the Month plaque. They are then recognized on the Teacher and Staff bulletin board and the school’s ClassDojo and social media site. In summary, the Encouraging Eagles task force is invested in motivating our colleagues to continue working hard, recognizing those efforts, and promoting a positive environment to help improve employee satisfaction and overall retention.

We recognize that the PLC at Work process is ongoing, and we have focused on making sure that our structures fit our students rather than our students fitting our structures. As our teams have developed, we have recognized the need to change key elements in order to work more effectively together. Our relationships with students are stronger because each student and every family knows that there are multiple people working hard for every student. Our families have gotten used to the fact that conferences and other meetings mean that there are often a lot of people sitting around the table. While that may be intimidating at first, they soon recognize that their child has an army of experts working with them and celebrating their successes.

As we move forward in the PLC at Work process, we recognize that our culture must be continuously supported. We work hard to bring new staff on board and ensure that as many of our staff as possible attend PLC conferences and institutes. As we remember our WHY, we celebrate our successes and attribute student successes to the efforts of our team. Because of our commitment to common formative assessments (CFA) and continuous, focused, monitoring of student growth, we celebrate growth all year. Yes, our growth on state assessments has been recognized at the state and district level, but what we are most proud of is the culture of collaboration and student success that we get to be a part of each and every day.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

At Eagle Springs Elementary our school has worked hand-in-hand with other schools throughout the district as well as district specialists to determine essential standards for each grade level. During this process, our school's grade-level groups reviewed the standards to identify those they collectively believed were essential. Then our teachers gathered by subject area and compared standards across the grade levels to make sure they were vertically aligned. The district then looked at all schools' recommendations and provided guidance for priority and supporting standards within which each school would operate. Eagle Springs Elementary has the autonomy to choose standards that our teachers feel are best to meet our students' needs.

Eagle Springs teachers have worked hard to communicate our essential standards and communicate our guaranteed curriculum to parents. This communication occurs through a variety of events and venues. Parents learn about priority standards through our parent compacts, at Open House, at parent conferences and during our Bright Night activity nights. During our Bright Night events, parents not only learn about priority standards but they also learn how to support their child's growth in these areas. Teachers share with parents their child’s current level of mastery of the essential standards. At ESES, parents know their children have been given a guaranteed, viable curriculum that will help ensure their future educational success.

At ESES we continually track and monitor student learning to ensure that no student falls through the cracks and to ensure that we are able to meet the needs of every student who walks through our doors. In the aggregate, we use a school-wide data tracker that allows us to monitor the progress monitor every student in the building with regard to expected growth per reading level. Depending on the reading level and projected growth, students' reading levels are assessed every 3-4 weeks at lower reading levels and as projected in upper reading levels. Similarly, we track growth in Factswise, this is a program used throughout the school for essential standards in math fluency. Factwise data is collected every 3-4 weeks to monitor growth in math fluency. Our Intervention Team meets at least once a month to monitor the progress of all students and to quickly catch any student who may be falling behind. In addition, we use a MAPS assessment in grades 1-5 as a universal screener and measure of growth and progress. The MAPS assessment is given three times a year and allows us an additional measure of growth for all students.

Of course we know it is not enough to simply collect data, we must also monitor student growth and implement interventions as soon as they are needed. Our Intervention Team and our grade- level teams monitor these data as soon as they are available. While the grade level monitors i-Ready, MAP, reading level, and Factswise data for their grade-level, the Intervention Team also ensures that any student falling behind grade-level standards gets intense intervention. Our grade-level teams also utilize i-Ready and CFA data to form intervention and enrichment groups and to make changes to Tier I instruction as needed. By using this data, the groups can be very fluid, moving students between Tiers and enrichment as needed.

We also ensure that students and parents are on board with tracking student progress. All students track their Accelerated Reading (AR) levels and Houston County Literacy Inventory (HCLI) levels, and upper-grades students track their Lexile scores based on MAPS assessment results. Students know their reading level and AR range and also know where they should be performing. In math, students track their progress in math fluency by monitoring their own Factwise data. Parents are informed of their children’s progress through regularly scheduled Bright Night events where parents monitor their student's progress in relation to grade-level expectations. At Bright Nights the focus is on essential standards for the grade level and sharing students' current assessment data on those standards. Teachers provide activities and games to use at home to help improve their child's performance on the standard. These nights also include celebration of student progress and monitoring of their child's progress in relation to others in the classroom. This helps underscore the level of rigor required for some of the standards.

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

As we gained a new perspective with the PLC process, we realized that although we had been working hard at interventions, what we were doing was simply not effective. As we have progressed along our PLC journey, our perspective has led to re-examination of why and how our interventions were functioning and re-evaluating how we were using our expert staff. The key to this has been the realization and enculturation of the idea that each one of us is accountable for the learning of each student in the building. We moved from the classroom teacher being responsible for all interventions to grade-level examination of common formative assessment data, flexible scheduling and grouping among the grade-level, data and focused intervention based on common formative assessments with shared responsibility among all educators. Taking Action became our guide through this process as well examined academic and behavior needs.

We provided extended learning time daily for students. This is referred to as Academic Opportunity Time by our school district, but we call it SOAR Time. For all students and teachers at ESES our "All Hands on Deck" approach means that all certified teachers are engaged in intervention or enrichment activities during our designated intervention period. Our grade-level teachers use data from i-Ready progress monitoring and common formative assessments to determine whether students on the grade level will receive intervention or enrichment. Teachers divide and group students based on this data, with groups formed with particular teacher based on teacher prior success in that standard as well as the necessary level of support for particular students.

Students who have mastered a particular standard are challenged to reach beyond those standards with enrichment activities. In order to facilitate smaller groupings, students requiring intervention are also often served by specialists during the intervention period that may serve multiple grade levels. In some cases, our staff has determined that even more intense grade-level intervention is required, and we have adopted what we refer to as a "SWAT Team" approach to grade-level challenges, in which the entire team of school specialists (Reading and Math Specialists, Special Education Teachers, and ELL Teachers) enter a grade level at one time to assist in intervention.

For students who are below grade level on essential standards we have established a team of experts (Intervention Team) who regularly examine intervention progress and who spearhead intervention during the day (avoiding initial essential standards instruction) and during our dedicated daily intervention time. This team meets at least monthly to examine school wide reading and math progress data. The Intervention Team includes our Reading Specialist, English Language Learner Teachers, Math Specialist, Special Education Teachers, Speech Language Pathologist, Intervention Teachers, School Counselor, Assistant Principal for Instruction, and Principal. Meeting at least monthly, the team expanded our approach to intervention by developing a school-wide tracking system that includes increased monitoring of progress from collection every 9 weeks to every 3-4 week, the establishment and investment in research-based intervention, and an intense monitoring of both individual progress and grade-level trends. This process of continuous examination of data and intervention has helped us close significant gaps for students and helped us identify and rectify Tier 1 problems with phonemic awareness and phonics instruction. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high-performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.

Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) has been instrumental in establishing and teaching students the essential behaviors (Eagle Expectations) we expect  and identifying and supporting those who need additional support in the area of behavior.  When schools react only with punishment, students do not learn the skills they need to improve. PBIS is a proactive approach schools use to improve school safety and promote positive behavior. The focus of PBIS is prevention, not punishment. PBIS, schools teach students positive behavior strategies, just as they would teach about any other subject. They use a common language to discuss behavior expectations. Throughout the school day — in class, at lunch, and on the bus — students understand what is expected of them. According to research, PBIS leads to better student behavior. In many schools that use PBIS, students get fewer detentions and suspensions. They also earn better grades. There is evidence that PBIS may lead to less bullying. Discipline and culture have improved tremendously with the use of PBIS.

Monthly we have two key events that support the PBIS program. We have monthly celebrations for students who have displayed Eagle Expectations that month. Each one with a different theme and activities. Every student in the school has an opportunity each month to set these celebrations as a behavior goal.  Every month, Eagle Springs Elementary School hosts a unique mentorship program called "Ties for Guys" and "Pearls for Girls." Administrators and leaders from the community speak to fifth-grade students about different strategies and techniques to help our Eagles become productive and engaged citizens. Our guest speakers spend time investing in our students by sharing real-life lessons. They show how to serve others in our community and spend time loving our students. It has provided a student culture shift in inspire and enrich our students and community. We’ve also instituted our Encouraging Eagles Committee. The Encouraging Eagles Committee was formed as a culture-building collaboration for our teachers and staff based on feedback we have received from within our collaborative teams. The foundation of this committee is to meet monthly to collaborate in shared decision-making that helps boost the morale of Eagle Springs Elementary School’s faculty and staff. To accomplish this, Encouraging Eagles is an open committee that welcomes any teacher or staff member to join and works with the Parent Involvement Liaison and PTO.

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

At ESES we build teacher capacity through a commitment to cultural collaborative improvement. Our teachers and staff are accustomed to challenging themselves individually and collectively to grow and improve. The PLC difference, however, has been our ability to focus our efforts at continuous improvement with the goal being student learning. That perspective has been the impetus to continuously examine structures, processes, and perspectives in a new light and has helped us move from unfocused, but regular new initiatives to a focus on continuous self, team, and structural examination and improvement.

Once focus was renewed and a new filter was established, we were able to promote regular examination and improvement by scheduling time for collaboration. Creating a school-wide schedule ensuring common planning times for grade level teams was one of our first priorities. In addition to the weekly grade- level meetings, we added a second weekly grade-level meeting solely committed to the examination of student learning through CFA collective construction and analysis of essential grade-level standards. Our district also provided MAP testing and i-Ready analysis for student progress monitoring. This process allows our teams to consistently move forward to ensure that all students are meeting grade- level essential learning standards. We include designated support teachers in these meetings who function as co- facilitators and share information across grade levels which has helped us to not only make improvements in single grade levels, but also to share best practices across grade levels.

Another way we worked to create a culture of continuous improvement was through the creation of an Intervention Team that meets monthly to track school-wide reading and math growth. Through this process, grade-level teachers share progress information on scheduled intervals, and the team is able to sort and analyze data to ensure that all students who are below grade-level for reading or math fluency receive intervention. This process allows us to observe grade-level Tier 1 trends and make changes when needed. For example, we noticed that students in primary grades were struggling to meet grade-level reading expectations at high levels. This correlated with low levels of phonemic awareness and phonics skills on our universal screener. We were able to triangulate this data and initiate new phonics instruction at the primary level and grade-level phonics groups during our intervention time. This allowed students on the grade level missing a particular phonemic awareness or phonics skills to receive instruction in specific areas based on their missing skills. Teachers coordinated the sharing of students and tracked progress to keep the groups as up-to-date as possible. This allowed us to ensure each child had what they needed to move forward in reading. During the next universal screening window, the gap in knowledge had been eliminated, and we were able to focus on the few students with remaining deficits.

The culture of continuous improvement has also extended to our students and their families. We have established family nights throughout the year at which families are shown how to track their student's growth in reading and math fluency. Parents are prompted to encourage their children in specific activities that promote growth and they are also able to monitor their child's improvement throughout the year. Students participate in this too; they monitor and record their own growth in reading and math fluency and celebrate their successes.

Creating a culture of continuous improvement produces high-performing, collaborative teams that focus their efforts on improving student learning. One particular instance of such is when a need presented itself regarding the implementation of our RTI practices for the betterment of student learning practices. In the Fall of 2017, Dr. McGee and a task force from the Leadership Team attended the RTI Institute in Tampa, Fla. At the conclusion of this conference, we developed our inverted intervention pyramid and established our Intervention Team. In order to connect the grade level PLT work and the Intervention Team work, each grade level had one of the Specialist teachers (EIP, ESOL, SPED, and Intervention) assigned to them. This person came to the PLT meetings and helped facilitate and support the grade level work. They were there to see what Tier 1 and 2 strategies were being used and provide data to the Intervention Team when students needed to be added to Tier 3 and when they would return to Tier 2 or 1.  Throughout this work we utilized Taking Action, Global PD videos, and used the One Step At A Time article by Parry Graham and Bill Ferriter to monitor our PLT work.  Fast forward several years following a commitment to the PLC at Work Process, and there is a palpable difference.

As our PLC process became ingrained in the culture and daily life of the school, our teachers have established strong collaborations. This process was not easy. Early in our process we learned that we had to get beyond being polite and being collegial to working as a team where the data, not our feelings do the talking. This meant intensive training and book studies in which our teachers learned how to be leaders on their teams and how to focus on student learning. For some teams it meant honest conversations and growing pains, for others it meant grade-level changes, or even moving on from ESES. As we grew and continue to grow, the teams assess their development as PLT with tools such as One Step At A Time article by Parry Graham and Bill Ferriter (7 stages of PLT’s) and rubrics from Learning by Doing and continuously work to improve their collaboration efforts to target student learning.

We as a school are committed to having our faculty attend PLC institutes or similar training opportunities, and we work hard to bring in new team members who are knowledgeable of the PLC process and have a collaborative mindset. PLCs are our way of being at ESES. Although our school and our teams recognize that we have always worked hard, we now recognize that our focus must be a collaborative effort to ensure all students meet grade-level standards. That means regular CFAs, allowing our data to "do the talking," and drilling down for each child to determine exactly what that child needs and how the grade level and specialists intend to close learning gaps. It also means reflecting on one’s own teaching practices and being willing to share and support one another.

At ESES we recognize that the PLC process is a journey, but we are so grateful for the growth it has allowed in our teachers, our teams, and most importantly, our students. We work together and with renewed intention, and our culture of no excuses means that no matter what, and no matter how difficult each student will get exactly what they need. Whether high achieving or whether we need a minor miracle to make sure they meet grade-level expectations, our school team works together to ensure that ALL students reach grade level expectations.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Eagle Springs Data Narrative

In our application we have presented data from 2018-2019, 2019-2020 (no data – Covid), 2020-2021, 2021-2022 school years. As we all know the COVID pandemic and the closing of schools, had a significant impact on student learning. Our district did it’s best to support students and continue with virtual learning for students from March 2020 – May 2020. No state assessment data was reported that school year. In 2018 -2019, our school had a positive trend on our state assessment (GMAS), with high hopes that 2019-2020 would be another positive year for student growth. As we began the 2020-2021 school year, we had to learn to do school differently. Some students returned to face-to-face learning others remained in virtual learning. Shifts and changes with learning models continued throughout the year. As parents needs and work situations change and others had Covid concerns, student were allowed to go back to virtual or come to face to face. This impacted our staffing and supports we could provide to students. Our Covid protocols and contact tracing created barriers that we had to address in order to provide small group instruction, students changing classes for intervention, and scheduling supports. As most districts and schools, we did our best and tried to stay true to the PLC processes that we had found successful in the past. Our 2020-2021 data showed some declines, that was to be expected, but we were pleased to see some areas of only marginal decrease and others with some improvement.

As we entered the 2021-2022, school year, we had significant changes in staffing and administration. Our 3rd and 4th grade teams have shown growth since we have moved out of the Covid restrictions. These teams have shown growth and outscored the State and Middle Georgia RESA (Regional Education Service Agency). One team that had significant changes, has been our 5th grade team. This is a 5-person team that has had several staff changes over the past few years. These changes have occurred for various reasons, mom’s that stay home after childbirth, spouse moves, military moves, administrative promotions, etc. There have been two to three staff changes, new teachers and/or teachers will have limited 5th grade curriculum experience. These have been unfortunate circumstances; however, we have had some committed teachers that have carried the torch and mentored these teachers. We have tried to support this grade level with other support teachers. Unfortunately, our best efforts have not yielded the results we have anticipated in our 5th grade GMAS data, but we keep working the process and making adjustments to support teachers and student learning.
In 2018-2019, our district implemented the MAP assessment as a universal screener. This was a much-needed assessment instrument to help us identify student and curriculum gaps. We have seen growth in 3rd and 4th grade in both the areas of reading and math growth and achievement. After attending the PLC Institute, in Orlando, Florida in July 2022, the leadership revamped and restructured our norms to make sure we addressed all student growth. We still have concerns in 5th grade; however our most recent winter MAP assessment showed an increase in growth and achievement since the fall administration. The growth scored for reading was at 99 % and achievement 53%, which was and increase of 17 percentage points. In math, the growth score was 79% and achievement had increased 4 percentage points to 51%. We believe that we will continue to improve in this grade level as we have been successful in others.

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