Wren Elementary (2023)
- Number of Students: 630
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 41%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 3%
- Percent of Special Education: 14%
- White: 83%
- Black: 4%
- Hispanic: 7%
- Asian: 1%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 5%
- Other: 0%
Wren Elementary School(WES) is a public school in a suburban community in upstate South Carolina. Our school serves approximately 630 students from Pre-K to fifth grade, including three self-contained special education classes. Wren Elementary employs a very driven, dedicated, and competitive staff of highly qualified education professionals. There are 42 certified educators on staff at WES with a combined total of over 789 years of educational experience. WES administrators understand the importance of collaboration among a group this talented and have leadership teams in place that allow teachers time each month to meet to share celebrations and ask for support for areas of need. WES has a PBIS Leadership Team, a Guiding Coalition Leadership Team, School Hospitality Leadership team, a Leader in Me Lighthouse Leadership team and a core Leadership team in addition to each grade level collaborative team. WES administration and staff began the work of becoming a Professional Learning Community (PLC) in 2019. Teachers at WES were already working together in grade level teams to plan effective instruction. However, in 2019, the collaboration became more intentional as our district provided professional development that focused on what true professional learning communities look like, sound like and function as. Anderson School District One (ASD1) introduced the PLC process as a way to ensure all student needs were being met. ASD1 began the commitment to ensuring that administrative and instructional team meetings truly focused on defining what effective PLCs look like. Schools were tasked with creating Guiding Coalitions (GC) at each location, and Solution Tree provided training on the Four Big Questions of the PLC work. First, WES administration formed a GC that is composed of a representative from related arts, special areas, and each grade level. After receiving training from Luis Cruz and coming to a collective agreement about the mission of the GC, WES’ GC created a mission statement to provide a vision for growth for all teachers and students at WES. We began our journey toward becoming a true Professional Learning Community. The GC shared the fundamentals of a PLC school with a PLC rollout they presented to all staff. Faculty meetings provided opportunities for the GC to support teachers in the effort to take this mission back to each classroom to use as a model to create their own classroom mission statements with students. As the school began the process of learning how to effectively function as collaborative teams, administration realized the need to build an uninterrupted block of time into the school’s master schedule. In order to make this happen, administrators worked hard to find funds to hire two permanent substitutes to help support related arts teachers lead an additional 45 minute club each Thursday. This allowed teachers to have back to back related arts and club times, giving each grade level a total of 90 minutes each week to meet in collaborative teams. Once time was set aside and teams began to meet, the focus shifted to identifying essential standards. Each team reviewed their grade level standards and used the following criteria to help identify these standards: endurance, leverage, success next level, and success on SC Ready. To supplement knowledge gleaned from multiple Solution Tree professional developments at the district and school level, WES teachers also have access to many professional texts that we have used to guide us to successfully becoming a PLC school that makes a difference for each and every student. As we learn and grow as a faculty, we continue to add resources to our professional library that inspire us to thrive. For the 2023-2024 school year, we have purchased How Schools Thrive: Building a Coaching Culture for Collaborative Teams in PLCs at Work® (Effective coaching strategies for PLCs at Work®) to support our guiding coalition in establishing strong collaborative team cultures, and Motivating Students Who Don't Care: Proven Strategies to Engage All Learners, Second Edition (Proven Strategies to Motivate Struggling Students and Spark an Enthusiasm for Learning) to help guide collaborative teams with the ongoing struggle with how to best motivate “will” students.
As many Solution Tree presenters have noted time and time again, the PLC process is ongoing. This statement has been proven true time and time again at WES. As administrators, guiding coalition members and collaborative teams spend more and more time ensuring that our PLC process aligns with best practices, we are constantly changing and adjusting. We began by identifying essential standards and common formative assessments only to realize that we were only scratching the surface. In order to ensure that teachers fully understood the process of breaking down essential standards, administrators hired substitute teachers to cover individual grade levels so that those teachers had a full uninterrupted day of planning with the literacy coach. The grade level, with the support of the literacy coach, reviewed ELA and Math essential standards, broke down the standard into manageable learning targets, identified prior knowledge needed in order for all students to be successful within each unit, identified the Depth of Knowledge required to master each essential standard and created a bank of questions that addressed each learning target’s rigor. As WES learned more about the PLC process, teachers added a map to the curriculum map. Grade levels discussed units of study and mapped out where common formative assessments would be most effective in identifying student needs before giving summative assessments. Learning, monitoring and adjusting our PLC practices is definitely an ongoing process. Our teachers spent this past year focusing on creating units based on essential standards and preassessment data. Once again, grade levels were relieved by substitutes so that they could meet with the literacy coach and develop reading and math units based on essential standards. In the past, our district and our school utilized Units of Study by Lucy Calkins to drive ELA instruction. As our GC and our grade level collaborative teams have met and discussed essential standards and current units, it has become clear that the units don’t always align themselves with student needs. Teachers, with guidance and support, have begun to design and implement their own units that center on needs noted in pre-assessments given prior to beginning a new unit. WES is embracing the backwards design of unit planning and fully values the planning of instructional curriculum by beginning with the end in mind. This mindset is one reason that WES has seen tremendous growth in academic achievement since first implementing PLCs in 2019. Building a shared understanding and commitment to the PLC process at WES is rooted in the success that we see time and time again. As a high performing school, it isn’t always easy to show growth. The implementation and fine tuning of the PLC process has allowed us to grow in ways we have not been able to achieve, even with tremendous support and effort, in the past. Teachers are now eager to learn more and try new things. There is a true collaborative focus on growing as lifelong learners in order to ensure that all of our students get the very best education possible.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
To ensure that every unit taught throughout the school year focuses on student needs, teachers give a pretest a few weeks prior to the start of a new unit. Teachers use the data from the pretest to guide whole group, small group, and one on one instruction. WES teachers constantly review their grade level curriculum map to schedule common formative assessments (CFA) that guide instruction. CFAs are given at strategic times throughout each unit to ensure that all students have ample opportunities to receive support and/or enrichment. Teachers meet weekly to review student performance on CFAs in ELA and Math. The teachers use the data to create action plans for targeted interventions as well as extensions for students during response time. The data is also shared with the interventionists that work with the students to allow for flexible grouping based on the essential standard. When students are pulled for additional support, the interventionist can address any skill gaps that support the essential standard. In order to make all of the data easily accessible to everyone who provides support, interventions and extensions to students, grade level Google Team Drives (GTD) have been created and PLC folders are embedded within each grade level GTD. These folders house all pertinent information discussed and charted during each collaborative team meeting. Meeting weekly allows for teachers to intervene or provide extension activities in a timely manner. Monitoring student progress extends beyond collaborative grade level meetings. WES’ GC is pivotal in ensuring that our school goals for math and ELA achievement are met. At the beginning of each school year, the GC meets and reviews state testing data, STAR diagnostic data, reading levels and other data points to create school wide SMART goals and note areas of improvement to focus on as a school. For instance, 3rd grade SC Ready math scores grew from 74.3% Meets/Exceeds in Spring of 2017 to 91.4% in Spring of 2022, while reading grew from 60% to 80.2%. Reading showed greater growth but math showed high achievement. This was noted in 4th and 5th grade as well (*see data uploaded), which led the GC to have a discussion about the discrepancy between math and reading achievement. This discussion led to truths being shared about the uncertainty of how to address the many varied needs of students as readers and writers. The discussion was extended out to collaborative teams who concurred and noted that encoding and decoding was an overall need among all grade levels. As a result, the 2023-2024 school year will focus on revisiting best practices in phonics and phonemic awareness, starting with a pre-assessment being administered to all K-2 students and intervention students in 3rd-5th grade. K-2 teachers used the last 9 weeks of the 2022-2023 school year to pilot the pre-assessment and subsequent data based instruction. Student encoding skills increased tremendously in a short period of time. WES GC plays an essential role in creating SMART goals and action plans while promoting collaboration and laser focus in order to ensure that all students learn at high levels. While the discussion did render a goal, it also allowed the GC to rally teachers by celebrating such great growth despite the learning gaps from the impact of Covid.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Ensuring that all students have access to learning materials and activities that best support their learning, teachers also create extension activities for students who have mastered the current essential skills. Teachers plan these extensions during their collaborative team meetings. This is something that our GC noted as a weakness for every grade level and, as such, became a focus for improvement during collaborative team meetings. Extensions could be “How to” videos of current essential standards that students make and upload to SeeSaw, our two-way communication app that allows parents to see the videos at home as well. This allows students to access the videos at home for extra practice. Extension activities could be expert projects where students extend their learning through student created research projects. Every classroom teacher has a response time built into the day that is used for data based intervention and extension. The response time plan is based on the essential standard as well as the student's needs.
WES believes that strong Tier 1 instruction proactively limits the need for Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions. When students need extra support, teachers strive to provide effective Tier 2 & 3 interventions in reading and math. Classroom teachers use a variety of instructional strategies to ensure that students are learning grade-level essential standards at the Tier 1 level. Classroom teachers also provide Tier 2 & 3 intervention daily for students who have not mastered the content. This daily response time consists of small groups of students needing additional support and instruction on the current and prior essential skills being taught. Student progress is monitored closely through common formative assessments and instructional supports are revised as needed based on data.
Wren Elementary provides Tier 2 & 3 support by funding two full time and two part time reading and math interventionists. Intervention students are identified through STAR assessment data, formative assessments, Fountas and Pinnell reading levels, MTSS team and teacher input. Tier 2 & 3 students receive intervention for thirty minute blocks in reading for grades kindergarten through fifth grade. Students in third through fifth grades are served in math for twenty minute blocks each day. These programs are designed to move students towards mastery of grade-level standards by working on skills that students are currently struggling with. Reading and math intervention sessions are guided by essential standards that students are not yet mastering. Classroom teachers and interventionists collaborate often to improve students’ reading and math skills and to plan interventions based on student needs. Moving towards the 2023-2024 school year, WES’ plan is to have interventionists attend all collaborative team meetings to help support teachers as they create action plans for response time in order to better serve all students. WES’ intervention program is fluid and data-based, ensuring that students receive direct skill based instruction with the goal of performing on grade level by the end of each essential standard summative assessment.
Technology-based programs such as Freckle, Lalilo, Teach Your Monster to Read, and Dreambox are also used for targeted instruction for below level learners.
WES teachers have found that students are a great resource for extension activities. Students love being pulled into the creative planning process.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Anderson 1 provided training at the beginning of the PLC process for all staff members on the process of the PLC. After the initial training, Wren Elementary used collaboration times and faculty meetings to build capacity by creating collective commitments, norms and expectations for the collaborative time. Teacher teams determined essential standards and curriculum maps to guide instruction. By working together to determine the essentials and a plan of action, teachers became more effective as a team. WES teachers are very competitive which serves as a great way to build teacher capacity. Our GC lets the data do the talking for them because they know that every teacher in the building is committed to ensuring that all students grow at high levels. If a teacher believes that a teammate’s data shows that they were more effective than their peers, our teachers automatically begin to question; “what did you do, how did you do it, will you show us.” Our district and school administration believe in this process as well, and are not shy about stepping up and providing any support needed. Last year, we had the privilege of hosting Ashley Andriot at WES. She supplied in depth PD on the last two questions that guide every collaborative team meeting; responding to those that didn’t learn and extending learning for those that did. This was exactly what we needed based on where we were at in the PLC process. We were able to take the constructive feedback Ms. Andriot provided and quickly implement a Data Protocol process to maximize the effectiveness of our collaborative team meetings. This year our district provided a two day professional development with Solution Tree presenters on viable and equitable common formative assessments. This also helped to solidify ownership of WES’ implementation of a truly effective PLC. Our teachers were quick to analyze their current CFAs and revise if needed. WES teachers also know that they are free to ask for a professional development/planning day with the instructional coach as needed. WES administrators realize that not everything needed for growth can be confined to a 90 minute collaborative team meeting weekly. The most impactful means of motivating teachers to work as members of high-performing collaborative teams that focus on improved learning for all students is the marked increase in student achievement. It is hard to look at WES’ SC Ready scores, STAR scores and overall student satisfaction and deny that implementing a truly effective PLC process yields truly outstanding results.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
Wren Elementary consistently leads Anderson School District 1 in test scores and academic achievement. Wren's math scores gained state recognition via SCReady. The PLC process has been instrumental in minimizing Covid regression for all students. From May 2017 to May 2022, our overall math scores have increased from 65.9% to 83.1%, totaling a 17.2% increase in student achievement scores of met and above. Our SC Ready reading performance has increased from 59.2% to 78.3% for a total increase of 19.1%. Covid had minimal impact on growth due to the hard work and dedication of all WES stakeholders. WES truly believes that all students deserve to learn at high levels at all times. Peliminary 2023 state performance test data shows that WES' overall Meets and Exceeds scores place us #1 in the state.