Windsor Central Middle School
- Number of Students: 388
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 55%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 0%
- Percent of Special Education: 17%
- White: 90%
- Black: 2.1%
- Hispanic: 4.4%
- Asian: 0%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 1%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Multiracial: 2.5%
- Other: 0%
The Professional Learning Community journey began in 2006 when Rick and Becky DuFour came to the Windsor Central School District. Student achievement was lackluster, staff collaboration was limited, structures were inconsistent, and the culture was toxic. As Rick and Becky introduced Professional Learning Communities to the PK-12 staff, many staff members immediately had “aha moments” while others almost instantly dismissed this new concept. Following the two-day opportunity, rather than going back to business as usual, the District committed to fully implement what had been presented.
The first step in our journey was to articulate a compelling and shared vision. “Vision provides a sense of direction and basis for assessing both the current reality of the school and potential strategies, programs, and procedures to improve on that reality (DuFour, R., DuFour, R, Eaker, R, Many, T., Mattos, M., 2016, p. 39). A challenge for leaders was to help team members bring this vision to life. When considering the Windsor vision, it was imperative to create a focus to prompt action and motivate staff. The superintendent displayed an image of a lighthouse to the staff with the slogan, “Why Not Windsor?” The staff was encouraged to create programs to become a model for others, challenged to shift the paradigm from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning, to dismiss excuses and to view obstacles as opportunities for continuous improvement. As a result, over the past 14 years, each building within the school district has been transformed. The PLC approach has allowed for deliberate and systematic cultural change.
Our Professional Learning Community has resulted in an increase in our student achievement. Using student data to inform our instruction has become "the norm" in the building. Common assessments are closely aligned to the state standards, instruction is research based and effective, and teachers respond to common assessment data faithfully.
A steady increase in student performance rankings among peers across the region has been maintained. All grade level assessments undergo continuous evaluation of the essential learnings and assessment process to ensure that this achievement is maintained.
Empowered teacher teams have focused on the four critical questions:
What do we want students to learn?
How will we know if they have learned?
What will we do if they don’t learn?
What will we do if they already know it?
(DuFour, Dufour, Eaker, Many, 2010)
By closely dedicating efforts toward improved student performance on benchmark, formative, and summative assessments, teachers have geared instruction to meet identified needs. Curriculum documents are living documents based on essential learning standards and are regularly updated by teacher teams. These agreed upon essential learnings are considered the “bar”, describing the essential ideas in each curriculum that every student must master in order to move forward. In 2017, teacher teams collaborated to create a new report card that reflected both Process Criteria (based on behaviors) and Product Criteria (based on academic essential learnings) to better communicate progress and to provide feedback to learners and their families.
As evidenced above, the intentional systems put in place during the onset of our PLC journey continue to pay high dividends as we continuously grow our practices to ensure success for all students. Without collaborative teaming and a strong focus on data-driven planning and instruction, much of our school's success would not be possible. Our PLC journey is never over-- we become stronger and discover ways to be more effective with every learning experience that takes place and every refinement towards further success that is made.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Middle School faculty participate on grade teams consisting of the four core subject area teachers, grade level special education teacher and a teacher assistant. They discuss and act on a variety of topics. A significant focus is student achievement. When difficulties and learning gaps arise, teachers ensure success by assigning students to a number of school-wide systems of intervention. Although this discussion occurs naturally, it is formally conducted at each progress report. These reports are produced at the 3-, 6-, and 10-week points in each quarter of the school year. A student success/failure report is generated by our student data management system. Grade teams review student performance and then notify parents and other stakeholders within the building (coach, counselor, advisor, administrators) and then assign the student to the “Pyramid” at the appropriate level of intervention. These conversations and actions have become routine in the building. All progress reports and electronic grade books are available for parents to access online.
To further monitor student learning and “guarantee” success, departments meet each Monday during our PLC-Department Collaborative Time. This time occurs after the instructional day. Student-athletes attend a “Sports Study Hall” monitored by Teaching Assistants, thus allowing for all faculty members to be free of student obligations at this time. The core departments use these sessions to determine or reaffirm the essential learnings for the quarter, agree upon and design common assessments, analyze student data, develop action plans, and share best practices. Special Education teachers attend to their own data analysis of their student caseloads and are also available to assist departments with action planning when needed.
Data analysis is scheduled by each department and occurs regularly. Data review meetings may occur with the building principal or other personnel to clarify data points, reflect on actions taken, or to determine professional development needs.
A significant focus within our middle school is on individual instructional reading levels and making a commitment within our ELA classrooms to increase the amount of time students spend reading at an appropriate instructional reading level. In order to carry this out, we have implemented a benchmark assessment system through AIMS Web. A benchmark team administers this assessment in the Fall (September), Winter (January), and Spring (May) to obtain a baseline and measure growth in student reading ability throughout the year. In addition, any student who is reading at the “Below Average” or “Well-Below Average” levels receives some form of intervention and is given a “probe” assessment every three weeks to monitor their growth. This data is used in an effort to better inform instruction within the ELA and Special Education classrooms. This exact process is used by Math teachers to determine, monitor, and improve Math Fluency levels in all students. Additionally, our ELA teachers administer a quarterly Writing benchmark assessment, which is also shared with parents on report cards along with the Reading and Math Fluency benchmark scores. Academic Intervention providers meet with the principal on a monthly and/or quarterly basis to review this and other data on these students.
As part of ongoing student reviews, individuals can be assigned to reteaching time or learning centers with AIS providers. Student intervention action plans are developed as appropriate.
In addition, our Student Support Team (SST, including classroom teachers, guidance counselors, school social worker, school psychologist, and administrators) meets regularly to pinpoint areas of concern on individual students and focuses on short term interventions for students.
Similarly, student attendance is closely monitored with letters and phone calls after 7, 14, and 21 days total absences. The Pupil Personnel Team (which includes counselors, administrators, school psychologist, and school social worker) monitors this and follows up with each student and their family.
Student learning has also been impacted by a district-wide emphasis on effective classroom instructional strategies:
The Beginning of Class:
Posted Objectives (learning outcomes)
Bell Ringer Activity: “a chance to look back before we look forward!”
The Middle of Class:
Anticipatory Set: “grab your audience!”
Ongoing Checking for Understanding
The End of Class:
Closure (summary activities-teacher led)
Closure (summary of lesson essentials-student led)
Exit Ticket/Time to start homework
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
The Windsor Middle School has developed a building-wide approach to intervention in order to support all students.
As previously stated, grade teams review student progress and assign students as needed to the number of grade-level and/or building-wide interventions. Although it is designed to be progressive in nature, students are moved into and out of intervention measures at any time as determined by the grade team.
A significant impact on student learning and overall achievement of our students is our academic intervention and enrichment periods that occurs during the regular instructional day. These ELA and Math intervention classes run opposite our Band and Chorus classes, every other day. Students who are not in Band or Chorus will attend an enrichment class in Science, Social Studies, Health, Physical Education, Family and Consumer Science, Library, or Technology. Students who are deemed in need of additional support in Math and/or ELA will attend an Academic Intervention (AIS) Class. This period as a whole is designed to be fluid, so if a student does not perform well on a test, quiz, homework assignment, or is absent, he or she may be assigned to ELA or Math academic intervention for a limited time and then return to enrichment class without penalty.
The Middle School has also instituted an Advisory Program which is designed to provide connections for every student with at least one adult, their peers, and the school community. These Advisories meet each morning for over twenty minutes. They help promote a positive school climate through building rapport and developing pro-social habits. All activities in these small groups of students led by staff members help foster moral performance and character. Weekly plans, provided by a team of teachers, administrators, and student representation, guide Advisory activities. The Advisory Jobs Program assists students in the development of school pride, individual and collective responsibility, and community development through team work and school improvement. Advisors also meet with students at the time of each progress report to discuss and set goals. All staff is included in the formation of Advisories to keep the group numbers below 12 students in order to enhance the relationships forged by the program. Advisory names and norms are created and posted in the beginning each year.
During Advisory, every student and staff member are provided a free school breakfast. These hot or cold options are part of the “Breakfast in the Classroom” initiative that promotes the “family” atmosphere through a shared meal.
The Middle School’s Golden Ticket Program rewards students for achieving “Merit Points”. Positive points are earned through weekly good behavior, perfect attendance, being student of the month, being citizen of the month, and school/community service. Negative points are subtracted for being sent to the Support Center, having a written referral, and being suspended from school. Achieving a Golden Ticket admits a student to a quarterly Golden Ticket Event. Students not achieving Golden Ticket status are provided additional targeted instruction, individual academic support, and an opportunity to catch up on their work to improve their grades. New in 2019, students are focusing on self-efficacy and goal setting as a part of this program.
One of the most effective measures used by the school to increase student participation and connectedness to the school community is through the use of the “Mod 11” program. Mod 11 of the school day is utilized for academic intervention and enrichment opportunities three days per week from 2:15 – 3:15 pm. The Homework Club is a place where students voluntary meet with staff to complete classwork/homework. The Learning Center is a place where students may be assigned during this time in order to receive individualized instruction and academic assistance in a small group setting, supervised by teachers. In addition, a wide variety of student clubs and activities also meet during this time, open to all Middle School students. Students in good academic standing and not participating in a club or activity are free to go home; however, we encourage students to stay and we seek student input and ideas to increase their participation. Though we strive for 100% participation in some form of an after-school activity (which is a district goal), we are pleased to see that more than 96.5% of our student body participate in at least one club or offering on a yearly basis.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Each collaborative team in the building is driven by a set of established team norms.
In developing team norms staff were asked to address the following:
Time – when do we meet, begin/end and promptness
Listening – listening to others and discouraging interrupting
Confidentiality – openness and confidential information, what is said after the meeting
Decision making – how to make decisions – how to deal with conflicts
Participation – encourage all to participate and attend
Expectations - what is expected and required of each team member
As previously mentioned, department teams have developed Essential Learnings for each quarter of the school year that address exactly what students are to learn. Each outcome has endurance, leverage, and is essential for success in the next unit, course or grade level.
Our Essential Learnings are embedded into our often-revised and updated curriculum maps. These These Essential Learnings are posted in each room along with daily lesson objectives and agendas. Students are kept fully aware of the curriculum as it unfolds.
As previously mentioned, teams have developed quarterly common assessments. They also collaborate on grade level and department-wide data analysis of student results on them. Collaboratively generate Action Plans are born out of these team meetings. In this process, teacher teams reflect on:
What targets from the assessments require more attention?
Are any patterns evident?
Is reteaching necessary?
Is there a particular class/group that needs additional instruction?
Which students require remediation?
Which targets were areas of strength or weaknesses?
Can a different instructional strategy improve student performance?
An action plan is developed from the above. The plan addresses a Short Term Plan, (reteaching students/targets), Reassessment (makeup tests, ongoing formative assessments, observation) and Long Term Plan (instruction/curriculum adjustments). It is customary to “name names” of specific students in need of academic intervention on these action plans.
Lastly, our Middle School faculty also houses two peer coaches. These teachers spend part of their day in the classroom while the remainder of their time is serving in the role of coach. They serve as a model in their classroom, facilitator in other classrooms, co-planner, classroom visitor, and non-evaluative coach. In addition, teachers are encouraged to make peer visitations to further our collaborative culture.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
Please see attached.
Recognition as a SMART Showcase Building in 2009
Presented at 2009-10 PLC Conference in Albany, NY
Named a “Mix It Up Model School” by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance program in 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16, 2016-17
Faculty member, Stefanie Olbrys, named the New York State Middle School Social Studies Outstanding Teacher of the Year, 2015-16; ASCD Emerging Leader, Class of 2017
Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) Model School District (only school district in New York State to receive this distinction in this year--first ever in the state)
Named 2017 National Model School (two presentations given at the 25th Annual Model Schools Conference June 2017, Nashville TN)
Youth Services of America School of Service 2017-2018
2017 9/11 Day of Service Grant Recipient (funded a student-led project that collected and shipped goods for military personnel overseas, delivered donuts, cider and thank you cards to local first responders) See video at: http://www.windsor-csd.org/WindsorMiddleSchool_home.aspx
Principal Kevin Strahley named 2018 NASSP New York State Principal of the Year and 2018 SAANYS Middle School Principal of the Year
Superintendent Jason A. Andrews, Ed.D. named 2019 NYS Superintendent of the Year
2018 Niche Top Athletic Program (22nd in Upstate NY, 32nd in NYS) Year
2018 Niche Top Upstate NY School District to Teach (26th)
2018 Best Communities for Music Education NAMM Foundation Award (Top 4%)