Cardinal Elementary

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

Cardinal Elementary initially adopted the Professional Learning Community (PLC) model eight years ago as a way to increase student achievement through teacher collaboration. While the intention was clear, the way to carry it out remained unclear. Teams struggled to understand their expectations since, up to this point, the majority of teachers operated independently of one another. They also had to overcome insufficient meeting time and a lack of conversational focus. If these teams were to truly work, major changes needed to be made.

About five years ago, our building began educating our staff with a greater focus on the workings of an effective Professional Learning Community.  Jan Hoegh, a consultant with The Marzano Institute, helped our district, and our school, center our conversations around prioritizing standards, developing proficiency scales and creating common formative assessments.  At the building level, teachers were given one hour of common plan time each day to meet and discuss issues directly related to student learning; time was no longer a factor hindering the progress of student learning.   At the district level, schools were let out one hour early every Monday to allow for meeting time as well.  In addition, the building principal began attending each grade level team meeting once weekly, to help drive the PLC process and ensure the focus remained on student achievement with conversations centered around the four guiding questions of the PLC model.

The link below is a short video, created by Nebraska Loves Public Schools, highlighting our collaborative teams.

Just recently the Cardinal SPED team was awarded the "ASD Friends of Autism Team Award" from Nebraska ASD Network.  They work each and everyday by the standard, "What would I want if it was my kid?".   

Link to SPED video




1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.


Cardinal Elementary has a variety of plans in place to monitor student learning on a timely basis. Some examples include the following:

  • Learning targets to strengthen focus
  • Proficiency Scales that scaffold priority standards and clarify student expectations
  • Student Learning Logs 
  • Students each receive a binder to keep track of their progress. Through these logs, students own their learning and have a clearer understanding of where they are in the learning process.
  • Discussions around priority standards during “formal” weekly PLC meeting
  • L to J - quizzes given weekly to monitor student progress. Graphs are placed in Student Learning Logs to show individual progress. Currenly our School Improvement Team has decided the building would track data on math fact fluency. These quizzes were purchased through Lee Jenkins, founder of the L to J Consulting Group. Our teachers are also working in collaborative grade level teams to create quick assessments, in the area of math concepts, based on what we want students to know by the end of the year. They are using priority standards to create non-graded quizzes with content students have been taught (review) and content they won't see until later on in the year (preview). The School Improvement Team has plans to use these created quizzes next year to track data in L to J.

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

Every Cardinal classroom has built thirty minutes of daily intervention or enrichment into their schedule; this time is appropriately named WIN, What I Need, time.  During WIN time, all available staff are assigned to a specific grade level and will work with classroom teachers to carry out an intervention or enrichment with a group of students.

Initially, every PLC was expected to focus on literacy for two weeks during WIN time, followed by two weeks of “flex” time, time to focus on math or other areas. This process has been refined over the past several years to better utilize resources in order to meet the needs of all our students in a timely manner.

Currently, PLC teams are able to decide the focus of WIN time based on a body of evidence, their CFA data, and MAP results. Groups are fluid depending on need, but WIN time is implemented every day, Tuesday- Friday, and can focus on literacy or math.   Grade level PLCs monitor student progress during WIN time to determine mastery of the standard and when to address the next priority standard.

The SAT team (Student Assistance Team), consisting of the SAT coordinator, building principal, building school psychologist, school counselor, school nurse, building Instructional Coach, and speech/language pathologist,  meets to review data points for students receiving Tier 2 interventions, determines the effectiveness of the interventions, and, if necessary, plans changes to the intervention.  Students with MAP Reading scores in the 20th percentile and lower qualify for a Tier 2 intervention. Initially, students qualified with a MAP Reading score of 10th percentile or lower. Within one year, we have raised the qualifying percentile from the 10th to the 20th, due to the strength of the PLC process and the Tier 1 instructional interventions all students receive. Simply put, more students are being successful with less intensive intervention.  Students qualify for a math Tier 2 intervention based on teacher or parent referral.  Weekly data logs are maintained for SAT students on Tier 2 interventions, however, the SAT team only reviews the data of one grade level every week.  This allows time for trends in student data to become apparent, however, if a student is struggling at any time, their data will be reviewed and adjustments made if deemed necessary.


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

After the logistics of a successful PLC were addressed (e.g. time and clarity of purpose), Cardinal Elementary was able to place all their focus on improved student learning, which ultimately results in higher student achievement. For us, this all began with carefully thought out SMART goals written at both the building level and within each grade level. We utilized our School Improvement Team (SIT) throughout this process. For example, they met in the summer to SURF (Specific, Understandable, Relatable, and Factual) data from the previous year and began writing the building SMART goals for the upcoming year. They also read through, and discussed, grade-level SMART goals, offering feedback and suggestions for revision if necessary.  In an effort to continue building knowledge of the PLC process, the SIT attended a PLC Institute in 2017. The team currently meets monthly to discuss student data and other building needs.

As aforementioned, Cardinal was granted sixty minutes of common plan time each day to allow PLC teams to meet. Once weekly, PLC teams “formally” meet with the principal to determine student needs based on collected formative data. When possible, all team members who work with a specific grade level attend this meetings (e.g. ELL, Reading, Instructional Coach, and Student Assistance Team Coordinator) in order to keep everyone advised of student progress. While this more formal meeting happens just once weekly, student progress is being discussed all the time. Often times it’s during informal conversations with colleagues; just a part of our overall culture now. Cardinal students have also gone from being ‘mine’ to being ‘ours’. ALL teachers are invested in ALL students, which has decreased the number of students being referred to SAT and increased student achievement.


Additional Achievement Data

State Accountability Test 
Building Wide NeSA Reading   Building Wide NeSA Math
     Cardinal State        Cardinal State
2013      67 79   2013      56 69
2014      74 77   2014      62 71
2015      79 80   2015      65 72
2016      80 85   2016      65 73
2017      57 53   2017      77 76
3rd Grade NeSA Reading   3rd Grade NeSA Math
     Cardinal State         Cardinal State
2013     75 77   2013      69 75
2014     75 79   2014      70 76
2015     75 82   2015      71 78
2016     80 84   2016      77 79
2017     57 53   2017      90 75
4th Grade NeSA Reading   4th Grade NeSA Math
       Cardinal State          Cardinal State
2013        71 79   2013       59 72
2014        82 78   2014       76 78
2015        72 81   2015       53 77
2016        79 86   2016       62 78
2017        63 56   2017       73 76
5th Grade NeSA Reading   5th Grade NeSA Math
       Cardinal State          Cardinal State
2013       59 79   2013       44 75
2014       65 77   2014       42 76
2015       91 82   2015       70 76
2016       82 85   2016       56 77
2017       51 51   2017       67 76
NWEA MAP Spring Assessment  
NWEA MAP Reading - Kindergarten NWEA MAP Math - Kindergarten  
  Cardinal Mean National Mean   Cardinal Mean National Mean  
2012      152.4 157.7 2012    153 159.1  
2013      152.8 157.7 2013    152.2 159.1  
2014      160.7 157.7 2014    161.1 159.1  
2015      161.8 157.7 2015    160.9 159.1  
2016      162.4 158.1 2016    161.3 159.1  
2017      163.5 158.1 2017    164 159.1  
NWEA MAP Reading - 1st Grade NWEA MAP Math - 1st Grade  
  Cardinal Mean National Mean   Cardinal Mean National Mean  
2012     171 176.9 2012    171.5 179  
2013     170.2 176.9 2013    171.2 179  
2014     176.4 176.9 2014    175.4 179  
2015     181.2 176.9 2015    178.4 179  
2016     179 177.5 2016    179.2 180.8  
2017     178.4 177.5 2017    180.7 180.8  
NWEA MAP Reading - 2nd Grade NWEA MAP Math - 2nd Grade  
  Cardinal Mean National Mean   Cardinal Mean National Mean  
2012    187.9 189.6 2012     187.3 191.3  
2013    177.5 189.6 2013     179.9 191.3  
2014    183.8 189.6 2014     184 191.3  
2015    187.3 189.6 2015     186.5 191.3  
2016    193.2 188.7 2016     189.7 192.1  
2017    192.6 188.7 2017     189.3 192.1  
NWEA MAP Reading - 3rd Grade NWEA MAP Math - 3rd Grade  
  Cardinal Mean National Mean   Cardinal Mean National Mean  
2012     187.9 189.6 2012     199 203.1  
2013     177.5 189.6 2013     202 203.1  
2014     183.8 189.6 2014     201.9 203.1  
2015     187.3 189.6 2015     199 203.1  
2016     193.2 188.7 2016     201.6 203.4  
2017     192.6 188.7 2017     206.8 203.4  
NWEA MAP Reading - 4th Grade NWEA MAP Math - 4th Grade  
  Cardinal Mean National Mean   Cardinal Mean National Mean  
2012     205.3 206.7 2012    210.8 212.5  
2013     202.6 206.7 2013    207.6 212.5  
2014     208.4 206.7 2014    215.4 212.5  
2015     205.3 206.7 2015    208.1 212.5  
2016     203.9 205.9 2016    209.4 213.5  
2017     208.4 205.9 2017    212.1 213.5  
NWEA MAP Reading - 5th Grade NWEA MAP Math - 5th Grade  
  Cardinal Mean National Mean   Cardinal Mean National Mean  
2012    211.4 212.3 2012    218.4 221  
2013    206.5 212.3 2013    214.5 221  
2014    210.4 212.3 2014    213.5 221  
2015    216.5 212.3 2015    222 221  
2016    209.9 211.8 2016    216.3 221.4  
2017    211.2 211.8 2017    219 221.4  

Five years ago Cardinal Elementary was labeled a school in needs of improvement because of the low test scores on the Nebraska accountability test, NeSA.  Within the first year of implementing our PLC process our scores improved enough to be taken off the list of needs of improvement.  In the current way that Nebraska is rating schools,the AQUESTT rating model, Cardinal Elementary has been rated a great school the past three years. 

Nebraska Loves Public Schools, sponsored by The Sherwood Foundation, is a group of filmmakers who seek out, and share, stories about all the positive happenings in public schools across the state of Nebraska. While on a visit to Cardinal Elementary, they were very impressed with our PLC process and wanted to share it in one of their documentaries. View the final product using the link below.

After the documentary became public, we were directly contacted by Rebecca DuFour who had watched the video and encouraged us to apply to be a Model PLC School.

The 2018 Nebraska Teacher of the Year is from Cardinal Elementary.  Mrs. Michelle Helt gives credit to the PLC process that we have followed the last five year to helping her become the teacher that she is today.