Otto Middle School

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

Otto Middle School is a large, highly diverse campus in the Plano Independent School District. As a relatively new campus, Otto MS faced the challenge of creating a culture of learning to meet the needs of a diverse student body, including a significant number of low socioeconomic, English Language Learners and Special Education students, along with a large high performing population. Teachers encountered challenges in designing effective learning experiences for all students, and the campus lagged the district in achievement scores for subpopulations.

Our work began in 2014 with the examination of growth mindset research. Teachers participated in a book study on Growth Mindsets in the Classroom by Ricci. The purpose of the study was to help teachers understand the concept of neuroplasticity as well as the teacher's role in helping students develop resiliency when experiencing failure. The result of this work impacted student and teacher attitudes about learning, with failure and challenges now presenting opportunities for growth. Our work was noticed by the author and Otto’s book study model was published in Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom in 2015.

This effort continued the following school year with attention to unique strengths, including a study of Gallup’s Teach with Your Strengths. School staff were given the opportunity to discover their own strengths and study how to use strengths to improve collaboration within teams. Students explored their strengths with the Clifton Strengths Finder and participated in strengths lessons during advisory. The campus increased efforts to recognize student achievement and effort through campus recognitions and SEL/PBIS. Students participate in goal setting activities, and personalized academic, social, and achievement goals are established for students in the fall.

Growth mindset efforts created a desire for all students to experience honors courses. Review of campus data indicated that enrollment in these courses did not reflect the demographics of the campus. To facilitate this initiative, teachers were guided through a study of Muhammad’s Overcoming the Achievement Gap Trap in 2016. Part of the book discussion included discussion of the four questions of a PLC and the role of the PLC in closing achievement gaps. The study helped influence mindsets among teachers regarding honors placement, increasing opportunities for all students to enroll in these courses and be successful.

The campus continued the work around the four questions of a PLC and initiated the work to create authentic PLCs beginning in the Fall of 2016. The role of PLC Lead Teacher was created for each grade level core team. The PLC Lead Teachers helped promote an enduring PLC culture by creating trained PLC staff across the campus. PLC Leads are committed to the PLC process as they help their teams remain true to the four questions. PLC Lead teachers meet monthly with the principal to discuss challenges and share successes from their PLCs. The meetings provide opportunities for additional training and discussion around PLC implementation and maintains the campus focus on improving learning for all students.

In the summer of 2017, the principal attended the PLC at Work Conference in Orlando. The workshop provided clarity regarding PLC protocols and a great source of inspiration to continue the work at Otto. New learning from the conference was shared with the PLC Leads, and the campus continued its efforts. This involved creating norms, smart goals, and essential standards for each core team. Additionally, the role of PLC Liaison was created. A teacher on campus, the PLC Liaison is well-trained in the PLC process and serves as an invaluable resource for teachers.

In the summer of 2018, teachers participated in a one-day PLC at Work conference at Otto. Facilitated by Amanda Ziaer, teachers had the opportunity to hear the components of the PLC from an expert in the field. Teachers received additional validation for the work in process and were given the opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification. The conference was influential in moving our PLC work forward in the coming school year.

To increase collaboration and accountability among PLCs, the Otto PLC Hub was created for the 2018-19 school year. The PLC Hub includes norms, smart goals, and essential standards for our PLCs. The Hub also has intervention plans for each team and collaborative planning documents for the year. Articles and resources for PLC Lead teachers are also available on the hub. Otto's improvement plan includes a PLC goal to create an environment of operational autonomy on the Collaborative Team Autonomy Scale across the campus.

As a result of commitment to this work, teacher collaboration is strong, resulting in increased academic growth. Campus achievement scores are above state and district averages across demographic groups, and teachers have embraced a culture of collaboration for student success. The campus consistently receives academic distinctions, receiving all seven state distinctions for 2019. The campus has earned “A” accountability ratings for the past two years in a row.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Teachers use various methods to provide differentiation and timely feedback. The key to effective feedback is making sure it is meaningful to the student and gives the teacher effective ways to monitor student progress on essential standards. Teachers use a Backwards Design Model by creating the summative evaluation prior to teaching the unit.  Essential standards and S.M.A.R.T. goals are established before beginning instruction.

 Strategies utilized to monitor student learning:

  • Individualized conferences concerning student performance
  • Mini lessons and immediate practice with feedback based on student need
  • Use of formative assessment technology tools that provide immediate feedback (i.e. Google Classroom, Google Forms, Quizizz, Quizlet, Edpuzzle, Go Formative, Zip Grade)
  • Evaluation of student performance using rubrics including but not limited to feedback/teacher comments
  • Provide peer feedback opportunities (peer collaboration)
  • Data assessment progress charts in the form of data folders that track TEKS to identify areas of content mastery and growth.
  • Summative assessments such as multiple-choice questions, choice projects, and essays at the end of each unit to show mastery of the unit.

Process for development of essential standards:

  • Science teams meet during the PLC process and identify the essential standards at each grade level.  We use the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) as a beginning point identify the most essential standards.  These standards were then submitted to the Otto Middle School leadership and posted on the Otto Middle School PLC Hub.  Science teachers refer to these essential standards and teach to the standard within each unit of instruction. 
  • The social studies teams choose essential standards by using the readiness standards for that unit. Those readiness standards are chosen by the state, and those have been deemed necessary for success. The essential standards chosen for the unit are given to the teachers from the district's curriculum department. The team will use PLC meetings to use the current curriculum and readiness standards to construct a learning environment that is equitable and provides rich learning opportunities for all learners.
  • The math collaborative teams meet before the school year starts to analyze state assessment data. We look for standards that are lower than the state or district in the item analysis. The essential standards are chosen based on these observations. The teams meet weekly to address these standards in each unit, they then track these standards once they are re-assessed via common formative assessments or district assessments.
  • The English Language Arts and Reading department meet weekly to choose essential standards based on the TEKS and student needs. In order to successfully prepare all of our students, the English PLC team backward plans our curriculum, cross-referencing it with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). This backward planning tells PLC teams what skills the students will need to be most successful.

The role that team developed common formative assessments play in the work of our learning teams are as follows:

  • Throughout Otto MS we use common formative assessments for the learning process. We start with basic exit tickets and warm ups to check learning, then move into more in depth formative assessments including quickwrites, small group/class discussions, and concepts checks. The formative assessment is a focus of our daily instruction so that we can adjust instruction as needed.  Planning happens weekly to ensure consistency and fidelity of processes in place.

  • When formal assessment data suggests students are still struggling with a concept, we re-teach the concept and develop a supplemental formative assessment to more accurately measure student understanding. Data from formative assessments are discussed in PLC meetings for review and reflection. 

  • Most of our major formative assessments are provided in the district’s curriculum. PLCs utilize backwards planning and teachers know what the students will be expected to learn for their formative assessments. Throughout the grading period, student data from informal assessments (such as Quick Writes, Exit Tickets, and Socratic Seminars) are utilized in our PLCs to determine where students are struggling and what needs to be re-taught.  PLC teams work together to calibrate grading practices and ensure that expectations are consistent across classrooms. 

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

For students to effectively master identified content, teachers provide additional time and support for learning. We also provide additional time and support for teachers to learn new strategies and hone their skills. Otto has implemented various intervention strategies to address all student needs. These interventions have been formed from the data identified through discussions in PLC meetings.

 Examples of support and interventions in place at Otto Middle School:

  • Create systems and interventions using a mastery learning concept
  • Campuswide Google Classroom utilization
  • Provide multiple opportunities to come in and make up work. 
  • Provide time with other teachers, in order to hear it in a different way. 
  • Utilize one full day per semester for teachers to meet as departments and collaborate/discuss/create effective student interventions.
  • Utilize advisory (Bobcat Academy), as well as before and after school tutorials for reteaching opportunities and remediation. Core teachers collaborate with elective teachers to provide additional time for students who need additional assistance.
  • Target lower preformed TEKS in warmups and closing opportunities.
  • Provide student timely frequent feedback
  • During the first semester, grade level teams create comprehensive intervention plans.
  • Assign a buddy system to help students who often find difficulty with assignments (Peer tutors/ peer editors)
  • One-on-one intervention with students needing extra support (at teacher table, while others are reading)
  • Use student data [Edugence] is always the basis for making instructional decisions/groupings
  • Create student tutorials to enhance ESL
  • Create activities for student interactive word walls
  • Use Flipity at the beginning of a unit for a pre-teach activity
  • Utilize our campus academic specialist to support student with small group pull-outs
  • Utilize campus specialist to support teachers in implementing intervention strategies
  • Classrooms stations/learning walks to provide additional support to students
  • The campus has created a “metaphoric foam pit”, contained in department grading policies, to foster resilience in students.
  • Utilizing Kagan strategies as a means for engagement and collaboration in the classroom.
  • Blast program is available to provide additional support in Math
  • Reading is available for students requiring additional support in English
  • AVID prepares students for advancement into honors courses
  • Teachers, Counselors and Administration identify and select students with the potential to be successful in honors courses.
  • Hall duty has been eliminated to give teachers more time for tutorials and collaboration.
  • One to one Chromebooks for students

Link to campus intervention plans on our PLC Hub:  

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

The master schedule for the campus is designed for collaboration between core subject teams. Departments have a common conference period, and teachers use this time to discuss the four questions of a PLC and design learning experiences that meet the needs of a diverse group of learners.

At the beginning of the year, PLC Lead Teachers meet with their teams to collaboratively create Norms and Smart Goals for the year. Initial Essential Standards are determined after a review of student achievement data from the previous year. PLC Teams meet weekly and coordinate meeting schedules with administration utilizing the campus Outlook calendar.

Each grade level PLC has reviewed collaborative planning models and has chosen a planning template that meets the needs of the team. PLC Leads maintain the planning template on the campus PLC Hub, which provides convenient access to the documents for administration and the PLC Lead teacher group to review. The principal, curriculum coordinators, and other administrators attend the planning meetings and provide input and resources as needed.

At monthly meetings, PLC Lead Teachers gather to discuss successes and challenges on our PLC journey. During the meetings, PLC Lead Teachers share planning documents and intervention strategies. Progress towards campus and department goals is discussed, as well as utilization of available data sources to plan instruction. Each month, a PLC exemplar is selected to present their work to the group. A portion of each meeting is set aside to read and discuss relevant articles on PLC implementation.

Additionally, departments spend time in professional learning that includes article studies, data analysis, diagramming state standards, and vertical alignment. Utilizing the Backwards Design Model, curriculum collaboration is priority among core teams. All teachers participate in robust professional development after school focused on data analysis, technology integration, and social emotional learning. The outcome of the training has given teachers additional tools and knowledge, and as helped teachers focus on their own emotional needs as well as the needs of their students.

Teachers are required to complete at least one peer observation each month. The observations are facilitated by a QR code linked to a Google Form. The form is designed to collect observation notes and share the notes with the teacher immediately as a PDF document. Teachers are encouraged to debrief together after the peer observation. 

New teachers receive orientation on the PLC Model and other campus initiatives. Monthly meetings are held with the new teachers to provide assistance and answer questions about the PLC process and other campus goals.

As a result of this work, collaboration has become standard practice for our staff. The increased collaboration has helped both new and experienced teachers look at teaching and learning in new ways. The PLC model has positively enhanced the role of the administrator in planning, and the resulting collaboration has improved learning experiences for students, leading to an increase in overall student growth on District and state assessments

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

There is some flucuation in scores due to testing irregularities at the state level as well as changes to the STAAR test. 

  • 2016 Honor Roll School - Educational Results Partnership
  • 2018 Honor Roll School - Educational Results Partnership
  • Consistent Academic Distinctions in State Accountability
  • All seven eligible distinctions earned in 2019
  • "A" Accountability Rating in 2018 and 2019
  • Band, Choir and Orchestra ensembles consistently receive superior ratings 
  • Whiz Quiz Team consistently wins District Championships
  • Poetry Slam participants consistently place at District, winning first place last year
  • Students received first place awards at state History Fair this year
  • Otto has won the Grand Prize at the State Science fair meet for the past three years
  • Student Council raised 3,356 items for the District Canned Food Drive
  • Athletic District Championships in Basketball, Track and Cross Country
  • Golden Apple Award each year for staff PTSA membership
  • State and national Math Counts awards
  • Art Students win top awards at Jr. Vase competition each year
  • Published book study model in Mindsets in the Classroom
  • Teachers submit and receive grants from the District Educational Foundation each year
  • Otto Twitter Page
  • Otto Website