Orchard Farm Elementary

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

Prior to beginning our PLC journey, our school evaluated and assessed students on most of the standards for the grade level. Teachers would teach the concepts and skills, students would practice the skills, and then assess those skills. The assessment was not used as a reflective piece to identify student misconceptions or to build on the student’s learning, but as a summative assessment simply to inform students of their grade. After the assessment, we would move on to the next topic and repeat the teach, practice, and assess process again. 

We have always been a self-reflective staff. We knew we were missing something. Several of us attended the PLC at Work conference during the summer of 2016, and we agreed that the PLC model was missing. This was the work that would move us forward professionally, and subsequently help all our students achieve at high levels.

In order to build a shared understanding, we took time to select and unwrap our selected essential standards so each team member fully understood what we were expecting students to know, understand, and be able to do. Starting with math, grade levels met to organize and prioritize standards. Our team of general education teachers, special education teachers, instructional specialists, and administration, picked our essential standards for the year, understanding that this was  work in progress and adjustments may be needed in subsequent years. 

Next, we broke down each standard so that we collectively understood the learning progression of skills to meet the standard. We met as a building team to vertically align our essential standards. The focus was to identify any overlaps, gaps, or omissions in the essential standards that were previously chosen. Furthermore, we discussed how to extend each standard. During this process, team members held important discussions, asked questions, and really dove deep into understanding the learning progression for each standard and what it looked like for students to demonstrate mastery. With adjustments, the team determined what was essential at each grade level and created an “Ins and Outs” standards organizer.  Organically, this grew to include essential standards and supporting standards that must be introduced and developed at each grade level to support the next grade essential standards, as well as key strategies to master at each grade level. This same process was used to establish the ELA essential standards. Each year, the essential standards are reviewed based on student trends in achievement.

Once we developed a shared understanding of each standard, as a staff, we were better able to work together for the benefit of all. Teachers at each grade level had a deeper understanding of the expectations necessary for students to demonstrate proficiency of a concept. This allowed teachers to see the part they played in helping students meet not only the grade level expectations, but also the connection between their grade level’s standards and other grade levels’ standards. Together as a staff, this change led to an overall shift in how we thought about the students in our school. When discussing student progress and understanding, we moved from talking about “my kids” to “our kids.” 


At Orchard Farm Elementary, we used our core values and collective commitments to guide us to building a culture of continuous improvement.  To create our collective commitments, we first reviewed our mission statement which was previously created through our work with Leader in Me.  Our team came together to discuss and determine the core values of our school. Through that discussion, we determined our values to be Leadership, Learning, and Relationships. Each of these values, related back to our mission, are supported by the 7 Habits from Leader in Me and include the primary pillar of a PLC, guaranteed high levels of learning for all students.

Throughout this process, teachers and staff have developed a community of trust. Student’s test scores are reviewed and ideas are gathered for improvement  through both our professional learning team and our larger learning community. Since our building administrators and literacy coach are part of each individual professional learning team, they help facilitate common discussion points from one team to the next. Through these discussions we have developed common language and consistent strategies used across the school.  Teachers now view the entire student body as “our students,” and discuss ways to help each student achieve and meet their goal. Teachers have built trust with one another and are open to feedback and change.


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Orchard Farm Elementary has a master schedule to include Tier 1 protected instruction time. Protected times provide access to the essential grade level curriculum for every student.  All special services are pulled outside of Tier 1 protected time.

To determine what is taught during Tier 1 protected time, collaborative teams unwrapped each essential standard and built a common formative assessment (CFA) to measure the mastery of the standard.  Through this process a hierarchical list of skills and knowledge students must obtain to master the standard was created and developed into a proficiency scale.  Teacher teams wrote scaffolded common formative assessments to match each implied target and level of proficiency, and calibrated each assessment for common scoring. This led to even more clearly defining what we expect students to know and be able to do. 

Teachers analyze CFA data during PLT meetings. They look for students’ common strengths and misconceptions in each category of learning: beginning, approaching, proficient, and extending. Strengths and misconceptions are analyzed to plan instruction to bridge the gap between what they know and new learning. Since CFAs are directly related to the proficiency scale for each cycle, it helps teachers pinpoint the exact skills required for each student to master.

Students are monitored throughout the intervention cycle using observational notes and temperature checks. These checks, gathered during Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction, are used to drive whole class instruction and move students throughout the different skills based groups depending on their need. Students participate in their skill group for an extended period of time to give them an opportunity to show progress. When progress is made, they are moved to a higher skill level. If a student is not making significant progress, parents are contacted to inform them of the skill deficits. Parent input and support is gained through this process.

Finally, we have structured a school-wide daily RTI.  RTI is a protected 30-minute block where interventions are provided by student by skill.  Students move to different groups within grade levels, go to a grade level above or below them, or go to an organized multi-age skill group all based on each student’s need for targeted skills interventions.  

Students who make little to no progress are entered into a Tier 3 intervention system. Teachers have multiple data points to demonstrate student strengths and misconceptions. The tier team, consisting of classroom teacher, interventionist, and appropriate building specialists (i.e. school psychologist, reading specialist, ELL, speech and language pathologist, counselor, occupational therapist), help determine next steps for the student, including extra intervention, modifications, support from other teachers, and further assessments if necessary. These next steps are in place for four to six weeks, and then the team meets again to reevaluate student progress. If the data supports that little to no progress is made, the team recommends different or additional interventions, or could recommend evaluation for Special Education.

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

Utilizing schoolwide Response to Intervention (RTI) time provides opportunities for students to receive targeted instruction on essential skills. All students are required to participate in RTI. Instruction is delivered through whole group lessons, small group lessons, partner activities, and critical thinking problems. Students begin the RTI process focusing on their most necessary foundational skill. Some students may start at the lowest level skill, while others receive intervention for more advanced skills. An essential part of RTI is teacher feedback. By looking at errors, students are encouraged to analyze their own mistakes. This allows students to reflect on their learning and make adjustments as needed. As students become proficient, they are moved to the next level RTI group.  

Students who are already considered proficient, and need additional extensions, are then introduced to higher level instruction: the next unit’s skills, the next grade level’s skills, or a more challenging application of the current skill. Student RTI placement is not always within their own grade level. Schoolwide RTI time allows for the flexibility for students to receive intervention to address their specific needs. This system of intervention requires collaboration among specialists. For example when support is needed, it can be provided in multiple ways.  A Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) may be called upon to provide language support, or a special area teacher may be called on to provide a modified approach to the instruction provided and assignments given.

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

We continually focus our efforts on improved learning for all students.  One of the strategies we utilize is a yearly curriculum review that spans across the district.  During this review process we make sure our current essential standards are still a priority in each grade level.  In addition, we look at the hierarchy of skills, ensure the progression of learning is taught in the correct order, analyze the timelines in place for teaching units, review the materials and resources we currently have for instruction, and determine if other resources are necessary to properly convey the subject matter.  

In addition to analyzing the content, we reflect and build upon the instructional practices used by our teachers to deliver instruction.  We use instructional strategies based on Hattie and Marzano as well as the academic training we received through the Leader in Me. Peer-to-peer coaching visits are used to provide feedback through a formal teaching studies model. Teachers provide feedback on effective moments of instruction and are given an opportunity to ask the observed teacher about the instructional strategies used with the intent it will further the craft of the teachers involved in the process. 

The OFE staff has received training on Mike Rutherford’s Artisan Teacher Strategies (ATS) during both district and building professional development sessions.  These strategies are referred to frequently by our teachers while planning instruction to ensure that a high level of engagement and understanding is achieved by all students.  The ATS are of such importance that they are linked to our School Wide Improvement Plan and used as a tool to evaluate our teaching staff and to give suggestions for growth in their craft.  Administrators frequently visit classrooms with the purpose of looking for ATS being used during instruction.  They are committed to sharing with teachers which ATS strategies they saw in place and provide suggestions as to which ATS may have been used to further strengthen a lesson.

 Another way we have ensured high-performing collaborative teams is our shift from traditional grading to the development and use of proficiency scales to show the level of performance on essential standard.  With this shift to standards based grading, we are more focused on ensuring students and staff have a learning orientation mindset and are making progress in the essential skills versus having a task completion philosophy.  A system of quick, in-the moment checks, exit slips, and classwork observations have allowed us to make immediate decisions about student needs and teacher instruction.  These small formative assessments given in real time allow for adjustments in pacing lessons and units.  In lieu of the Covid-19 pandemic, the professional learning teams examined the data cycles that students missed during the 19-20 school year due to closure and atypical learning situations. The awareness that learning was interrupted for all of our students, shifted the focus to determine where gaps in student learning occurred and on how to meet the most pressing needs that were identified for each student.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

COVID-19 Data Statement

**Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic our free and reduced lunch population rate was steadily between 30-36% each school year. After the US Department of Agriculture extended free meals for all students starting in the 2020-21 our free and reduced lunch population rate shows a significant decline. It is believed to be caused by a reduced need to complete the Free and Reduced Lunch application form.

During the 2019-20 school year, the State of Missouri canceled state testing; therefore, we do not have state comparative data for our students. We do however have the data that we collect regularly throughout the year to monitor our students’ progress in mathematics and reading. In math, we rely heavily on running data cycles around our essential standards using common formative assessments to monitor student progress in all grade levels. In reading, we utilize benchmark assessments and FastBridge assessments to monitor student progress. 

In the 2019-20 school year, we had planned to complete 36 math data cycles across all grade levels. We were able to fully complete 22 of those data cycles. We were in the midst of running 6 data cycles when the school closed on March 13, 2020. We did not start 8 data cycles. Of the 22 data cycles that were completed in the 2019-20 school year, interventions took place for each cycle for students who had not yet met their SMART goal.

To monitor student progress in reading, we used Fountas and Pinnell reading benchmark assessments and Fastbridge Assessment Data. According to the Fountas and Pinnell benchmark assessments, 90% of Orchard Farm Elementary students were reading at or above grade level. Each year we chose to use this data because over the course of several years, we noticed a correlation between students who read at grade level and those who scored Proficient or Advanced on the state assessment. Examples of the data we gathered from FastBridge were: 95% of our Kindergartners scored at or above the 10th percentile in Letter Sounds, which measured how many sounds a student was able to identify in one minute; 90% of students in grades 1-5 scored at or above the 10th percentile. We used the 10th percentile as our target because we knew from looking at multiple years of data that students scoring below the 10th percentile were reading one or more grade levels below the grade level expectation. This was a target set by state legislation, Senate Bill 319. Reading interventionists provided interventions to 19% of students. Special education teachers provided individualized services for 8% of students.

With the school building physically closed for the last quarter of the 2019-20 school year, we knew that keeping our students motivated and engaged during the COVID school closure was of extreme importance. To aid in this effort, each grade level created choice boards in the areas of math, reading, writing, science, social studies, special area classes, reading interventions, and special education. The choice board consisted of concepts that were centered around grade level skills that students could practice at home. Our teachers checked in with students and families through Seesaw, Google Classroom, email, and Google Hangouts to support and connect with our student population as much as possible. 

  • 2014 Leader in Me School

  • 2019 Leader in Me - Lighthouse School Designation

  • 2019 Leader in Me - Academic Honor Roll School

  • 2019 Selected to present at Missouri Powerful Learning Conference (MO PLC)

  • 2019 Selected to present at Missouri Model District Conference

  • 2020 Missouri State School of Character Designation

  • 2021 Leader in Me - Lighthouse School Recertification Designation

  • 2022 U.S. News & World Report Best Elementary School

  • 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 St. Louis Post Dispatch Top Workplace 

  • Three Nationally Board Certified Teachers