Burns Middle School

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

Four years ago, our school began to indirectly focus on critical question three, “What do we do if they don’t learn?” as we began to integrate a system of interventions into our school day for students with academic skill deficits. In order to efficiently and effectively implement a multi-tiered system of support to address students’ academic, behavior, and social emotional needs (SEL), we had to strategically build collaborative systems into the culture of our school to ensure total school improvement. To achieve this, we worked to embed professional learning communities across our campus to build a collaborative culture and collective responsibility around the four critical questions that drive PLC work.

Initially, our school improvement team updated our school’s mission and vision statements to reflect our current work with and vision for success and posted at the main entrance and every classroom entrance and in common areas. Several staff members previously attended the PLC Institute and reviewed DuFour, et al. texts and used this information to plan for our PLC rollout. Trainings focused on components of the four critical questions and their emphasis on learning then teaching. We created a leadership structure for our school that would include an MTSS Leadership Team (MTSSLT) and Instructional Leadership Team that would monitor the implementation and fidelity of PLC installation, effectiveness, and future work. 

Grade level/content area PLCs meet during their common planning block. Teams are provided an agenda template based on the four critical questions and facilitators craft an agenda prior to the meeting for efficiency. During meetings, teachers discuss and unpack standards, plan lessons, update their pacing guide, create and/or refine unit organizers, plan assessments, review assessment data, discuss high yield strategies (from John Hattie’s work), and plan enrichment opportunities. Throughout the process, teachers have become more comfortable sharing data and seeing where one teacher’s weakness can be compensated by another’s strengths. Following benchmarks, teachers have a full or half day planning to review student data. Teachers complete a data guide for their students’ results and discussions take place about strengths, weaknesses, and misunderstandings which drives instructional decisions. Discussions are teacher-led. Administrators are in attendance; however, teachers take the collective responsibility to drive the conversations.

We have worked to ensure teachers focus relentlessly on teaching standards using research-based approaches. Oftentimes during PLCs, teachers share strategies they are using in class. Schoolwide, we have implemented strategies from the Strategic Instruction Model and Content Enhancement Routines from the University of Kansas to focus on literacy instruction and acquisition; therefore, successes, ideas, and failures are discussed in PLCs. We also have mini-trainings and re-freshers for teachers based on needs. Our primary delivery for EC services is through the inclusion model. When building the master schedule, we build in common planning for the EC and regular education teachers for them to be able to discuss standards, co-teaching strategies, pacing, modifications, and accommodations. 

Tier two and tier three students are provided an intervention elective using research based programs and protocols to build specific skills. As interventionists, teachers work to fill skill deficits for at-risk students scoring below the 40th percentile on reading and math. Teachers focus on specific skills and progress monitor using nationally normed assessments. Quarterly, teachers collaborate to discuss progress monitoring data (progress monitoring data points, trend lines, etc) to determine if a student should exit, remain in intervention, or needs intensification of intervention. Multiple critical questions are addressed through teachers’ work as interventionists. 

Our MTSSLT and Instructional Leadership Teams also function as learning communities. The MTSSLT reviews multiple data sets involving academics and behavior to ensure fidelity in addition to problem solving for at-risk students. The primary focus of the MTSSLT is critical question three, what do we do for students not responding to core nor intervention instruction. For these students, we initiate the problem-solving process to drill down to the barrier to learning. The Instructional Leadership Team collaborates on school-wide issues. The team researched best/evidence-based practices and reinvented our school’s grading practices and core behavior system. These teams ensure our school is delivering a guaranteed and viable curriculum with a focus on learning through best practices with a focus on results. 

As we continue to refine our work with academic and behavior interventions, we are integrating core and tiered SEL opportunities for our students. Teachers, support staff, and administrators are involved in designing the delivery of and identifying students for SEL support. Although not explicitly academic, the four critical questions are addressed through our work with implementing and monitoring the fidelity of our SEL curriculum.

April 2021 update - please see (update-for-2021-covid-6549.pdf) [attached on Achievement Data and Additional Resources sections]


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Teams use our state standards and associated resources to determine what students need to master to be successful in their current grade and vertically. The state creates an unpacking document for standards which provides teachers with sample content for each standard. Teachers work during the summer and school year to align supplemental materials with state standards and create engaging activities to address the standards. Teachers use Webb's Depth of Knowledge and Bloom's Taxonomy stems to create formal and informal questions to check for mastery and work to incorporate high yield strategies based on Hattie research into their daily classes.

Assessments are created to help monitor mastery progression. From the standards, collaborative teams create expected learning outcomes/I can statements they share with students. These statements are reviewed at the beginning and end of each class. Teachers create common assessments and analyze data after the administration of the assessment. We are working to move beyond analyzing individual test items/groups of test items for correct answers and moving into analyzing student work samples to gain an understanding of misconceptions. Reading and math classes have three benchmarks each year. Following the benchmark, teachers follow a discussion guide protocol to analyze the data and plan how they will use the results to drive instruction. For these formative assessments (and regular assessments), teachers are encouraged to have students (and the class as a whole) set outcome goals and monitor their progress on a graph. For formal and informal assignments, teachers focus on providing students with specific/explicit feedback to help move students toward mastery.

Student scheduling plays a large role in providing each student with a guaranteed and viable curriculum. Each of our students is hand scheduled. We use multiple data sources to place students in inclusion, Core + ELA , Core + Math, traditional ELA and math classes, accelerated sections, and high school credit courses. Teacher course loads are also strategically built based on their areas of strength as indicated by their growth data. While all teachers collaborate to unpack standards and create and analyze common assessments, we ensure each student is placed in a course that will challenge them and put them in the optimal situation to master grade level content.

To support and supplement standards based instruction, we integrate evidence-based programs and curricula to further support mastery. Examples include Xtreme Reading, SIM strategies, Content Enhancement Routines, iReady, Read Naturally, etc. We closely monitor progress of students in these sections as our most at risk students are enrolled in sections using these curricula and programs.

For 2021 update, please see attachment on achievement and/or resources page (file name: update for 2021 (COVID)).

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

Burns has created a robust system of support for academic, behavior, and social emotional interventions. Each summer, we review state testing data to identify at-risk students in reading and math. Students are strategically placed in core classes; however, these students have basic skill deficits needing to be addressed through interventions which are offered as elective courses. Students are placed in small groups by skill area (decoding, fluency, comprehension, and specific math concepts) and teachers follow an evidence based protocol for instruction. Progress monitoring occurs every 3-4 weeks (depending on tier). Conferencing is critical to interventions; we build in activities creating time for teachers to conference with students providing a relationship-building opportunity in addition to focused instruction.

At the end of the first semester, we conduct a targeted screening of students to determine whether students not currently enrolled in an intervention need to be considered for intervention. We pull students with a C average or below in their core reading and/or math class for the first semester and screen them using one of our screening tools (reading: STAR; math: easyCBM). For students scoring below the 40th percentile, we provide intervention services as en elective. 

Based on our progress monitoring schedule, at the end of each quarter, we have collected 3 or more data points which is sufficient in creating a reliable trend line for a student. At this time, interventionists meet and follow a protocol (attached) to discuss fidelity of the intervention instruction and student progress (data points on documentation spreadsheet (sample attached)) to make the determination of whether or not students are ready to exit intervention, need to remain in intervention, or need an intensification of intervention. Students exiting interventions are then monitored through core to ensure success is sustained.

Teachers (interventionists) function as a learning community through their intervention work. Quarterly, teachers collaborate with the MTSS Coordinator to review progress monitoring data to make decisions about students in their intervention section. Students not responding to intervention are moved to tier three instruction (intensified by change in program, smaller group, and/or additional time). Additionally, teachers work to build and refine intervention protocols in order to ensure we are best meeting needs for students. 

For students not identified to have skill deficits by screeners, however, are not being successful with standards-based core work, a remediation elective is provided by teachers not providing tiered intervention services. Students move into/out of remediation based on their progress in core. They may attend intervention a single day per week or multiple days, depending on need, and when improvement is shown, they are exited from remediation. 

During COVID, we have continued serving students in literacy and/or math internventions. We received additional funding allotments and were able to hire interventionsits to ensure small groups were still feasible. Instruction took place the two days students were on campus (we were in a hybrid/cohort model). 

We understand behavior and social emotional issues can create barriers to learning. We mitigate these barriers by providing tiered support for students with behavior and/or social emotional issues. For core behaviors, teachers instruct students on our expectations and their team expectations. Students not responding to core behavior instruction are placed on a level one or two behavior plan. Support staff and the student’s teachers meet to review problematic behaviors, goal set, and initiate the tier two plan. Parents are included in the process. Students are assigned a check in/check out contact and teachers monitor/document behaviors. Students not responding to tier two instruction escalate to tier three with more intensive services (more frequent interventions, introduction to Reset (Resiliency) Room, individual meetings with support staff, etc). For those still not responding, the MTSSLT initiates a Functional Behavior Assessment. For each tier, progress monitoring data are collected weekly and analyzed collaboratively to determine the appropriate level of service.


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

Our master schedule is built to accommodate common planning for each grade level content area. Mondays are designated for formal PLCs to take place; grade level teachers also have common, duty-free lunch each day they can use for collaboration. Teachers also collaborate during the summer for uninterrupted planning time as they plan out their scope and sequence for the year, pull evidence based resources, begin building common assessments, and scheduling common assessment/benchmarks. 

During summer work and weekly PLCs, teachers build learning targets aligned with what they expect students to know; they translate state standards into common, student/parent-friendly language. These statements are posted when classes cover standards and are often used as assessment questions. 

As noted previously, our school uses Strategic Instructional Model strategies and the unit organizer Content Enhancement Routine. All teachers have been trained on the strategies and unit organizer routine allowing our students to be exposed to the same strategies across content areas. With unit organizers, “teachers can ‘frame’ a unit to enable students to understand the big picture of the unit. Use of the routine helps students understand how the unit fits within a course or sequence of units, see a method for organizing knowledge, define relationships among pieces of information, understand what they are expected to do, monitor their progress, and recognize what they have learned” (citation: University of Kansas). Teachers create unit organizers during their work together, then create and review them with students as they cover standards. 

At the beginning of the year, PLCs create or update previously created norms for their work together. These generally revolve around agenda creation, time management, and roles. Norms help hold one another accountable and ensure efficiency of our time together. Teams also create SMART goals. We track cohort proficiency and build realistic goals based on the cohort’s movement. It is our goal for exiting 8th graders to have a higher proficiency compared to how they arrived following their 5th grade year. 

Building teacher capacity is essential to growing students. To work toward meeting this goal, we survey teachers in the spring to determine professional development needs and reflect on universal needs of our students/school. Based on results, our MTSSLT creates a yearlong professional development calendar. Some offerings are during PLC time (if grade level/content focused), others are after school or on planning days. We seek to build teacher leaders and rely on their expertise to coordinate sessions, or, look outside of our building to bring in experts in the needed areas. A sample of our professional development plan is attached. Session strategies are then embedded into weekly PLC conversations.

Lastly, at the conclusion of the school year, PLCs complete Solution Tree’s PLC Navigator in order to reflect on their work together and identify areas for improvement. Teachers use results to plan and goal set for the upcoming year. Additionally, administrators review the results with PLCs in order to be able to provide any additional resources for teachers/PLCs.


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

  • State growth measurements

    • 2014-15 - did not meet expectations (index: -3.5; percentage conversion: 62.5)

    • 2015-16 - met expectations (index: -.37; percentage conversion: 78.1)

    • 2016-17 - met expectations (index: 1.21; percentage conversion: 83.0)

    • 2017-18 - exceeded expectations (index: 3.11; percentage conversion: 87.7)

    • 2018-19 - exceeded expectations (index: 4.79; percentage conversion: 91.3)

    • 2019-20 - no state testing due to COVID-19 (please see 'update for 2021' attachment for additional information)


  • Our free/reduced lunch rate is approximately 62%. When comparing middle schools (6-8 grades) with 60%+ free/reduced lunch, our school (of 143 schools in socio-economic comparison) had the second highest performance score (proficiency combined with growth calculations) of all schools in North Carolina.

  • For 2018-19 testing, all subgroups exceeded growth (exception: AIG students, this group met growth standards) based on state measurements. We have a plan in place for the upcoming school year to continue to grow our AIG population.

  • We have implemented Xtreme Reading in inclusion and regular sections of core Language Arts courses for at-risk students (as identified by historical data). Implementation has resulted in positive growth for students. Pre/post data are attached illustrating growth across multiple metrics in addition to qualitative data collected through a student survey.

  • Our school completed a study of grading practices and created parameters based on research and evidence-based best practices. This was implemented at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. In comparing semester one grades (using semester one as comparison groups due to traditional grades not being assigned for 2019-20 due to COVID-19 closure), failures decreased by 65.7% while achievement on state assessments continued to increase after implementation.


Historical Data Comparison



Reading & Math Growth





School Grade*

Growth Index









-3.5/Did Not Meet

Not reported by subgroup until 2017-18


















3.11/ Exceeded









4.79/ Exceeded




1920 - no state testing due to COVID-19

*calculated: 80% proficiency; 20% growth


Exceeded growth as identified by state testing; scored in top 15% and 10% the last two years of testing of all K-12 schools

Accepted into Amazon Future Engineer program in partnership with Project STEM - will integrate content/resources into CTE technology courses.

Featured in three state/national level meetings/publications:

  • US Department of Education SPDG National Meeting - October 2020 - bit.ly/burnmiddleplcs
  • Education Week - February 2020 - bit.ly/leaderstolearnfrom
  • North Carolina State Improvement Project - February 2020 - bit.ly/bmsncsip