Emerson Elementary (2021)

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

Emerson Elementary School is one of twelve elementary schools in the Bartow County School District. Until the 2018-2019 school year, Emerson's overall focus was on teaching, with some teachers working together and others working in isolation. As a result, most of our students were engaged in instructional tasks, but student achievement data was inconsistent. Teachers worked tirelessly to implement strategies and programs to assist our students, but Universal Screeners and other benchmark data remained stagnant. Students in 2016-2017, Math Georgia Mileston data performance showed students in 3rd through 5th grade scoring 80%, 86%, and 80% respectively at a Level 2 or higher. The following year in 2017-2018 these scores declined in each grade level and in each cohort group to 73%, 77%, and 69%.

When looking back to the 2017 - 2018 school year, Emerson Elementary school experienced significant structural and cultural changes. During this year, a new administrative team was hired and during the middle of the year, the 4th-grade math teacher changed. The scores also revealed the culture of the building was centered around teaching standards and covering content. These changes impacted the overall performance of students and Emerson experienced a dramatic decrease in student's performance, and as a result, the school's CCRPI score dropped approximately 20 points from the previous year.   

During the School Improvement meeting in May of 2018, teachers and administrators were highly frustrated with student's performance data. Structural changes were made with the administrative team with the hiring of new staff members and in July of 2018, Mrs. Mulkey, the school's principal, and a group of other district leaders attended the Culture Keepers PLC Conference and immediately realized the Professional Learning Community at Work process was the solution for the schools' frustration. The school needed a focus on learning, not teaching. The "Fierce Urgency of Now" (DuFour et al., 2016, p. 257) inspired Mrs. Mulkey to bring back what she learned and started the process needed to improve learning at Emerson Elementary school.   

With the support and guidance of Dr. Page, the school's Superintendent, his support staff, and the System's Guiding Coalition, Emerson Elementary held its first-ever Guiding Coalition meeting on August 1, 2018. The Guiding Coalition all agreed that the purpose of the school was learning, not teaching, and was energized to have crystal clear school improvement process. Under Mrs. Mulkey's leadership, 16 Guiding Coalition members met weekly, building the foundation needed to change the school's culture. To document the work of the Guiding Coalition, the school created a PLC Resource Guide to support the facilitators of the collaborative teams.  

With copies of the book Learning by Doing (DuFour et al., 2016), the implementation of the PLC framework's three big ideas beganThis mindset shift, coupled with the monthly training provided to administrationsparked a catalyst for change. Emerson's Guiding Coalition collectively decided on a new mission, vision, and collective commitments. These three components became the vehicle that drove every decision made in the school. Creating and defining a clear, compelling purpose became the strategic plan for the day-to-day operations at Emerson Elementary (p. 51). The school believed we wanted all students to learn at high levels, and we wanted all of our collaborative teams to function at a high levelThus, the cultural shift from working in isolation to in collaboration became a new normal.   

Since the fall of 2018, the school's assistant principal, newly named Instructional Lead Teacher, and seven of the16 Guiding Coalition members have attended Solution Tree Events. Additionally, during the second year of implementing the PLC processEmerson was selected to attend the Solution Tree RTI Workshop. After completing the workshop, the school added a School Intervention Team and created an RTI Pyramid. This pyramid created clarity for all stakeholders. Furthermore, each training developed the leadership capacity of the teachers and administrators, building the foundation of a PLC culture 

With the continued support of the school district, and the BCSS PLC Playbook, and other helpful resources, barriers are no longer a concern at Emerson Elementary. Dr. Page and the System Guiding Coalition developed a schedule allowing teachers to meet twice a week in the same course and support the continued work of the collaborative teams. This past year, the first-grade collaborative team at Emerson became the first-ever "A-Team," demonstrating evidence of Mattos' 10 Team (PLC, Teachers now meet twice a week, with norms that reflect the four guiding questions. Additionally, Emerson has four critical teams that guide learning and operations at the school. These School Teams include the school’s Guiding Coalition, the Building Leadership Team, the School Intervention Team, and the Positive Behavior Intervention System. 

Emerson Elementary School's focus is now rooted in effective Tier 1 instruction centered around a guaranteed and viable curriculum, a collaborative culture based around student data and needs, strong Tier 2 intervention/extension time, and targeted Tier 3 remediations. The school’s master schedule allows students to have access to all Tiers of instruction.  In addition, Emerson implements the Workshop Instructional Delivery Model daily to ensure students have access to all tiers of instruction. With an increased focus on the PLC process since the 2018-2019 school yearthe number of students qualifying for Tier III remediation has decreased by 4%. 

With the 2017 - 2018 school year scores as the current reality, the school's guiding coalition created a schedule to include a Tier 2 block of time 2 days a week for reading and 2 days a week for math. During this time, teachers focused on closing the gap in instruction that each cohort group of students experienced at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. In addition to this block of time, teachers also implemented office hours in the morning to address specific skills in reading and math. By building a shared understanding of "All students will learn at high levels," Emerson has decreased the number of students scoring in the Beginning Learner Achievement Level on the Georgia Milestones Math Assessment by 6% and ELA by 5%. 

Additionally, on the Georgia Milestones Assessment, students in grades 3- 5 showed an increase in Developing and above for mathematics from the 2017-2018 school year to the 2018-2019 school year. This increase began the year Emerson Elementary implemented the PLC processFor students in 3rd grade, 81% scored Developing and Above, a 12-percentage point increase from the students in 3rd grade the year before.  The 4th-grade students scored 8-percentage points higher than the previous 4th graders, and the 5th graders scored 3-percentage points higher. There are no Georgia Milestones scores to report for the 2019-2020 school year. 

In addition to the Math Milestone scores, reading also showed improvement with the PLC process implementation, with the percent of students who scored below grade level Lexile on the Georgia Milestones Assessment decreased from 27% in third grade in 2018 to 14% in 2019.  The percent of students who scored below grade level Lexile on the Georgia Milestones Assessment decreased from 49% in fourth grade in 2018 to 35% in 2019.  The percent of students who scored below grade level Lexile on the Georgia Milestones Assessment decreased from 35% in fourth grade in 2018 to 30% in 2019. Milestones results also showed strength in extended writing, with 44% of 3rd graders scoring proficient, 62% of 4th graders, and 76% of 5th graders.   

These results and evidence of continuous improvements empower the faculty and staff at Emerson Elementary, and the School's Guiding Coalition is committed to developing teachers' leaders who continuously collaborate to ensure all students learn at high levels. Through the implementation of the PLC process, teachers at Emerson can honor their commitment to our students, our parents, and our community. The cultural shift at the school could not have been possible without the help and support of Dr. Page, our School Superintendent, his staff, the Board of Education, and all our wonderful friends at Solution Tree.  

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

As one of the twelve elementary schools in Bartow County, Emerson Elementary teachers have a dedicated time to collaboration during the contractual day. All staff members at Emerson Elementary meet twice a week in collaborative team and work collaboratively using the PLC process for learning. Collaborative teams' agendas and norms focus on the “right work” and used the four guiding questions to guide student learning.  

These questions ensure the teams focus on the “right work” and include: 

  1. What do students need to know and be able to do?  

  1. How will we know when students have learned it?  

  1. What will we do when students haven’t learned it?  

  1. What will we do when students already know it?  

The first step in creating a guaranteed and viable curriculum for students is determining what the students need to know. Collaborative teams first step in determining this is to identify which standards are essential. The R.E.A.L (readiness, endurance, assessment, and leverage) criteria is used to identify essential standards (Many & Howell, 2014). Once collaborative teams identified their essential standards, they developed the learning targets for the standards.  

Learning targets were critical in answering question the second guiding questions. The learning targets became the instructional tasks that would be assessed through Common Formative Assessments. Teachers developed these common assessments developed Essential Unit Plans and Unit Plan Flowcharts to guide their instruction. During Tier 1 instructional time, teachers used preventive strategies to address individual student’s needs. Response days were used to provide students additional time master learning targets. Collaborative teams also developed Common Summative Assessments and utilize the Teaching Assessing Cycle to ensure all students have timely access to prevention and interventions.   

Collaborative teams met twice weekly analyzing student data and monitored student progress by utilizing the By Student By Standard Tracking Document. This document allows collaborative teams to effectively group students based on their specific needs, and to track the students' process. Students are reassessed throughout the school year until they mastery proficiency on the Essential Standards. By optimizing Tier 1 and Tier 2 instructional time, teachers can ensure all students learn at high level. 

Additionally, students demonstrating mastery on all learning targets receive extension activities. These extension activities included project based learning and other research-based strategies allowing students to dive deeper into the standards. Collaborative teachers provide students with guidance and critical feedback during Tier 2 extension time. 

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

Emerson Elementary developed an RTI process to ensure all students received the additional time and support needed to learn at high level. The RTI pyramid also addresses the students needed intensive Tier 3 remediations.  Our Tier 3 remediations involve research-based programs as well as teacher proven best practices to remediate student learning. For example, students who have been identified as the lowest 10% in reading as based on MAP benchmark data which is used as our universal screener, receive 30 minutes of intentional remediation of Fountas and Pinnell 4 days weekly. ESOL students and others identified as Tier 3 students use Lexia 30 minutes daily 4 days a week or based on their individual goal. Emerson has also developed a schedule to allow for Tier 2 interventions and extensions. This time allows teachers to group all students for extension and intervention based on Common Summative Assessment data. These groups are fluid because they are developed for each student for each standard and learning target in order to give extra time to master specific skills for students who may need it.   

Looking at rigorous teacher created learning targets based on the Essential Standards, teachers are better able to strategically intervene and extend thinking for all students. At Emerson Elementary, teachers are aware that students who show mastery on a pretest or after Tier 1 teaching need to be challenged rather than repeating the already mastered skill. They develop higher and deeper level learning targets based on the same Essential Standard to move student thinking from concrete to complex. These students work on assignments or projects that allow them to apply their learned concepts as well as evaluate real world problems that apply directly to their Essential Standard. For example, our gifted students were challenged to create new products and pitch their ideas in a "Shark Tank" style platform. This was developed around Social Studies standards of improving living and how entrepreneurs take risks (SS53c & SS5E1c). In the same thinking, all students school wide were able to participate in project-based learning through STEM. Using Essential Standards in math (NF1 Fractions) and science (S3E1 Soil), 3rd grade students were able to create layers of different soil to determine to show the most successful plant growth.  

We find great value in allowing all students the opportunity to learn at high levels. Using a variety of traditional, rigorous assessments that are common, project based learning, and small group interventions and extensions, we have seen students flourish no matter their system label. These activities and assessments are actively monitored in our Professional Learning Communities and data is used to inform teachers on what groups to develop or change.   

Additionally, Emerson Elementary School has a strong Positive Behavior Intervention System to support student’s academic and social and emotional behaviors. All students receive Tier 1 Academic and Social Emotional Behavior lessons throughout the school year and teachers rely on the P.B.I.S. S.O.A.R matrix to reinforce behaviors throughout the school year. This past year, the school’s Guiding Coalition expanded the P.B.I.S process to include specific academic behaviors and created an Academic Matrix. Academic behavior lesson plans were also developed for students in K-5 and will be taught at the beginning on the school year. The Academic Matrixsimilar to the Behavior Matrix will be used throughout the school year to reinforce academic behaviors.   

As evidenced in the school’s RTI pyramid, students needing additional support with academic and social emotional behaviors receive Tier 2 Interventions. These interventions are supported by the Guiding Coalition and collaborative teams. Students who require more intensive support receive Tier 3 supports, which is led by the School Intervention Team. The SIT team is led by the school’s Learning Support Specialist and specific student plans are developed to address student concerns. 



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

Building collective teacher efficacy and teacher capacity to work as members of high-performing collaborative teams is a source of pride at Emerson Elementary and is evident in the work of the collaborative team. All collaborative teams use the school system's A-Team Award process to ensure they are functioning at a high level. Emerson is proud to report that the first-grade teacher team was the first team in Bartow County School recognized as an A-Team. In addition, this team serves as a model for other collaborative teams in the building and the school district. The kindergarten and third-grade collaborative teams have currently submitted their A-Team applications with reviews to take place in the Fall of 2021.    

Emerson's success in building teacher capacity stems from its active Guiding Coalition. The Guiding Coalition uses a "Check Engine" process to monitor the collaborative work teams. After reading "How to Avoid Creating a One-and-a Half-Ton Paperweight" (Hall, 2019), the Guiding Coalition recognized that it was their responsibility to support all collaborative teams and ensure they performed at high levels. All collaborative team members complete a check engine light each month to report three things to the Guiding Coalition. These three things include what is going well, the overall status of the team, and what support area they need. This document identifies areas of professional learning for collaborative teams and overall professional development plans for the school.    

While the purpose of the school's Guiding Coalition is to develop teacher leaders who continuously collaborate to ensure all students learn at high levels, collaborative teams are also supported by the school's Leadership Team which includes the Instructional Lead Teachers (ILT), Learning Support Specialist (LSS), and school administration. The ILT is responsible for supporting collaborative teams with questions one and two, while the LSS supports questions three and four. Both ILT and LSS receive professional learning from the district office and the school administration. Additionally, the school district holds monthly Leadership meetings providing intentional professional development training to build the leadership capacity of the ILT, LSS, and school administration. School leaders redeliver information learned at these meetings to the school’s Guiding Coalition building the leadership capacity of collaborative team facilitators. The school’s Leadership Team also intentionally works with collaborative teams not represented in Guiding Coalition. These essential actions, along with the BCSS PLC Playbook continuously build the teacher’s capacity to work as a high-performing collaborative team. 

Collaborative teams also utilize the four guiding questions to drive our collaborative meetings. The focus is to improve student learning and ensure all students learn at high levels, grade level or above, collaborating and focusing on Common Formative and Summative data results. Collaborative teams believe that no one person has the energy, expertise, and enthusiasm (DuFour et al., 2016).      

Content areas and collaborative department teams have protected time two times per week to meet. During this period, teams focus on the four guiding questions and develop Essential Unit Plans based on identified essential standards. SMART goals are developed for the unit, with levels of proficiency being identified for each learning target. Teaching strategies and best practices are discussed for Tier 1 instruction. Beginning with the end in mind, pre-assessment/summative assessments and CFAs are developed during unit planning.   

Collaborative teams implement a process to monitor Tier 1 instruction and complete the By Student By Standard tracking document. This document assists the collaborative teams in monitoring their SMART goals for each unit and determines the effectiveness of Tier 1 instruction. The document also provides the documentation needed to create intervention, continued learning, and extension groups. In addition, the school's master schedule allows all students access to Tier 2 interventions or extensions during the protected 30 minutes S.O.A.R time. Finally, the guaranteed and viable curriculum is monitored and reported to the Guiding Coalition every four weeks using the EES Tier 2 Monitoring document.      

The PLC culture shift at Emerson Elementary occurred for many reasons, and teachers believe that if they want better results for the students they serve, they must work together in reoccurring cycles of collective inquiry using action research (DuFour et al., 2016). As teachers finish up their third year of working in collaborative teams, their focus is on improving learning by perfecting the PLC process. As mentioned earlier, Emerson Elementary is committed to ensuring all students learn at high levels, and collaborative teams embrace the mindset that working in collaboration is always more beneficial than working in isolation 





School Awards

  • A-Team Award - First Grade Collaborative Team
  • 5-Star School Climate Award
  • 2018 Title I High Progress School
  • Exceptional Education Teacher 4 C's Awards
  • Bartow Education Foundation Teacher Grants