White Elementary School

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

White Elementary School (WES) is located in the small town of White, Georgia. White is one of the 12 elementary schools that make up the Bartow County School System. We are considered a little treasure in the middle of a pasture. A sense of close-knit family community permeates through the building which in turn has created a culture where students really matter and are considered our future. White Elementary School has always been a data driven school but was missing collective teacher efficacy and focusing on the right work during school-wide interventions/extension time to improve student learning. White Elementary has used the Bartow County PLC Playbook as a guide to navigate through the PLC process. 

In the summer of 2018, the administration of WES attended the Culture Keepers Conference. The administration of the Bartow County School System met with Jasmine Kullar to further discuss the PLC Process. From this conference and discussion from Mrs. Kullar, the central office staff formed the system guiding coalition. Administration and the Instructional Lead Teacher were able to receive firsthand training and guidance on how to develop and form a local school guiding coalition and deconstruct standards. This conference was key and provided an in-depth knowledge of Professional Learning Communities with vetted research strategies for systematic school improvement. The WES Guiding Coalition took part in developing norms, mission statement, vision, collective commitments, and establishing S.M.A.R.T. goals. The certified staff members were charged to dissect their standards and identify only the essentials. The Instructional Lead Teacher (ILT) assisted with the identification of essential standards and learning targets using the Readiness, Endurance, Assessment, and Leverage criteriaWith the help of the system Guiding Coalition, an effective collaboration schedule was set and allowed each teacher two office hour days, two days of collaboration with their grade level team, and one day of monitoring students. We also addressed the singletons in our building by ensuring that they had a common planning time with departments and were able to attend grade level collaboration with their highest case load of students. This was the breaking point for WES and it set us on our way to establishing a local school guiding coalition and navigating through our own PLC journey. The members selected were based heavily off criteria from Learning by Doing (DuFour, 2006). Our Guiding Coalition was comprised of two members per grade level, two exceptional education teachers, gateway teacher, music teacher, counselor, assistant principal, and principal. White Elementary had always felt pride with stating that they were “doing” PLC’s. We have since learned that Professional Learning Communities is a process. At the beginning of our journey during the 2018-2019 school year, the first book study completed was Learning by Doing (Dufour,2006). This book study positively impacted professional development and lead to a cultural shift to enhance student achievement. 

 In our second year, the System Guiding Coalition scheduling subcommittee made drastic alterations to improve the schedule. The System Guiding Coalition realized that teachers needed a dedicated time to collaborate. This was best served by changing the contracted workday starting time to 7:15 A.M. This allowed time for teachers to collaborate from 7:15 A.M. - 8:00 A.M. twice weekly and have office hours with students twice weekly. This collaboration time focused on questions 1 and 2 of the PLC process.  Question #1: What do we want students to know and be able to do?  Question #2: How will we know when students have learned it?  The essential standards were deconstructed and identified. This allowed work to be continually revamped and perfected. In March 2020, the pandemic hit and White Elementary pushed forward by holding Guiding Coalition meetings via Microsoft Teams. The WES Guiding Coalition moved into the book study Design in 5 (Vagle, N. D., & Reeves, F. B. D. 2014). The members were guided through the book study during WES Guiding Coalition Microsoft Teams meetings. The team was also asked to redeliver pertinent information during weekly collaboration meetings that were held twice a week during the pandemic via Microsoft Teams. The WES Guiding Coalition leaders took this a step further and focused on the “right work” during monthly vertical collaboration meetings when school resumed in the fall. During these meetings, the administration team used their knowledge learned from the Assessment and Rigor Training provided by Angie Freese and the Bartow County School System.  The administration, Instructional Lead Teacher, and Learning Support Specialist went through a series of steps of critiquing current Common Formative Assessments (CFA) Common Summative Assessments (CSA) based on the learning ladder of complexity created by the Bartow County School System. The administration team gave constructive feedback to ensure that learning targets and CFA/CSAs were aligned specifically to the essential standard. The team also provided feedback to enhance rigor and ensure that the complexity ladder was simple to rigorous in structure. The teachers were able to work collaboratively to revamp and develop unit plans and learning targets aligned to each essential standard. Most of this work took place during collaboration meetings. The school vertical math and reading team took part in a professional workday to revamp unit plans and complexity learning ladders to ensure that targets were mapped out from simple to more rigorous in structure. The administration team took part in a book study called Taking Action (Buffum et al., 2017). Previously, White Elementary School took time out of the schedule to hold Tier 3 time outside of the classroom, which was heavily based on direct instructional programs. Tier 2 time took place during the classroom instructional period. After studying the research, the schedule has been adjusted to ensure Tier 2 time takes place outside of the classroom schedule. Tier 3 time now takes place during class time within the confines of the Workshop Model. 

Previously in Bartow County, Response to Intervention was viewed as a road map to exceptional education. As a system, and as a school at White Elementary, we labeled students and consequently taught to those labels. This practice demonstrated that there was no fundamental focus on pushing all students to learn at high levels. In Spring of 2020, the Learning Support Specialist (LSS) position was created. This position was charged with continuing the culture of change within our Professional Learning Community. The LSS would focus specifically on questions 3 and 4 of the PLC process with collaborative teams to help ensure all students learn at high levels. Question #3: What will we do when students haven’t learned it?  Question #4: What will we do when students already know it?  Administration, ILT, LSS, and other key WES Guiding Coalition members attended the virtual RTI at Work conference in the summer of 2020. Along with a book study of Taking Action (Buffum et al., 2017), team members were ready to continue the culture shift in our PLC to improve the learning of all students. The WES Guiding Coalition worked collaboratively to create the RTI at Work Pyramid. The Site Intervention Team (SIT) was created to address student needs at tier 3.  

Unit Plans and learning targets were written for each essential standard. Teams began the shift from teaching and moving on to the next standard to a focus on results. The Teaching and Assessing Cycle is utilized by collaborative teacher teams to use the backward design to create units beginning with the end in mind. The Teaching and Assessing Cycle ensures that all students have the time and support they need to learn the essential standard curriculum. Collaborative teams agree on what they want students to know, and create rigorous assessments designed to show proficiency of essential standards. The Teaching and Assessing Cycle provides collaborative teams with a road map for creating a laser focus on student achievement. This laser focus design helps teams see how to respond to student learning to ensure that all students learn at high levels.  

If after the CSA, students still do not show proficiency, there is dedicated tier two time built into our schedule to provide additional time and support to ensure that students show proficiency on grade level essential standards. Additionally, during this tier two WINN (What I Need Now) time, the students who have already shown proficiency are provided with extension activities to extend their learning and application on that essential standard.  

In August 2020, collaborative teams worked with the administration team to triangulate data and identify the bottom five percent of their grade level team for intensive remediation. Those identified were two or more grade levels behind their same age peers in foundational skills. Collaborative teams looked at Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) data, Acadience data, Reading Inventory (RI), Informal Decoding Inventory (IDI), and i-Ready data. The SIT members then identified the appropriate intervention to meet the needs of these ‘skill’ students. The students identified as ‘will’ students were discussed, and next steps identified. SIT met monthly to review progress monitoring data via the Tier 3 Remediation Form and ensure that students were making adequate progress. If adequate progress was determined not to be made for an individual student, the SIT made a referral to IDEA through our exceptional education department. 

The administration team participated in an RTI Audit with the guidance of Mr. Rich Smith. Since the system RTI Audit, the administration team facilitated a WES Guiding Coalition meeting where the team revamped the norms, mission, and vision of the school to reflect a positive change and focus on student growth and achievement. The norms were updated so that each meeting would drive classroom instruction by having the team focus on the following question: How did this meeting improve student learning? Data and sub-committee redelivery drove our WES Guiding Coalition Meetings. The following mission, vision, and collective commitments were also updated to reflect the positive changes within White Elementary School.  

Mission Statement: Warriors Embrace Success 

Vision Statement: To ensure students are prepared to be college and career ready. 

Collective Commitments:  

  • I will be a positive, contributing member of my collaborative team. 

  • I will keep my parents informed of the progress of their children. 

  • Develop, implement, and evaluate common formative assessments and common summative assessments to monitor each student’s learning. 

 Beginning in the spring semester of 2021, the administration team, teacher of the year, and parent council member took part in a one-day training with Cassandra Erkens entitled “Grading in a PLC Culture”. This training allowed each member of the school team to share current effective practices to ensure improvement. Later in the semester, the grading subcommittee was charged with creating a survey to poll the staff on various practices. The grading subcommittee also gathered grading perception data from PreK-5th grade students at White Elementary School. The student data showed that students were on the right path and knew exactly what grades represented and why they were used. Most of the students knew that grades helped assist the teachers with essential standards proficiency. From this point, the White Elementary School’s Guiding Coalition completed the book study Grading from the Inside Out (Schimmer, 2016). The grading subcommittee has been charged with revamping and taking part in action research during the 2021-2022 school year. To support this process, the Bartow County Board of Education approved changes to the Board Policy on grading effective April 2021.  Members of the guiding coalition took part in three virtual trainings with Rich Smith in April and May of this school year. The trainings focused on strengthening Tier 1-3 instruction, extensions, and social skills instruction focusing on “will students”. 

     The guiding coalition took part in a survey to ensure the right work was taking place. The survey data was discussed at the local school system Guiding Coalition meeting. At this meeting, Eric Twadell discussed his PLC journey and allowed each collaborative team time to develop the 21-22 professional learning plan based on survey data. Ten guiding coalition members will be attending the Achieve Now Professional Development Institute this July to focus on grading, assessment, and effective feedback. The professional development sessions will be presented by the following Solution Tree associates Nicole Dimich, Cassandra Erkins, Mandy Stalets.  

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

The PLC journey to create a guaranteed and viable curriculum at White Elementary began with the identification of our essential standards by utilizing the R.E.A.L. (Readiness, Endurance, Assessment, and Leverage) template. Each essential standard is deconstructed and learning targets are identified to answer the first guiding question of “What do we want students to know?” S.M.A.R.T. (Strategic and Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results Oriented, and Time-Bound) goals are then created to gain clarity on what exactly students should learn, the standard of learning expected, and the measure used to determine if students have achieved the standard.  

The collaborative teams rank the learning targets based on complexity and rigorLearning ladders of complexity are then utilized with students in the classroom to empower student understanding of the essential standard. After the collaborative team determines the learning targets, the use of backward design is then employed to create common summative assessments (CSA) to determine if students are proficient. This use of backward design helps to answer the second guiding question of “How will we know when students have learned it?” CSAs provide teachers with evidence of student proficiency on a completed essential standard.  

After the determination of these key elements, collaborative teams design a Unit Plan, containing common formative assessments (CFA) and a pacing guide to check for understanding as learning targets are taught. The CFAs provide the collaborative teams information needed to determine if the pacing needs to be adjusted to allow for reteaching or extension. After administering a CFA, the collaborative team implements a Response Day based on student data. Response Days utilize grade level teachers and other support staff in the school to deliver instruction to needs-based groups, which include prevention, continued, or extended learning. At the conclusion of the Unit, the CSA is administered, and students are identified who need additional time and support to show proficiency in the guaranteed and viable curriculum. 

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

White Elementary School is continually creating a systematic system of interventions for all students by providing additional time and support for learning at high levels. Collaborative teams utilize the Teaching and Assessing Cycle to monitor student learning. Unit Plans and learning targets are written for each essential standard. The Teaching and Assessing Cycle is utilized by collaborative teacher teams to use the backward design to create units beginning with the end in mind. The Teaching and Assessing Cycle ensures that all students have the time and support they need to learn the essential standard curriculum. Collaborative teams agree on what they want students to know, and create rigorous assessments designed to show proficiency of essential standards. The Teaching and Assessing Cycle provides collaborative teams with a road map for creating a laser focus on student achievement. If after the CSA, students still do not show proficiency, there is dedicated Tier 2 time built into the master schedule to provide additional time and support to ensure that students show proficiency on grade level essential standards. Additionally, during this Tier 2 WINN (What I Need Now) time, the students who have shown proficiency are provided with extension activities to extend their learning and application on that essential standard. Teacher teams utilize the Tier 2 tracking document after each CSA to track students who need additional time and support to learn the essential curriculum. 

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

In the fall of 2018, our school’s Guiding Coalition was created and began fostering the leadership capacity in the PLC process. Following the PLC Playbook, we created subcommittees that focused on the three big ideas of the PLC process: student learning, collaboration, and results. The Guiding Coalition worked on breaking down barriers and creating a common language as a foundation for Professional Learning Communities. Since we began our journey of Professional Learning Communities, various members of the staff attended the Solution Tree Professional Learning Communities Summit in Atlanta.  

As we come to a close of the first three years of our PLC process, we continue our effort to perfect the process and strengthen our collective teacher efficacy. White Elementary Guiding Coalition participated in the Guiding Coalition Leadership Efficacy Analysis Survey to monitor the effectiveness of the Guiding Coalition and the PLC process. The ILT, LSS, and administration team also participated in Collaborative Impact Checks to monitor and give valuable feedback to each collaborative team. A blue print was created at the system Guiding Coalition meeting held this past May to help strengthen areas that were targeted by the WES Guiding Coalition Leadership Efficacy Analysis survey data. Throughout this process, we are continually evaluating results to implement strategies that will improve collective efficacy and to assist us in developing next year’s action plan.  

To accomplish a focus on learning, collaborative teams began understanding the deconstruction of standards, R.E.A.L. process, and identifying essential standards. Once essential standards were selected, the teams began building a strategic pacing guide for addressing each essential standard. The teams also began making rigorous learning targets and understanding and creating the ladder of complexity.  

Beginning with the end in mind, teachers begin building their Common Summative Assessments identifying proficiency for each learning target. The team schedules Common Formative Assessments with corresponding Response Days. As teachers begin analyzing CSAs, interventions and extensions that relate to the essential standards are collectively created, shared, and implemented during Tier 2 time that occurs in addition to Tier 1 instruction. Our high functioning collaborative teams continue to reduce the number of students not meeting proficiency after Tier 2 intervention by working in collaboration with the Site Intervention Team to make sure our “will” and “skill” students are supported effectively. For more intensive “will” student concerns, the collaborative team provides remediation to master universal foundational skills outside of Tier 1 instruction. 

Our school has participated in several book studies to build effective teacher capacity. The entire staff was part of the Learning by Doing (DuFour, et al., 2016) book study. The Guiding Coalition participated in the following book studies: Taking Action (Buffum et al., 2017) and Grading from the Inside Out (Schimmer,2016). Design in 5 (Vagle, 2015) was studied by the Guiding Coalition via Microsoft Teams during the Covid 19 pandemic. In May 2020, various staff members participated in virtual sessions during the pandemic with Solution Tree regarding RTI at Work. The following virtual sessions were completed during this time. 

1. Simplifying Response to Intervention: Four Essential Guiding Principles 

2.Brian Butler, They Are Not Your Kids or My Kids but Our Kids 

3. Austin Buffum, Creating a Culture of Collective Responsibility: From Believing to Doing 

4. Mike Mattos, Uniting Academic Behaviors 

5. Sarah Schuhl, Creating Common Assessments for Team and Student Learning 

6. Luis Cruz, Staff Resistance to the RTI Process 

7. Mike Mattos, It’s About Time: Planning Interventions and Extensions in Secondary   

8. Brian Butler, It’s About Time: Planning Interventions and Extensions in Elementary 

9. Mike Mattos, Eating the Elephant: Transforming Ideas into Actions 

10. Concentrated Instruction: Designing and Refining Our Instruction Around Student Learning 

11. Convergent Assessment: Evidence to Increase Student Learning 

12. Putting It All Together: Creating a Multitiered System of Supports-Elementary 

During the first year of PLC implementation, a specific Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervention time was built into the master schedule. This protected time was proven effective by student achievement data. The Bartow County School System changed the schedule for all teachers within the district to allow for a consistent collaborative time during the second school year of PLC implementation. This allows collaborative teams to meet twice a week to discuss data, assessments, interventions, extensions, and instructional strategies. This enables teachers to have two mornings for “office hours” to help students master essential standards outside of scheduled Tier 2 and Tier 3 instructional time.  

White Elementary is striving to recognize “A-Teams” within the building. For a team to be considered an “A-Team” they must meet rigorous expectations in the areas of focus on learning, collaboration, data analysis, and improving student learning. The team must go through a strenuous evaluation process by the WES Guiding Coalition and system personnel. The LSS presented the Guiding Coalition with the appropriate steps needed to start the “A-Team" journey.  

White Elementary has gained momentum each year and received the following awards:  

  • Top Performing Title I School.  

  • Platinum Award from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement in 2019 

  • Bronze Award from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement for having the greatest gains in 2018.  

  • Bartow County STEM Accreditation in the fall of 2020.  

  • Golden Radish Award in 2019 for our school vegetable gardens 

  • Climate Star Rating of 5 for the 2017-2018 school year and 2018-2019 school year 

  • Numerous teachers have been awarded teacher grants from the Bartow Education Grant Foundation 

  • Highest Elementary School College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) 2018-2018 

  • White Elementary currently has several teams who will be working on submitting “A team” paperwork in the fall. 

  • Title I Distinguished School Award 2018-2019 

  • Highest Elementary School in Bartow County System for College and Career Ready Performance Index 2017-2018 

  • Majority of Students Scoring in the Proficient and Distinguished Categories in All Subject Areas in the Bartow County School System 2018-2019 

WES PLC Supporting Documents: