Clear Creek Elementary School

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

Clear Creek Elementary School, established in 2004, is one of 12 elementary schools in the Bartow County School District in Northwest Georgia. The school is in a remote section of the district and does not have an established community or neighborhood with which it is associated. School leadership, led by the principal, Dr. Kelly S. Wade, made a concerted effort upon his arrival in 2010 to build a cohesive community includinglocal families, businesses, and community partners.  

Clear Creek Elementary soon became known as a school that cared about kids and put eachstudentsbest interest first. This led to many out of zone parents requesting that their children be allowed to attend Clear Creek Elementary. Over the years, these students and their families have made a wonderful addition to our school community.  

Clear Creek’s staff has always demonstrated a genuine love and care for their students, which is what makes this PLC story special. Over the years, a focus on teaching was not prevalent at Clear Creek as shown by our inconsistentstudent achievement data in many areas across grade levels. How does one begin to fundamentally change a staff from a culture of teaching to a culture of learning? 

 Dr. Philip Page arrived as the new Superintendent of the Bartow County School System in May of 2018. Principals and district leaders were invited to attend the Culture Keepers PLC Conference in Atlanta, Ga in July of 2018. As a result of this conference,the school system established the district level guiding coalition and began the PLC process of “Learning by Doing.” Clear Creek soon followed with its own guiding coalition to begin implementation, at the school level, modeling the district level implementation and initiatives.  

The district has been very proactive in providing a vast number of resources to ensure that we are effectively able to remove any barriers. Each school has been staffed with an Instructional Lead Teacher(ILT) to support Tier 1 instruction, and Learning Support Specialist(LSS) to support Tier 2 and Tier 3 instruction (RTI), and a Reading Specialist to support literacy initiatives at the district and school level.   

Dr. Wade, along with the immediate leadership team began to use the 'willing and able' tool to determine members of the local school guiding coalition. Initiatives were implemented slowly and methodically to ensure all members understood the “WHY” and theprocess to learn how to be a true PLC. The first year of implementation was comparable to a person learning to swim. We were barely treading water. We identified barriers that hindered our approach to the process. This was a trend district wide. There was a system level subcommittee formed to look at how to overcome barriers and provide time to meet the needs of ALL students. Schedules were developed at the elementary, middle, and high schools to allow for collaboration, office hours, Tier 2, and Tier 3 times. Not only were the barriers removed, but the excuses were also removed. We had time to get into the “right work.” 

The right work began with establishing our guiding coalition meetings each week, scheduled collaboration times, office hours, and developing our mission, vision, and collective commitments. Implementing each of these provided the clarity needed to move forward. With Learning by Doing (DuFour et al., 2016) to guide our staff, we began working to identify essential standards and focus on the Four Questions to ensure teachers focused on student learning. This shared knowledge was crucial to making the correct decisions as we moved forward through the PLC process. The Four Questions teacher focus on are: 

  1. What do we want students 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? 

With a clear focus on student learning, teachers began developing a guaranteed and viable curriculum through essential standards unit plans, learning goals for each standard, and crafting common formative assessments with protocols. These assessments were used to check for understanding throughout each unit. Teachers planned response days to address any misconceptions on each target as well as how to perfect teaching strategies. The process was not always perfect, but teachers and students were learning together to create relevant and meaningful context – the why of the learning. 

In the spring of 2020, just as we were beginning to work through Design in Five (Vagle, N.C., & Reeves, F. B. D. 2014), the pandemic hit and school went virtual. Even with this challenge our guiding coalition and staff continued to create pacing guides, target ladders, and our RTI pyramidusing our Microsoft Teams platform. In the fall of 2020, our staff continued to build both common formative and summative assessments. Teachers worked collaboratively to cultivate their understanding of how to increase rigor on assessments, respond to student data, and adjust instructional practices.  

Where do we go from here? As we enter our 4th year of PLC implementation, our staff and students have a clearer vision and greater knowledge of what the process of building aPLC entails and the benefits to student achievement and the overall teacher efficacy that it provides. Dr. Wade has emphatically stressed the need for our Guiding Coalition members to become facilitators this year instead of “students” of the teaching/assessing process. Clear Creek had the pleasure to work with Ms. Angie Freese, Mr. Rich Smith, Mr. Ken Williams and many other Solution Tree associates to ensure our collaborative teams are growing and learning to do the “right work.”At the request of Dr. Page, our leadership team presented the Design in Five process to the district guiding coalition. This gave the local school team confidence in their belief that the right work was being undertaken at the school level.  

This year we continue to focus on refinement of the process. We have completed activities as a local school guiding coalition as well as collaborative teams to determine our proficiency in the 3 Big Ideas, Focus on Learning, Collaboration, and Results Oriented. Our guiding coalition members will undertake the task of leading their collaborative teams as they move to proficiency and eventually to distinguish each big idea and the strands that encompass them. This professional learning is based off the A Team initiative that the district has developed that sets the rubric of what an A Team consists of based on the 3 Big Ideas 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Clear Creek Elementary School began our PLC journey by utilizing the Teaching and Accessing Cycle provided by an initiative of Bartow County Schools. Each grade level deconstructed standards using the R.E.A.L (Readiness, Endurance, Assessment, Leverage) process. Once standards were deconstructed, teachers determined which standards were essential and which standards were “nice to know” or supporting standards. As teachers created learning targets, our focus was on answering essential question one, “What do we want our students to know and be able to do?” Collaborative teams developed learning ladders based on the learning targets. Learning ladders were built based on levels of complexity and rigor. Students use learning ladders to track their progress throughout each unit.  After creating learning targets and ladders, the essential unit plan was established. Collaborative teams work together to create S.M.A.R.T. goals, Common Summative Assessments (CSA), and Common Formative Assessments (CFA). Collaborative teams apply the backward design process when creating common summative assessments to measure student proficiency of essential standards. Once CSAs are created, teachers develop common formative assessments (CFAs) to check for understanding of learning targets.

When administering CFAs and CSAs, teachers are focused on answering essential question two, “How will we know when students have learned it?” Immediately following administration of CFAs, collaborative teams collectively review the data to make immediate plans for intervention or extension based on student data. One technique of intervention is with response days. Response days answer essential question three, “What will we do when students haven’t learned it?” Response days provide students with more individualized instruction to master learning targets. Response days also allow teachers to reflect on the best teaching practices and strategies to use with students who need additional time and support.

CSAs are given at the end of each essential unit. CSA data allows teachers to identify students who need additional time and support to show proficiency. As a school, we have Tier 2 time built into our daily schedule. Support staff and teachers use this time to work with students to reteach and allow students the opportunity to reach proficiency. Students are reassessed throughout the school year until they reach proficiency of the missing essential standards. The Student Intervention Team, SIT, collaborates with teachers focusing on benchmark assessments (MAP, Acadience/DIBEL, Growth Measure), CSAs, and CFAs to determine if Tier 3 intervention is needed. To answer essential question four, “What do we do when students already know it?”, collaborative teachers and support teachers work together to provide extension activities to students who have demonstrated proficiency in the essential standards. These extension activities are leveled to allow students to complete independent learning activities and work collaboratively through multiple opportunities for deeper learning.

 Clear Creek Elementary School empowers ALL to achieve high standards of success.  


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

Clear Creek Elementary developed an RTI process to ensure all students received the additional time and support needed to learn at high levels. The School Intervention Team (SIT) created an RTI Pyramid to address students’ needs with intensive Tier 3 remediations.  Our Tier 3 remediations are research-based programs, or best practices to remediate student learning. For example, students who have been identified as two or more years behind or the lowest 5% in reading/math based on our universal screeners (MAP and DIBELs, and professional observations) receive at least 30 minutes of intensive remediation using small group direct instruction for Math and Fountas and Pinnell for reading daily. ESOL students use Lexia based on their individual goal set by their ESOL teacher. Clear Creek has also developed a master schedule allowing time for Tier 2 interventions and extensions. This schedule provides additional time and support two days Math, two days Reading and one day for Social Skills. Teachers use this time to group students based on their performance on the Common Summative Assessment (CSA). Extensions and interventions are taught or completed based on CSA data. These groups are fluid since they are developed for each student, each standard, and each learning target to provide extra time for students to show proficiency on grade level essential standards.   

Using grade level essential standards that are broken down into rigorous learning targets, teachers intervene and/or extend thinking for all students. At Clear Creek Elementary, teachers are aware that students who show proficiency after Tier 1 instruction should be challenged instead of being retaught the essential standard when proficiency has already been shown. Teachers move students’ thinking from concrete to complex based on DOK level questioning and learning targets. Teachers allow opportunity for students who are ready for more complex assignments, work on projects. This allows them to apply learned concepts and evaluate real world problems while applying directly to the Essential Standard for the current unit. 

Our school’s mission statement states: Clear Creek Elementary School empowers ALL to achieve high standards of success. We take pride in making sure students are empowered to achieve highly. We are beginning to see our students grow academically through using a variety of rigorous common assessments, project based learning, or small group interventions and extensions. The activities, assessments, and assessment data are actively monitored in our Professional Learning Communities. Data from the assessments is used to inform instruction, build intervention groups, and/or make changes to instruction.   

Additionally, Clear Creek Elementary School has a Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) in place to support students’ academic, social and emotional behaviors. All students receive Tier 1 Academic, Social, and Emotional Behavior lessons throughout the school year. Teachers rely on the P.R.I.D.E. matrix to reinforce positive behaviors throughout the school year. 

As evidenced in the school’s RTI pyramid, students needing additional support with academic and social emotional behaviors receive Tier 2 Interventions. Tier 2 interventions are provided to students for behavior one day a week, during Tier 2 time. Interventions are supported by the guiding coalition and collaborative teams. Collaborative teams discuss which interventions should take place based on behavior concerns. Teachers share students who they are concerned about with the Learning Support Specialist (LSS) before students are identified as tier 3. Students who require more intensive support, based on their lack of progress in Tier 2, receive Tier 3 support, led by the School Intervention Team. The SIT is led by the Learning Support Specialist to create plans to address concerns teachers have with a student’s behavior. 

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

In July of 2018 our principal, Dr. Wade, attended the Culture Keepers Conference at the PLC Institute to begin his training in the PLC process from Solution Tree. This was our schools first exposure to Solution Tree and the PLC process. Upon his return from the Summer PLC Institute, Dr. Wade redelivered his learning and with the help of our Assistant Principal and Instruction Lead Teacher (ILT), our school level guiding coalition began to form. The guiding coalition created a mission, vision, and collective commitments. In fall of 2018, our Instructional Lead Teacher and Assistant Principal attended the PLC institute by Solution Tree to further deepen the understanding of the ins and outs of a PLC culture.

Beginning in January 2019, our Instructional Lead Teacher, led collaborative teams through the process of deconstructing standards to choose our essential standards for each grade level using the R.E.A.L. template.  We began utilizing our Common Formative Assessment Protocol. The ILT also began introducing the concept of a true collaborative team. Teams created norms, roles, and norm violations with the ILT’s support. In addition, the four guiding questions were introduced and clarified to help guide the work of the collaborative teams.

In the summer of 2019, our schools guiding coalition had the opportunity to attend the PLC Institute in Atlanta, Georgia. There, teachers continued to strengthen the PLC process. Members attended trainings on Essential Standards, Common Formative and Summative Assessments, Protocols, and the Teaching and Assessing Cycle. Teachers began to feel empowered from learning the ins and outs of a PLC. 

During the fall of 2019, a few staff members, on and off the school’s guiding coalition had the opportunity to attend a conference delivered by Mr. Ken Williams, a Solution Tree associate, called Starting a Movement: Building a Culture from the Inside Out. During this conference, he discussed how to get our students to and through the bar of expectations within each grade level and how to break the status quo. He helped teams go deeper with essential standards and explained how “all means all”. Upon this group's return, leadership scheduled a date to bring Mr. Ken Williams to our school for the entire staff to hear and participate in this conference.  In February of 2020, Mr. Ken Williams came to CCES to conduct a mini conference with our teachers. He discussed how critical teachers' expectations are, how to get students to and through the bar of expectations for each grade-level, and how to change the status quo. He walked our staff through several activities that further helped explain the value of “10 teams” and how to keep the bar high for all students. Teams left that day with a better understanding of the direction our school was headed.

In February of 2020, Principals and ILT’s were trained by Solution Tree representative, Ms. Angie Freese, on the Design in Five method. This was the county’s first training on building rigorous and accurate assessments. Unfortunately, this was right before schools were shut down for the year due to Covid-19. However, that did not stop our Instructional Lead Teacher and collaborative teams which continue to virtually participate in professional learning on the subject. Collaborative teams met twice a week using Microsoft TEAMS to work through the Design in Five method, allowing teams to create their first Common Summative Assessment for the 2020-2021 school year.  

After three years of implementing Professional Leaning Communities, Bartow County School System created a new position to help with data collection and supporting students through the RTI process. Learning Support Specialists (LSS) started in August 2020 to specifically help support T2 and T3.

In the fall of 2020, the Learning Support Specialist and the Instructional Lead Teacher led collaborative teams through a teaching assessing cycle on building better assessments. Using teaching strategies, CFA’s, responding to data, and a final CSA, teams learned how to build assessments that were valid, reliable and rigorous. Teams finished the cycle by having a gallery walk where each team posted their newest assessment for feedback from other teams. Teachers responded very well to this activity and enjoyed getting ideas from other grade levels. In the spring of 2021, the Instructional Lead Teacher and the Learning Support Specialist, worked together to review and clarify pieces of the Bartow County Playbook. This document is an in-depth description of the PLC “right work” created by Bartow County teachers and leaders. It is still continually used by collaborative teams at Clear Creek.

In February 2021, Solution Tree associate, Mr. Rich Smith, virtually trained Clear Creek’s guiding coalition on how to provide more rigor in the classroom as well as the importance of pacing essential standard units. Guiding coalition members then led teams during a full day collaboration on creating pacing for the following school year. In April 2021, Principals, Instructional Lead Teachers, Learning Support Specialists, our Teacher of the Year from the Teacher Advisory board, and Clear Creek’s Parent Liaison attended a grading workshop from Solution Tree Representative, Ms. Cassandra Erkens. During this workshop, discussions were had about why our grading system is flawed and shared a need for improvement.

In July 2021, guiding coalition members were able to join the conversation on grading by attending a grading workshop with Solution Tree representative, Mr. Eric Twadell. Here guiding coalition members were able to experience some of the same activities where research was shared about our current grading system. Our guiding coalition created goals for the following school year based off of information shared at the workshop. In July of 2021, the guiding coalition had another opportunity to attend a Solution Tree workshop, the Achieve Institute. Here, teams received training from three different speakers on subjects such as rigor, feedback, and learning progressions.

Also, during July, grade level representatives attended a grading workshop held by Bartow County staff and teachers, and Solution Tree Associate Ms. Cassandra Erkens. Here, teachers were given more information on grading, and were given the option of participating in an action research opportunity to conduct during the 2021-2022 school year. To start our 2021-2022 school year, collaborative team representatives attended a countywide Essential Standard Workshop to calibrate essential standards with other schools in the county. Representatives from each grade level attended the countywide Essential Standards Workshop focusing on either ELA or Math.  During this workshop, they worked to calibrate essential standards with other BCSS schools.  

Moving forward, CCES will continue to refine all aspects of the Teaching-Assessing Cycle to ensure all students are provided with an opportunity to learn at high levels. 

 1st Bartow County School System STEM Certified School 2018 - 2019

Read to Grow Initiative (Pilot School) 2018 - Current

Aquaponics Lab 2018 - 2019

2018 Golden Radish Award

5-star School Climate Rating 2018 - 2019

Lego Robitics Teams

Beta Club/Cranium Connections