J.J. Daniell Middle School
- Number of Students: 926
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 22%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 14%
- Percent of Special Education: 15%
- White: 26%
- Black: 30.04%
- Hispanic: 28.9%
- Asian: 8.5%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.8%
- Multiracial: 5.4%
- Other: 0.36%
During the 2017-2018 school year, Daniell Middle School (DMS) laid the initial groundwork for becoming a PLC at Work School. Our journey began with a district-wide emphasis on the PLC process. The Cobb County School District introduced this through the Cobb Collaborative Community (CCC) PLC model. Throughout the year, DMS teachers participated in data team meetings in which we examined student work and data from common summative assessments using the four essential PLC questions (Dufour et al., 2016). While the work had begun, our College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) score of 66% showed that we had much more to do.
In the 2018-2019 school year, DMS began to refine its PLC processes under new leadership. With this new leadership arose an increased and dedicated focus on student learning and collaboration. DMS revamped the instructional leadership team to serve as a Guiding Coalition for our work. We established a shared mission, vision, and collective commitments that reflected our goals and values as a faculty. Planning times were strictly protected on Tuesdays so that each Daniell Collaborative Community (DCC) could participate in the PLC process without interruption. Each DCC established roles and norms and an approach to handle norm violations. As part of our School Strategic Plan, teams were trained to focus only on the four essential questions in Learning by Doing (DuFour et al., 2016), and our original DCC log was introduced to guide each team's weekly meeting.
Throughout the year, we continued to prioritize the PLC process. Administrators regularly attended and participated in DCC meetings to provide guidance and feedback. The Guiding Coalition developed the cornerstone of our PLC work: an assessment cycle that included regular common formative assessments, “Almost There” formative assessment, and common summative assessment to be followed by all content areas. The “Almost There” common formative assessment is given when about 90% of the material that will appear on the summative exam has been covered. It assesses student mastery of all standards for that unit and provides data that guide teachers in remediation prior to the final summative assessment. We re-introduced peer-to-peer observations, in which teachers visited a minimum of two colleagues per semester to observe instructional practices in action. In March of 2019, six members of the Guiding Coalition traveled to Lincolnshire, IL, for a site visit at Adlai E. Stevenson High School to experience a professional learning community in motion. This visit provided the opportunity to observe and collaborate with teachers and administrators who were actively involved in the PLC model. We learned how a phenomenally successful school utilizes the PLC process to maximize student achievement. Moreover, the visit also provided insight into how we wanted our PLC journey to progress into the 2019-2020 school year. Our hard work paid off; that year, our CCRPI score increased from 66% to 86.3%.
We were poised to continue our 2019-2020 school year progress. We started the year by agreeing to continue with the already established mission, vision, and collective commitments. We revisited expectations for our DCC PLC model during pre-planning and trained new teachers. Again, Tuesdays were reserved for protected DCC meetings. A comprehensive plan was developed to progress our CCRPI score to 90 or above. We continued to implement our formative-Almost There-summative assessment cycle and analyze the resulting data in DCCs and with the Guiding Coalition. We were on track to continue our progress during the 2018-2019 school year and in the middle of our intensive data-driven intervention sequence when we were informed that schools would be closed for at least two weeks. In a single workday, due to our structured planning and effective DCCs, we could post two weeks' worth of asynchronous work on our website. Although school never resumed, and we could not see our progress through CCRPI data, we felt optimistic about continuing our work into the 2021 school year.
As optimistic as we were, the 2020-2021 school year presented its challenges. In-person learning was suspended through mid-October. Despite this suspension, DCCs continued on Tuesdays in a virtual format. Since we had already done the work of creating our formative-Almost There-summative assessment model and were used to leveraging technology for those assessments, we were able to continue our student achievement monitoring. When we returned to the building, teachers simultaneously instructed in-person and virtual students and continued to attend DCCs and Response to Intervention (RTI) virtually. A sub-committee of the Guiding Coalition was formed, consisting of Model Teacher Leaders (MTL) for each subject. The MTLs had an additional planning period to fulfill tasks especially relevant to the PLC at Work process. These tasks included facilitating grade level/subject area DCCs, observing and providing feedback in both the planning and instructional process, providing general, non-evaluative support to teachers, guiding teachers through data collection and analysis, serving on the Guiding Coalition, collaborating with department chairs to plan subject area meetings, fostering effective DCCs at each grade level and within each subject, attending weekly DCC meetings at all grade levels, conducting classroom walkthroughs, reviewing lesson plans and providing feedback, presenting unit data at meetings, and supporting teachers throughout the Teacher Keys Evaluation System(TKES) process. TKES is the teacher evaluation instrument used by public educators in the State of Georgia. Our commitment to DCCs was reflected in our Georgia Milestones End of Grade Assessments. While COVID-related learning loss did occur, Daniell's learning loss was less than that of demographically similar middle schools.
Heading into 2021-2022, we were eager to return, rebuild, and resume our learning. We continued DCC meetings, sometimes in-person and sometimes virtually, depending on COVID cases in our region. While DCCs remained protected on Tuesdays, many teams began meeting more than once per week to plan instruction and discuss real-time data. Quarantines and social distancing rules made some of our intervention strategies challenging to deploy for three-quarters of the year. Still, we continued to be committed to the PLC at Work process. Our MTLs ramped up their work, engaging in more frequent non-evaluative observations and acting as liaisons between the Guiding Coalition and teachers through subject-area meetings. Teachers were encouraged to participate in peer-to-peer observations as frequently as they felt comfortable doing so, with some teachers given specific guidance as to which teachers they could visit to observe specific practices. As our work continues, we plan to make additional adjustments to our schedules, especially the intervention block, to create more fluidity and allow students more access to all levels of intervention based on their needs at the standard level.
At Daniell Middle School, we facilitate a culture of continuous improvement through a laser-like focus on data-driven instruction, collaborative decision-making, research-based instructional strategies, and relevant professional development. The 2021-2022 Professional Development series focused on high-yield strategies and culturally-responsive teaching methods. We have both operational and instructional non-negotiables that are informally and formally assessed. We use behavioral data from our PBIS token system to identify the more frequent behaviors and find the most frequent actors to assist with improvement through small-group counseling sessions and restorative conversations.
Our administrators visit and rate the DCCs with a 1:5:10 rubric based on three standards adapted from Are We a Group or a Team?: Moving from Coordination to Collaboration in a PLC at Work (Mattos, 2014). For interrater reliability, the administrators swapped DCCs for a month, attending and observing another administrator’s primary DCC, rated their collaborative meetings and then compared their ratings. The primary administrator then provided ratings and feedback to the DCCs to promote improvement in DCC functioning. Our administration and teachers demonstrate a commitment to growing our PLC work throughout this process. The administrative team has continued its professional development journey by attending various PLC conferences. Teachers at each grade level have attended district-level professional development specifically for PLCs. Model Teacher Leaders participated in a coaches' summit emphasizing supporting PLCs. Mr. Rawls encourages his teachers and assistant principals to continue to develop their knowledge and application of the PLC model, with plans for the Guiding Coalition to attend a district RTI summit in the summer of 2022.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
“Monitoring Student Learning on a Timely Basis”
At Daniell, creating and implementing a viable and guaranteed curriculum begins with our master schedule. General education teachers teach one grade level and one subject. They have two common planning periods scheduled by grade level, allowing grade levels and collaborative communities to meet with one another. Professional development is delivered during monthly grade-level meetings and the DCC's meetings. This professional development enables an opportunity to plan and discuss strategies to implement the curriculum with fidelity.
The creation of our curriculum occurs within the DCC. The DCC identifies priority standards and develops learning targets based upon those standards. At that point, teachers are encouraged and empowered to use their choice of research-based instructional strategies and appropriately rigorous resources with their students to achieve mastery of the learning targets and related standard(s). DCCs develop lesson plans based on our instructional framework and documented in a common lesson planning template. DCCs create formative assessments based upon the learning targets and standards and analyze student performance on these assessments.
Constant data analysis ensures the implemented curriculum is both guaranteed and viable and addresses circumstances in which it is not. We use a system of formative and summative assessments within each unit. A varied number of small common formative assessments focused on just one or two standards lead to a more extensive common formative assessment, which we call the "Almost There." The common formative assessments take place approximately every five to seven school days. After each assessment, data is entered into a standard form. These common formative assessments are the constant conversation of DCCs and strategies to address learning discrepancies. Students are allowed remediation, acceleration, or enrichment opportunities, based mastery of standards on the "Almost There" assessment. The common formative and summative assessment data are presented monthly to the Guiding Coalition to identify learning discrepancies at the teacher and class level to provide broader support to "at-potential" students. This year, we have also begun presenting the data at monthly subject area meetings, allowing vertical conversations across grade levels to identify and address learning gaps.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
“Creating Systems of Intervention and Extension to Provide Students with Additional Time and Support for Learning”:
We have always used data to determine possible interventions for students. Historically, DMS relied on the RTI process, later incorporating Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and evolving our process to Multitiered System of Supports (MTSS). Before DCCs, the RTI process was inconsistently applied with a misconstrued purpose. The use of DCCs modified how teachers collected, interpreted, and applied the data. Thus, our RTI practice has changed and is now a reflection of the DCC process.
The data collection and analysis determine if students are struggling with unit concepts or if there is a more extensive learning gap that requires more intensive interventions. The DCCs define the priority standards and learning targets for each unit. They collect data throughout the unit cycle, conducting CFAs, Almost There's, and CSAs to identify weaknesses in student learning. The assessment cycle allows teachers to determine if learning gaps are related to topics or a broader lack of understanding. If the data trends toward a pattern of learning gaps, the student is referred for MTSS interventions. However, if the data suggests a more localized issue, student support may come in various forms depending on the specific problem. For example, if a student has a low grade due to missing assignments, the student might attend GPS (Grade Protection Services) and complete those missing assignments. Another similar support is the Lunch Homework Lab, where students can complete a homework assignment.
Another system DMS created was the Intervention Block which primarily provides Tier 2 intervention supports. We disaggregated Milestones, Math (MI) and Reading Inventory (RI) scores and writing samples to determine student placement in four intervention classes: reading, math, writing, or project-based enrichment. All students participate in one class and can move to another 3rd period if they demonstrate proficiency in their intervention subject. This intervention block also offers Tier 3 support to our weakest readers using System 44. In addition, we have a Tier 3 math intervention connections class for the bottom 25th percentile. These students are in a different intervention class to receive remediation in more than one weak subject area. Outside of school hours, all subject areas and grade levels offer additional intervention time with before or after-school tutoring sessions.
One specific way the teams focus our efforts on improved student learning is by applying our assessment cycle. After administering an Almost There, teachers analyze and disaggregate the data to determine which students have yet to master the standard/standards that have been taught. Then, a deployment strategy is implemented in which students are divided into groups where specific interventions and extensions are applied to push students to mastery and beyond. At Daniell, our students are our students; on any given day, a teacher may have a group of students from another teacher participating in their learning activities based on data-driven decisions made in DCC meetings.
Addressing student behaviors as factors in learning and achievement is one of the most recognizable interventions at DMS. We are a PBIS Operational School and have been a PBIS Spotlight School. At Daniell, we SWARM. Our students are explicitly taught and know that they will be rewarded for specific behaviors: S-Show Positive Leadership, W-Work Hard, A-Accept Accountability, R-Respect Others, M-Make Good Choices. We use the PBIS Rewards App to award points, making sure to conference with students to tell them what they are doing right. These points can then be used by the students to purchase books, purchase treats, school supplies, and time from teacher created PBIS stores, and pay to attend a 20-minute free period. PBIS Rewards is also used to track minor referrals and allow us to determine behaviors for which expectations may need reteaching. Explicitly teaching and rewarding behaviors helps create a better environment for learning.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
“Building Teacher Capacity to work as members of high-performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.”
Our current DCC model has directly contributed to an increased commitment to improved student learning by all teachers. Each team must meet on Tuesdays during the protected planning time; however, it is not uncommon to walk the building and see teams collaborating daily. With the support and feedback from administrators and Model Teacher Leaders in DCC meetings, we have fine-tuned our PLC process to ensure that only the four questions are discussed during that time. Each team develops its norms and has established a system for norm violations, primarily to ensure that all team members dedicate themselves to the work of the four essential questions during DCC meetings. In addition, a conflict resolution series was presented as a part of several staff developments in the 2021-2022 school year as a proactive assistive measure since many DCC groups saw shifts in their personnel and dynamics. Although their facilitation was never needed, our counselors, MTLs, and administrators made themselves available to facilitate should conflict become unresolvable within a team.
To build capacity and create experts in the building, we pilot any changes with up to three DCCs before rolling out the change school-wide. For instance, the MTLs adopted and then adapted the first version of the current datasheet. These various forms of the datasheet were put into use across subject levels. After the MTLs entered subject-specific standards, that data sheet was implemented school-wide. The Science team's datasheet provided the clearest data and provided space for trend analysis and is currently used schoolwide.
Our administrator's visits and ratings of the collaborative communities on the 1:15:10 rubric (Mattos, 2014) promote DCC functioning and build capacity for the teachers' participation. Attending conferences and professional development builds teacher capacity as well. Teachers at each grade level have attended district-level professional development specifically for PLCs, among other topics. Model Teacher Leaders participated in a coaches' summit emphasizing supporting PLCs. The administration regularly encourages attendance at conferences to help teachers build pedagogical and content knowledge to bring back to their DCCs. MTLs also provide professional development videos to teachers who need to improve their TKES scores. During preplanning and on teacher workdays throughout the year, district and local professional development is provided to teachers and usually attended by whole collaborative communities. DCCs have been asked to self-rate according to the administration's DCC rating sheet to examine and correct their weaknesses. Furthermore, the encouragement of peer-to-peer observations builds capacity by allowing teachers the opportunity to learn from each other.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
The following data is used to show how our school compares to other schools within our district.
CCRPI – CCRPI data exists for two of the four years that are being discussed. There is no CCRPI data for the 2019-2020 school year due to COVID nor for the 2020-2021 school year due to the accountability waiver issued in response to the continuing pandemic. For the 2017-2018 school year, our CCRPI was low (66.0) because of our Milestones test scores. Our score suffered the most in the area of Closing the Gaps with only a 30.9% rating. Content Mastery and Progress were also areas in which the scores were low. The next year, 2018-2019, the CCRPI overall score jumped 20.3 points to 86.3. Our greatest areas of improvement were Closing the Learning Gaps in all content areas and progress. Progress measures how much growth students demonstrate in English Language Arts and Mathematics as well as how well English learners are progressing toward English Language Proficiency. We attribute this improvement to our focus on the PLC process, constant analysis of data, and application of data-driven interventions.
Milestones – When looking at our Spring 2021 Milestones data, we selected five schools in our area that were most comparable based on student demographics, race/ethnicity, and socio-economic background. Despite the challenges the 2021 school year presented, the students who opted to test scored similarly or above their peers at these comparable schools. This student achievement shows the success of the PLC process we have in place and the focus we put on determining and facilitating our students' needs throughout the year.
Of the five comparable schools, Daniell student achievement scores placed second in both the Proficient and Distinguished Learner categories for sixth grade test takers. The number of sixth grade students who scored as a Proficient Learner in English Language Arts at DMS outscored 4 out of the 5 schools, with only .3% of a difference between DMS and the highest scoring school. DMS outscored 4 out of 5 schools for percent of students who scored Distinguished Learner in English Language Arts, with 4.3% of a difference between DMS and the highest scoring school. In Math, the students who scored as a Proficient Learner at DMS also outscored 4 out of the 5 schools with 4.1% of a difference between DMS and the highest scoring school. DMS outscored 4 out of 5 schools for percent of students who scored Proficient Learner & Above in Math as well, with 6.5% of a difference between DMS and the highest scoring school.
Over 40% of our seventh-grade students in 2020-2021 did not take the Milestones tests. For those who did, DMS outscored 3 out of the 5 schools with percentage of students who scored as a “Distinguished Learner” in English Language Arts. The two schools who scored higher than DMS had 78% and 79% of enrolled students tested compared to DMS’s 59%. There was only a .1% difference between DMS and the 2nd highest scoring school. In Math, DMS outscored 4 out of the 5 schools, with only .3% of a difference between DMS and the highest scoring school.
For our 8th grade Georgia Milestone End of Grade Assessments, the percentage of students at DMS who scored as a Proficient Learner in English Language Arts was higher than 4 out of the 5 schools, with a 4.8% difference between DMS and the highest scoring school. The percentage of DMS students who scored as a Distinguished Learner in Math was higher than 3 out of the 5 schools with the top two schools testing 69% and 52% of enrolled students and DMS only testing 43% of enrolled students. In Science, for the percent of students who scored as a Distinguished Learner, DMS outscored 4 out of 5 schools.
For our Georgia Milestones End-of-Course Assessment in Physical Science, DMS outscored 4 out of 5 schools for percent of students who scored as a “Distinguished Learner.”
Content Mastery (DCC log data)- As we started our PLC journey in 2017, we met weekly with our grade level professional learning community (known as CCCs at that time). We followed the “4 question” format. We answered the following questions:
What do we want students to learn?
How do we know if students have learned it?
How do we know when students don’t know it?
What do we do when students have learned it?
Entering assessment data was one of the possible actions that could be taken to answer the question: “How do we know if students have learned it?” Initially, most teachers focused on the assessment plan and overlooked the data piece. In 2018, as our school transitioned into new leadership, we continued to use the same log with our DCCs, but we were provided more guidance on how to effectively use our DCC conversations to guide our instruction. We started giving common formative assessments and used those averages to discuss whether we needed to apply interventions or extensions. In 2019, the discussion was even more focused on data as a guide to determining students’ mastery of standards. In 2020, we further increased the focus on data and used our newly created Model Teacher Leader (MTL) team to create a universal log that each DCC could use to input and track data. Each MTL created their own spreadsheet to give to each of the grade levels within their subject area. Each spreadsheet had to contain the percent mastery for each unit, but there was variation in the other information added based on what each MTL thought their subject area needed. We continued to use the original DCC “4 question” form in our DCC meetings, but the addition of the data spreadsheet helped to guide our discussion and our lessons to be more catered to the needs of our students. At the end of the 2020 school year, the MTL team met with the administration to discuss feedback for each of the spreadsheets and determined that a universal template would be created for each subject area for the 2021 school year. The spreadsheet that was created is now a comprehensive, collaborative, and essential aspect of the DCC process. Our DCC teams complete the trends and observations portion of the spreadsheet to further dissect the students’ level of understanding. We use this information to guide our discussions and adjust plans to include interventions for standards not mastered and extensions for standards showing proficiency. Through this process, we center our discussions around the students and their individual needs and not just the standards that need to be addressed weekly. Our growth is reflected in the success of our students.
The following data sets provide information on student achievement:
School Climate Rating – The school climate is calculated by completed surveys that are provided by the Georgia Department of Education, discipline data, and attendance data. This information is used to determine where we need to make changes within the school climate to make it safer and easier to learn. Daniell has maintained a 5-Star Climate Rating the past four school years, which is the highest that a school can earn. The star rating is given after a cumulative score is calculated based on almost 20 different data points. Each year our school has continually increased in our final score, climate perception, student perception, personnel perception, drugs and alcohol, overall attendance, administrator attendance, and discipline; however, the other criteria remain high each year.
PBIS data – PBIS data has been collected for the past five years to show how discipline and data coincide. Data proves that those students who miss days due to discipline compared to those who do not struggle with the demands of the grade level content. The data has shown that the more that we implement the PBIS system, the number of referrals has gone down. Students who are repeat offenders are given more support or proper placement to help with the behaviors that are occurring. These placements were to help students gain strategies to help with their behaviors. From 2017-2018 through 2020-2021, there has been an 82% decline in referrals. When we break the data down by year, the change in referrals from 2017-2018 to 2018-2019 decreases by 17%, 2018-2019 to 2019-2020 decreases by 23%, and 2019-2020 to 2020-2021 decreases by 72%.
MI and RI – Math Inventory scores and Reading Inventory scores are two of the five data points used to determine the 3rd period remediation placement for all students in our school. RI scores are looked at first so that those who were reading below grade level are given priority placement in a Read180 class (Tier 2), and those reading significantly below grade-level are placed in a System 44 class (Tier 3). After these students have been placed, the MI scores are then used to determine the math remediation classes. Because of our work tracking students and supporting their needs, we have seen growth every year on our RI and MI scores from the beginning of the year to the end. During the 2017-2018 school year, students increased reading proficiency by 10% and math proficiency by 23%. In 2018-2019, students increased reading proficiency by 12% and math proficiency by 19%. In 2019-2020 (COVID Year), students increased reading proficiency by 4% and math proficiency by 20%. In 2020-2021, students increased reading proficiency by 6% and math proficiency by 18%.
Benchmark (Math, Reading, Writing) – These tests are also used to determine where students are placed in the 3rd period intervention block: Read180, Math Intervention, Language Arts Foundations, or Project-Based Learning. This information is also used to determine which students are placed in a remediation class for six weeks before Milestone testing.