Benton Middle School
- Number of Students: 1,375
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 42%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 4%
- Percent of Special Education: 12%
- White: 75.9%
- Black: 10.2%
- Hispanic: 8%
- Asian: 1.1%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.1%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.1%
- Multiracial: 4.6%
- Other: 0%
Building shared understanding
Every certified faculty member at Benton Middle School has one common goal on his/her Professional Growth Plan: “all students on grade level through positive culture/work ethic/shared expertise/distributed leadership.” We have 3 grade levels and a mindset that all students are involved in a 3 year process to achieve that goal. Our culture is one where every employee is responsible for the success of every student.
Prior to 2017 we had some elements of the PLC process in place, including common planning time for Math and Literacy teams, use of our Advisory Period to pull students for intervention, and a developing Building Leadership Team. The Math and Literacy teams used common assessments and common curriculum maps. They had begun sharing some students during Advisory time to work on specific skills.
In 2017 we moved from a 6th-7th grade campus with just under 800 students to a 5th-7th grade campus with over 1300 students, making us the largest middle school in the state. Our student population also started to shift, increasing our subpopulations (Exhibit G). This shift involved taking in 19 teachers from 6 other campuses plus 5 new hires. For this large transition to be successful, we intensified our efforts in developing high-functioning disciplinary teams. All grade level content teams have common planning time and engage in the PLC process weekly for collaborative planning and data analysis.
In 2018, our district began supporting the PLC process. It trained all district administrators in the PLC process and sent staff to PLC Institutes. Our teams focused on developing essential standards and learning the four critical questions. All teams participated in a book study of Learning by Doing. In 2019 teams focused on developing common formative assessments (CFA). In 2020, teams focused on student self-assessment and on refining the use of assessment data to provide stronger, more prescriptive interventions. Over the course of 2020-2021, all core teachers participated in a two-day RTI at Work workshop with Bob Sonju. In 2021-2022, English and Social Studies teams received on-site coaching from Jason Andrews. Teachers and staff are trained on the 6 tight elements of the PLC Process. This allows our teams to work efficiently and effectively on the process while also allowing for maximum creativity and innovation.
We are currently developing our strategic plan. We have collaboratively created a new school wide mission statement and are moving to the creation of our vision statement. We have created school-wide SMART goals that provide a clear focus for our work and ensure we are utilizing time and resources with efficacy to achieve those goals. Content teams create SMART goals, and our students have begun the process of setting their own personal learning goals for their classes, creating a classroom culture of mutual accountability. Celebrating meeting goals is an integral part of goal setting. This is done at the classroom level and the school-wide level to inspire students and teachers while cultivating a mindset of success.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Monitoring Student Learning on a Timely Basis
Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum
The ability to monitor student data and progress, both from a macro perspective and a micro perspective, with a high degree of efficacy is one of the most vital traits of high performing teams in the PLC process. Our teams monitor student learning through multiple mediums to focus on the micro data for individual students and macro data to affect instruction. Our administration monitors student progress through the macro data along with a focus on individual students that are not achieving proficiency. Our teams utilize frequent common formative assessments, summative unit assessments, i-Ready assessments, universal screeners, and personal learning goals.
Prior to teams monitoring student learning and progress, they must first develop a deep understanding of specific learning that is to be monitored. The first essential question for a PLC provides clarity that guides the work of the teams. All disciplinary teams are provided with two contracted professional development days each summer to review their current essential standards and revise or change as necessary based upon their data, collaborative discussions, and team notes from the previous academic year. The teams are given another contracted professional development day during the summer to meet with other grade level disciplinary teams to address and refine vertical alignment of their essential standards. The teams use guiding questions that address the endurance, leverage and readiness of each essential standard. The vertical alignment provides for a common vocabulary among the grade levels. The essential standards and common vocabulary represent the guaranteed and viable curriculum the teams believe all students must learn.
Upon achieving a collaborative consensus of the essential standards, the teams then move to creating the learning targets for each essential standard. This leads to the development or revision of the team’s curriculum map, which is a fluid document that can be adjusted throughout the school year as student progress is documented, evaluated and learning strategies are revised to meet the learning needs of the students. Teams reflect and make notes of any changes and the “why” for those changes. This process of collective inquiry is used to improve the delivery of instruction.
Monitor Student Learning
During the three contracted professional development days during the summer, the teams utilize their time creating and refining common formative assessments that align with their essential standards and learning targets. During the school year, teams utilize their weekly common planning time to further develop their CFAs. Teams collaboratively establish what proficiency looks like and collaboratively create common rubrics used to assess proficiency. The teams calibrate their grading by looking at student samples. CFAs are given to students frequently. Some teams are on a three-week cycle, and other teams give CFAs weekly. The frequency of the team developed CFAs allows for timely feedback and intervention.
Grade level disciplinary teams collaboratively create common summative assessments which are a correlation of the mastery achieved from common formative assessments. The data from these assessments is used to first check the viability of our intervention groups and to ensure no student is falling through the cracks. The students that continue to struggle to achieve proficiency are identified. The team works with the building level specialists to create a Tier 2 intervention plan for these students that is systematic, directive, flexible, and fluid.
In addition to team developed CFAs, we use i-Ready Diagnostic Assessments in Reading and Math three times a year (Exhibit F). The assessments give us a snapshot of the student’s learning and progress on all grade-level math and reading standards. This data is used to help identify students for Tier 3 interventions and to monitor our Tier 3 interventions. Students below grade level are identified early in the school year and placed into Tier 3 interventions until they successfully pass an assessment to exit the intervention (Exhibit E). The winter diagnostic gives teams feedback on the effectiveness of our interventions, and the spring diagnostic gives us an understanding of our students’ growth throughout the year. Math and Literacy teams utilize i-Ready growth goal sheets and hold data conferences with individual students. While some teams have fully implemented individual student goal setting, other teams have this as a priority goal for their growth. Students self-record their progress throughout the year, and set growth goals for the next diagnostic assessment.
ACT Aspire is the state-mandated end-of-the-year summative assessment. Teams are provided the disaggregated and individual data for their incoming students prior to the beginning of the school year. The data is also utilized to measure student learning loss by comparing cohort groups from the previous year’s end of the year diagnostic assessment (Exhibits B and C). It is also cross-referenced with i-Ready diagnostic data to identify students needing Tier 3 interventions.
The data from these two assessments is central in identifying the targeted needs of our students. (Exhibits A-D, F)
In 2020 teachers received professional development on students monitoring their own learning. Class goals and individual goals are utilized to help students monitor their learning. Since 2020, the teams have begun implementing goal-setting at many levels, but it is not yet fully implemented. It is a focused growth area for the 2022-2023 school year.
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
Team developed CFAs are given frequently and data used to identify students that are not yet proficient. When the data reveals small groups of students failing to demonstrate proficiency, teachers provide immediate interventions to provide immediate, high quality feedback to those students. The students achieving proficiency are provided opportunities for extending the learning.
Sometimes interventions and extensions are handled in class by teachers pulling small groups of students for direct instruction while other students work independently or at stations. Using the station model, some teams have created an extension menu with a choice of activities that allow students to extend their learning. Other interventions take place during the daily Advisory period, where each core subject is given a priority day to pull students needing specific instruction on an essential standard. After intervention, students are given a second chance to show that they have learned the skill or standard. If students score proficient, they are released. If they do not score proficient, the team meets again to discuss the reasons and other possible strategies to assist the students.
Tier 3 interventions such as dyslexia therapy, foundational reading intervention, and foundational math intervention are in place. Students are identified through i-Ready diagnostic and ACT Aspire Summative scores and other universal screeners. Once students master the learning, they are moved out of that intervention and, if needed, on to the next intervention. Students who are multiple grade-levels behind are placed in a Learning Skills class for a semester, a Tier 3 intervention class that focuses on literacy and math skills to catch students up to grade-level. Exhibit E shows student improvement in foundational reading skills.
We recognize the importance of social development and that some of our students are behind in that area. For those students who struggle with social and emotional development, our SPED teachers developed and implemented the Connections Group to address gaps in social learning. Students meet once per week with peers and work on gaining social capacity. Students are identified by IEP and 504 teams, administrators, and teachers, and the group is open to all students needing this support.
For students who do not need Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions, Advisory time is used to advance their learning through i-Ready. Each student has an individualized learning pathway to continue learning beyond their initial diagnostic score. Students not receiving Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention have a weekly goal of completing a minimum of one reading and one math i-Ready lesson each week on their individual learning pathway. For some students who are on grade-level, their lessons extend their learning of current skills; for other students who are ahead of grade-level, their lessons extend and enrich their learning beyond classroom instruction (Exhibit F).
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
The mission of the Building Leadership Team (BLT) is twofold: It serves as a guiding coalition that uses data to set the mission, vision, and goals for the school and as a logistical team that problem solves issues, discusses ideas, and provides feedback to and from the staff. The team meets every three weeks, looks at school data, and plans actions to address the needs the data reveals. This team leads the building through inquiry, data analysis, and reflection. Members have led professional development on the Four Questions, essential standards, team developed CFAs, and student self-assessment to the entire faculty.
Collaborative teams are provided common planning time during their work day and meet a minimum of once per week to work on any of the following: unpacking a standard, identifying proficiency, looking at data, planning intervention, and writing CFAs. Our teams have grown from teachers who co-plan to teachers who collaborate to ensure all students learn. Our teams are now knowledgeable in the PLC process.As new members join a team, the veteran members assist them in learning the process. Teams have created norms and hold each other accountable for following the norms and doing the work. Teams are working on SMART goals. Teams are working on improving their extensions for students who have learned the essential skills. Teachers are given two-days during the summer to work as a collaborative team to continue the PLC work.
To further support teams, our building has both literacy and math specialists and the district literacy and math facilitators. The specialists and facilitators attend weekly team meetings and provide feedback and support to teams as they go through the PLC process. We have sent team members to PLC Institutes, RTI at Work, and PLC Assessment Workshops. We have provided on-site coaching from Solution Tree consultants. Teams have also completed a book study of Learning by Doing.
As for our singletons and elective teachers (we affectionately call them ROYs, for Rest of Y’alls), they are a non-core collaborative team made up of smaller non-core collaborative teams. These teams pick essential standards within their subject areas and meet during the summer to collaboratively plan. When they come together to become the ROYs, their purpose is to support the core learning by developing extension projects for all students. A recent example is an interactive art installation in which the art classes created the physical cave structure and the music classes coded the sounds and music which are activated at the various touch points in the art installation. The Gifted and Talented classes created the lighting and interactive posters to teach viewers about the artist the project was based on. This project involved almost 800 students.
In addition, the ROYs support the work of the core PLC teams through assisting with Tier 2 interventions, either pulling students and providing the interventions or by supervising students who are receiving enrichment via i-Ready lessons. They, too, have received training in the PLC process.
Achievement Data Files
The most exciting aspect of journeying through the PLC Process is the mindset of continuous growth. Celebrating achievement has become a large part of creating this mind set.
Here are a few of the accomplishments of our school:
Public School Rating letter grade of A, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Top Achieving School in the State, 2018
Outstanding Educational Performance in Math content growth on ACT Aspire, 2021
Benton School District Teacher of the Year, 2021
Arkansas Middle School Principal of the Year, 2022
As educators we are proud of our growth as a school, but seeing individual student growth is the greatest reward we can receive. The success our students have demonstrated is credited to the hard work of our staff and becoming a collective collaborative community continuosly striving to improve our practice that results in continual improvement. This has led and continues to lead us to a more efficient use of human capital and stronger learning due to a more prescriptive system.