Highland Elementary School

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

Ten years ago, Highland Elementary School was invited to participate in the Missouri Integrated Models grant, a project that helped schools develop shared leadership and develop a process for sustainable systems change. The school created their first building leadership team with representatives from administration, all grade spans, interventionists, and specials teachers. Through needs analysis, teacher and community input, and extensive research, the team determined that implementing Professional Learning Communities (PLC) within the school and district would be a high-impact sustainiable process. Little did anyone know the amazing change in culture that would result from this venture.

To begin the process, large teams of teachers and administrators enrolled in PLC Academy through the Northeast Regional Professional Development Center. This was a 2 year commitment with ongoing trainings, both in and out of district. The people attending this Academy in turn trained the staff.

One of the first whole staff activities was to reflect upon and revise the existing mission, vision, values, and goals. It was important that every staff member be involved in this because the mission, vision, values, and goals should drive the district and impact everything that is done there. This process then trickled down to the individual schools. The Highland Elementary School (shown in attached documents) community wrote and adopted the following:

HES Mission: THE HES community gives their best every day to provide a safe place where students feel successful, educators feel relevant, and all are welcome.

HES Vision: All students will leave HES with the confidence and skills that provide a solid foundation to continue their educational journey.

HES Student Commitments: 1. Be responsible. 2. Be respectful. 3. Be safe.

HES Promise: Giving our best to give you the best

HES School-wide Collective Commitments: 1.We give our best by maintaining a safe, trusting, and collaborative environment for both students and adults.    2. We give our best by providing a system of support for both students and adults. 3. We give our best by using data to guide instructional practices, improve our curriculum, identify effective teaching/learning strategies, and ultimately, impact student learning.  4. We give our best by creating and using common formative assessments that align with our essential learning outcomes. 

Team Norms: 1. Be an active participant 2. Begin and end on time  3. Be respectful 4. Follow agenda 5. Productive Discussion

HES School-wide Goals: Increase student academic achievement in English Language Arts, Math, and Science as shown on the state assessment and local benchmarks (STAR, DIBELS, Acadience Math). 

These are reviewed, revised as needed, and agreed upon by all staff on an annual basis. 

As teachers continued to attend PLC trainings and the building began to "live" the mission, vision, and promises, the building leadership team recognized a need for more training. Consequently, every single Highland Elementary staff member was trained in collaborative data teaming. The Northeast Regional Professional Development Center provided on-going training along with coaching to ensure everyone was both comfortable and adept with collaborative data teaming.  A few teachers were also enrolled in longer professional development opportunities in order to become in-house experts.

During this time, the building leadership team continued to collaborate to ensure all staff had the scaffolding and assistance necessary to be successful with PLCs. The team created building-wide agenda templates, norms and roles, expectations for teams, team reporting templates that aligned with the corollary questions of PLC,  and a method of sharing successes, questions, and struggles. 

One of the best things throughout the process of becoming a PLC school was the more staff learned, the more they wanted to know and improve. As a result, numerous changes occured that affected the school culture and PLC practices. First, all staff completed a book study of Pyramid Response to Intervention. This led to revamping the school master schedule to include staggered intervention blocks for each grade level, which in turn created more collaboration between classroom and intervention teachers. Teachers identified needs for more school-wide professional development and coaching. Consequently, all staff members received training in creating assessments, using common formative assessments, providing effective feedback, data-based decision making, effective teaching and learning practices, and peer coaching. 

As the PLC journey continued, success was evident. Student achievement was increasing. The building had a culture of collaboration. Processes were refined to reflect what worked in the building. The team reporting forms were streamlined. In-house coaching expanded and improved. On-going professional development was able to continue for individuals, small groups, and whole staff. The school board recognized the success of PLCs and the need for protected time. While building administrators arranged the daily schedule so that all grade-level teachers had daily common planning time, teachers wanted more. The school board adopted a new school calendar that included a weekly 2 hour early release time with one hour being protected for collaborative team work. 

Then came the dreaded change of building administrators. The thought that shared leadership, data-based decision making, collabortive teaming, shared learning, and action-oriented planning could come to a halt based upon a change of administration had teachers demanding to be involved with the selection of new administrators. It was evident that PLC was ingrained in the school culture. Teachers were involved in selection of administators. Since the initial implementation of PLC, the school has seen three new assistant principals and one new building principal. 

Throughout the past 10 years, PLC has just become the culture at Highland Elementary School. The focus is on what we want students to know/do, how we know when they get there, what to do when they are struggling, and what to do when they are excelling. There is no shame in asking a colleague for ideas. Peer observation is an expectation. Teams continue to meet on at least a weekly basis. Professional learning continues. As a building, we reflect on where we are and where we want to be, and implement plans to continually improve. 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

At Highland Elementary School, high expectations are designed for ALL students. Many schools may say this, but the behavior of the adults at Highland Elementary reflects this.

Teachers have aligned the curriculum with the Missouri Learning Standards. Within each curriculum, teachers have identified the essential learning outcomes and priority standards. They have also created gradated proficiency scales for these priority standards that help both adults and students identify where each student is in the learning progression and plan for continued achievement. 

Instructional units include pre, mid, common formative assessment in addition on-going formative assessments and a summative assessment. Teachers design the common formative and summative assessments together, analyze data from these assessments, and plan for instruction together during weekly early release time and daily common planning time. When analyzing data, teachers look for common themes, misconceptions, and error patterns to provide the most effective interventions. Students are grouped according to instructional needs, whether that is below, on, or above target.  Intervention specialists (reading and math specialists, special education teachers, speech language pathologists, and gifted/talented teachers) collaborate with classroom teachers to provide support and more intensive instruction as needed. The daily common planning time for grade levels and weekly early release time for professional development and data teaming is an essential piece for this effective monitoring and collaboration.

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

Highland Elementary has great strength in its systems of interventions. 

First, the district has a very strong Title I and special education staff who collaborate with classroom teachers on a regular basis. The staff created a Response to Intervention (RtI) manual (copy attached at end of application) that outlines the process for tiered interventions in math and lanugage arts. It was approved by the school board, and is currently being revised to include behavior. This manual identifies the assessments used (DIBELS, STAR, Acadience Math, eValuate, and MAP) to screen all students three times per year, progress monitoring tools, amount of time for interventions at each tier, criteria for entering/exiting tiers, and menus of available research and evidence based resources. All data from the identified assessments and the specific interventions used are recorded on student data sheets (copy of student screening/data sheet attached at end) which are shared with all adults who work with a specific student. This allows numerous teachers to effectively contribute to a child's education. 

Each grade level has a designated intervention time during which Title I and special education teachers are assigned. Students who are not receiving services from interventionists are shuffled amongst the grade-level classroom teachers to receive instruction tailored to their individual needs. Groups are determined during weekly early outs, based upon formative assessments. 

Additionally, the Title I staff create an annual calendar (copy attached at end of application) to identify benchmarking and progress monitoring dates. This calendar is followed by all staff.

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

Highland Elementary School is committed to collaborative teaming in order to improve student learning. This is shown by:

  • District calendar with weekly 2 hour early release, half of each week protected for collaborative data teams (copy attached at end of application)
  • Elementary master schedule with daily common planning time for grade levels (copy attached at end of application)
  • Quarterly "combined" data meetings in which all grade-level teachers, interventionists, and counselors meet to review student needs
  • Built-in opportunities for peer observation
  • Staff-created templates for agendas, minutes, data-teaming, etc. (copies attached at end of application)
  • Weekly time for leadership team to provide feedback to data teams
  • Shared leadership through Building Leadership Team (rotating seats)
  • Surveys and team reflections to ensure high-functioning teams
  • On-going professional development 
  • Bulletin boards to share data (copy attached at end of application)
  • Adult-friendly workspace for teams
  • Common formative assessments are at the center of collaborative data teaming. Classroom teachers create and/or identify common formative assessments to be administered across the grade level. The infomation from these assessments is shared and analyzed at data team meetings. It helps teachers determine student level of mastery, direction for instruction, and potential small group work. Teachers may identify strengths/areas for improvement in their own instructional practices and within the curriculum. This also leads to peer observation and peer coaching opportunities. All CFAs, student data, and planning are shared with Google Drive. Examples of teacher data team documentation are in the final attachments (Cycle 1 and Cycle 5). 
  • Specials teachers (art, library, PE, music) We recognize that specials teachers play a critical role in student achievement. While their content is not addressed on high stakes testing, they do have important standards and curriculum that must be taught. Most recently, our specials teachers have been on interdisciplinary teams with grade level teachers. The specials teachers are asked to support grade-level objectives within their own curriculum. For example, the music teacher has helped grade level teachers address mood in literature by applying it to musical pieces. The physical education coach has helped students better understand main idea and supporting details by using these terms to explain physical activities. Additionally, specials teachers use common formative assessments within their own specific classes. Examples of data from specials teachers are included in the appendix (PE Assessment, Music Pre and Post Scores, and 01_28_2015 Reporting Form)
  • Vertically aligned goals: The main student achievement goal in our district comprehensive school improvement plan (CSIP) reads that all students will graduate college and/or career ready. Specified actions in the CSIP include such things as forming teams for data analysis, identifying and administering common formative assessments, revising curriculum, and identifying successful instructional strategies. Highland Elementary's building improvment plan (BIP) supports the district CSIP by identifying the main student achievement goal as increasing student academic achievement in English Language Arts, Math, and Science as shown on the state assessment and local benchmarks (STAR, DIBELS, Acadience Math).  Actions include tracking student data through individual data binders (implementation of assessment capable learning), develop and implement standards-based grade cards to align with ACL and CFAs, and implement peer coaching in these areas. Data teams support both the CSIP and BIP by analyzing assessment data to create individual team SMART goals focused on increasing student achievement. SMART goals are automatically populated based upon a set formula within our data team recording pages (SMART Goal example attached in appendix).
  • Common agenda template used for all teams (attached at end of application)

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

The staff members at Highland Elementary School agree that data is great when it is appropriate, purposeful, analyzed, and used. As a result, Highland Elementary staff use multiple sources of data to improve student achievement.

At the top level, the school administers the Missouri MAP Grade-Level Assessments each spring. This has been a difficult tool to use due to the changes in standards and test formats. In 2015, students took their first on-line assessment and the first assessment aligned with the Common Core State Standards(CCSS). In 2016, students again took an assessment aligned with the CCSS. However, it was a new format and platform due to change in legislation. In 2017, classroom curricula was to reflect the new Missouri Learning Standards (MLS), but the assessment was aligned with the CCSS. In 2018, students again were given a new assessment to align with the MLS. Throughout this time, the 4th through 6th grade students consistently scored as well as or better than the state as a whole. Third grade was inconsistent. However, third grade had several new teachers and very large classes during that time. As a result, third grade has been a priority grade for Title I interventionists, classroom paraprofessionals, and coaching (professional development). Third grade was also the only of the "tested" grade spans that was not departmentalized. During the 2018-19 school year, third grade teachers asked to departmentalize and develop their areas of expertise.

Because state tests and standards have been inconsistent, the school relies on local assessments. First, Highland Elementary uses DIBELS Math and Reading, STAR Reading and eValuate as tools to screen and monitor student achievement. Over the past three years all grade levels (3rd-6th) have shown at least 75% of students reading on grade level at the end of the year (copy of data attacahed at end of application). Additionally, teachers use the standards reports within the assessment to help identify students who may need interventions on specific standards (both above and below level). According to DIBELS Math (now Acadience), grade levels have consistently increased in achievement. On another local assessment tool, eValuate, all grade levels showed at least 75% of students proficient on their grade level standards by the end of the school year. This aligned with information from the STAR assessment. 

Finally, grade level teachers use common formative assessments to drive their daily instruction and improve student achievement. The data team reporting forms are included at the end of the application. 

Building Awards

  • Exemplary PLC School (Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)
  • Sustaining Exemplary PLC School (Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)
  • PBS Bronze School
  • PBS Silver School
  • PBS Gold School
Individual Staff Awards
  • Dr. Kay Clapp Award for Children's Literacy
  • Northeast Regional Professional Development Center Staff Developer of the Year
  • National Board Certification (1 teacher)


  • SAPP and Data-Based Decision Making - Missouri Model Districts
  • Using Google Classroom for Staff and Students - Culver-Stockton College
  • Coming Together for Integrated Intervention Planning - Missouri Professional Learning Communities Conference and Northeast Regional Professional Development Center PLC Training
  • Moving from Surface Level Implementation to a Cultural NormMissouri Professional Learning Communities Conference
  • Exemplary PLC Presentation Missouri Professional Learning Communities Conference and Northeast Regional Professional Development Center PLC Training
  • Response to Intervention: Building your Capacity - Northeast Regional Professional Development Center RtI Academy
  • Technology and Literacy - Culver Stockton College
  • Technology and Literacy: Effects of Reading Plus within the Elementary School - Mark Twain Area Reading Council
  • RtI: Putting it TogetherNortheast Regional Professional Development Center RtI Academy

Student Recognition

  • Entire robotics team special award for collaboration and teamwork
  • Multiple regional and state awards for math contest
  • Balsa Bridge competition awards
  • Overcoming Adversity Writing Contest winner