1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Quitman Public School (QPS) commits to creating and implementing a guaranteed and viable curriculum that is built from the four critical questions through team developed common formative assessments to ensure ALL students are learning at high levels. Our first step in the process began by identifying essential standards using the REAL criteria (Readiness, Endurance, Assessed on High Stakes Assessments, Leverage) to represent the essential knowledge, skills, and behaviors every student must acquire to succeed in each unit, semester, and course. Teams began to take the identified essential standards and unwrap them into learning targets and determine the building blocks that establish a foundation for mastery of each standard. After identifying the essential standards, we collaboratively created assessments- formative and summative to support our efforts in monitoring and responding to student learning. During the first year of the PLC process, QPS administrators and Guiding Coalition members found it necessary to devote common planning for grade level and content teams in the school’s master schedule to establish a culture of collective responsibility. We knew that in order to build a strong foundation in a collaborative culture, teams must have common planning times. Teams spent countless hours identifying essential standards and collectively developing units with the knowledge and understanding that not all students learn the same.
In the beginning, teams worked to organize essential standards and learning targets into the following: Knowledge, Reasoning, Performance Skills, and Products. Teams created vertical and horizontal proficiency maps that ensure all essentials are taught throughout the school year. After constructing these units, teams meticulously planned when students should be formatively assessed (instructional calendar). Based on the proficiency maps, teams created unit plans with collective clarity on learning targets, student friendly targets for student data folders, and agreement on how and when to assess. Each team uses the PDSA (plan, do, study, act) model in each unit that allows them to determine needs by skill, by student. Teachers monitor these checkpoints during PLC team meetings where members reflect on their own practices and student learning. First, teachers use the data to inform and improve their own practice as learners. Team members determine the effectiveness of instructional strategies based on evidence of student learning. Teachers collaboratively identify students who need intervention or extension. They choose which teacher’s strategy is most effective in that unit’s instruction. The students are placed with that teacher for reteaching while others may also reteach or integrate an extension activity. Each unit consists of learning targets, effective instructional strategies, CFA’s, interventions and extensions, and CSA’s. For grades 3-12, teachers created assessments using Google Forms. This allows for assessments to look more like ACT Aspire assessments. All of our CFA and CSA results are documented in a spreadsheet to help us better identify needs by student, by skill. We also house all units, essential standards, and assessments in an area that is accessible by any team in our district.
We have worked to create a culture of constant learning and improvement. Our students’ mindset towards learning has completely transformed over the past two years. We have gone from teachers having data information and not knowing what to do with it, to students tracking their own data through data notebooks. Students are not the only ones learning; our teachers are constantly learning too. Teachers now have a more focused approach to using data to improve their instruction. We used to have Parent/Teacher Conferences where only the teacher would meet with parents, but now we have Celebrations of Learning where the student celebrates their learning and growth towards proficiency with the parents at student-led conferences. Our culture around learning has completely transformed.
Our RTI Team has worked to create a multitiered and systematic approach to a learning focused school to ensure every student has acquired essential skills and behaviors at every grade level. One of the first actions towards ensuring all desired behaviors are mastered is to create a behavior matrix and rubric based on data from our QPS infraction form. The data that’s collected from the infraction form gives us information on: social/emotional needs, behavior needs, and academic needs. Using this form, we have been able to meet the social and emotional needs of students. For example, a teacher used our infraction form to report concerns about a third grade student who consistently acted out. After investigating, we found out this student was hungry. We now give this student a snack everyday to meet his needs. We use the behavior matrix to give students boundaries and to give our teachers an opportunity to teach desired behaviors to all students. We use our rubric to tell us how we can better support students to show progress towards our desired behaviors.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Prior to 2017, intervention time at QPS was scarce. As we began to bring clarity around what students need to learn at each grade level, our need for Tier 3 and Tier 2 became glaringly evident. Not only did we need to provide time during the school day for extra time and support for students, but also our special education system was not effective.. Overall, only about half of our students were reading at grade level in 2018-2019. According to our most recent 2020 data, our students have improved at a 1.5 standard deviation in reading. Our changes to our RTI practices at tier 1, 2, and 3 are working.
In the middle of the 2018-2019 school year, QES completely overhauled our special education system. We went from an isolated, pull-out learning system to full inclusion. Students with special needs were once being pulled out of class to learn below grade level skills then going back into the regular classroom in the middle or end of lessons. Now, our students with special needs are immersed into the regular classroom and on grade level instruction with the support of two teachers in the classroom. To help meet the needs of students, we created a Tier 3 time (DAWGS; Doing Amazing Work Growing Stronger) from 7:50-8:20. During this time of intervention and extension, all certified and classified staff work in small groups with students based on need. . It’s important to note that students do not ‘live’ in their groupings. They move in and out of intervention/extension as long as they benefit from it. We also use Friday DAWGS to engage with students needing emotional and social support.
QES teachers provide Tier 2 interventions as needed. Teachers group students based on the most recent common formative assessment results to guide these short term groupings. Teachers offer targeted interventions and extensions with specific small groups of students based on students needing additional time and support for learning. After teachers provide extra time and support for students, they provide students an additional opportunity to demonstrate proficiency.
At the high school level, QHS has set aside a Tier 2 intervention period in the master schedule. Two days each week, ELA and/or math interventions are provided for students needing remediation. Those not needing intervention in these areas have assigned advisors. Again, students do not ‘live’ in these groups. They are in an open and closed model and move fluidly based upon their need. After reporting to advisors, students may request to seek assistance from other teachers or attend alternative extensions offered. Some students are required to go to specific classes if they need organizational skills and/or study skills.
QPS was awarded the Twenty-First Century Grant this year. These allocations have afforded us opportunities to offer before and after school services for additional support and extensions. Students have the opportunity for extensions, such as, eSports, yoga, clay sculpting, engineering practices, etc.
At QPS our students’ learning is our first priority. We guarantee all students access to these systems of interventions regardless of the teacher’s name on the door. The school responds to students and provides support where needed. We will continually be committed in our efforts to ensuring our students are successful in school and in life.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
In order for us to build collective responsibilities among all teams, we have accepted the responsibility to ensure high levels of learning is happening for every student and most importantly, a common belief that all students can learn at high levels. In order to adequately plan for high levels of learning, one essential action that we had to take was common planning time for teams. This meeting time was easier to accomplish in our elementary school where most teams already had a daily common planning time. Making this time available in the high school was more challenging and was something we had to address immediately.
We knew during the very first meeting with our Solution Tree coach Regina Stephens Owens that in order for our teams to perform at high levels, we would need to make changes to our high school master schedule that currently had no times set aside for common planning, much less times for teams to meet. So, we worked closely with members of the Guiding Coalition (in September) to make the necessary changes to our master schedule that would provide common planning for high school math and language arts. Year two now boasts common planning periods and weekly team meeting times for all core content teachers, including our CTE team. In weekly meetings, teams meet vertically and in grade level teams. Teams are self-directed as they inquire on how to improve student achievement. In our 3rd-6th grade teams, content teachers meet weekly to plan for student learning and to ensure our curriculum is vertically aligned. All teams also use their common planning time to research best practices to improve student learning.
Each content area team has also established SMART goals that shape and guide each team’s work, and an action plan to achieve the goals. During the action plan, teachers clarify the evidence they will gather to monitor student learning; CFA spreadsheet, ACT Aspire interim, and ACT Aspire classroom assessments. After monitoring student learning, teachers plan Tier 2 interventions and extensions. Our teachers divide students out based on need. The teacher with the most students meeting proficiency (Teacher A) takes the struggling learners. The teacher with the least amount of students meeting proficiency (Teacher B) will observe and team teach with Teacher A. Teacher C (the teacher whose students scored in the middle) will take a second intervention group. Our counselor or activity teacher will take an extension group. Our teachers are working within their teams to improve instruction by sharing instructional strategies, modeling for other teachers, and participating in instructional rounds across grade levels and content areas including athletics. All teams are now interdependent professional learning communities who work together in a continuous improvement process to achieve and sustain goals.