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By Karla Pomeroy
Editor 

Thermopolis Middle School earns national recognition

Collaboration, individual goals helping raise student achievement as a model Professional Learning Community At Work™ THERMOPOLIS — Thermopolis Middle School was one of eight schools in the United States recognized by Solution Tree in 2017 for its sustained success in raising student achievement. The school’s successful implementation of the Professional Learning Communities at Work ™ process was a major contributing factor in the improved achievement of its students.

 

November 11, 2017



Collaboration, individual goals helping raise student achievement as a model Professional Learning Community At Work™

THERMOPOLIS — Thermopolis Middle School was one of eight schools in the United States recognized by Solution Tree in 2017 for its sustained success in raising student achievement. The school’s successful implementation of the Professional Learning Communities at Work ™ process was a major contributing factor in the improved achievement of its students.

Responding to news of the recognition, Principal Breez Daniels said, “The staff and students at Thermopolis Middle School are willing to work hard to reach challenging goals. Our students focus on growing academically each year and they are willing to put in the effort to reach their goals. Our teachers live and breathe the belief that every student can grow and learn at high levels. It takes all of us working together in a school, parent, student partnership for our students to reach their learning goals! Earning this recognition is a tremendous honor for our school, our district and our community.”

Superintendent Dustin Hunt stated, “This is a well-deserved and tremendous honor for the students and staff of Thermopolis Middle School. To say that I am proud would be an understatement. This honor is just further proof that we have amazing students and staff in Thermopolis, with only one other middle school of the same demographics receiving this recognition nationally.”

PLCs are schools and districts in which educators recognize the key to improved learning for students is on-going, job-embedded learning for the adults who serve those students. The three big ideas of a PLC call upon educators to:

•Focus on learning.

•Build a collaborative culture.

•Create a results orientation.

Schools are recognized based on strict criteria, including demonstration of a commitment to PLC concepts, implementation of these concepts for at least three years, and clear evidence of improved student learning over that period. Once measurable results can be seen, the school must explain its practices, structures, and culture and submit its application for consideration by the PLC Review Committee.

According to Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, and Mike Mattos, champions of PLC at Work™, educators in the schools and districts selected for this recognition have shown “a sustained commitment to helping all of their students achieve at high levels. They have been willing to alter the structure and culture of the organization to reflect their commitment. We applaud them and congratulate them for achieving this very significant milestone on the never-ending PLC journey.”

Daniels describes Professional Learning Communities at Work ™ as a “research-based organizational model, and a system of effectiveness. It’s a schoolwide approach. The big concept is that teachers are leaders and they make many decisions about how to effectively grow and educate students. When they work together collaboratively to make decisions about student learning they can have a bigger impact than, I guess, what we saw when we went to school, where every teacher just went into their own classroom and did their own thing.

Thermopolis Middle School started the process six years ago. She said she went to the first conference and continues to go each year.

She said after the first conference they began building collaborative times into the day. Daniels said teachers have a traditional preparation time built into their day, but they also have a collaboration meeting time.

Daniels said certain days of the week the teacher collaborate with grade-level teachers to make decisions about how to see students for intervention, planning enrichments or extensions. They also have collaboration with content teachers. They look at vertical alignment to make sure that students are being challenged appropriately each year. “What we are looking for is continuous academic growth,” Daniels said.

Daniels said what appealed to her about the PLC process is that it is based on teacher ownership. “It’s not a top down model. It’s this idea that you build this teaching teams, this collaborative approach and you include teachers in making every important decision they need to make about student learning. They are involved in that process. It’s about building consensus versus me just saying ‘this is the principal saying this or the district saying do this.’ It’s about building a collaborative as a team of professionals what do we see working, how do build on what we see working, how do we build off each other’s strengths.”

She added that the one thing that has had perhaps the biggest impact at Thermopolis Middle School is that all kids are our kids the entire time they are at school. If you’re a fifth-grade teacher you may work with a seventh-grade student during the day, depending on what their needs are and what relationship you have with them and your strengths on how you can help then in a certain area.

“It’s a very dynamic approach. We run a schedule but we also run flex times so teachers with specific strengths can meet with students and help them in specific areas.”

Daniels said it was a huge honor to earn the designation from Solution Tree, noting TMS has applied for this designation for a few years. “They only accept schools that have implemented the model and seen continued growth in student achievement,” she noted.

There are only 141 schools in the entire country that have this designation. There are five in Wyoming —— Southside Elementary in Powell, and three schools in Sheridan, Highland Park Elementary, Sheridan Junior High and Woodland Park Elementary.

Daniels said she has to submit all kinds of evidence to show their growth.

“It really is a stringent expectation of excellence that they apply whether or not they will give you the stamp of approval that you are a model school,” Daniels said.

In closing, Daniels said, “Our students develop a really huge work ethic over the course of their four years at the middle school. We’ve used a lot of the growth mindsets culture. We talk to them about individual and personal growth. We are really focused on every student meeting their own achievement goals. ‘You need to score well on a test,’ is not our message. Our message is we want you to grow as a reader, we want you to grow as a math student. We want you grow in the area of science. Our students work really, really hard to achieve their personal goals.”

Recognized model PLC schools are listed on allthingsplc.info, where they share implementation strategies, structures, and performance with other educators interested in improving their schools. Tools for team collaboration, articles and research about PLCs, blog posts, and other related resources are also available on the site. The site was developed and is maintained by Solution Tree, a leading provider of educational strategies and tools that improve staff and student performance. For more than 20 years, Solution Tree resources have helped K–12 teachers and administrators create schools where all children succeed.

 
 

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