WASHINGTON- Washington Fields Middle School is a nationally designated Professional Learning Model Community School.
“This distinguished designation is reserved for select schools across the country that demonstrate exemplary levels of student achievement and continued growth over a 3-year period,” in relation to the requirements outlined by Bob Sonju, former principal and current consultant to the Washington County school district.
Desired designation is from Solution Tree, LLC. This company is a leading expert in K-12 education. Through extensive research and study, the company provides training and workshops to improve the results of educational activities for students and teachers around the world.
One of the main concepts of Solution Tree is PLC or Professional Learning Communitywhich has been verified by research as a very effective and successful method to provide better education and student growth.
Washington Fields Intermediate opened its doors to students on August 12, 2019. Immediately, the national educational movement of the professional learning community began to enable the school to achieve national designation in the minimum possible time of three years.
“You have to be open for three years and show three years of growth and data,” said Sheline Miller, the school’s learning coach. “We have built this culture from the beginning. We started the process being a new school and knowing what we wanted.
The Professional Learning Community program is student-focused, collaborative, and data-driven. While emphasizing these elements, the following four questions are continually asked while applying the culture of the concept:
- What do we really want our students to know, understand and learn?
- How are we going to know if they find out?
- What are we going to do if they are not?
- How are we going to expand learning for students who know?
“It’s basically a culture that we’ve developed, created and live by,” Miller said.
The designation as a “model PLC school” is not set in stone, however. The staff who worked on the conceptual program coordination efforts, known as the vision team, focused their attention on the mandatory requirement to maintain a professional learning culture and data.
To be considered for the award, the vision team had to submit an application with data including standard and class test results and chosen standards and goals. Written plans for such things as responses to intervention for students not seeing growth have also been included.
The submission describes the process in which they collaborate as teachers and teams, reviewing all the different aspects and action plans that the school had implemented. The submission was approximately 10-15 pages.
Vision teams are made up of teachers, staff, the principal, parents, a district administrator, and a representative from the PTA.
“Our staff is top notch,” Miller said. “Bob (Principal Sonju) was able to lead us, but they were the ones who were out there, doing the work, making mistakes, learning from mistakes and improving to help our students learn.”
Vice-Principal Jaye Brackett praised the competence and productivity of the top-notch staff.
“They didn’t have to do it, but they all wanted to do it,” Brackett said.
The PLC culture the school has developed promotes parent involvement in a positive light with a strong foundation of communication was the main consensus from the feedback collected from parents and the local community.
Maren Powers, a language arts teacher and member of the vision team, found communication between parents and maintaining the designation to be of great importance.
“Advocacy and teachers working together to achieve this growth is an important part of this PLC,” Powers said. “It’s really, really working together as a team rather than independently.”
Powers was the 2020 recipient of the Rebecca Burnette DuFour Fellowship, a national award that recognizes 10 educators for their leadership in the community.
The evidence of growth is prevalent in the numbers. Last year, Washington Fields students in language, math, and science scored 11 to 28 percent above the state average and 9 to 21 percent above the district average.
Washington Fields Intermediate now joins 16 statewide schools with the same national designation, while the Washington County School District has the following notable PLC schools: Fossil Ridge Intermediate, Crimson View Elementary, Bloomington Hills Elementary, Desert Hills Middle, Panorama Elementary and Lava Ridge Intermediate all have the same designation.
So what’s next for the school? Principal Brad Christensen said, among other goals, staff will focus on student success.
“We’re going to continue the work that Washington Fields has done for three years because that’s what’s important for kids,” he said. “That is what is right. This is why we are in education to see this. See children succeed.
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