By Alyssa Dalley-Schofield
Midwest City Beacon
Townsend Elementary was recognized for sustained success in raising student achievement.
The Del City school was named a model Professional Learning Community at Work by Solution Tree, a company that specializes in K-12 education.
Professional Learning Communities are schools or districts in which educators and administrators adopt a collaborative approach towards learning and results.
Principal Heather Dunn was thrilled by the award and thanked the educators for their teamwork and dedication.
“I am incredibly proud of our team! Their fierce commitment to a collaborative culture and to their own learning as educators is commendable,” Dunn said in a press release. “Our team’s collective commitment to high levels of learning for all students will continue and we are so proud to be Townsend Tigers!”
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. The school then must explain its practices, structures, and culture and submit its application for consideration by the PLC Review Committee.
Townsend shifted gears in 2020 after seeing its academic performance decline. Under the direction of a former principal, the staff focused on the collaborative process of Professional Learning Communities.
“Creating a positive school culture for staff and students became a priority,” Dunn said.
A newly formed leadership team led the staff in creating a mission statement, vision, school-wide and grade-level goals and collective commitments. That included a shift in mentality from “my kids” to “our kids” which created a collective responsibility.
“Our principal, who had once worked at our school as an instructional coach and reading specialist, saw that we could not keep doing the same thing and expecting change,” Dunn said in press release.
Dunn said they continued to work collaboratively and monitor academic progress, while adapting as needed. The school also acquired grants for personnel, resources and on-sit coaching from Solution Tree related to the PLC process.
The process has produced results. After years of being a grade “D” school, Townsend and its faculty worked towards the “C” they currently hold.
The school saw its enrollment increase by about 40% this past school year, as a result of consolidation of a nearby school. The majority of those transfer students were behind by one or more grade levels.
“Students have grown exponentially this year because of the great effort of the educators at Townsend. We are no longer a school of “PLC Lite” we are heavily invested in doing “PLC RIGHT”… because it works,” Dunn said.
Towsend was the sixth school in Oklahoma and only the second elementary school to be recognized as a model school.