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TIG will be updating the self-advocacy suite.  Please note the resources may be discontinued after the 2023-2024 academic year.

Bessie Allen Middle School

Grade Level
Middle School

Meeting the needs of community

As the diversity of the North Fond du Lac community grew, Bessie Allen Middle School saw an increase in English Language Learners (ELL) within their student population. School report card data revealed student achievement and assessments measured well below Wisconsin’s literacy scores.

In January of 2014, the middle school started action planning on how to meet the needs of all students through a universal system of supports. They started by meeting with exploratory staff to evaluate current programs and create courses.

Next, they created their mission and a school-level Response to Intervention (RtI) team comprised of reading and behavior support staff, counselors, and the principal. Together, they created a schedule to examine and discuss what their interventions will and will not look like.

Aligning academic expectations to behavior expectations

With a system of supports already in place for behavior, the school-level RtI team began looking at the school’s existing PBIS expectations to bridge and align their reading expectations in May of 2014. Specifically, the RtI team:

  • determined their reading intervention program,
  • created a prioritized list for identifying students,
  • developed their norms, and
  • created the Oriole Way (expectations) for reading/writing.

The team identified and prioritized the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Anchor Standards for reading and writing and aligned them to their Oriole Way behavior expectations.

Getting staff aligned to the new reading expectations

The school-level leadership team knew the next step was to improve adult behaviors, teaching, and mindsets. The team started by communicating to staff how

  • being ready,
  • being respectful, and
  • being safe connected to academics.

Teachers developed a writing rubric and used reminders and boosters to improve their skills (i.e. defend your thinking), similar to students’ writing skills (expectations). Staff had a minimum of two hours a week for silent sustained reading and writing.

Ongoing support and evaluation

Communication and support to all staff is consistent with updates from RtI team meeting notes, staff meetings, and early release. Staff surveys provide data for:

  • how staff communicate the expectations,
  • how the expectations are working,
  • what they are personally struggling with, and
  • what they can collectively do.

At each staff meeting, data around the literacy, math, and school improvement goals are reviewed.

Early success

From the 2013-14 school year to the 2017-18 school year, Bessie Allen had:

  • 77% increase in the number of students advanced/proficient for literacy on the state assessment (from 52 students to 92 students)
  • Moved 40 students from below proficiency to above proficiency for literacy on the state assessment
  • 91% increase in the number of students advanced/proficient on our benchmark STAR Reading assessment (from 54 students to 103 students)
  • STAR Reading has an 8% increase in the percentage of students advanced and state assessments for literacy show a 9% increase in the percentage of students advanced/proficient during this timeframe
  • Decreased the number of students in the below basic range by 10% for literacy on the state assessment
  • Growth scores increased and gap scores decreased for literacy on the state assessment during this timeframe
  • School Report card data increased from nearly the lowest, to near the top of schools with similar economically-disadvantaged rates
  • Adult collective commitment perceptions have dramatically increased

Involving all stakeholders to create a strong universal system

Staff understand that if we, as adults, change our behaviors; our students will too. Staff and student relationships have been increasingly positive due to conferencing and goal setting. Staff share assessment score data with each student so they can measure improvement and attainment toward their goals.

The process implemented at Bessie Allen has trickled up to the high school. Schools across Wisconsin have toured Bessie Allen to learn from their success.

Student interviews show that they know and value the Oriole Way expectations. Interestingly, the library has seen an increase in the number of overdue fines as students are holding on to the books longer to finish reading them.

Currently, the Math team is developing the Oriole Way for mathematics, and the reading team is revising and refreshing literacy and writing skill curricula.