Benton Elementary was recently recognized with a Missouri Professional Learning Communities Exemplary School Award and is one of only 11 schools throughout the state to have received that distinction.

The state award comes from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Glenda Condict, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in the Neosho R-5 School District and former Benton principal, said this is the first time a Neosho school has received this honor.

“We’re constantly striving to meet the deep implementation of the requirements of PLC,” Condict said. “If we meet that then we are meeting the needs of the students and of the parents.”

Jody Wagner, who took over as Benton principal at the start of the 2012-2013 school year, said the award is based on previous years, though the staff continues to work at the exemplary level.

“It was a pretty easy job to step into,” Wagner said. “Everybody there just runs like a well-oiled machine, they all work together and they continue to be even better than they were the last three years so we can keep improving our scores.”

Condict said all of the Neosho schools that run kindergarten through eighth grade were observed. The judging period was the past three years, and the awarding committee looked for a school with deep implementation of PLC criteria.

“They look for leadership teams working together at all grade levels, they look for administrative leadership and they look at how effective the team works,” Condict said. “And what that means is, do they use data to drive their instruction?”

She said there are four levels of implementation, minimal, partial, proficient and deep, and though only Benton received the distinction this go around, each of the Neosho R-5 kindergarten through eighth grade schools continue to strive for deep implementation.

“Basically, that comes down to saying deep implementation is using data of student progress to drive the instruction at every grade level,” Condict said.
Wagner said an example of that use at Benton Elementary is the Response to Intervention program, a time the school takes each day to group kids according to how they score in certain areas.

“We’re just trying to be pro-active,” Wagner said. “We’re re-teaching, we’re giving them different kinds of instruction during that time, not just their regular classroom instruction, but instruction that might be delivered in different ways, with different strategies.”

Condict said the award is an honor the Neosho community can take pride in.

“This is just evidence of the achievement level that the Neosho R-5 school district is striving for,” Condict said.

According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Professional Learning Communities project began in 2003, as a way to promote school cultures focused on learning with collaborative teams using data to increase student achievement.