White River High School

  1. PLC Story
  2. PLC Practices
  3. Achievement Data
  4. Awards
  5. Resources

The mission of the White River School District is clear and succinct: “Ensuring high levels of learning for each student preparing them for successes beyond high school.”  At White River High School, we have approached this philosophy by shifting our mindset from a system of teaching to a system of learning.  As we began to embed this learning mission into our daily work, we asked ourselves, “What would this look like if we really meant it?”  Creating a collaborative culture was achieved by establishing and supporting high-performing teams focused on the right work, at the right time, and doing it in the right way, ensuring each team is continually improving.

The building leadership team functions as a collaborative team as well.  Each administrator is responsible for enhancing the leadership capacity and learning from each team they supervise. The Building Learning Coordinator and the Team Leaders are also an important component of the leadership team.  Collectively, we learn from each other as well as from our colleagues throughout the district.  This K-12 approach has created a sense of ownership throughout the district and has given all of us a sense of responsibility for the learning of all children in the district.  The kindergarten students are our White River High School students – we just don’t get them until the 9th grade. In our school, Team Leaders are identified in curricular areas and are expected to lead the work  and enhance the capacity of their team.  These teachers are not only the experts in their area, but they also serve as the building leadership team.  Team Leaders are viewed as a key link between the administration and the faculty.  As a result of this work we have experienced numerous positive outcomes at White River High School.  AVID is embedded at all grade levels, we have increased the number of Advanced Placement courses and enrollment as well and provide students opportunity to earn an AP Capstone Diploma.  Our graduation rate has increased from 85 percent in 2009 to more than 93 percent in 2017.  We have created a college-going culture at our school, with almost 70 percent of our graduates attending two or four year colleges.  White River High School is also proud to support one of eleven NATEF Certified Automotive programs in the State of Washington.

The primary work of all teams at WRHS is centered on the Unit Planning process.  For each unit of instruction, teams identify the specific standards that will be taught and what skills are essential for all students to learn.  Next, clear targets and criteria for student success are outlined and agreed upon by each team member.  Throughout instruction, there is frequent checking for student understanding, formative assessment, re-teaching, and finally an end of unit formative assessment to determine whether we know if students have learned the standards.

One of the most important shifts we have made is in using data to drive our decisions.  Each team uses results from team-developed, common formative assessments to determine which students need extra time and support in order to master the essential standards and to help determine if students need higher levels of support beside what the classroom teacher can offer.  This shift has helped us to understand the importance of using ongoing formative assessment data to get a clear picture of student performance.  As teams develop unit plans and schedule their time to work together, they include time to review student achievement data and then determine the best course of action. Our administrative team works with each department to surface the data in a way that is meaningful to the team and helps inform instruction.  The data also surfaces kids that needed additional time and support.  Using data answers the question, “Are the kids learning, and how do we know?”    

Since not all students learn at the same rate, we have developed a system of interventions for struggling students.  Every student has a thirty-minute block of time four days each week devoted to extra time and support.  Students may get extra help from a specific teacher or utilize a learning lab in specific classes. As a result of the curriculum alignment process as well as using data to help inform student’s needs skill by skill, we have made incremental gains in student achievement.  

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Content area teams create units of instruction for every course taught throughout the school year.  Teams start by identifying the important standards that are taught, as well as identifying the essential outcomes all students must master.   Once the standards and outcomes are clearly established, the team determines the scope and sequence in each unit.  A significant aspect of this work is to clearly articulate specific learning targets and success criteria, along with what mastery of each target looks like in student work. This process establishes the guaranteed curriculum for each course.  In other words, every child in a course, regardless of which teacher they have, is guaranteed to learn the same standards. The common pacing of each unit ensures the curriculum is viable, or can be learned in the given time allotted.

All units then begin with a pre-assessment to identify prior knowledge and areas of deficiency.  The pre-assessment creates the foundation for differentiating instruction at Tier I and provides the basis for different entry points for students to access the standards being taught.  Throughout instruction, there are frequent checks for understanding, and formative common assessments that inform the team as to whether students are learning.  The formative assessments also provide the team with information regarding what intervention or enrichment kids need to progress in their learning.  The summative assessment is usually formative in nature as well.  Students have the opportunity to retake the portions of the assessments that they did not master for full credit.

During the duration of instruction, the team will collaboratively analyze the results of assessments using a data protocol that asks the team to reflect on the data, and most importantly, respond to student needs as a result of the data, student by student, skill by skill.  This response can include re-teaching, extra time and support for kids who struggle with a concept, regrouping kids who need extra support, and assigning students to the intervention period built into the school day.  The tool used to analyze student learning data is the TACA (Team Analysis of a Common Assessment) form. Before starting a unit, teams look at previous year's TACA to review any changes needed in the unit, instructional strategies that were effective and skill deficiencies students demonstrated. Another critical piece of the TACA is the ability of the team to record formative assessment data throughout the unit and be able to analyze the impact of the interventions throughout the unit. By sharing learning data with colleagues, the team grows and learns from each other.

Given this approach to monitoring student learning, we have also identified the need to clarify our grading and reporting practices at White River High School.  Academic progress is graded using Standards Based Grading practices including full credit for late work, full credit for retaking or redoing assignments or tests, and not allowing zeroes to be used as a reported grade.  Grades are communicated in terms of the student’s progress toward mastery of the standards for each unit.  Parents have access to student grades online, recieve weekly automated grade reports and teachers routinely communicate student progress weekly.  

2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.

In the White River School District, we have implemented a transition program for all incoming freshmen that includes counselors, administrators and staff. Prior to entering high school, our middle school students attend a parent night in the spring to learn about the culture and strategies for success in high school. In the fall, the incoming freshmen are on campus the first day of school for the first three hours working with our leadership students learning about how to be successful at high school. Two weeks into the school year, freshmen are pulled from their classes to reflect on their first two weeks of high school and receive additional information for them to be successful. The White River counseling and administrative team uses multiple sources of student learning data in an effort to create a learner profile for each student. This way, kids who need extra support receive intervention at the start of the school year, rather than waiting for them to fail before intervening.

 One of our core beliefs is to embed time for intervention into the school day.  In 2009, we implemented a thirty-minute intervention period four days per week.  Over time, this intervention period has become more responsive to individual skill gaps kids have and need to be addressed. Our vision for this intervention period is to provide timely and specific interventions aligned to the standards in the classes. Teams are able to meet to set up intervention groups for the week. During Hornet Time (intervention period Tuesday through Friday,) teachers are able to work with a targeted group of students on a specific skill based on formative assessments. Students that are not included in these intervention groups are able to make a plan of the teachers they need to see for additional help based on grades and assessment scores.   

 Our Algebra team have taken on the responsibility for supporting learning by implementing a “core plus” model. Students who previously struggled with math in middle school are assigned to the support in addition to their Algebra class.  This support class is designed to pre-teach skills and reinforce key vocabulary and concepts using multiple learning strategies. The team has committed to teaching all levels and not just the advanced courses which reinforces the belief the team, as a whole, is responsible for the success of all students.  We also have a firm belief students who receive special services in math and English Language Arts are enrolled in co-taught courses where they receive their SDI and have access to grade level standards. In order to close the achievement gap, all students need to have access to grade level standards and the support they need to learn.  These classes are co-taught with a general education and special education teacher.  By implementing this model, fewer students who receive services are having to access an off-grade level exam to meet the state testing requirement.

 Our most significant gauge of success is our graduation rate.  In 2017, our on-time graduation rate was 93.3% compared to the state average of 79%.  This is even more significant given the fact the district alternative high school was closed in 2013.  Students who attended this school came back to our comprehensive high school and are supported to earn their diploma.

3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.

Building high performing, collaborative teams at White River High School is a well-defined process that begins by organizing teams based on course content; a few teams, like Family and Consumer Science or Industrial Technology, are organized by department. We have found the best way to support the work of our teams is to provide weekly, uninterrupted collaborative time.  At White River High School we have a one-hour late start every Monday morning.  This time is sacred. There are no parent or IEP meetings during this time, nor does the principal pull teachers away from their team for other purposes.  Teams spend this time collaboratively creating units of instruction, analyzing student work, and planning interventions.  Additionally, teams have extra time built into the teacher contract they can access outside the workday to acknowledge that the work of improving learning for all kids takes more time than one hour each week!

The team leader in each group serves as the team’s lead learner, providing guidance and a voice for the team for the school’s leadership team.  The team leaders, led by the principal, make important decisions for the learning direction of the school. Through the team, every teacher has a voice, as well as the opportunity to experience professional growth and potential leadership opportunities.

Each team completes a monthly planning guide they share among themselves and the administrator assigned to their team.  This guide serves as a roadmap with two major purposes.  First, it keeps the team on track in terms of the work that needs to be completed each week.  Second, it serves as a means of communication for the administrator so they can participate in team meetings at strategic times such as analyzing common assessment data or when decisions are made about intervention or enrichment activities.  The planning guide is important because each administrator supervises multiple teams.    After each team meeting, teams also provide feedback and pose questions to their administrator in areas they may need help.  These communication and organization tools help teams stay focused on the right work and help with necessary administrative oversight.  We realize each of our teams is in a different place in terms of completing this work, but all teams are expected to complete these expectations.  The administrative team meets every Monday after the schoolwide collaborative time to review team products and analyze the work of each team and share strategies to help make each team more effective.  

Teams share their work on a frequent basis at the building and district level.  This public acknowledgement serves us well as teams learn from each other. Our teachers become the content experts and take great pride in their efforts.  Throughout the year, teams are highlighted and celebrated at our school board meetings.  The board recognizes the work our teachers have done and appreciates their efforts! It also helps the board understand the work each team is doing to improve learning.  Taking the opportunity to publicly recognize and celebrate success cannot be overstated.  

Because our administrators are engaged in the work with their teams, they know where each team needs help and support.  This strategy has proven invaluable in terms of providing high-quality, job-embedded professional development for our staff.  






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WRHS Graduation Rate





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2011 Washington Achievement Award

2012 Washington School of Distinction

WRHS is one of eleven comprehensive high schools in the State of Washington to receive NATEF Certification for the Automotive Technology program

93.3% on time graduation rate for the Class of 2017 is among the highest in Pierce County, Washington

Scholarships earned have exceeded one million dollars for the past two years, with the Class of 2017 earning over 2.4 million

The number of students taking Advanced Placement exams from 2005 to 2017 has risen from 59 to 470

White River High School staff members have been featured in books written by Dr. Robert Eaker and Janel Keating

White River High School has hosted numerous PLC site visitors from numerous states and two PLC workshops with over 200 attendees each