Desert Hills High School

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

Desert Hills High School opened its doors in the fall of 2008. From the first meeting of the faculty to today, the focus has always been on creating a culture that allows the Professional Learning Communities model to flourish.  As our mission, vision, and collective commitments were developed, the passionate focus was to ensure high levels of learning for every student.

The DHHS Mission statement states, "Desert Hills HIgh School is a community of lifelong learners held to high standards of academic achievement, integrity, self discipline, and personal responsibilty."  Since 2008, the faculty and other stakeholders, including the school PTA and the community council, have reviewed the mission statement on an annual basis and it has not changed - we hold every student to high standards of academic achievement. 

The DHHS faculty is committed to the following:

  • Make students and student learning the focus of our efforts.
  • Using the Professional Learning Communities processes to improve instruction and student achievement in our classrooms.
  • Providing real-life application of learning standards and life skills required for post-high success
  • Involving parents in their students education.

With these guiding statements in place, we have worked consistently to create and implement the PLC model.  Each year has had a different focus to the point where we are now reviewing and reflecting on what is working throughout the entire system to ensure high levels of learning for every student.

We first focused on creating a culture of collabration in the school that allowed for consistent, focused time for teams to collaborate. This included the clear expectation that every Monday after school, time would be set aside for teams to collaborate on the right work.  All extra curriculuar activites start later on Mondays for teams to work together. Team leaders were selected based on their collaboration ability and experience. In addition teams work together based on subject matter with singleton subjects such as music and CTE team leaders working vertically and horizontally with district support and time.  Each team leader works closely with the principal and learning coach to ensure that effective collaboration is taking place.  As our collaboration culture has improved, our math team has been able to have common preps for subject areas during the school day to allow for additional focused collaborative time.  

Our next focus was on the creation of a guaranteed and viable curriculum (essential standards) for each content area. Teams closely reviewed the state core and other curriculum and came to a consensus on what knowledge, skills and dispositions are most important for EVERY student to know and be able to do.  These essential standards are consistently reviewed and adjusted to meet student learning needs.  The teams use an online tool called CSIP (Consolidated School Improvement Plan) developed by our district.  This tool allows teams to enter and track student learning for each essential standard throughout the entire year.  Each essential standard is specific and measurable and requires high levels of learning for all students. 

The third year we focused on Common Formative Assesments and interventions.  Each team developed CFA's that were directly tied to each essential standard.  These CFA's are timely, focused and provide teams with the data needed to monitor student learning. The CFA's are reviewed and altered annually by each team to ensure they provide accurate data for each essential standard.  Teams use the weekly collaboration time to review student learning and to make plans for interventions.  Data and information is entered into the CSIP tool for accountability and sharing of data. Based on the CFA data, each team then follows the intervention plan developed by the team and outlined in the CSIP as well.  These interventions include the focused use of the school wide homeroom time for reteaching and intervention. Homeroom can be a very directive and targeted tool for teams to ensure that each student gets the interventions needed.  Teams will then retest and check progress again.  Each essential standard has a targeted and specific intervention plan that is outlined in the CSIP tool. 

After the 3 year development process, there has been an annual, ongoing reflection on the effectiveness of the learning process.  This past year we added an enrichment plan for each essential standard.  After the cycle of instruction, assessment, and reflection, teams have created enrichment activities for students that meet the essential standard the first time. These enrichments are also outlined in the CSIP tool. 

Collabration and a focus on high levels of learning for each student has been institutionalized at Desert Hills High School. There has been a shift away from the idea of teaching to the idea of student learning. This shift ensures that every student is learning at high levels. 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

The most effective strategy is the use of  weekly team collaboration to review and analyze data from common formative assessments. Each team has developed 3-4 common formative assessments that are used each quarter.  These assessments are given at the end of small units of instruction (chapters, writing drafts, etc). Following the administration of an assessment the team will collaborate using the assessment data and discuss the following items: how many of the students met the agreed upon proficiency; how many students did not meet the agreed upon proficiency AND which elements of the essential standard were lacking; what practices or strategies were most effective for student learning.  Following that collaboration, the non proficient students are identified by name and are referred to the intervention plan where the students receive more trageted instruction on the specific, identified elements that kept them from being proficient. This intervention could be within class time or during the school homeroom time.  Team leaders ensure that the most effective strategies are used during the intervention process.   Following the intervention, the non-proficient students are assessed again with a common formative assessment. Following this second assessment the team again collaborates and determines the number of non-proficient students.  At this point any non-proficient student is directed to a very targeted and specific homeroom intervention which lasts until the student can demonstrate proficiency.  This process is used for each common formative assessment and ensures that each student is learning at high levels and that there is a timely and collective response to students who are experiencing difficulty.    The school administration ensures the process has fidelity by checking in with the teams and at times looking at the data with them, but never uses the data for evaluative or judgement purposes. Instead it is used to drive collaboration and to increase the teams capacity to improve student learning.


Another effective strategy is the use of a school wide grading policy focusing on student learning versus chasing points. 80% of a student's grade is based on formative and summative assessments based on the essential standards.  As students progress throught the quarter, the grading and analyzing of these assessments and the documentation in the school SIS system allow teachers, students, and parents to monitor progress on a weekly basis.  The other 20% of the grade is based on participation, practice and homework. (see below for more info)

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

DHHS has created a very clear and effective system of interventions based on our mission of ensuring that every one of our students learns at high levels.  

The Tier 1 interventions include:

  • Every class and teacher has essential standards and associated common formative assessments - multiple assessments given each quarter to monitor student learning
  • In class reteach time with use of enrichment activities
  • School wide home room support 2x per week. This is a directive home room for all students in the school.  As a tier 1 intervention students have the option to work on materials on their own or they can request to visit with specific teachers for additional instructional time.  Teachers can use the time by requesting specific students for additional instructional time, for peer tutoring, or for reinforcement of essential standards through differentiated instruction.  Common formative assessment results may be used for targeted instruction based on team intervention plans. 
  • Targeted conversations between schools and counselors about each incoming Sophomore and the proper placement for a math class. 
  • PBIS - recognize and reward students for positive behavior in the learning process - addresses intentional non learners
  • Quarterly F review with assignments to administration/counselors to visit with each student that got an F in a quarter

The Tier 2 interventions include:

  • Grade Check/Attendance - Directive - once a student reaches 7 absences in a class and has an F the student and parents meet with an administrator to discuss the situation and academic impact of not attending school.
  • School wide home room support 2x per week. The tier 2 level allows for teams to request targeted groups of students based on the team intervention plan. These targeted students will be requested by teams so they can reteach the elements of essential standards found lacking as determined by the team data analysis of a common assessment.  This directive intervention is managed by each team leader. Floater teachers are available to provide support for teams to ensure that students are targeted effectively in small groups and ensures that the most effective learning strategies are used by the team.  Students are directed to attend the homeroom intervention until they can demonstrate proficiency of the essential standards basesd on a common assessment. Common assessment data of these targeted students is reviewed weekly to ensure that the interventions are effective.  Having the homeroom twice a week in addition to normal instructional time ensures an increased frequency and duration for the intervention. 
  • Nudge Letters - Directive - focused on students with excessive absences - a letter is sent with with a graph showing their attendance compared to the rest of the school (see supporting documents for a sample letter)
  • Mentoring program - Directive - At risk students (grades/behavior) are assigned an administrator/office worker and the student meets with the adult once per week to monitor learning.
  • Alternative scheduling - Directive - Additional math enhancement class; Blended study skills class for content recovery and/or reteaching.

The Tier 3 interventions include:

  • Specific homeroom assignments.  Students that have been previously identified as struggling in a core subject are assigned to a home room teacher in the core subject they are struggling with. This assignment is very deliberate and directive to ensure proper learning interventions take place for a long term tier 3 intervention. These homeroom assignments can be easily adjusted to meet the learning needs of the students. 
  • Content recovery class - directive - part of their school day; students are only in class until content is made up, then moved back to original class
  • Utah Online Transition - directive for students who cannot physically attend school - monitored by a certified teacher.
  • Math for Life Class - directive - math class designed for students that need reinforcement/practice of basic math skills 
  • School of Life - directive life skills class focusing on attendance at school and other life skills. Addresses intentional non learners

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

The most effective strategy has been to create a culture of collaboration. Every Monday after school is sacred collaboration time dedicated to the data analysis outlined above. All extra curriculur events cannot start until after collaboration time on Mondays.  Teams are also given the flexibility to meet at a different time or more often if needed. 

Next is the development as a team of the essential standards.  This creates a clear picture not only of what students should know and be able to do, but also gives teams the outcomes that need to be meausred on common formative assessments. These essential standards give the foundation for the team to ensure that every student is learning at high levels.

The implementaiton of a school wide grading policy has proven to be an effective straegy for focusing on improved student learning. A leadership team was put together with a representative from each subject team.  The team studied Elements of Grading by Douglas Reeves and also had two online discussions with Mr. Reeves. This discussion and work led to a shift of grades accurately reflecting what students know and can do. The policy allows teams to focus on essential standards and ensures that a students grade accurately reflects the students ability to demonstrate high levels of learning on each standards.  A copy of the policy is attached at the end of this application. 

Another effective strategy has been teams using the CSIP tool. This online system provides teams with a interactive place to enter data, student names, intervention tools, enrichment activities, and best practices.  All members of the team can access  the CSIP tool at any time to review data and review intervention plans. 

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Please also see the attached PDF Document in the Resource section. 

US News and World Report - Best High Schools Silver Award in 2012, 2014, and 2016, 2017.

2014 - Washington County School District honored by College Board as an AP Honor Roll District. Based on three years of AP Data. During that time DHHS taught 6-8 AP classes.

Positive Behavior Intervention System - Recognized as only high school in Southern Utah to implement the program. Leadership team has been invited to present on the school program at the state and national PBIS Conferences. 

Fine Arts Department - Band and Musical Theater program both recognized with invitatations to perform at the state professional development conferences for music and theater educators in 2017.