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 administrative leadership team, comprised of principal, assistant principals, dean of students and athletic director, functions as a collaborative team. Each administrator is responsible for enhancing the leadership capacity and learning for the teams they supervise. In our school, team leaders in curricular areas must apply for the position, and are expected to lead the work and enhance the capacity of their team as well.  These teachers are not only the experts in their area, but they also serve on the building leadership team.  Team Leaders are viewed as a key link between administration and faculty.  The administrative team as well as the Building Learning Coordinator and team leaders create our core school leadership team.  Collectively, we learn from each other as well as from our colleagues across the district.  

 In White River we know kindergarten students are our White River High School students – we just don’t get them until the 9th grade. 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. We know that what happens in elementary and middle school is vitally important to us because it is the education of ‘our’ kids!

 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 accepted into 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 White River High School is centered on the ‘Bookshelf’ 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 students have learned the standards.

One of the most important shifts we have made is in using data to drive our decisions.  Each teacher and team uses results from team-developed, common formative assessments to determine whether there is a core instruction issue, or whether some students need extra time and support. 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. 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 critical standards, 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 and for the year. 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 and viable curriculum for each course. In other words, regardless of teacher, every student is guaranteed to learn the same standards within the same time frame.

Before the unit begins, teams look at previous year’s TACA (Team Analysis of a Common Assessment) form to see gaps in student learning previous years to ensure those skills are pre-tested and/or closely monitored in the unit. By looking at previous TACA forms, teams can recall instructional practices that were effective and ensure those are used. This process gives the team 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 common formative 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 them 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 identified the need align our grading and reporting practices with standards based grading – ensuring that student grades accurately reflect their knowledge of the critical grade level standards. This required us to change some of our practices to ensure we were not penalizing students because they needed extra time and support. Teachers give full credit for late work and for retaking or redoing assignments or tests. The goal for teachers is to not use zeroes to be given but instead do everything we have control over to have the student to complete the assessment or assignment so we have correct information on their level of understanding toward the standard. Parents have access to student grades online, receive weekly automated grade reports and teachers routinely communicate student progress.  


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

We are proud of the transition program we have developed for incoming freshman at White River High School, and continue to refine it annually. In the spring of their eighth grade year, all students and their parents are invited to an evening event where they learn about the culture and strategies for success in high school. In the fall, on the first day of school, freshmen have three hours where they work with Leadership students learning how to be successful in high school, touring the school, and finding their classes, BEFORE other students are on campus. Two weeks into the school year, freshmen have a pull-out day to reflect on their first two weeks of high school and receive additional information for them to be successful.

The transition team that supports incoming freshmen includes counselors, administrators and staff. The team uses multiple sources of student data 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 in how to serve our students equitably, is to embed time for intervention into the school day.  In 2009, we implemented a thirty-minute intervention period, four days a week – Hornet Time.  We used the strategy of ‘get started and get better’, knowing it wouldn’t be perfect, but that we couldn’t wait for perfection.  Over time, this intervention period has become more responsive to individual skill gaps for students. Our vision for this intervention period is to provide timely and specific interventions aligned to the standards in all classes.

 In preparation for Hornet Time, teams meet to set up intervention groups for the week. During Hornet Time teachers are able to work with a targeted group of students on a specific skill based on formative assessments.

Students that do not need targeted interventions 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 has taken ownership of struggling learners by implementing a “core plus” model. Students who previously struggled with math in middle school are scheduled into a support class 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.

 Each member of the math team has also committed to teaching multiple math levels. This has reinforced ownership by the team as a whole, for the learning of EACH student, and ALL students.

 Most of our students who have an Individualized Education Plan in math and English Language Arts are enrolled in co-taught courses where they receive their SDI and also have access to grade level standards. To effectively close the achievement gap, all students need to have access to core instruction, coupled with the support they need to learn.  These classes are co-taught with a general education and special education teacher.  Since implementing this model we have seen more students able to demonstrate success on the on-grade State testing.

 One of our most significant gauges for 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 have been 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.  In White River School District our school board has supported 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 instruction and interventions.  Additionally, teams have extra time built into the teacher contract they can access outside the workday. We know that the work of improving learning for all kids takes more than one hour a week!

The team leader in each group serves as the team’s lead learner, providing guidance and a voice for the team in the school’s leadership team.  The leadership team makes 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 leadership opportunities.

Each team completes a monthly planning guide they share amongst 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 is a part of multiple teams. After each team meeting, teams provide feedback on the work they completed. There is a mutual accountability loop here as well, as this is also an opportunity for a team to ask questions or note areas they need help or support.  

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 meet these expectations.  The administrative team meets every Monday after the school wide collaborative time to review team products, analyze the work of each team and share strategies to help make each team more effective.  Because our administrators are engaged in the work with their teams, they know where each team needs help and support.  This has proven invaluable in terms of providing high-quality, job-embedded professional development for our staff.  

Teams are frequently asked to share their work at the building and district level.  This peer 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 as well.  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. Because the Board answers to the community, a deep understanding of the work happening in our schools is important for them. Taking the opportunity to publicly recognize and celebrate success cannot be overstated.  

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Over the last two years, Washington State has gone through some transitions in state testing.  The first class to use the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) as a graduation requirement will be the class of 2019. Before SBA, Washington State used End-of-Course exams for Algebra and Geometry. During the transition to SBA, students were to be tested in their sophomore year for English Language Arts and in their junior year for math. For the last two years, the state allowed sophomores taking Algebra II  to take the SBA. This year, all sophomores took the SBA, which proved to be a challenge for students who had not taken Algebra II. Because of all these changes, the resulting test data for White River High School may be misleading.

Student learning data from the SBA is carefully analyzed to determine where coursework and unit plans  may need to be realigned to address student learning gaps. Because the SBA is heavily Algebra-based, we are working to change unit plans in Geometry to bring in the priority standards for Algebra and Algebra II.  This will serve to support sophomores who have not taken Algebra II before they take the SBA. In this realignment, we also are looking at SAT data and ensuring students have the content to be successful on the SAT.  As a school, we are using this data to target specific areas in unit plans. In addition, our instruction is guided by the use of Interim Block Assessments aligned to the SBA.

Standardized assessment is just one way to measure a school’s effectiveness. Our graduation rate, which is holding at about  93% for the last three years, demonstrates our commitment to student learning and success. Even a student who does not meet standard when tested in their sophomore year will generally be successful by end of their high school career because of the interventions and supports we provide.

With the implementation of Advanced Placement, AVID and CTE courses, our students show readiness for college and career.  The 280 students in the Class of 2018 earned more than 2.83 million dollars in scholarship money. Multiple certifications were awarded  through Precision Exams and our NATEF Certified Automotive Program, better preparing students for a career after high school.

WRHS is committed to preparing our students for success after high school. We use a variety of interventions and supports to meet their needs.  The analyzation and use of testing data is a key component of our work, and guides next steps. We are happy to address questions about this process.


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