Vista del Lago HS (2023)

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

Our PLC Journey

In January 2015, 12 members from various Vista departments attended a two-day workshop about PLCs with Rick Dufour.  The Vista teachers who attended felt strongly that PLCs were the way forward for Vista (and all) students.  Returning from the workshop, this group of passionate educators presented to the rest of the teachers and from there, with district support, our journey began. 

Since Vista opened its doors in 2007, the school has been known as a highly academic and rigorous school.  With high test scores and low discipline, the school had a great reputation.  But the reflective staff at Vista knew that not all students were learning at high levels.  Our team sought a different approach that would ensure ALL students were achieving in our school.

Our PLC journey began with building our leadership team/guiding coalition.  Our department chairs became department instructional leaders. The role was redefined to focus on setting a high bar for classroom instruction instead of more traditional department management. 

Then, we set out to establish a strong foundation, including updating our mission and vision statements as well as developing collective commitments and SMART goals.  We began to shift our culture from “my students” to “our students”.  Professional learning became the task for our faculty and collaboration meetings.  We became a community of learners, building a shared understanding of equitable grading practices, essential standards, learning targets, and assessments.

During the 2015-16 school year, we were making great progress on the implementation of PLCs across the campus.  Our team studied RTI and how to best support students who were not achieving.  We established a team to explore adding intervention into everyday practice.  The team researched best practices and visited neighboring schools that had tier 2 academic intervention embedded into the school day.  

In the fall of 2017, our school changed its schedule to include tier 2 intervention.  The program, FlexTime, created opportunities for 35 minutes of both intervention and enrichment three times per week.  The number of students receiving at least one D or F in the 1st semester of that school year fell to 15.9% from 18.8% the previous year and further decreased to 12.2% in the 2018-19 school year.    

Like most schools across the country, the pandemic challenged our school community and took us back a few steps.  Our team has recommitted to our purpose of supporting high levels of learning for all, and we continue to make progress in our work as a Professional Learning Community. 

Facilitating A Culture of Continuous Improvement

Vista’s culture has always focused on reflective practice as a means for continuous improvement.  A key aspect of this culture is using data to inform decisions, create goals, and monitor progress.  Both qualitative and quantitative data are important considerations for our staff and leadership team as we continue to work towards our mission of ensuring high levels of learning for all students at Vista del Lago.

For the past decade, Vista del Lago has prioritized time and funding to support continuous improvement.  Prior to our school becoming a formal Professional Learning Community, the staff and leadership engaged in professional development on the topics of grading, retakes, and redos.  Our staff read articles about best practices in this area, and then we came together during collaboration time to discuss these articles and learn from each other.  Teachers volunteered to engage in exploration in their classrooms around these topics and then bring their data back for discussion and continued learning.  While we didn’t call it anything specific at the time, we were engaged in the critical elements of a PLC.  

We moved towards a Focus on Learning, A Collaborative Culture and Collective Responsibility, and a Results Orientation.  From there, our staff began to deconstruct and determine essential standards as a team.  We designed learning targets and eventually common summative and formative assessments.  Our collaboration time shifted to focusing on the four critical questions: what we want all students to know and be able to learn before they leave our classrooms; how will we know if they learned it; what will we do if they don’t; and what will we do if they do.  This work helped to guide our culture of continuous learning, both for our students and our teachers.   The staff of Vista del Lago recognizes that becoming a model PLC is a process and not a destination.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Creating and Implementing a Guaranteed & Viable Curriculum

Teachers at Vista del Lago are provided with approximately 90 minutes of collaboration time three out of four Wednesdays a month.  During this time, teams engage in the four critical questions that drive our PLC work:

  1. What do we want all students to know or be able to do?
  2. How will we know if each student has learned it?
  3. What will we do when a student has learned it?
  4. What will we do if a student demonstrates proficiency to extend learning?

Through the process of addressing these four critical questions, our teachers work on identifying and revising essential standards, constructing learning targets, and creating both summative and formative common assessments.  Additionally, teachers utilize this time to analyze data from the common assessments, determine plans for intervention, and make necessary adjustments to instruction.

Our staff spent several years using collaboration to clarify what we want all students to know and be able to do and then developing our assessments to monitor progress.  As described previously, in the fall of 2016, we established an intervention team to explore options for providing tier 2 academic intervention to students who did not respond to initial classroom instruction.  During the spring of 2017, our intervention team visited other school sites implementing a tier 2 academic intervention.  The team returned from the visit, developed a plan for Vista, and presented their plan to staff.  Through this work, we were able to implement Vista’s FlexTime in the 2017-18 school year.  FlexTime has proven to be a game changer for our staff and students, providing focused tier 2 academic intervention and enrichment.

Monitoring Student Learning on a Timely Basis 

The staff at Vista del Lago have received professional development on assessment practices and measuring their impact on student learning.  Through a variety of formal and informal assessment processes, teachers frequently monitor students' progress toward mastery and engage students in reflecting on their learning.  Based on the results of assessments, teachers adjust instruction or provide students with necessary intervention.

Beyond teachers' regular and timely monitoring of student learning in the classroom, our team also has larger systems in place to support students needing additional support.  Our admin and counseling team meets after every progress grading period to identify students who may be struggling and in need of additional academic, behavioral, and/or emotional support.  In addition to monitoring grades to identify students in need of additional support, attendance and behaviors are also closely watched.  Teachers are asked to also monitor students and alert our team to any concerns using our Vista Teacher Concern Form. 


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

Vista del Lago has created a schoolwide system of interventions to provide students with the additional time and support they may need to be successful.  Teachers are provided with professional development and work in their PLC teams to develop appropriate tier 1 intervention strategies to best support students in their classrooms.  When students are not successful with first instruction and classroom-based tier 1 intervention strategies, tier 2 supports are provided through our FlexTime program.  

Vista del Lago’s FlexTime program is designed to ensure that every student receives the additional time and support necessary for academic success. FlexTime provides students with 36 minutes, 3 times a week for support to learn grade-level content.  Vista's unique bell schedule is designed to allow students more opportunities to receive support, enrichment, and other learning opportunities during the school day.

Academic intervention occurs during the school day, and students are required rather than invited to devote the extra time and utilize the extra support necessary to gain the essential knowledge and skills imperative for content mastery.  Students that do not require intervention will have the opportunity to participate in virtual enrichment activities, collaborate with teachers on current course work, or access other services provided by staff and community (e.g. club meetings, guest speakers, etc. . .). 

Occasionally students may need additional time and support beyond what students receive in the classroom and through FlexTime.  Students significantly below grade level necessitating additional support are placed into our foundational level courses for math and English.  These courses provide students with time to work on foundational skills as well as grade-level standards.  Because of Vista’s unique 4x4 schedule, these students are able to take the foundations level course in the fall and then the appropriate grade level course in the spring term. This model of intensive interventions has proven to be valuable for our students with more significant needs.


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

Vista del Lago teachers are provided with approximately 90 minutes of collaboration time each week to identify essential standards, develop learning targets, create common formative and summative assessments, analyze data, and coordinate FlexTime supports and extensions.  Teachers also utilize this time to share best practices and truly learn from each other as professionals.  The graphic below outlines our process to achieving our mission of ensuring high levels of learning (grade level or above) for all students.

Over the past 8 years, our staff has received extensive professional development in the area of assessment practices and PLCs.  Nearly every year a team of teachers is sent to Solution Tree events to increase our collective understanding of Professional Learning Communities.  These trainings include the Professional Learning Communities at Work Institute, RTI at Work Institute, and Grading from the Inside Out.  Through these ongoing professional development opportunities, our teams continue to reflect and revise on a continual basis.

While each department and PLC team is in a different place in their PLC journey, our overall structure provides clear guidelines to support this work.  During collaboration time, the expectation is that all teams are working on one or more of the four essential questions of a PLC.  Teams are held accountable by providing their meeting notes to ensure the vast majority of meeting time is spent using these essential questions to drive our work.


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Reflection and continuous improvement are built into Vista’s culture.  The staff regularly analyzes available data.  The attached Fall 2022 Data Analysis document is a sample of what our staff receives and reviews every fall.  After a review of the available data and examination of the district LCAP, the staff collaborates to create school-wide goals.  Each department then creates department-level (and PLC team-level) goals to support the larger school-wide targets.  These annual school, department, and PLC team goals are reviewed by the leadership team and, along with our WASC Action Plan, combine to become part of our School Plan for Student Achievement.

While access to CAASPP data was limited over the past few years, our staff has continued to review AP scores, D & F rates, and numerous other local formative and summative assessment data to identify areas of strength and deficiencies.  Two key measures Vista has used in the absence of CAASPP data to evaluate student achievement and program effectiveness are the A-G completion rates and our schoolwide D & F data.  Our school-wide D & F data helped lead us to create our Flextime program, and the data demonstrates the positive impact it has had on student achievement.  Post Covid, we are using this data to help us monitor the effectiveness of our in-class and Flextime interventions and to ensure equity between synonymous courses. 

Our PLC work and implementation of FlexTime coincided with a reduction in D/Fs overall as well as a reduction in students with multiple D/F grades.  Prior to the implementation of FlexTime (2016-17), our total % of students receiving at least 1 D or F was 18.8% and the percentage of students with multiple D’s & F’s was 8%.   In the fall of 2022, that number dropped to 9.6% and 2.7%, respectively.  

Beyond reductions in our D’s & F’s, another highlight for our staff has been the continued growth we experience in our A-G completion data.  At the end of the 2017-18 school year, 62.6% of graduating students met the A-G criteria.  For 2021-22, 78.6% of our graduates met A-G requirements.  While all students are not expected to attend college, completing these standards is used as a measure of a student’s overall readiness for any post-high school pursuit.


2022 FCUSD Teacher of the Year

2022 FCUSD Special Education Administrator of the Year

2022 NorCal STEM Education Best in Energy - High School

2022 Perfect Score AP Computer Science

2021 California Distinguished School Award

2021 Sacramento County Academic Decathlon Champions

2021 AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award

2020 Virtual Forestry Challenge First Place

2018-19 ACSA Administrator of the Year

2017 Sacramento County Office of Education Principal Arts Leadership Award

2017 Gold Ribbon School

National Merit Scholarship Winners

AP Scholar Awards - 235 Total Scholars in 2022 (85 AP Scholars, 33 AP Scholars with Honor, 117 AP Scholars with Distinction)