Hickman High School

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

To know Hickman is to know the poem by former principal Eric Johnson titled “We Are Hickman” (A video performance of his poem can be found here).  In his poem, Dr. Johnson states, “We are imperfect and recognize that every day is a day to grow. We bring our shortcomings to the light and work hard to improve because that’s what separates the great schools from the good schools”.  This is the culture of Hickman High School.  Hickman has journeyed from a building that struggled with the idea of a collaborative team to a school that embraces collaboration, utilizes data-based decision making, and empowers students to be stewards of their learning.  We have accomplished this through our commitment to shared leadership.  Shared leadership has empowered teachers to lead the way in changing Hickman's structures and school culture. 

Hickman has gone through a process of putting practices into place to ensure the realization of our vision of functioning as an effective professional learning community (PLC).  We feel the following practices have contributed to our progress.

·       Develop and maintain a Leadership Council (LC), a teacher leadership team that helps make school wide decisions to promote a distributed and shared leadership approach. Such shared leadership has resulted in more authentic participation in school change

·       Revisit our mission, vision and collective commitments each year as an entire faculty to ensure our policies, practices, and actions align with our ideals and to make sure they mirror best practice about be a highly effective PLC. Mission, Vision, Collective Commitments

·       Establish an annual focus that guides our work each year in progressing as a PLC.

·       Create Hickman’s School Improvement Plan (SIP), which includes a collaboratively defined school wide SMART goal that focuses on student learning and uses data to determine how we intervene with students for remediation and enrichment.   School Improvement Plan

·       Restructure our bell schedule and reallocate FTE to develop an RtI model that supports student learning and a culture of collective ownership and responsibility predicated on the shared belief that all students can learn.  All members of the Hickman community are responsible for student learning and the resultant successes and failures are shared by everyone.

Hickman's focus on shared leadership is realized through an effective leadership team model centered around Leadership Council.  Our PLC team model has played a tremendous role in our progress towards becoming a highly effective PLC.  Leadership Council meets on a biweekly basis and adheres to the same culture of effective collaboration that are shared with our Professional Leadership Teams (PLTs). This common team culture includes, but is not limited to, following established norms, record keeping via Google Docs, and using the processes of dialogue and discussion in our decision making.   Shared leadership teams visual   

Two members from each leadership team are elected by that team to represent the team on Leadership Council. Additionally, LC includes two administrators, two department chairs, Director of Counseling, and two at-large members elected by the faculty.  LC and the other leadership teams have led the charge in provide targeted professional development (PD) for our teachers that supports student learning as the focus in the classroom.   Team visual with goals 

Ongoing training for teacher leaders and administrators through the state of Missouri Regional Professional Development Center (RPDC) introduced concepts and guided the professional learning at Hickman about such topics as assessment capable learners, Decision Making for Results (DMR), and grading practices.  Hickman teachers collaborate through monthly professional development sessions, called Faculty Dialogues, during their shared planning periods.  Faculty Dialogues are structured cross-disciplinary conversations which have recently focused on topics such as instructional practices (AVID/WICOR), DMR, Response to Intervention (RtI) tier one intervention strategies, grading practices, and Culturally Responsive Teaching.  Additionally, we monitor the impact of this collaborative process by gauging the level of implementation of the PD strategies in classes. The format we use is the PLT consultation process. We created a PLT rubric, adapted from Dufour's Seven Stages of Effective PLTs.  The PLT rubric is used by a department chair and LC member who work together to meet with each PLT and discuss their level of implementation of PLC practices to gauge PD needs and provide needed support.  DMR process, Dufour’s Seven Stages, and consultation rubric.         

We have used the PLC process to develop a building-wide RtI system that is responsible for greatly reducing the number of students failing courses in core disciplines.  In addition, the PLC process has helped us adopt universal grading practices and prepare for our transition to standards referenced grading.  We will continue to rely on the PLC process to help us on our journey to becoming a more equitable school for all our students.  Finally, the Hickman community understands that the PLC journey is never complete.  We are committed to a process of reflection, refinement, and continuous education relative to professional practices.  We are Hickman.



1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

“Accountability must be a reciprocal process. For every expectation we have of you to perform, we have an equal responsibility to provide you with the capacity to meet the expectation.”  Richard F. Elmore http://www.shankerinstitute.org/sites/shanker/files/Bridging_Gap.pdf


              Many people are motivated to choose education as their profession because they want to help students learn.  However, unless they continuously monitor student learning, teachers struggle to authentically gauge student success.    The Hickman Professional Learning Community (PLC) strongly believes that, “All kids are our kids.”  As such, every teacher has a role to play in supporting the learning of each student.  Since the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) first designated Hickman as an Exemplary Professional Learning Community School, we have restructured our Response to Intervention (RtI) system to be more intentional in how we provide Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions to our students.  Support teachers from Freshman Advisory, Sophomore Seminar, Study Halls, Focus Labs, and content tutors meet monthly in Super Advisory PLTs (commonly called SPLATS) to collaborate on how to best support students in their common support hour.  Hickman also provides teachers with bi-weekly D and F lists to regularly monitor student academic progress.  Additionally, Student Support and Data Teams are available to support teachers with analyzing specific information regarding student attendance data, socio-economic status (SES), and standardized reading and math exam scores.  This data analysis is then used by the SPLAT teachers to provide strategic, focused interventions as needed by individual students.  Hickman teachers also apply their Decision Making for Results (DMR) training about the DMR cycle by analyzing formative assessment data to provide specific feedback to students about their learning and what strategies could help them achieve their academic and behavioral goals.  Hickman’s recent technology transition to a one-to-one device school, motivated teachers to also focus on how to purposefully use technology to assist students in enriching their learning experience through online resources.  Our RTI model is constantly evaluated to ensure we are using our resources most efficiently to maximize gains in student learning.  Hickman teachers are consistently reflecting on what we do, why we do it that way, and how we could do it better to benefit students.  We understand education to be a recursive work in progress and the strength of our PLC makes that work intentional and more effective for all members of the Hickman leaning community.

Developing and maintaining high-performing Professional Learning Teams (PLTs) is what anchors the professional development (PD) that we do at Hickman High School.  However, we do more than provide time in the daily schedule for collaboration; we provide training to ensure teachers are using best practices.  At Hickman, we recognize that being an effective PLC is an ongoing process focused on learning for all and rooted in collaborative culture.  Therefore, we model Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) instructional strategies for writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading (WICOR) in all our professional development sessions.  Thus, when we provided PD about the DMR cycle, we illustrated how DMR connects to instruction, aimed at improved student achievement, through best instructional practices such as WICOR.  This PD deepened teachers’ understanding of the interconnections and applications of differentiated instruction, executive functioning, assessment capable learners, and metacognition which equipped teachers with strategies to support students and reach their PLT SMART goals.   Hickman’s collaborative culture provided teachers with a safe space for teachers to have challenging conversations about the meaning of grades.  These conversations resulted in a document titled, “This We Believe: A Guide for Instruction and Mark Reporting at Hickman High School”, detailing a set of collective commitments which serve as the foundation of learning, instruction, grading, and mark reporting at Hickman.  The process of creating this document and shifting to a growth mindset through PD allowed Hickman to tackle an important issue in researching and learning about Standards Referenced Grading (SRG).

During the 2018-2019 school year, Hickman focused our professional development on SRG as a process that presents all constituent groups, e.g., students, teachers, parents, administrators, etc., with regular authentic snapshots of individual student content mastery, gaps in learning, need for enrichment, and strategies to address those needs.  The diversity of our faculty was evident is the varied philosophies and levels of learning revealed during the early conversations about this topic.  In response to this reality, we chose to strategically design this PD to be differentiated by collaborative teams based on data from our annual spring PLT Consultation process.  PLT consultations are based on the core values of collaborative culture, what we want our students to know, how we assess where students are in their learning, and what responses are needed to support that learning.  Consultations began with each PLT using a modified version of the Dufour’s Seven Stages of Effective PLTs to evaluate where they currently are in each defined area.  This self-evaluation and the evaluation of the consultants revealed PLT groups at an assigned level of learning which, in turn, informed the differentiated PD designed to ensure that each PLT was provided with instruction to support the growth needed to reach their SMART goals. 



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

At Hickman, we believe that every student can be successful in both high school and the post-secondary world, when they are provided with to access appropriate supports.  Our philosophy is documented in our Guiding Principles which is based on Hickman teachers’ recognition that students learn differently and at different rates.  As a result, we no longer “punish” students whose path to content mastery may take more time and require additional instructional support than other students.   Instead, we reward students’ hard work, persistence, and product with multiple opportunities to demonstrate content mastery with RtI support.  Hickman teachers also decided to separate behavior from academic grades.  We know that behavior is a valuable part of the school experience but reporting behavior with academics can obscure what content/skills the students have mastered.  Behavior is now reported separately on a Citizenship and Employability Rubric (C & E Rubric), so all stakeholders know that students’ academic grades are based solely on their knowledge of course content.   Additionally, Hickman teachers have begun using report card data, that includes the effort and conduct marks based on the C & E Rubric, to inform a more holistic intervention approach to prescribe intervention for individual students.  Guiding Principles  and Citizenship and Employability Rubric.

Because student success is an integral part of the Hickman Culture, student participation in our Response to Intervention (RtI) process is required, not voluntary.  Freshmen are introduced to this culture of success in their required Freshman Advisory classes. Freshman Advisory teachers deliver collaboratively created instruction predicated on the Hickman shared values of tradition, integrity, diversity, and academic excellence (TIDE).  Advisory class is a shared Freshman experience where students develop habits for success, e.g., practicing executive functioning skills, regularly monitoring their grades with a support teacher, and recognizing their academic needs and self-advocating for support from classroom teachers.  Content tutors are available to students during Freshman Advisory class when they identify a need for additional support in a subject.  Teachers also identify students in need, based on their performance on formative assessments, and request they access tutoring for reteaching and enrichment.   




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


The heart of Hickman’s success as a highly effective Professional Learning Community (PLC) is evident in the strategic intentionality of our vision, professional development (PD), shared leadership model, and continuous monitoring, with differentiated support, of Professional Learning Teams (PLTs).  We monitor the impact of this collaborative process by gauging the level of implementation of the PD strategies in classes. The format we use is the PLT consultation process. We created a PLT rubric, adapted from Dufour's Seven Stages of Effective PLTs.  The PLT rubric is used by a department chair and LC member who work together to meet with each PLT and discuss their level of implementation of PLC practices to gauge PD needs and provide needed support.  

Strong PLTs are an essential component of a highly effective PLC.  In 2013, the Columbia Public School District implemented a major district-wide secondary reorganization plan.  That reorganization presented Hickman with major transitions and challenges as we restructured from a grades 10-12 high school with a seven-period day to a grades 9-12 high school on a block schedule, with one-third of our classroom teachers being new to the building. Along with the obvious challenges, this secondary reorganization offered Hickman great opportunities to learn and grow. The addition of a grade level and so many new teachers to Hickman necessitated the creation of new PLTs.  So, we decided to “go back to the basics” of the PLC process to ensure that all our faculty understood what it meant to be part of the Hickman PLC. 

              We started with the Dufour model of Seven Stages of Effective PLTs rubric to develop PD our monthly interdisciplinary PLT Faculty Dialogues to share research, establish a common vocabulary that ensured we spoke the same language, and used that shared terminology to provide each PLT with tools for effective collaboration. Hickman’s current PLTs use this same toolbox to monitor and track their own development. As a PLC, Hickman revisited essential measurable learning objectives, practiced how to unpack content standards, dialogued about assessment strategies, and taught teachers to utilize Dufour’s four corollary questions to design intentional instruction, common assessments, and strategic intervention to develop assessment capable learners. PLTs have weekly collaboration time embedded in the school day to translate PD best professional practices. Each PLT establishes group norms and uses collaboration time to analyze data and discuss intervention strategies for members of the PLT to implement with students. Providing dedicated PLT time in our schedule has provided an avenue for team members to feel comfortable being vulnerable with their data and trust the expertise of their colleagues as they work to serve the needs of all students.

During the 2014-2015 school year, Hickman focused our building-level PD on introducing the Decision Making for Results (DMR) process and Response to Intervention (RtI) strategies with the expectation that teachers and administrators would more effectively use data and intentional intervention to support student achievement.   Providing teachers with training in the DMR process allowed them to analyze, understand, and use student formative assessment data with true purpose and confidence about the needs of individual students.  All Hickman PLTs now use student data as an essential part of their collaborative process.  Continued training and practice with DMR and RtI have yielded great results for our PLTs and Hickman’s students.  We have learned that PLTs face challenges with annual changes in personnel and differing levels of PD expertise among the members.  Recognizing this reality for PLTs, Hickman is dedicated to ongoing PD support that provides a safe space for PLTs to incorporate new learning and members with appropriate levels of support that is an essential part of our collaboration model. 


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Reflecting on Hickman’s data there are reasons to celebrate success and address areas requiring further strategic intervention.   Hickman students’ performance on the Missouri End of Course (EOC) exams for Biology, Government, and English exceed the state averages for those exams; whereas Hickman’s student scores for the End of Course (EOC) exams for Algebra 1 and 2 fell below the state averages for those exams.  Rather than determine possible inferences about our EOC score fluctuations from one set of data, our process involves collaborative data analysis and conversations about how the Hickman community can collectively respond to student achievement challenges.

              For the past decade, Hickman has strived to become a highly effective Professional Learning Community (PLC).  Evidence that our school values collaboration is clear in that 88% of Hickman teachers responded, when surveyed, that they believe collaboration improves the educational opportunities and experiences both students and educators.  We believe in collaboration, so we ensure that our collaboration is strategic, effective, and predicated on research and data analysis through our cross-disciplinary monthly Faculty Dialogues and Professional Learning Teams (PLTs).  To improve this process, we have provided professional development for teachers on the importance and power of common instruction and assessments.  We engaged in building wide training on the Decision Making for Results (DMR) process and then turned our attention to strategic data collection and analysis.  The next step was to develop school-wide grading practices that focused on student learning rather than student behavior.  As a result, teachers reflected on their instructional strategies and assessment methodologies which prompted extensive conversations about determining our prioritized standards and what a grade means.   

Hickman is now differentiating between an academic grade as based on curriculum standards and a non-academic grade that is based on behavior.  Both grades are used to prescribe an appropriate Response to Intervention (RtI) strategy for individual students.  This work has informed, and will continue to inform, Hickman’s evolution as a highly effective PLC, evident, in part, through our efforts to improve student achievement and high-level performance on state and national exams.  An example of this process is reflected in our Algebra 1 EOC scores.  Hickman’s Algebra 1 team is fully engaged in the principles of PLC, RtI, and DMR.  In response to student data, the Algebra 1 PLT developed an RtI system that focuses on gaps in learning based on objectives.  In addition, the PLT created a tier 3 intervention model to help students who exhibit severe gaps in learning and consistently uses data from common formative and summative assessments for instructional decision making. Such strategic PLT efforts have substantially contributed to a 14-point increase in Algebra 1 EOC exam scores.

As a PLC, the Hickman faculty is continuously refining an academic delivery model aimed at college and career readiness for all students.  The collaborative work of the Hickman PLC is reflected in student achievement on nationally standardized ACT exam scores, decreased dropout rates and increased graduation rates over time.  Hickman students’ ACT scores have historically been higher than both state and national average scores on that exam.  Hickman students have responded to intentional changes in instruction, assessment, grading, and school culture through their willingness to remain in school and an increased persistence to graduation.  ACT, dropout, and graduation data

While Hickman’s data show some sustained or improved performance over time.  We recognize that student achievement can fluctuate, and best instructional/assessment practices require ongoing analysis and adjustment.  The Hickman PLC story is therefore not one of sustained success in all areas; but, rather a school culture that embraces data, is aware of shortcomings, collaborates on a plan of action, and is willing to address every challenge to support student achievement and prepare students for the varied opportunities in the post-secondary world. 




·      2016 Exemplary Professional Learning Communities School

·      2019 Sustaining Exemplary Professional Learning Communities School

Awarded to David H. Hickman High School by the State of Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)


·      2019 Missouri Municipal League Innovation Award

Awarded to David H. Hickman High School for work partnering with the City of Columbia, Missouri on high school dropout prevention


·       1993 Missouri Gold Star School

David H. Hickman High School was recognized by DESE for performing at a high level academically


·      1995-96, 1984-85 National Blue Ribbon School

Awarded to David H. Hickman High School by the U.S. Department of Education for demonstrated academic excellence


·      Other awards and recognitions are identified on the following sites:     

Hickman High School website: https://www.cpsk12.org/hhs

Hickman High School Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_H._Hickman_High_School