Sunrise Ridge Intermediate School

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

Sunrise Ridge Intermediate School was established based on the principles of professional learning communities.  Over the past ten years as our demographics have changed and students’ needs have changed, we have relied on the four essential questions to guide us in our response. These questions have been the foundation of our school culture, structures and processes.  Our flagship program has been Thunderbolt Time.  This flexible time was implemented to provide additional time and support for struggling learners.  However, we wanted the students who didn't need interventions to still have the opportunity to participate in a valuable educational activity.  Our teachers have tapped into the standards in core and non core subjects and personal passions that were shared by teachers and students alike to create an impressive extension program.  Some of the courses offered as extensions include such things as engineering, sculpture, American Sign Language, archery, learning to play the ukelele, graphic novel design, introduction to Chinese, spray paint art, and transportation technology.  Students and parents love Thunderbolt Time and survey results indicate this time set aside for students helps not only students who struggle, but also motivates students to work hard in their classes.  Whether identifying essential standards, analyzing data from common formative assessments, or implementing interventions and extensions, the collaborative teams respond with a focus on doing what's best for kids.  

What do we want the students to learn?

Each team has identified the guaranteed and viable curriculum or those standards that are critical for our students to learn in each content area.  Teams have also developed learning targets under each GVC.  In addition, teams have identified proficiency levels for each GVC that align with our grading system. 

How will we know if they learned it?

We have developed a school wide assessment plan including both formative and summative assessments.  Teams have identified common formative assessments that align with the GVC.  Many of those assessments are broken down by learning targets, so that teachers are aware of which students are proficient or not proficient on a particular target. 

What will we do if they don’t learn?

We have implemented a school wide Intervention and Extension program (Thunderbolt Time), which is part of our regular school day.  This program provides additional support and time for students who are not proficient on our essential standards.  It also provides extension courses for students who do demonstrate proficiency. 

What will we respond when they do learn?

Some of our students have been identified as high ability learners.  Many of them are placed in a high ability classroom where they can move through the GVC more quickly and then go deeper in the content.  Other students who demonstrate proficiency on assessments go to a weeklong enrichment activity.   

The use of technology has also contributed to effective collaboration.  In addition to using technology in instruction, teachers collect data from common formative assessments and use that data to make decisions about student instruction.  We have a Data Coach who is working with the teams on organizing student data into formats that are teacher-friendly and focused on student learning.  All core teams have a common prep, with the exception of Language Arts 6, and are given summer collaboration time to develop their curriculum and assessments.    

At a recent seminar Mike Mattos asked this question, “Does everyone in your school know what happens when a student doesn’t learn?”  This question has caused a change in how we allocate our resources.  Everyone at the school helps out during our school wide Intervention and Extension program.  Custodians, paraprofessionals, media specialists all have a part to play in ensuring high levels of learning for every student.

We have also recognized the importance of social and emotional learning.  Our RTI pyramid identifies interventions for students who struggle academically, as well as those students for whom behavior, attendance or social/emotional issues are a barrier to learning. Next year, we will implement a Wellness Room to help students with self-regulation as part of our ongoing school improvement plan.

We have discovered two essential realities about becoming a Professional Learning Community.  One is that this truly is a journey.  Some years, our students do not do as well on state wide assessments.  Our solution is to go back to the basics of professional learning communities and identify where we can improve.  For instance, we are tight about teams taking collective reponsibility for student learning; frequently monitoring student learning through formative assessments; and engaging in conversations about which teaching practices elicited the best results.  Over the years, we have become better at focusing on the right things and being tight about some aspects of collaboration and loose about other aspects.  The second important reality is that Professional Learning Community teams look slightly different depending on the curricular area.  Our Physical Education Department and Fine Arts Department have developed teams that look slightly different than Language Arts or Science, but all teams focus on the four essential questions. 

Our proficiency test scores, although consistently higher than the state average, have fluctuated from year to year.  As we have looked at why that is happening, we recognize that a number of factors may influence proficiency.  For instance, one year one of our Math 7 teachers was in a serious car accident and unable to return to school for the year.  Our scores dropped significantly that year because we were unable to find a suitable substitute teacher for his classes.  However, we don’t want to make excuses.  We have worked to identify what we can control and have asked our teams to set a goal for student growth; describe what students need to be able to do to achieve higher growth scores; and what teacher behaviors will elicit those behaviors to reach the goal.  Then we have monitored that plan through monthly team meetings with administration. We feel like our student growth scores are the best indication of our progress as a professional learning community.   We continue to survey staff, parents and students and receive overall positive feedback about our focus on learning and the support we provide our students.  As an administrator, I recognize the value in having the four essential questions as the structural foundation of our school.  As we have developed STEM opportunities for our students; expanded our Fine Arts program; incorporated social and emotional learning; implemented more opportunities for high ability learners; and other initiatives, we are able to tie everything back to the foundational questions.  Working in collaborative teams has enabled us to harness the collective strengths of everyone in the building to achieve our purpose of "ensuring high levels of learning for every student."


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

We monitor student learning by first of all identifying the guaranteed and viable curriculum (GVC) that all students should learn and the common formative assessment for each GVC.  The process for identifying GVC has been fairly comprehensive over the past four years.  First, individual teams carefully examined the Utah State Core standards.  From those standards, they identified the most critical skills and knowledge based on endurance, readiness and leverage.  We ask these questions:

Endurance-Does the GVC standard provide students with knowledge/skills beyond the unit of study?

Readiness-Does the GVC standard provide students with knowledge/skills needed in the next course/grade level?

Leverage-Does the GVC standard provide students with knowledge/skills that will assist them in other disciplines?

Then our teams met with district level teams and came to a consensus on the GVC for all 6th and 7th graders in the district.  Before meeting with the district teams, teams at Sunrise Ridge also identified Learning Targets under each GVC.  In addition, they aligned proficiency levels for each GVC with our grading system.  The GVC and Learning Targets, along with the common formative assessments now become the major units of study. 

As of this year, the district worked with teams of teachers from all of the different schools and identified Learning Targets for each grade level.  In the fall of this year, we compared our GVC and Learning Targets with those identified by the district, making sure that our Learning Targets align with the district and state standards and objectives.  I should note that the GVC and Learning Targets have been refined each year.  We continue to look at those during our summer collaboration days, especially when new teachers come on board, to make sure we are clear about each GVC and that the major focus of our instruction is on GVC. 

We also work with our Special Education teachers to ensure that students with disabilities have access to grade level GVC and Learning Targets.

All of our teams have worked with our data coach to develop a method for data collection on common formative assessments.  For teams who have broken their assessments down into learning targets, data is collected for each learning target.  Many teams offer an immediate intervention right after an assessment is given.  Students who need additional time and support attend an intervention taught by the team member who was most successful in teaching that particular learning target.  Students who are already proficient will attend a weeklong extension course.  Other students are offered learning activities to solidify their learning. 

Ten times during the year, we offer a Thunderbolt Time session.  These sessions are two weeks long.  Students attend either an intervention or extension based on test results.  During these sessions, we focus on the guaranteed and viable curriculum, or those standards that are essential for each curricular area.  At the conclusion of the intervention, students are assessed to see if they are proficient on the standard.  These results are entered on the data sheet to monitor student growth.  

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

We have developed systems of support for both academic achievement and student behavior.  The systems of support are broken down into three tiers.  The tiers represent successively higher levels of support offered to fewer students as we work from Tier 1 to Tier 3.  Prior to each school year beginning, we offer universal screening to all students in reading and math.  We also meet with our elementary feeder schools to identify students who will need extensive academic or behavior support. 

Tier 1 represents a level of support that is offered to all students in the school. 

All teams have identified guaranteed and viable curriculum; learning targets; common formative assessments; and proficiency levels.    

Many of our teams identify students who are not proficient after a common formative assessment and implement a team intervention prior to Thunderbolt Time.  For instance, students who excel will attend a week long extension.  Students who struggle will attend a week long intervention.  Other students will receive instruction based on their needs.  Teachers identify who should teach each area based on the results of the testing.

Tier 2 interventions and extensions are primarily offered through our flex time called Thunderbolt Time. 

Students are identified as needing additional time and support by collaborative teams based on the results of common formative assessments. Teams stamp students for interventions, which are skill specific and taught three days of week during Thunderbolt Time.  Other students who are not stamped attend an extension.  Extensions are tied to GVC and represent a variety of offerings to meet the needs of middle level students.  Samples of extensions include: beginning Mandarin Chinese; archery; robotics; coding; engineering; current events; sculpting; animation, etc.  

Tier 3 – identified by Academic Intervention Team

 We offer Tier 3 interventions in the following areas:

1.      Reading – ELL/Read 180

2.      Writing – ELL

3.      Mathematics – Math Enhancement

4.      Executive Function –  Learning Center 

 Behavior Interventions: 

For Tier 1, a positive behavior intervention system (PBIS) is well established at our school  We have developed and are piloting school wide instruction on social and emotional health.  We monitor student behaviors separate from our academic grading system through an "effort stars" system.  Tier 2 interventions include a hybrid wellness room; groups taught by our counselors; and restorative practices.  Tier 3 interventions include extensive parental involvement and accessing outside resources.  Our entire staff has received training on the affects of childhood trauma on children.  The foundation of all of our behavior interventions is building positive relationships with students.  In addition, each tier has a method for collecting data, so that decisions are made based on data and not emotion and can be targeted to meet students’ needs. 

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

The development of strong collaborative teams is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of becoming a professional learning community.  Our most effective teams do a number of things really well.  First, they develop norms for collaboration and utilize those norms in their weekly meetings.  They hold team members accountable for following the norms.  Second, they focus on identifying what students should learn and how they will know if students have learned it.  Everyone on the team knows what proficiency looks like for that particular standard.  For instance, our Language Arts teams work together to make sure they are consistent in how they use rubrics to grade student writing.  They have also identified anchor papers.  Third, they use their data to make decisions about student learning.  This year we met with each team and looked closely at student growth data.  Each team set a goal to increase student growth.  Throughout the year, we have monitored those goals and progress in weekly team meetings.  Fourth, they have developed collegial relationships with each other.  They are supportive of each other and share the workload. 

Another factor that has strengthened our collaborative teams is that administration provides resources that support the PLC process.  All core teams have common prep periods, so they are able to meet weekly throughout the year.  They are also given summer collaboration days.  This is when most of the heavy lifting for curriculum planning occurs.  If they request technology, online programs, additional books, etc., we look for ways to meet their needs. 

We have also focused on how we teach.  Teachers are incorporating a number of strategies and methodology aligned with the research done by John Hattie, Robert Marzano and other educational experts.  Teacher clarity; building positive student relationships; student efficacy; and growth mindset are all principles that form a foundation for instruction. For instance, many of our core teams have developed a unit overview sheet based on the work of William Ferriter.  Students know exactly what the learning expectations are; receive support throughout the learning process; and have an opportunity to provide evidence of their learning.  We are in the early stages of implementing unit overview sheets, but are committed to this strategy for increasing student efficacy. 

Our Learning Coach assists individual teachers and teams with implementing best practices as part of our instructional model.  Our Data Learning Coach also assists teachers and teams with using technology effectively as an instructional tool.  Many of our teachers utilize the SAMR model to evaluate technology resources.  In addition, both our Learning Coach and Digital Learning Coach provide professional development to our staff.  For instance, the Digital Learning Coach will set up a video camera to video a teacher in action.  The Learning Coach will then sit down and view that video with a teacher to develop a plan for improving classroom instruction. 

Our Data Coach provides each individual teacher with a printout of their results in proficiency and student growth on the end of year assessments.  They also provide teams with data that compares our school with other schools in the district and the state.  When we meet with teams, we analyze that data, focusing particularly on student growth.  The Data Coach also provides data based on student absences, students’ grades, and at risk students.  Our Academic Intervention Team and Behavior Intervention Team use the data prepared by the Data Coach to determine interventions for students.  The Academic Intervention Team and Behavior Intervention Team meet every other week with administration, counselors, the school psychologist and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to determine Tier 2 and/or Tier 3 interventions for students.  All of these specialty coaches support the work of the teams.  As a school, we are united in “ensuring high levels of learning for every student”.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

First tab: Students with disabilities growth scores as compared to Washington County School District.  

Second tab: Students with high rates of mobility as compared to the district and the state.   

Third tab:  6th grade growth scores compared to the district.    

Fourth tab:  7th grade growth scores compared to the district.    

Our proficiency levels have been inconsistent in some areas over the past few years, although we are still above the state average.  We have experienced high growth (over our school capacity by 300 students this year) and our demographics are changing with an increase in low income students.  

Also note that our state changed the science curriculum and assessment for the 17-18 school year.  We show a decrease in test scores during that year, but the decrease was state wide. 

We have been concerned about growth scores in two areas:  Language Arts 7 and Science 7.  We have met with both of these teams, and they have identified the subgroups with the lowest student growth scores.  We then set the following SMART goals with some specific changes they are making in their instruction to help reach the goals.  

Language Arts 7:  We will increase student growth for our economically disadvantaged students from 36.5 to 45 for the 2019-2020 school year as measured by the state end of level assessments. 

Changes to instruction: 

1.  Shared clarity on essential standards and learning targets.

2.  Implementation of discussion strategies at DOK levels 3 & 4.

3.  Implementation of a variety of strategies to encourage and track independent reading.  

Science 7:  We will increase student growth for our male students from 32 to 45 for the 2019-2020 school year as measured by the state end of level assessments. 

Changes to instruction:

1.  Shared clarity on essential standards and learning targets.  

2.  Work with the district literacy specialist to incorporate reading comprehension strategies related to nonfiction reading, especially charts and graphs.

3.  Incorporate more hands on activities, online simulations, demonstrations and projects to engage boys in science.  

PLC Model School 12-13

Middle School Principal of the Year for the state of Utah 2014

School Grade A





Current standings as compared to all similar schools in the state of Utah

7th in Language Arts

8th in Mathematics

10th in Science