Northside High School

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

     Northside High School is a school of over 1,800 students. We have an English Language Learners Population of 36%, and over 80% of our students receive free and/or reduced lunch- making us a Title 1 School. We are the most diverse high school in the state. Despite these challenges, we continue to show growth in all core areas, have increased our graduation rate from 82% to 91% in five years, and our student enrollment has increased by approximately 300 students since 2014. Our district has two high schools and allows school choice, and more families are choosing Northside High School. We attribute these positive changes to our ever improving school culture. We have passionate teachers and students who want to challenge themselves to rise above circumstances and excuses. This desire has been supported by the PLC process. 

     The PLC journey for Northside High School began over ten years ago. At that time, a group of teachers were sent to a PLC at Work conference and the RTI at Work conference. Teachers came back excited and ready to implement what they had learned. Unfortunately, the principal that helped spark this excitement by allowing teachers the opportunity to attend these conferences left after only one year and the tenants of the Professional Learning Community at Work process had not been formalized.  The next principal’s tenure at Northside was six years. During these six years a few things began to change. Some teachers had the basic knowledge of Professional Learning Communities and some positive changes began to happen. One was common planning time for core subjects. This was their collaborative team time. During the Spring of 2017, the next change happened…Huddle. Huddle was a 30-minute period that happened three days a week where students were invited to attend sessions with their teacher to make up work, get extra help, as well as attend clubs or other activities. During this time, the problem of “curriculum chaos” was noted across content areas. School leadership did not believe it was equitable to have different learning expectations and essentials depending on who taught the course.  As a solution to this issue, the 10th Grade English and Math teachers as well as the 10th/11th Grade Social Studies teachers spent time in the summer developing a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students. The curriculum that was developed was based on priority standards, and teachers began to teach using common pacing and assessments in the fall of 2017. 

     During the past three years Northside has changed from a “PLC Lite” school to a true Professional Learning Community.  The first step in our journey as a real PLC was the creation of a Guiding Coalition. The guiding coalition was selected by administration based upon their leadership capacity, not their formal title within the school.  With the guidance of new administration and a strong guiding coalition with members from an array of departments, Northside now understands that a PLC is not just a meeting, but it is the way that we do business to support learning in our school.

     Today, Northside High School continues to have common planning time for teachers but instead of solely looking at data as a whole, teachers are now looking at data student by student and skill by skill based on priority content standards. Teachers across core content areas have developed and use common formative assessments, are able to discuss and reflect on data from these assessments, and assign students to RTI or enrichment times based on student need. In addition, teachers have shifted their thinking from “my” kids to “our” kids and share students during intervention/enrichment time in order to best address student and skill needs. Last fall, our guiding coalition began the process of revisiting our mission and vision. Each member of the guiding coalition worked to re-teach small groups of teachers on the foundation of the PLC model from “Learning by Doing” and the mission and vision were developed. Students and parents were included in this process and given the opportunity to comment and provide feedback on the mission and vision. After each pillar was written, the guiding coalition reached out to all stakeholders for consensus. The same process was done for collective commitments and school goals. During the spring of 2019, the guiding coalition attended a six-day Coaching Academy (throughout the semester) with Tim Brown from Solution Tree. This helped solidify the coalition and gave them the skills they needed to work with stakeholders as they developed what we now call our Northside Foundation (our mission, vision, collective commitments and school goals). In addition, Jack Baldermann worked with the guiding coalition for two days last summer on SMART goals and planning the next steps for Northside for the 2019-20 school year. All departments and content areas then created SMART goals to support one of the school SMART goals. The progress of these goals have been visited throughout this semester, and will continue to be throughout the year. The culture at Northside has improved in a positive direction over the past three years. Teachers are collaborating during their weekly team time, but they are also collaborating with their students. In 2018, teachers and students began having individual data meetings using student progress on district and state assessments as well as classroom performance to set goals for improvement.  We found this to be impactful for both teachers and students because not only did teachers realize that students really wanted to know about their test performance and how they could improve, but students began asking questions and taking an active interest in their progress. 

We have two big goals at Northside: 

1. To be an “A” school as defined by the state of Arkansas.

2. To be a PLC Model school. 

     Our students and staff believe this will happen. Last year we changed our “Huddle” time to “WIN (What I Need)” time and made this a priority remediation or enrichment time instead of an “invitation” time where students could choose to participate or not. As part of our rebranding effort from Huddle to WIN, we created a hashtag #winningatnhs. We began telling our students from the first day of school that we are winners at Northside in academics as well as extracurricular activities and that we are going to be an A school. This has become more than a belief...it has become part of our culture. Each day we become a strong Professional Learning Community and closer to meeting our goals! We take time to celebrate small and large successes openly with our students, faculty, staff, and community.

     This fall we have begun refocusing on our math and English departments and revisiting our guaranteed curriculum. Initially, the creation of common curriculum in these departments was created by only a handful of teachers. Realizing this was not best PLC practice, all teachers have now contributed to enhancing the foundation of the curriculum in order to have ownership and see the value in planning, assessing, and reflecting as a team. We have brought in two Solution Tree specialists that have spent time with each department to focus on curriculum and assessment. In addition, we are continuing to work with Jack Baldermann, David LaRose, and Steve Pearce throughout the 2019-20 school year. 

     We continue to look at ways to improve WIN time. As stated earlier, WIN has changed not only in name but also in importance for both students and teachers. Students are now expected to attend and are held accountable for attendance. Teachers assign students based on need and skills. We know that more can be done to make this time more successful for our students. We are piloting peer tutoring and other enrichment programs during this time, including our first Student Voice team. We have also increased WIN to five days a week this year. One day is for advisory and four days are for remediation and/or enrichment. Advisory now includes directed activities to support the social emotional needs of students, as well as long-term planning for students post high-school. We have changed to priority days based on subject areas to allow students to focus on the needed subject instead of having to choose one over the other. In addition to remediation and enrichment, school counselors are using the time to invite colleges to campus, conduct small groups and career sessions as part of enrichment options for students.

     As part of our culture for improvement, our staff collaborates with departments across the district to share ideas, especially subjects that may be singletons. As a way to foster this improvement, next year both high schools in the district will be on the same bell schedule and have agreed to align their core planning periods so that singleton subjects would be able to plan and collaborate with their peers from the other school. 

     Northside High School is a high poverty school (80%), yet we as a school have never allowed that to be an excuse.  The PLC process has been integral in improving our overall school culture and improved student learning results. We believe that by Northside High School achieving the Model PLC School designation, we can be a leading example for how a school with challenging demographics can utilize the PLC process to produce results with no excuses. 

 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

    The concept of a guaranteed and viable curriculum began during the summer of 2016.  During the summer of 2017, this process was formalized as several core subject teacher teams (Math, Social Studies, and English) put together a common curriculum for their subject areas.  The teams began with the list of state standards and each team determined which standards should be guaranteed to all students. Once this task was completed, the teams created common formative assessments (CFAs) and summative assessments for several of the units. They worked collaboratively to create questions and to decide how they would score answers. During the remainder of the 2017-18 school year, the Science collaborative team worked together to complete their guaranteed and viable curriculum. 

     During the 2018-19 school year, teacher teams tightened up the assessments based on experience from the previous year and finished creating common formative assessments for all units.  Northside High School has a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all four core subjects along with common formative and summative assessment. As an example, five of our AP subjects are taught by multiple staff members which allows them to work through this entire process together.  This continues to be a work in progress as we continue to learn and develop as a Professional Learning Community. When teams first began looking at data from their common formative assessments the data was more subject or lesson based. Now teams look at data skill by skill and student by student and assigned interventions or enrichment activities based on this data.  It should be noted that our next step is to have a guaranteed and viable curriculum for our elective courses and for our singleton courses. Our vision is to work collaboratively with our other high school in order to have the same curriculum happening at both schools with electives and singletons. 

     Northside High School has built in a comprehensive plan to monitor student learning on a regular and timely basis.  One component of this plan is our WIN time, a thirty-minute period that occurs each morning where students are directed to get the supports (intervention and/or enrichment) they need based upon CFA results and other data points.  At the beginning of the year, students are given their test data from the previous spring. Teachers and specialists, along with counselors, meet with classes to explain the test results and answer questions. Students then complete digital reflections on their performance in which they set goals and create action plans. These reflections are shared with all teachers for the students. These results also drive WIN time placement. About a month into the school year, students are given their first district interim assessment. Based upon this assessment and their spring assessment, students are asked to create goals for the year and make a plan on how they would like to reach their goals. 

     Each week our teachers meet in collaborative teams. These communities of teachers are divided by subject area. They meet to plan lessons, create common formative and summative assessments, and share and process data from the assessments that have been given. As part of the data reflection piece, content teams review student data and look for strengths and weaknesses - student by student, skill by skill.  Based on that data, students are then targeted for either intervention or enrichment based on their performance on the assessment. This is done on a weekly basis and students are assigned to the remediation group until skills are met. In addition to these remediation and enrichment opportunities, math and English teachers also have individual conversations with their students regarding their district interim assessment performance. 

     In response to our school experiencing a declining average ACT score, during the 2018-2019 school year, we started periodically monitoring 11th grade student performance by giving interims during the Fall and Spring semesters. These paper and pencil interims while beneficial, did not provide alignment to the standards and thus did not easily yield specific data that we were seeking.   Over time, we were able to slowly desegregate the data to classroom teachers providing integrated opportunities into their existing curriculum to address identified overall student weaknesses. We created a student reflection artifact bringing attention to the four sub-scores and how the composite score was calculated. Moreover, we created WIN enriching sessions based on the four content areas of the ACT.

      In the 2019-2020 school year, we have launched an “ACT Matters” campaign to focus student attention on the financial benefits of scoring at least a 19 on the exam. We are continuing an updated version of the two interims using a software application, Schoology, with all questions aligned to the specific ACT standard. The faster electronic desegregation of data connected to the specific standards will allow us to fine tune our curriculum to support one of our school goals, increasing our average ACT score. Furthermore, with our “ACT Matters” campaign, we want to see an increase in the number of students qualifying for our two state scholarships, Academic Challenge and Distinguished Governor’s. Our updated, electronic student reflection piece will now involve specific standards; therefore, students and teachers will be able to focus attention on the skills necessary to improve a sub-score. Additionally, we are continuing the WIN enriching sessions due to students requesting preparation for the ACT.

 

 

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

     Northside teachers and staff have done several things over the past three years to create and implement systems of interventions. Northside is a Designated School of Innovation. As part of the plan to becoming a School of Innovation in 2017, Northside created a flex time during the day for interventions and enrichment activities. This has expanded from a 30-minute WIN (What I Need) time three days a week to now having WIN all five days of the week.  We have identified priority days for each day of the week during our WIN time so that all subject areas can support students. During the school year of 2018-19, our instructional facilitators identified the lowest 25th percent of students in both math and English. They divided these students into groups and created Math Hubs and Reading Hubs. Teachers volunteered their WIN time each week to teach these small groups of students, even though it may not be their content area. For example, we had a Spanish teacher helping some of our English Learners with math facts and also included one of our secretaries who is bi-lingual to help with our Reading Hubs. We worked with district personnel to provide professional development for 15 teachers in a reading program call Lindamood-Bell. This helped our Reading Hub teachers provide a more structured program for students to help with both word identification and reading comprehension. 

     Another intervention program that was started this year was our peer tutoring program. Students from the Northside National Honor Society volunteer one or two days each week to tutor other students who may need help with homework or test prep. We also have students who are bi-lingual and are able to tutor our English Learners. 

     One enrichment activity that was started last school year was WIN sessions for students to help focus on the PSAT/NMSQT assessment. Northside had not had a national merit semi-finalist in the past seven years.  Through our WIN time, our school counselors have invited representatives from both college and the workforce to visit with our students about life after high school and scholarship opportunities.

     Two years ago, we added a new position, a Graduation Coach, to help our students in two ways: 1. to intervene for seniors who are lacking credits needed to graduate on time and 2. to provide more resources and support for seniors, such as scholarships and internship opportunities, to ensure that all seniors would leave NHS with a skill and a plan. In the past two years, our graduation rate has increased from 86.9% to 91.4%. We have also been able to identify students much earlier that may be behind on credits, instead of waiting until their senior year. In addition, last spring several of our students participated in the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce inaugural signing day for careers. Several students from NHS signed with construction and other industry companies in our area. 

      This year an administrator and two counselors work with a specific graduating class.  This support team works with students in their specific class on attendance, academics, social emotional, and college and career planning.  The team will work with their particular class throughout their high school journey allowing for relationships with students and families to develop and opportunities for providing interventions to flourish.  Each administrator/counselor team “staffs” at least once a week discussing students who are critical in terms of credits, grades, attendance and social emotional concerns. This additional level of support allows our school to identify students that have traditionally fallen through the cracks as we believe that in a PLC, all means all!

 

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

     One of the things that we did that built the most teacher capacity was when we selected members of our guiding coalition. The building administrators worked together to create a list of members, one member from each department in the building, that was not currently a department leader but someone that we believed had great potential and would be able to bring knowledge and leadership back to their department. By lunchtime on our first day of our Coaching Academy last spring, we knew we had the right people on the bus. The guiding coalition took off and has not stopped. Not only did they lead the school through the process of building a mission and vision, they continued working together along with their departments to create collective commitments and SMART goals for the school. In addition to our guiding coalition, this year the four administrators have each taken ownership of a core subject. Each administrator not only observes their subject area teachers, but participates in their collaborative meeting and supports teachers throughout the school year.

     Along with the administrators, instructional specialists are assigned to teams and work with them with lesson planning, assessments and instructional activities. Collaborative teams have common planning time and meet weekly during the school day. This weekly meeting has transformed the way that data is discussed and analyzed in the fact that instead of a global perspective it is now a student by student/skill by skill perspective. Teachers use these weekly meetings to not only look at curriculum and data, but to also assign students to remediation or enrichment activities for the next week. Administrators are also teamed up with a counselor by grade. Administrators and counselors meet weekly to staff students, many times visiting with students who are at-risk or in jeopardy of becoming at-risk in academics, attendance and/or behaviors.

 

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Northside High School continues to show growth yearly while increasing student enrollment. Through the implementation of going from three to four days a week for RTI has helped to provide a more structured program to address more students, including students in advanced placement courses. Instructional facilitators have created sections for PSAT and ACT prep courses as well as AP Mock test reviews. We experienced an implementation dip during our second year but with adjustments with our RTI program and the addition of using instructional facilitators and interventions working with our English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities were able to show an increase the next year in scores in all sub groups.

  • Designated School of Innovation 2019
  • Assistant Principal of the Year 2018
  •  Cyber Patriot team 1st place in Arkansas and ranked 19th nationwide in the Silver tier.
  • Member of the Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Science 
  • Times Record Top 3 Public High Schools "Best of the Best"
  • 2019 Store/Cafe Marketing Contest for School Store Point of Sale
  • 2018 Top High Poverty Schools in Arkansas based on ACT Aspire Math Growth Score "Beating the Odds" Office of Education Policy
  • 2018 #3 on top 5 in Northwest Arkansas Schools "Beating the Odds" Office of Education Policy
  • 2019 Bandmaster of the Year and "50 Directors Who Make a Difference"
  • Multiple teachers who are National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certified
  • Teacher selected as "Hometown Hero" fall of 2019
  • Numerous awards for JROTC, Band, Choir and Orchestra, photography, television broadcasting, Skills USA
  • 2018 Marketing Teacher of the Year
  • National Youth Arts Council Award for "Once On This Island" Musical production spring 2019

Top