Tomball Junior High School
- Number of Students: 840
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 35.47%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 8.21%
- Percent of Special Education: 9.76%
- White: 52.98%
- Black: 5.13%
- Hispanic: 35.44%
- Asian: 1.32%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.72%
- Multiracial: 3.94%
- Other: 0.47%
Tomball Junior High School has always been known as a school with dedicated teachers that performed at an acceptable rate, but that wasn’t the only legacy we wanted for our school. We want to be recognized as an exceptional school with extraordinary teachers, even though we are labeled a Title 1 campus. Professional Learning Communities have helped us achieve that goal, and they have secured us an A rating from the State of Texas in 2019.
Our PLC journey at Tomball Junior High started back in the 2016-2017 school year. Tomball Junior High experienced a major change when a new junior high opened at the start of the 2016 school year. Due to the new school opening, the district re-zoned causing our demographics to change and enrollment to drop. We also noticed a decrease in our student scores. In order to increase student performance, our Principal, Mr. Chad Allman, decided to make changes to our PLC practices to meet the needs of our students and get back on the right track. Mr. Allman worked on turning team meetings into a collaborative setting that was focused on instruction, instead of just a calendar discussion. He started by ensuring our teachers had common planning periods throughout the week. A plan was set up for each team to collaborate once a week. This allowed for the teams to use a backward planning design starting from the unit tests and working their way to the initial first instruction for the lessons. The teachers were required to analyze the TEKs and create a planning paper diagram that included the end test result, the TEKs being taught, and the lesson activities that were aligned with the tested standard. The school also hired its first instructional coach in 2016 to support the collaborative teams in the planning process and professional development sessions during conference periods on Fridays. Data meetings to discuss summative assessments, district benchmarks, and state tests were instituted. The focus here shifted away from how many students passed and what questions were most missed to what our strengths and weaknesses by TEKS were and how to turn those weaknesses into strengths. An advisory period was also being utilized for in school RTI interventions as well as SPED and EL support. A zero-recovery plan was put into place for advisory as well in order to eliminate failures for students having zeroes. We were on the right track, but we definitely needed to refine and tweak our plan to move forward with our goal.
In the 2017-2018 school year, Tomball Junior High took a huge leap forward when an Assistant Principal, Instructional Coach, and five teachers (two math, two English and one special education) attended the San Antonio Solution Tree PLC conference in November. The teachers say the reason they pushed to attend the conference was that they needed to be able to see the process in action. They yearned to understand the purpose or philosophy behind PLC, so that they could envision it being implemented on our campus. Before the conference, it wasn't something they could fully conceptualize much less implement. The team came back inspired and motivated to try this process and had amazing ideas to help our school with the PLC process. Based on the various sessions that the team attended, they came back to Tomball Junior High with a number of ideas. The team met with the rest of the administration team and campus leaders to discuss some of the great PLC ideas that they wanted to implement. They started with assigning specific days for each collaborative team to meet, and they introduced common formative assessments in Reading. The data from those CFA’s were then used to lead a school wide TEKs based reading intervention during our PAW advisory period. PAW period was a designated 30 minute advisory period that was set aside everyday to support the needs of the students. Students were assigned a PAW class that they would report to everyday. Once in their PAW class, students may then report to a teacher for targeted TEK intervention, RTI, ESL intervention, or special education targeted intervention. The students were selected based on their performance level on specific TEKs, and once they showed mastery of the standard, they were rotated out and new students were rotated in that needed help. Data discussions also focused more on individual students and individual teachers with questions like “How do we reach this student?” or “Since your students scored so much higher than mine, how did you teach that?”
The school culture also shifted as teachers began to believe that ALL students can learn and grow, and terms like “low babies” were eliminated from the vocabulary. Also, teachers embraced the collaborative nature of planning to become true teams instead of a group of people who meet once a week. This became evident when teachers would seek the advice of their team when confronted with an instructional issue.
We also shifted the focus of the leadership team, (principals, counselors, instructional coach and department heads) to be its own PLC. We read “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon to help us shift our school culture and bring us together as a team so that we could be more effective leaders. Our department chair meetings were less “sit and get” and more interactive and reflective. Everyone was encouraged to walk through classes and find strengths and weaknesses by focusing on: written board objectives being followed, room arrangement fostering collaboration and communication, informal assessment of the objective, teachers in the power zone, and students doing critical writes. This information would then be shared and analyzed so that ways to increase those teacher behaviors across the campus could be found. We noticed a gain in our performance at the end of this year from all of our initiatives, but we, of course, wanted more.
The 2018-2019 school year brought about new changes for our school as we hired two new Assistant Principals, Alvina Dominguez and Grant Granquist. During the summer, Grant Granquist and Chad Allman, along with multiple TJHS ELA teachers, attended a professional development (PD) course taught by Paula Maeker. The PD session focused on utilizing the Designing Learning Template (DLT) and the four questions to ensure learning for all students. Teachers were also trained on the Depth of Knowledge questioning so that high levels of rigor could be attained. The new TJHS Admin team began focusing on these ideas and bringing them into our collaborative meetings with our teams as administration regularly attended collaborative time. Our new motto for this year was “Our students can and our students will.”
The team started the school year with a focus of using the DLT, ensuring learning for all, and a renewed focus on the collaborative process. When teachers came back from summer break, the admin team began training the teachers on using the DLT to guarantee learning for all within the collaborative PLC process. The admin team trained teachers on identifying which Essential Learning Targets (ELT’s) they would use for the DLT. Teachers then collaborated and determined what ELT TEKs they would be teaching, and then they created a DLT over those targets. This allowed the teachers to be an essential part in the lesson planning design and PLC process along with the administrators. The common formative assessments were also now being implemented in all core subjects over the ELT’s as well. Paw period TEKs interventions were now changed to include math, not just reading. The principals also started implementing “Cougar Walks” for the teachers based on their implementation of: the student friendly lesson objective, teaching in the power zone, collaborative student discussion, recognizing and reinforcing student responses, student critical writing, student centered learning, and high student engagement with level 3 and 4 rigorous questioning. The leadership team, which consisted of the principals, counselors, instructional coach and department chairs, were trained on the Cougar Walk form and conducted walks throughout the year. These results were tracked monthly and the team with highest use of the strategies received the “High Five Award”. With all of these changes put into place, Tomball Junior High School received an A rating from the state of Texas! We were definitely doing something right, and we wanted our growth to continue.
We are now in the 2019-2020 school year, and we are seeing our hard work pay off. The school was able to send one Assistant Principal, our new instructional coach, and a teacher leader back to the Solution Tree PLC Conference in San Antonio. When they got back from the conference, they had numerous strategies and ideas from the sessions that they couldn’t wait to implement on campus. The school has now created a Design Center Data Room that houses all our collaborative meetings and displays and tracks current and past data on the walls. Common formative assessments are now mandated in each core subject with an 85% mastery score that must be met to move on. We have also now included science and social studies in our Paw period TEKs interventions. These intervention groups for all four core subjects are changed weekly based on student data and the needs of the students. The “Cougar Walks” are still being utilized, but now the teachers are given immediate feedback through a Google document sent straight to their email which includes the areas they are successful in and areas that need improvement. To grow our teacher leaders, the department chairs are also doing observations of their departments using the Cougar Walk form.
At Tomball Junior High School, we have a commitment and culture to ensure that all of our students are successful and receive the highest level of initial first instruction. We are dedicated to keeping this commitment to the students and the community of Tomball. Here at Tomball Junior High School we have ONE TEAM, ONE GOAL.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
Tomball Junior High School has a bell schedule that allows each core team to have a daily common planning period for effective collaboration. The district provides each content area with the curriculum documents needed for their subject via Eduphoria Forethought. The teachers then utilize their common planning period to dissect the TEKs and plan accordingly with the district documents. Each team uses a backward design model to plan the most effective initial first time instruction for their students. Our school also utilizes common formative assessments (CFAs) to monitor student progress. The administration team trained teachers on identifying which Essential Learning Targets (ELTs) they will assess. These assessments are written by our collaborative teams and provide immediate feedback of student mastery. At TJHS, we have an 85% mastery expectation on the CFAs for each essential learning target. This expectation of 85% has a two pronged impact on instruction: one it requires the teachers to initially work collaboratively to find effective Tier 1 instructional strategies before the CFA is given, and two it requires the teachers to evaluate the resulting data in terms of both student achievement and teacher effectiveness. If an 85% mastery is not met on a CFA, the team meets during their common planning period to analyze the data by student, by teacher, and by subpopulations, so that students can be identified for remediation, effective teaching strategies can be recognized, and a reteach plan can be created. The team begins their data analysis with a look at what went well among the questions, the student subpopulations, and the teachers. Then, the teachers analyze the data to identify specific areas and specific students in need of remediation. The team will determine the most missed questions among students, certain teachers, and subpopulations. They analyze answers chosen to determine why students may have selected the distractor or why another answer choice was selected. Additionally, teachers look reflectively at their own teaching practices to determine which ones were most effective. For example, teachers will share the wording or examples that were used in instruction which contributed to the success or lack thereof of the lesson in their classroom. Teachers use the assessment results to identify three student groups: those students in need of complete remediation, students who only need specific gaps filled in on the standard, and those who have already shown mastery on the standard. The team uses all the information gathered to create a plan of how to re-teach immediately during the normal class period and then reassess in the required three days. However, if 85% mastery has been met on the CFA, the team will still complete the data analysis and teacher reflection on effectiveness as described above with the same goals of identifying students out of the remaining 15% for remediation and effective teaching strategies for the reteaching which now will take place during the campus dedicated intervention period called PAW period. The common formative assessments occur about once every week and a half for each core team. These CFAs and all other testing data is housed in the design center on campus. The design center is also where our collaborative teams meet weekly for planning. We compare data across our school teams and district teams to ensure the most effective lesson design is occurring in our classrooms.
Tomball ISD creates its own curriculum documents including scope and sequence and pacing guides. A curriculum audit occurred in 2014 and a curriculum management plan was created along with a five year cycle of curriculum development which was launched during the 2014-2015 school year. This plan includes three phases: one- align and specify standards, develop curriculum and professional development; two- implement curriculum, solicit feedback and professional development; three- implement support, examine data, and revise based on data and professional development. This includes all subject areas with the final subjects completing phase three this school year. Curriculum work is conducted by a team including the director, content specialist, and a team of teachers from each school who comprise the curriculum team. A curriculum feedback loop has been instituted that allows teachers to send suggestions and/or corrections to the directors and content specialists to keep the document current. Professional development occurs yearly as all new teachers to the district must be able to locate and use the curriculum documents, and as new TEKs are instituted or new textbooks selected so teachers may utilize them correctly.
The district monitors student progress in TEKs mastery by utilizing curriculum based assessments and benchmarks district wide as well as the STAAR test. We look at the passing rate, growth, and subpopulations. Other assessments vary by department. For example, reading comprehension is tracked through the use of Star Renaissance in grades 6 to 8 with measurements occuring at the beginning, middle, and end of the year.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
Tomball Junior High School has a built in intervention period to our master schedule that occurs daily on our campus. This is a TEKs based intervention period that is used to ensure mastery on our essential learning targets. The data from our common formative assessments is analyzed and the students are placed in the intervention based on the results. Exit criterias are established and when the student has shown mastery of the TEKs, they are rotated out and other students are placed in the interventions. We also use our weekly collaborative meetings to go over lesson ideas to ensure mastery of the essential learning targets in our initial first time instruction. Our teachers discuss the best ways to utilize the class period to prevent the students from being unsuccessful. It is also at this time that the team answers question three and four of the four essential questions that guide our collaborative meetings.
Question 3: What do we do when they don’t get it?
Question 4: How can we extend or enrich students that do get it?
It’s important for the teachers to establish a plan to re-teach if needed and a time for them to re-assess the standard. Also, while the re-teach is going on for the unsuccessful students, an extension activity must be planned for the successful students.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
At Tomball Junior High School, our collaborative teams have a well-defined meaning and purpose. Each team establishes norms and roles at the beginning of the year to ensure a successful year, and they help hold each member accountable for their part. Our collaborative teams also develop a Design Learning Template for each essential learning target that they are going to teach. It is in this DLT that the teachers will break down the TEKs and explore the standard (see the DLT example in the resource section). The DLT consists of the verbs and nouns from the TEKs, pre-requisite skills the students need, essential vocabulary, guiding questions, “I Can” statements, intervention strategies, assessment question stems, the overall learning goal of the TEKs, evidence of learning, possible misconceptions and clean-up strategies, re-engagement opportunities, station practice, and extending and enriching opportunities. Our collaborative teams take pride and value in their completed DLTs over the TEKs. It is these documents that help them focus on initial first instruction and improved student learning.
Achievement Data Files
State Academic Achievement Rating A, 2019
State Distinction for Top 25% Academic Growth, 2019
State Academic Achievement Rating Met Standard, 2018
State Distinction for Top 25% Closing Performance Gaps, 2018
State Academic Achievement Rating Met Standard, 2017
State Academic Achievement Rating Met Standard, 2016
State Distinction for Postsecondary Readiness, 2016
State Academic Achievement Rating Met Standard, 2015
State Distinction for Top 25% Student Progress, 2015