Washington Jr. High School
- Number of Students: 665
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 18%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 1%
- Percent of Special Education: 10%
- White: 78%
- Black: 2%
- Hispanic: 10%
- Asian: 4%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 1%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 1%
- Multiracial: 4%
- Other: 0%
For well over a decade, both our district and Washington Jr. High School (WJHS) have been committed to growing our capacity to function as a true Professional Learning Community and to build upon our ability to utilize the PLC at Work model. On multiple occasions over the past decade, Bentonville Schools has partnered with Solution Tree and neighboring schools to bring PLC at Work events to Northwest Arkansas. The most recent event was on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. Our entire WJHS staff had the privilege of attending that October session on Using Data to Drive Instruction. Furthermore, we dedicated the entire next morning to reflecting on our learning from the previous day before our collaborative teams spent the afternoon developing additional implementation strategies specific to their needs.
This is just the latest example of our overall commitment to the PLC at Work process. Through the years, we have also sent school leaders (teachers and administrators) to PLC and RTI conferences in an effort to improve and level-up our understanding of the ‘right work’ so that we could bolster our daily efforts to improve our PLC and RTI processes.
Our sustained commitment to the PLC at Work tenets is grounded in our daily carrying out of the WJHS mission and vision, The Wildcat Way. In The Wildcat Way, our foundation is built upon our CORE values of Collaboration, Ongoing Learning, Relationships, and Expectations. We revisit these values on an ongoing basis on professional development days, faculty meetings, and other learning sessions. The PLC at Work process is a huge component of the work we do in relationship to collaboration, ongoing learning, and high expectations for all students.
At WJHS, our foundation is also grounded on what we call our Focus on Excellence Framework. That framework has two basic prongs: 1) continuously asking- Why this? Why this way? And (2) the four PLC questions.
Every opportunity that we have at WJHS to learn together, whether that be in faculty meetings or formal professional development days, is grounded in professional learning community concepts. In a typical year we might start with a review of an article like One Step at a Time (Graham and Ferriter. National Staff Development Council, Vol. 29, No. 3). Each collaborative team reflects on their progress and current status before setting their goals for the year. Our administrative team follows up with each team regularly to check on progress and to identify any additional supports that might be needed for the teams. Teams would also be asked to reflect on their progress and recalibrate goals if necessary as the year progressed (quarter, semester, etc.).
In other years, if several of our collaborative team leaders have changed, we’ve developed opportunities for the team leaders to learn from each other and/or the administrative team. Team leaders share best practices, ask questions, etc. Administrative leaders share resources from PLC at Work conferences, the All Things PLC blog, and/or professional literature.
As you can see, we are continually committed to studying the PLC at Work process. In addition, constantly striving to become an even better professional learning community is a part of our outstanding culture. WJHS is dedicated to utilizing PLC concepts and RTI structures to ensure that all students achieve at high levels. Our historical student achievement data is a testament to how impactful PLC practices can be for students and our collaborative culture speaks to the positive impact that being a professional learning community can have on faculty and staff members.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
The process that our district uses to create a guaranteed and viable curriculum has really progressed over the past five years. Up until about five years ago, each school’s collaborative teams were left to themselves to answer PLC question one- What is it that we want students to learn?
Since that time, the collective administrative teams at each building, along with the critical assistance of our Instructional Specialists and the direction of our Executive Director of Instruction, have led us to a place where each content area has an overall curriculum, pacing guides, and agreed upon essential standards.
Quarterly, principals are provided with the essential learning targets for the upcoming units, what we should see in classes during our observations, etc. These outlines have proven to be instrumental for us as we monitor progress during our classroom walkthroughs and in our discussions with collaborative teams.
Teachers are always involved in the development of the curriculum and provide ongoing feedback on its viability. Multiple professional development days are dedicated to this process throughout each year. Teachers, with Instructional Specialists, continually revisit the curriculum during learning sessions to ensure that it is both guaranteed and viable. Data analysis meetings are also used to ensure that our curriculum is designed to help students achieve at high level. Instructional Specialists incorporate the feedback from teachers as well as considering any data analysis outcomes in the ongoing tweaks that are made to our curriculum materials.
Our system to monitor student learning on a timely basis consists of standards based classroom assessment and feedback, common formative assessments (CFA) that are developed by our collaborative teams, district benchmark assessments developed by our Instructional Specialists with teacher input, and NWEA MAP assessments in Reading and Math (fall, winter, and spring).
At WJHS, we have made considerable progress toward a more standards based approach to assessment and feedback in our classrooms. We believe that grades should reflect a student’s understanding of and skill with the learning targets. By focusing our classroom assessment and subsequent feedback on progress toward specific learning targets, we believe that teachers, students, and parents are all better informed about student learning.
Another component of our system to frequently monitor student learning is the use of common formative assessments developed by our collaborative teams. Each of our teams are charged with regularly developing and administering CFAs in order to disaggregate the data to identify students that need additional time and support to master the learning target or those that would benefit from extended learning opportunities.
We also employ district benchmark assessments that are developed by our Instructional Specialists with teacher input. With administrative oversight, our Instructional Specialists share the timeline to administer the assessments and the method of data collection. Data analysis and discussion following the district assessments help collaborative teams learn from those teaching the same content in other schools. These assessments also help central office personnel gauge the overall progress of learning for students across the district.
The final component of our monitoring process is the NWEA MAP test (Reading and Math) that we administer in the fall, winter, and spring. The MAP results help us gauge student growth across the district, by school, and by teacher. The MAP assessments can also help us identify areas of strength and/or weakness for individual students that can be critical for classroom teachers to understand.
Employing multiple methods of assessment throughout the year allows our district to be assured that students are progressing, our schools to monitor the progress of their student body, and classroom teachers to be data informed when making instructional decisions.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
We have created a multi-tiered structure of support that provides each of our departments ‘priority’ on a rotating basis. The department with priority for the week creates their student roster for intervention/extension first. Other departments then follow suit and create their rosters. Any student that isn’t ‘pulled’ for remediation or extension has choice over their assignment for the period that week.
Support or enrichment sessions that teachers pull students into are called ‘closed’ sessions. Those sessions that are available for students to self-select are referred to as ‘open’ sessions.
We employ scheduling software to manage our Priority Time so that it can be as fluid as needed to meet student needs while allowing us to know where students are assigned to attend for accountability purposes.
In addition to the weeklong support/extension sessions, we have students in more intensive remediation groups that meet for weeks at a time. These supports are intended for students with achievement gaps that span multiple grade levels.
Our system has allowed us to provide students with timely support on essential skill development and/or extension while being very fluid and responsive to our ongoing needs.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Our collaborative teams set smart goals to target and focus efforts on improving student learning while employing an ‘our kids’ vs. ‘my kids’ mentality. Each team develops smart goals prior to instructional units. These goals could be based on data from the ACT Aspire, NWEA MAP, and/or pre-assessment data.
During instruction, teachers utilize formative assessment strategies to determine the achievement level of individual students. Armed with that data, teachers can make instructional changes in their own room and also are more equipped to group and regroup students during our intervention/extension time between members of their team. Our collaborative teams share students during support sessions based on an ‘our kids’ mentality. Each member of the team will target specific needs and will work with students regardless of whose class the student is assigned to.
Specific examples of this structure would be:
Our 8th grade English team utilizing reading assessments to group students by specific targeted skills during our intervention time.
7th grade English using data (common formative, MAP, Aspire) to group students by need during instructional stations during normal instructional periods each Tuesday/Thursday and every other Friday.
7th grade Math using common formative assessments to ‘shuffle’ students between the teachers on Friday (by name, by need).
As you can see, our collaborative teams take collective responsibility for improved student learning and choose not to limit instructional support to our dedicated intervention time. Our teams have grown to the point where intervention and extension are a regular part of normal instructional periods. Finally, by assuming responsibility for all kids, our teams have learned to capitalize on the instructional strengths of their teammates to ensure that student needs are met regardless of which teacher students are assigned for class.
Achievement Data Files
Additional Achievement Data
We have attached two new files to respond to your committee's questions:
1. WJHS Model PLC 2019-2020 Data Story
2. WJHS Response to Model PLC Growth and Achievement Data Questions
2021: Office of Educational Policy (OEP), University of Arkansas
Arkansaslearns.org congratulated WJHS on receiving our ‘A’ rating.
Only 169 of 1,026 schools in Arkansas received an ‘A’ rating for the 2018-19 school year.
OEP Statewide High Growth Math
#8 in the state.
OEP High Growth Math Northwest Region
#2 in Northwest Arkansas
Best Growth: Math
Statewide High Growth: Math
-Arkansas Department of Education Rewards and Recognition Program
Top 5% Performance
Top 6%-10% Growth
Top 6%-10% Growth