New Hope High School (2022)

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


The PLC journey began at New Hope High School during the 2018-2019 school year when the leaders of our school system, Madison County Schools, Alabama, encouraged our principal, two assistant principals, and instructional partner to attend a Culture Keepers: Principal Leadership in a PLC@Work seminar in Atlanta, Georgia. Inspired by the experience, they returned and created the first Guiding Coalition and provided regular opportunities for subject-area teams to meet. The first collaborative task of the subject-area teams was to analyze current Pre-ACT data; this led our teachers to their initial evaluation of student learning and preliminary adjustments of their practice to address the largest gaps in student achievement. Also during this year, members of the Guiding Coalition were able to visit Westmont High School in Westmont, Illinois, to see how a Professional Learning Community functions. They returned with valuable direction for our next steps.

Because we are a small Title 1 school in a rural community in Madison County, Alabama, with a history of low student achievement, we recognized the need to make global changes to our school’s culture and practice. We further recognized that developing an effective school-based Professional Learning Community would be the best way to bring about these changes. So, during the 2019-2020 school year, we used those first experiences to intentionally build a solid foundation focused on collaboration, learning, and results. In early fall, after our instructional team participated in a RTI@Work Institute in Jacksonville, Florida, we began the work of clarifying the process for our entire team and establishing some of its vital structures.

To build shared understanding and commitment in our building, we first used Learning by Doing to define and share the expectations and responsibilities of Guiding Coalition members (Doc 1). Next, during several days that semester, members of the Guiding Coalition participated in a system-wide Keys to High Performing Collaborative Teams seminar with Tom Many, which provided us with information and confidence to codify our mission, vision, and collective commitments. During their work sessions, the Guiding Coalition used sections of Learning by Doingto discuss, debate, and finally create the first drafts of a document. Then, as part of a faculty work session, they proposed and explained each item in the document before actively gathering feedback from each faculty member, using a modified Gallery Walk protocol (Doc 2 and Pic 1). Members of the Guiding Coalition responded to questions and concerns and refined the document before it was presented to each staff member to read and sign, as their individual commitment to begin this process (Doc 3). 

During the same time period, faculty members expanded their personal understanding and commitment to the process in two ways. All faculty members developed a vision of the overall process by participating in a book study of Learning by Doing. This study was led by our instructional partner in monthly work-imbedded professional development sessions (Doc 4). Additionally, the teachers of core subjects (English, Math, Science, and Social Science) began meeting weekly in collaborative teams to address the first question of the process–what do we want our students to learn? Teachers used the Alabama Course of Study, the ACT standards, and Chapter 5 of Learning by Doing, to begin to prioritize standards and skills. And because we are a small school of “singletons,” they simultaneously began vertical alignment of skills and standards.

Coinciding with this work in the fall of 2019, our master schedule was adjusted to add a “What I Need” (W.I.N.) period. This daily 45-minute period fulfills the need for protected time for several of the necessities of a thriving PLC: collaborative team meetings, Tier 3 intervention in Math and Reading, Tier 2 intervention, and extension time for students in our Advanced Placement (AP) courses. For the first time, our teachers have additional time during the school day to give students “what they need,” and this schedule shift has been a clear signal to our teachers and students that school administrators are committed to supporting the development of a healthy Professional Learning Community. 

Our constant emphasis concerning our Professional Learning Community is that it is a process, and we have committed to recursive inquiry, action, and reflection. For this reason we move forward, revising and learning as necessary, for the sake of continuous improvement and increased student achievement.

Our school’s mission, vision, and collective commitments have adequately served us since their adoption in early 2020.  However, the document is updated as needed at the beginning of each school year and signed by every staff member, reminding us of our purpose and commitment.

Our Guiding Coalition (GC) has grown in shared understanding and leadership. After the establishment of this team from 2018-2020, the Guiding Coalition began the practice of meeting in late summer in both 2020 and 2021 to develop the direction and next steps for our school and its Professional Learning Community (Docs 5-6). The team met on a limited basis during the 2020-2021 school year, sometimes in person and sometimes by Google Meet, with some discussion of how our collaborative teams could move forward in the PLC process, but more often of how to navigate pandemic restrictions and curriculum adaptations. During the 2021-2022 school year, however, the team has not only met monthly or bimonthly (Doc 7), but has also participated in, alongside other GCs in our district, the RTI@Work Coaching Academy with Joe Cuddemi. This expanded training has made a positive impact on the direction and outcomes of our GC meetings, because each session ends with a reflection and action plan for our next steps.

Subject-area collaborative teams continue to develop as they work through the PLC process, as well. During the 2020-2021 school year, our previously 9th-12th grade school became a 7th-12th grade school, so we welcomed two more teachers to each core team. Fortunately, their K-8 school had also started the PLC process, but there was quite a bit of team-building and skill alignment to be done. Despite the challenges of new grade levels and a pandemic, teachers began unit plans and assessments for each of their courses, addressing the second PLC question–how will we know when each student has learned it? This work has been further strengthened during the 2021-2022 school year as our teachers embarked on the 15 Day Challenge introduced to us by Maria Nielson, and then deepened their understanding and use of formative assessment when Chad Dumas conducted a workshop onsite. Additionally, one of our instructional partners was able to visit a high school in Robertsdale, Alabama, that is on a similar journey, and brought back inspiration and direction for possible next steps for our Intervention Team, collaborative teams, and unit plans. This cycle of “learn, ponder, implement, reflect” continues to move us toward our goals, and we have plans in place to continue this cycle.

Our W.I.N. period has proven to be an integral piece of our PLC puzzle, and it continues to evolve.  We soon realized that while teachers have always yearned for additional instructional time with their students, additional time with students demands additional time for teachers–time to develop their own style of handling these additional sessions and time to learn how to incorporate new programs and strategies provided by coaches and administrators. We also have a student body that is still adapting to a rotating additional period in their day; some still struggle grasping the purpose of the nongraded, noncredit-bearing sessions. This is a gradual process, which undoubtedly was hindered by the unpredictable school schedules of 2020-2021,  yet we’ve seen notable progress in the curriculum and in some key data points. And with each bit of new learning, we will adapt W.I.N. to best serve the needs of our students. 

As noted earlier, we started this journey with a long history of low student achievement in a rural community that has socio-economic challenges, and we realize that culture change and achievement levels will not miraculously change in a matter of months–especially with the onset and continuation of COVID-19. One metaphor that we use among our school leadership is that our achievement gaps are deep wounds that take time to heal. We are gradually healing these wounds “from the inside out” with the implementation of a guaranteed and viable curriculum, and we expect to see significant growth on all Alabama state tests, AP tests, and categories of our state report card. Fortunately, the work we have done thus far has already made a significant positive impact in our ACT WorkKeys scores and Alabama College/Career Ready (CCR) percentages (NHHS Data).

We have the tools and we continue to learn how to better use those tools. And because we have experienced significant success already, we sense that both the adults and students in our building are motivated to continue the journey and bring us closer to our mission–all students learning at grade level or higher!


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

We have intentionally implemented structures and protocols to provide collaborative teams the tools they need to establish, implement, and perpetuate a guaranteed and viable curriculum. 

In the realm of physical structures, each subject-area collaborative team (English Math, Science, Social Science) has protected time during our W.I.N. period one day a week to advance their team’s progress. At first, these teams met almost exclusively in our school’s Community Learning/Data Room, which is also the office of our instructional partners. This location provides teams with supplies, resources, space to post their work, and guidance from a coach, when needed. In the digital realm, our instructional partner created shared Google Drive folders for each subject area, providing and updating templates and resources for guiding and capturing the work of the team. 

Using protocols we’ve gleaned from our Solution Tree studies and training, collaborative teams have prioritized their course standards, unpacked essential standards, and divided their courses into units. Progressively, they have been creating summative and formative assessments, as well as intervention and extension tasks for each unit; as they implement each unit, they are sharing formative and summative assessment data with members of their collaborative team and providing feedback for one another. At first, teams created digital unit plans and tracked their unit-planning progress by adding printouts and checkboxes to poster-sized paper (Pic 2). Individual teachers began the progressive implementation of their unit plans. Next, all core teachers focused on planning and implementing a teaching/assessing cycle at the same time (our “15-Day Challenge”) (Doc 8). Most recently, teachers are expanding their unit plans to incorporate their daily lesson plans (Doc 9). 

Teachers are fully aware that this process will never be “perfect” or “finished.” When collaborative teams have new members, team members and the instructional partners must spend collaborative or personal time bringing those new members into the process. We keep an outline at the front of the Community Learning/Data Room that reminds us of the basic steps in the process, and we must revisit it often to keep us on track (Pic 3). As teams complete a teaching cycle or a course, they have new understandings and feel the need to make changes. “Is this really essential?”  “Is this really what proficiency looks like?” And most recently for us, both our English and Math teams implemented new Alabama Courses of Study this year, requiring them to revisit essential standards and units. This will always be a work in progress, every forward step bringing us closer to our mission statement–all students learning at grade level.

As teachers have established what knowledge and skills are essential for each course, they have also created summative and formative assessments to gauge each student’s progress toward proficiency. Although we are a school of “singletons,” the majority of assessments are collaboratively created in subject-area teams, strengthening the vertical alignment of essential skills. Teachers usually share this assessment data and have strategy conversations with their collaborative teams during the protected collaborative time, but these conversations have expanded to Google chat groups, hallway chats, and planning period check-ins. The variety of sharing options enables teachers to quickly address the third and fourth PLC questions: How will we respond when some students do not learn it?  And how can we extend and enrich the learning for students who have already demonstrated proficiency? Teachers use either portions of their class time or “What I’m Missing” (Wh.I.M.) time during W.I.N. to provide Tier 2 intervention and extension tasks for students. 

Because teachers use both the Alabama Course of Study and the ACT as points of reference when prioritizing standards, they are also able to use data from state tests (ACAP Summative, Pre-ACT, ACT, and WorkKeys) and progress monitoring tools (STAR/Renaissance) to monitor student learning. Instructional partners receive, prepare, share, and discuss data as it becomes available so teachers are aware of and able to address proficiency gaps and create tiered or differentiated instruction during class time and/or during a W.I.N. session. 

Another team that monitors student learning is our Intervention Team. A small team led by our school social worker and made up of an assistant principal, school counselor, classroom teacher, collaborative teacher, and instructional partner meet bi-monthly during the school day to gauge progress and create an action plan for specific students. The school’s social worker facilitates this process, using our Student in Need Referral from teachers (Doc 10) and the Pro-Solve Intervention Targeting Process (Doc 11), to organize the work and outline appropriate interventions for academic and social behaviors. Between meetings, the team communicates progress and shares new information. Additionally, we have added Grade Level Student Support meetings to our monitoring toolbox. Teachers meet monthly to discuss students they have in common and share strategies for supporting students at the Tier 1 and Tier 2 levels (Doc 12). 


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

Our system of intervention and extension begins with the core teachers and their work with essentials skills and unit plans. A component of their unit planning is determining when to administer a formative assessment and what to do after that assessment. Teachers not only include plans to reteach and reassess, but also to provide extension or enrichment tasks for students who demonstrate proficiency (Doc 9). Ideally, the majority of Tier 2 support and extension/enrichment is part of the regular class period. Other sessions for intervention and extension/enrichment are scheduled during our “What I Need” period.

We launched the “What I Need” (W.I.N.) period in the fall of 2019, incorporating several key components of a Professional Learning Community--weekly collaboration time for academic teams, consistent and purposeful Tier 3 intervention in reading and math, margin for teachers to provide additional Tier 2 support, and extension for students who perform at or above grade level. This construct makes intervention mandatory for students, rather than optional, and we continue to adjust its structure and curriculum to best serve our students.

During the W.I.N. period, ELA and Math teachers lead weekly “Math/Reading Boost” grade-specific intervention sessions. Student rosters for our “Boost” classes are built primarily from results of state/STAR tests and are comprised of students who are performing two or more grade levels below their grade level. Because of our faculty size and other master schedule constraints, these sessions are currently the best vehicle for Tier 3 instruction. However, during the 2021-2022 school year, our district used Federal ESSER funds to provide an additional math teacher. This teacher is able to provide Tier 3 intervention for a significantly larger number of students. For these “Boost” and Math Lab sessions, teachers are able to tailor instruction for their specific students and have access to Albert I.O., Khan Academy, and MathXL. 

The focus of many of our W.I.N. academic sessions is to close achievement gaps. However, for some segments of the year, we are also able to provide enrichment and extension for students who achieve at higher levels.  For example, for the final 9-week period of the year, all tenth grade students have at least two W.I.N. academic sessions–one with a math teacher and one with a science teacher. These teachers use the time to challenge all students with the next level of understanding or to explore ways to apply the knowledge they already have–they use student Pre-ACT scores to determine which skills are “next” for each group of students.

Historically, most of our students have not performed at high levels on state tests or Advanced Placement tests. Therefore, we have incorporated some test-specific W.I.N. sessions to address these achievement gaps.

WorkKeys: Seniors who have not yet attained Alabama’s College/Career Ready (CCR) status participate in “WorkKeys Workshops” to prepare for the Alabama ACT WorkKeys assessments. Teachers guide students to use the online WorkKeys Curriculum for tutorials and quizzes in Workplace Documents, Applied Math, and Graphic Literacy, as well as provide individual and whole-group instruction to address student needs. After the fall WorkKeys administration, students who earn a qualifying National Career Readiness Certificate are moved to other sessions.  Students who need additional support remain and retake their WorkKeys assessments. 

ACT:  In preparation for the spring Alabama ACT administration, juniors participate in tiered and focused instruction in our “Junior Jump” ACT campaign (Doc 13). We use Pre-ACT data from the student’s sophomore year, as well as practice ACT data and teacher input, to create tiered groups that rotate through sessions for all four ACT subject tests. Junior Jump sessions include practice ACT tests, test-taking strategies, and focused subject-specific instruction. This year, we were able to purchase The Official ACT Prep Guide 2021-2022 book for each of our juniors, providing even more practice opportunities and subject-specific instruction. The goal is for every junior to “jump” forward as far as possible from their Pre-ACT score. 

ACAP Summative: The ACAP Summative is the Alabama test for grades 2-8, which was first administered in the spring of 2021. Similar to Junior Jump, ACAP Lab sessions provide additional instruction for seventh and eighth grade students at all performance levels. Tiered groups rotate to their ELA, Math, and Science (8th grade only) teachers, focusing on growth and proficiency in essential skills.

Advanced Placement: Currently, we offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses in English (2), Math (1) Science (2), and Social Science (2).  However, because of our block scheduling and other master schedule constraints, the majority of the courses cannot begin until January.  Because the AP exams are in early May, which makes it difficult for many students to earn qualifying scores, AP teachers lead weekly “AP Elevate” sessions.  AP Elevate sessions provide additional time for teachers and students to build foundational skills and relationships. Also, because the majority of students enrolled in AP courses are students who have mastered the essential standards in their core courses, the teachers use AP Elevate sessions to provide students with both extension tasks and enrichment opportunities that will prepare and motivate their students. AP teachers structure this additional time to fit the specific needs and interests of the group of students. For example, students enrolled in AP World History this year spent much of their time in AP Elevate with writing extension tasks they would not experience in their other core courses. 

Students are placed in these academic sessions as needed, and are scheduled in “What I’m Missing” (Wh.I.M.) sessions on other days. Students routinely use Wh.I.M. sessions for study hall or make-up work; teachers can use Wh.I.M. sessions to provide additional Tier 2 support following a formative assessment if the time allotted in their initial unit planning is not sufficient. Student and teacher W.I.N. schedules ordinarily change every nine weeks, but individual student schedules can change as needed. Additionally, as we focus this year on increasing literacy levels on our campus, students in Wh.I.M. sessions are participating in Power15, a 15-minute self-selected reading period (Doc 14).

The W.I.N. period would not operate effectively without the active involvement of everyone in the building. Rosters for academic sessions, while based on current data, are reviewed and amended by past and present teachers. Intervention resources are provided and recommended, but teachers have autonomy to choose the best methods for their students. The front office staff works daily to collect attendance data and ensure all students are in their assigned sessions. And administrators are not only vigilant to protect this time block, but also check in with collaborative teams, academic sessions, and Wh.I.M. sessions (Doc 15 is the January 2022 session schedule and descriptions). 



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

Our active academic collaborative teams are comprised of the subject-specific teachers for each of the grade levels, 7-12.  For us, this is five teachers on each team, with the exception of math, which has an additional math lab teacher this year. Our W.I.N. schedule provides protected time for them to work together, and each team began its work by establishing norms, discussing and assigning team roles where necessary, and creating agenda templates (Doc 16).

When the teams were initially formed, they learned the PLC process one step at a time.  In many instances, this meant that the instructional partner provided information, guidance, templates, and examples; then the team members collaborated to apply that knowledge to the task. Our teams are predominantly vertical teams, so teachers organically formed and worked in micro-teams. For example, 7th grade science works with 9th grade biology, 8th grade science works with 10th grade physical science. 

At this point in our PLC journey, collaborative teams have the majority of the tools they need to successfully implement their teaching/assessing cycles. Each of our two assistant principals is closely aligned with two collaborative teams–one with English and History and the other with Math and Science.  Assistant principals attend collaborative team meetings, receive unit and lesson plans from that department, and conduct observations of teachers in that department. Our two instructional partners are also available and active in the collaborative team meetings, when appropriate. 

Since the beginning of the PLC process, our teacher teams continue to incorporate ways to increase student learning. 

  • A component of their unit plans is a student-friendly unit plan, providing students an overview of the learning targets and a vehicle to gauge their own learning. 

  • Teachers are including more standards-based grading, entering scores for formative and/or summative assessments in our Learning Management System and then changing those scores as students become proficient in a standard or skill.

  • Teachers share assessment results with one another, both formally and informally, and discuss strategies for increasing student learning.

  • Teachers are reaching beyond our onsite vertical teams to teachers at other “singleton” schools in our district to further collaborate concerning key components of the PLC process. 

  • The unit planning templates are now part of the lesson plans teachers submit, supporting the goal that their collaborative work be fully integrated into daily practice.

(Docs 17-21 are samples of products produced by collaborative teams)

Additionally, the work of our collaborative teams, paired with our necessity to be vertical teams, has created a spirit of collective responsibility; teachers have either already had the students in class or know they will have those students in the future, and they are invested in the success of all of our students!  


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Please see the Data Notes on page 2 of the attached "nhhs-data" pdf.

Also attached is current summary data from this year's junior class state ACT test and ACAP/STAR data for current 8th and 9th grade students (comparable data is not available for our current 7th grade students). This data demonstrates some growth and/or recovery from the impact of COVID-19 in math and science, but not in ELA.

The percentage of students who were "COVID Parent Held" during the 2020-2021 school year and a larger-than-normal number of staff changes continue to influence our overall student achievement. However, these factors point to the need for a strong Professional Learning Community and a consistent commitment to build and sustain that Community.