North Stafford High School (2022)

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


Here at North Stafford High School, we have built a culture and climate that fosters continuous growth and development, for both our staffulty (staff + faculty) and our students. Our school's vision statement is Enriching Lives and Building Futures, lending a supportive hand to our mission statement: To develop responsible and productive citizens through a culture of respect, compassion, and high expectations

The PLC at Work process has allowed us to not only increase our quantitative success since 2016, but also our qualitative success in professional learning and student growth. We have also been lucky enough for the last three years to have been working closely with Solution Tree Ambassador Geri Parscale, and most recently with Ambassador Amy Wallis.

Since our 2016 school year, our high school has proven growth according to our state required testing: Standards of Learning (SOL), not only overall, but within three distinct subgroups: students with disabilities (SWD), students with English as their second language (ESL), and students classified as economically disadvantaged (ECON). We saw our largest growth in the core area of math. It was also within this 2016 year that we welcomed our current principal, Dr. Daniel Hornick. With Dr. Hornick's arrival we revisited and reworded our pillars using N.O.R.T.H as our acronym for success: No excuses, Optimism, Resiliency, Teamwork, Honesty; together, we are "North Nation." 

Most recently, and in order to build our shared understanding of the PLC at Work cycle, our county has funded a new teaching and learning position that caters to this process; this position may also be referred to as an instructional coach. Because we are noticing common weaknesses in Tier 1 instruction due to COVID-achievement gaps, and an increased need in Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions  (RTI: response to intervention) at the high school levels, this new role allows instructional coaches to revisit our areas of accreditation as it compares to ongoing PLCs at Work. These coaches will be located at each of our five high schools. They attend professional learning communities regularly, coach PLC facilitators in managing group norms, support teacher cordiality within PLC meetings, assist in the design and implementation of common formative assessments (CFA), those of which are based on learning targets and essential standards (derived from our state standards of learning), help to create individual/group instructional practices, and create and monitor remediation and enrichment options for students. 

The COVID-19 Pandemic shook our family hearth and the bond that our North Nation staffulty and students lit with love, tended, and stoked. It is with this immense pride and love for our community, that we dove further into the PLC at Work process, not only for our proven academic successes, but it also became our support system. We relied on one another to keep sanity: professionally and personally during our country's crisis. Collaboratively, and with the DuFour and Mattos business ethos, we continued our craft by following the PLC at Work "Four Critical Questions" cycle that has yielded such progressive results since 2016. 

A lot has happened within our district in the past four years that our data cannot recount. In 2016 we welcomed our principal, Dr. Daniel Hornick. It is during Principal Hornick's inaugural year that he helped our teams design and revise the PLC at Work form.  This revised document organized the Four Critical Questions for our teachers to keep better track of qualitative and quantitative discoveries. With Dr. Hornick at the helm, our structure and belief systems were solidified, which, as our data proves, led to our increase in student achievement. 

In 2019 our district central office banded together and established several task forces to address achievement deficits and gaps. Many teachers (across all levels), building administrators, instructional coaches, and members of our Learning and Organization Development (LOD) Staff were invited to this event with one thing in mind: fostering continuous growth for our staff and students.  Our larger-group task force was broken into several break-out groups. We later coined their titles: SPED 101, Co-Teaching, and Data Involvement. Our SPED 101 task force was designed with our general education teachers in mind, as a way to interpret special education terms, from acronyms and lingo, to score reports and present levels. Our Co-Teaching task force was designed to focus on the relationship between the general education and special education teachers. Nurturing this "marriage" takes work and patience. Devoting time to strengthen any co-teaching alliance can only benefit our students, while also cradling our academic scores. The last, Data Involvement task force helps all staff better understand the special education assessment processes and types, and also guides general education teachers into creating best-match enrichment or remediation practices. Each task force has met regularly for three years working to conceive a series of professional training and development, either virtually or in-person depending on the need. Our county prides itself on a collaborative culture and collective responsibility.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Here at North Stafford High School, we hold ourselves accountable to the work of Antonneti, Mattos, both DuFours, and more. In 2016, when we were first introduced to the PLC at Work cycle, under which we unpack our standards in accordance with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), we turned to Antonneti's "nonnegotiables by age 24." In other words, what do we want our students, our "kids," to be able to master, retain, and recall as a young adult? 

Building administrators and instructional coaches have been able to collaborate with our academic department teachers and with department leads. During summers, members of departments meet to identify essential standards and learning targets derived from the VDOE Standards of Learning (SOL). There are a lot of SOL standards. For example, an English 9 teacher may be responsible for over 60 strands, and an Algebra teacher may be responsible for over 30 strands. According to the work of  Marzano, to teach every standard, within our current K-12 time constraints, would take educators and students 22 years; we are given 12! Our time as classroom teachers is precious: how do we identify what is "essential?" The answer is CTNA. CTNA encompasses: Content longevity, Thinking process of longevity, Next level preparation and steps, and finally, the notion of Assessment (will our students need mastery in this strand for any future assessment?). To implement a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all, our teachers utilize the CTNA identification process and checklist. 

This CTNA identification process has typically taken teachers about one week to complete and to identify the essential standards. Afterwards, teachers gather within their pre-established PLC at Work groups to unpack those essential standards and determine future learning targets. In collaboration with instructional coaches, special education collaborative teachers, and department designated administrators, classroom teachers unpack each standard and manipulate our recommended-curriculum pacing guides to best meet the needs of relative student interests and textbooks/resources that are available. Successful PLC at Work members must work collaboratively, removing any ego, to unpack and discuss future instructional practices and to build common formative assessments. 

When CTNA prerequisites have been met, our PLC at Work cycle is nothing without our students. A true professional learning community relies on student data to drive conversations, comparisons between unit summative assessments versus common formative assessments, and remediation versus enrichment types. When essential standards are determined, and learning targets are ready for future unpacking, members transition into guided conversations under the Four Critical Questions. We can rely on the first two critical questions to monitor student learning and growth on a timely basis. 

First, what do we expect our students to learn? It is within this critical question that content PLC members begin to choose which essential standard to unpack. With this critical question in mind, members are encouraged to bring class rosters to predict student RTI options, student interest surveys, curriculum maps or pacing guides, and any previous data related to their content. For example, a math teacher brings MAP (measures of academic process assessment) data to examine deficit areas, while an English teacher brings STAR (standardized test for the assessment of reading) data. Both of these assessments are used within our district in conjunction with the SOL state testing. We rely on this data to drive our instructional practices.

Second, how will we know they are learning? In order to monitor student learning, teachers use common formative assessments. To show growth, teachers troubleshoot as a PLC what proficiency looks like and how they will assess. In math classrooms, teachers typically use Delta Math as their CFA platform, and other core subjects, like English or social studies, use Google Forms. Our building teachers do not shy away from exit and entry tickets as well. Understanding that content assessments are not within parameters gives our classroom teachers the freedom to collaborate, tweek, and cater presentation methods to fit the structure of any classroom. 

We know our students are learning on a weekly basis. When PLC at Work  members meet to review their data, they are able to reflect on each others' strengths and weaknesses. For example, after reviewing a Delta Math CFA on solving linear equations, Algebra 1 PLC members debrief on the instructional strategies used in each classroom. Perhaps one teacher saw higher results for a specific subgroup, while another yielded lower performance. Our most successful CFA discussions occur when our PLC norms are established early, and reminded often. 

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

We can recall the final stages of our PLC at Work critical questions: how will we respond when some students do not learn, and last, how will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient? After vertical connections have been made (comparing the strands that may vertically align or overlap), and common formative assessments have been designed, given, and reviewed, it is time for our classroom teachers and collaborative teams to consider possible intervention and enrichment. 

Because we believe in a collective responsibility for student learning, intervention in our high school has been left up to the collaborative teams and PLC at Work members.  It is the collective responsibility between co-teachers (Special Education and ESL Instructors), the instructional coach, the literacy coach, and even the special education case managers. Current interventions in place include: Read 180, System 44, Lexia, and Orton Gillingham.  Our teachers also practice instructional strategies at Tier 1 that include: close reading, scaffolds and graphic organizers, and other daily vocabulary interventions (breaking apart words, Linc vocabulary strategy, and building background knowledge). 

Because of our high school's proven growth, and also based on predicted COVID- achievement  gaps, we are going into the next school year with an intervention time built into our school day. For the first time, there will be a designated "block" during our day for student intervention. Once originally left upon collaborative teams and PLC at Work members to schedule push-in opportunities, we now have a devoted block. Beginning next school year our now 30 minute lunch blocks will transition into a one hour "flex-lunch." Within this one hour, students will have opportunities for 30 minutes for travel/lunch and 30 minutes within a designated location for interventions and enrichment opportunities. With our instructional and literacy coaches in our building daily, coaching others in RTI: Tier 2 and Tier 3 instruction, we can continue to extend additional time and support for student learning.


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

Our high-performing collaborative teams and PLC at Work members focus primarily on improving student learning, and secondarily on the social and emotional development and wellness of students and staffulty. Our high school offers a variety of professional development opportunities outside of our already established professional learning communities to foster both of those primary and secondary needs. 

At North Stafford High School, we encourage cross-curricular collaboration and observations. When our monthly staffulty meetings occur, typically 10-12 minutes are devoted to a Learning Moment. Learning Moments transpire when a teacher, or oftentimes a collaborative team (general education, special education, ESL, and instructional or literacy coach) present to the group an instructional practice that has proven student growth in a specific classroom. These learning opportunities help to support building culture and climate, professional development and recognition, as well as sharing strategies to better monitor student progress and growth over time. Learning Moments are not limited to educational-game ideas, and expand into student specific, disaggregated data centered activities. 

Our building coaches: Literacy Coach, Instructional Resource/Technology Teacher, and Instructional Coach, have a collective responsibility for student learning within departments to build professional development opportunities. Opportunities most recently have included: building and managing professional relationships (the loss of ego in education), PLC at Work refreshers and how-tos, managing concurrent learning, backwards planning as a means to create common formative assessments, co-teaching workshops, and building in-class Tier 2 and Tier 3 lessons (interventions). 

Because our high school has the largest percentage of Hispanc students, about 30%, we are also able to house the largest ESL department staff. Our building is home to five ESL instructors, while others operate with just one. We want to ensure students are prepared beyond graduation from North Stafford High School.  We also accommodate a Family Engagement Liaison. This role has served as a link between ESL families and our school. Combined with our building coaches and PLC facilitators, members may be able to vertically align instruction to better meet the needs of subgroup populations; specifically our students with English as their second language (ESL). Vertically aligned teams are most effective when keeping Anontenni's "nonnegotiables by age 24" in mind.  


North Stafford High School, located in Stafford, Virginia (about 45 minutes from Washington D.C.), is an example of positive culture and climate. We support the formula of Jostens Renaissance Schools for Results (Respect + Recognition + Reward + Reinforcement + Relationships = RESULTS). This combined with the effort from our PLC at Work members has launched North to this exact moment. This current school year we earned the highest level of recognition, the Jostens Renaissance Platinum School of Distinction Award.  This award is the highest level for a Renaissance school. We are 1 of only 11 schools across North America to earn this title; this award focuses on schools who can prove tangible results with a commitment to the Renaissance formula. Also from Jostens Renaissance: we were 1 of 6 schools across our country and Canada to be a recipient of the Reinforcement Award. This award recognized our efforts in the "R" category of Recognition. We continued to host events, particularly virtual pep rallies to help bolster school spirit, continued our PLC at Work cycles despite COVID-constraints, and kept our community engaged with what we call "North Nation." We were the onlyschool to have a Renaissance Award and a School of Distinction Award. We stand out! We are North Nation!

Our staffulty is committed to the communities here, both our professional learning communities, and our neighboring communities as well. It was no shock when we learned that without prompts, several teacher-carpools went masked door-to-door delivering supplies and treats to some of our at-risk subgroups when managing the pandemic last school year. Prior to the pandemic, our staffulty was able to work with local Stafford Food Security Inc., a nonprofit food truck devoted to fighting childhood hunger. Our staffulty did not just go to support "their" students, but all students within our community: pre-K, elementary,  middle, and high levels! It is with this continuous compassion, that last school year, 2019-2020, Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) awarded our school the Continuous Improvement Award. This award recognizes schools who make large gains in sub-group areas. Our work was noted for closing achievement gaps in mathematics with respect to students with English as their second language (ESL) and especially students with a disability (SWD). We were also honored by Project Lead the Way (PLTW) as one of 206 Distinguished High Schools in the country. This award celebrates our commitment to helping students own their educational journey and providing opportunities to achieve outside their limits.