Anthem School

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

 Our PLC Story

Our PLC journey began before we even knew the scope of PLC at Work!  Our teachers have been holding weekly team meetings for many years.  However, it wasn’t until our teacher leaders and administration attended the 2017 Summit on Professional Learning Communities at Work that we fully realized the power of collaborative teams in a professional learning community.  It was there that the “Aha” moment struck!  We had been doing some of the work of a PLC, but we were lacking some of the elements that would guarantee a viable curriculum and ensure learning opportunities for all.  We had so much more to learn!  Our next step was a book study of Amplify Your Impact Coaching Collaborative Teams in PLCs at Work. We strongly embraced the idea that we must focus on the achievement of ALL students by diving deeply into standards to determine what successful mastery really looked like.  We felt that our highly qualified staff of amazing teachers had created a culture of inclusion for all students. We understood that the best strategy for improving student learning was developing our collaborative teams.  Our driving force at Anthem School is our mission statement, “Anthem School inspires problem solvers and lifelong learners through character, collaboration, and creativity,” which applies to staff and students alike.  We let this mission be the lens through which we work.

Our teacher leaders took the knowledge gained from the Summit and the book study and spent the next school year training the rest of the staff on PLCs and the work of collaborative teams using a gradual release professional development model.  Each early release, teacher leaders presented, systematically and sequentially, the collaborative process.  We developed shared resources and common collaborative protocols that aligned with the four critical questions of a PLC.  Teachers had the time during early release days, and common prep time, to dive deeply into the essential standards and develop shared strategies and common formative assessments (CFAs).

Each grade level had a daily block of time which we called RTI, Response to Intervention. Through our collaborative team work, we realized that we were not always using that time to intervene and re-engage ALL students.  As noted in Learning by Doing:  A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work, Third Edition, by Richard DuFour et al, “The fundamental purpose of the school is to ensure that all students learn at high levels.”  We understood that we needed to better clarify the purpose of RTI time.  Therefore, we renamed it WIN Time, WIN is an acronym for What I Need.  We felt WIN was more closely aligned with the purpose of this block of time and kept the focus on the needs of  EACH student.    

The following year, we had a book study of The Teacher Clarity Playbook, Fisher, Douglas, et aland had summer work teams that spent time unwrapping essential standards and developing CFAs including success criteria.  The Playbook provided our staff with a well-defined roadmap for implementation. In addition, each year, two teachers attend monthly training sessions led by our district’s PLC leaders to continuously grow and learn as a collaborative team and district.  Katie Brown, 6th grade NCBT Model Teacher Leader stated the following regarding the impact her trainings have had on student learning, “It impacts student learning because it is about putting the students first in a very purposeful way. It is reaching each learner with research based strategies and being intentional in their growth.”  With the evolution of our learning, we took a fresh look at our forms and processes and made necessary adjustments.  We continually grew in our understanding of collaborative work and the benefits that purposeful collaboration had on student learning.  We were feeling like the gears were turning and our excitement was growing.  Then COVID came.  We were all facing new challenges and learning how to move forward in unfamiliar ways.  However, because of the work we had been doing and our deep understanding of essential standards, we knew that our students would learn even through those uncertain times.  We were able to engage in tiered learning, maintaining our commitment to ensuring all students had access to strong instruction.  Due to our shared commitment to the achievement of all students, we had structures in place to identify gaps in learning caused by the interruption of in-person learning. 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Create and implement a guaranteed and viable curriculum.

Anthem School is a collaborative environment that embraces teacher leaders’ strengths.  Our PLC-Teacher Leaders (PLC-TL) meet quarterly, at minimum, to discuss implementation, needs, and next steps.  One focus of our PLC-TL has been to ensure a guaranteed and viable curriculum that focuses on the Arizona State Standards. The first step is to identify the essential standards that all students must master at a particular grade level.  Those standards are unwrapped first using a common collaborative document that identifies the actions that teachers and students must take to successfully master the standard.  This document was developed following the format explained in the Teacher Clarity Playbook. A key feature of the process is identifying the nouns and verbs in the standard.  This helps teachers and students understand the “what” and “how” in a standard.  The standard is then broken down into smaller progressions and used to create precise lessons and outcomes.  This step is critical to both teachers and students because it offers each a roadmap to success.  To assess the effectiveness of a lesson, or set of lessons, teachers collaborate with each other to create common formative assessments (CFA’s) to monitor progress toward mastery.  These CFA’s are highly useful in guiding Tier 2 instruction to promptly  re-engage students who are struggling.  This process fits hand-in-hand with our use of rubrics, an essential component of Standards Based Grading Mindset.  We are currently participating in a district-wide initiative to move from an A-F grading scale to a 0-4 point grading scale for Grades 7 and 8 and 1-4 point grading scale for Grades K-6. Teacher-created rubrics provide teachers and students the necessary criteria for standard mastery and help target areas for re-engagement.  Our Special Education Team Lead, Bailey Hines, said, “Collaboration amongst general education and special education teachers through dedicated PLC time has positively impacted the alignment between all tiers of instruction.  Unwrapping standards and interpreting data with an inclusive mindset has shown an increase in academic achievement for our students with disabilities.” 

Monitor student learning on a timely basis

Instruction at Anthem School is data driven. Grades K-8 collaborate weekly about current data related to benchmarks, CFA and other formative assessments, classroom performance, and related measures.  Teams utilize protocols to analyze their CFA or summative data to reflect on the impact of instruction, plan re-engagement and extensions for Tier 2, and next instructional steps for Tier 1.  In addition, at least twice each year, our staff does a deep data dive analyzing benchmark student achievement data. This is an important step in understanding potential needs of students in the upcoming school year. Teachers collaborate both vertically and horizontally to best determine the needs of incoming students.  The second time we deeply analyze data is after mid-year benchmark testing in various areas, ensuring we look at low growth in addition to performance levels.  Teams conduct an analysis on the assessment results, looking at the question type, trends of missed questions, and potential causes that can help identify instructional opportunities for re-engagement and extension.  Using this approach, we identified a trend in Math that indicated the spring semester lockdown in 2020 had significantly impacted current student performance. This information provided us with an opportunity to target instruction on those missing concepts. 

Students who are consistently below benchmark may be discussed at our monthly MTSS meetings.  This team discusses academic or behavioral concerns, determines additional supports and strategies, then monitors impact of progress through tracking using Panorama, a data platform designed for education.  Panorama has been instrumental in providing teams quick access to intervention impact graphs to determine next steps.  Our campus Guiding Coalition, composed of various department and team leaders, meet monthly to review the impact and progress of our student monitoring systems.  Their expertise and perspectives are valuable and benefit our collaborative teamwork.


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

As our knowledge and experience with collaborative teams and providing effective Tier 1, 2 & 3 instruction has developed, some of our systems have adjusted and changed to meet student learning needs.  One example is our master schedule, which provides for three tiers of instruction. While we have always had tiered instruction, it wasn’t until we evolved as a PLC school that we realized not all students had access to all three levels of instruction.  Some students receiving special education or related services were missing out on Tier 2 opportunities for  instruction. As a result, a master schedule was created to accommodate the needs of all students. Tier 1 ensures grade level learning experiences for all students, focusing instruction on grade level standards using guaranteed and viable curriculum resources.  Tier 2 provides support and re-engagement for students who did not reach desired mastery or understanding of grade-level standards taught in Tier 1.  Tier 2 also provides opportunities for extending learning for those students who met the success criteria in Tier 1. Anthem School calls the Tier 2 block of time WIN, or What I Need.  WIN time meets all students' instructional needs by differentiating for students based on their current ability of grade level standards.  Much focus has been spent ensuring that Tier 2 is provided for all students, in order to close the achievement gap and increase student overall performance.  Tier 3 provides intensive interventions for students who need out-of-grade-level support or specialized instruction.  Tier 3 interventions occur during a scheduled time in both the Math and ELA blocks known as DI time or differentiated instruction time.  During this time students may be pulled out of general education classrooms to engage in specialized instruction for their IEP goals or pulled from the general education classroom by the Reading Specialist or Gifted Specialist to focus on specific, targeted needs to close learning gaps or extend learning.  

Our campus has two Campus Intervention Coordinators (CICs); one for K-6 and one for Middle School (⅞).  CICs.  Our Coordinators are part of a broader, district-wide team whose mission is to champion strategic interventions and a growth mindset for students and teachers to accelerate student growth and eliminate potential barriers to future success. As a campus, we strive to significantly reduce the number of students in need of Tier 3 support by closing gaps in student learning through systematic early intervention.  To identify gaps, we use several universal screeners at the beginning, middle, and end of each school year, including Dibels 8th (K-3), Reading Inventory (3-8), and Math Inventory (1-8).  “Having an intervention coordinator at the campus level makes sense because our intervention resources can be tailored to the needs of students on this campus while still accessing district-supported intervention programs.  We are able to be responsive to the needs of each student,” says our K-6 CIC, Christine Cooper. During one Content Collaboration meeting, educators identified common “push students” who, if improved, would significantly impact our student data.  This impact would result in the increase of our schoolwide proficiency level by 7% or more! The collective efficacy among staff recognizing the significant impact on student achievement across each grade level provided inspiration and motivation.  


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

Collective teacher efficacy, the belief that “teachers in this school can get through to the most difficult students” (Goddard, Hoy, & How, 2000), is a foundation of the work of the collaborative teams at Anthem School.  Hattie’s research clearly demonstrates the power of collective efficacy, which has an effect size of 1.57!  Our teachers and staff are dedicated to student success, and work collaboratively to support each other and ensure each student is getting the high quality education they deserve.  Focus during collaborative team meetings is always on one of the three components of an effective PLC: focus on student learning, professional collaboration, and a focus on results.

The leadership structure is developed intentionally, in order to provide a consistent focus on student excellence.  The work of our leadership teams, including Campus Improvement Team (CIT), PLC-TL (PLC Teacher Leaders), Guiding Coalition, and Content Collaboration teams, is all aligned to our campus goals and initiatives. These teams meet regularly throughout the school year, most meeting every 4-6 weeks, focusing on data, impact of our action steps, and determining next steps.  Our leadership team members often wear more than one hat and are on multiple leadership teams.  We are a small school, so it is important that we have strong leadership teams constantly monitoring the pulse of our progress. Decision making is based on shared knowledge and the belief that all students can learn at high levels.

Our campus CICs have been instrumental at aiding teachers in the collection of student data, timely feedback on intervention effect, and resources to meet student academic needs.  Interwoven throughout the aforementioned teams, they support teachers with an unwavering focus and commitment to student success.  

Our Guiding Coalition is composed of our administrators, counselor, special education coordinator, the CICs, and a PLC Teacher Leader.  This group ensures that we have the resources necessary to implement effective interventions, as well as monitoring the efficacy of those interventions.The same team, along with our School Psychologist and grade level teachers, participate in monthly MTSS meetings where we discuss students of concern, set goals for struggling students, create intervention plans, and monitor progress. It is the task of the Guiding Coalition to analyze the results of our universal screeners, as well as the results of district interim tests, for students using intervention programs to determine the impact of multi-tiered instruction. “Our campus has the necessary tools in place to identify students who need additional support and has resources available to support struggling students through tiered instruction.” Vanessa Uphoff, Guiding Coalition member. 

Early release days that are used for professional development are valuable and instrumental to our collaborative team progress and focus.  We have professional development support that we can reach out to, as needed, to provide clarity and another viewpoint to help maintain momentum and progress.  The work of our collaborative teams have consistently demonstrated dedication, success, and overall student improvement, despite unexpected challenges and disruptions, i.e. COVID.  Our collaborative teams remain committed to focusing on the 4 PLC questions, celebrating student successes publicly, recognizing the efforts and strategies leading to the success, and how to replicate for continued growth and sustainability.  


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Anthem School is proud to have been an A rated school by the state of Arizona since 2017, the year we first attended the PLC Summit.  We also have earned the A+ School of excellence award, a 4 year award, in 2015 & 2019.  Since we began our focus on implementation of PLCs, our student data has shown a consistent increase in achievement.  Our data focused and detail oriented leadership teams, annually, focus on interpreting the data to determine celebrations and next steps for improvement.  

Throughout our campus, we focus on ensuring all students have access to Tier 1 instruction, followed by a structure responding to the data in Tiers 2 & 3.  Our content collaboration teams (ELA and Math) look closely at trends and patterns in the data to respond to their content area of expertise in making action steps for our CIT.  

Math has been a continued area of focus for our teams - both in collaborative teams as well as on our Campus improvement plan.  As you can see below, our scores, overall, show a steady increase of proficiency. While there are some areas of decline, or inconsistencies, that typically can be attributed to staffing change including new teacher to campus and/or reduction of staff, i.e. 6th grade.

With COVID 19 affecting all schools across the nation, our teachers worked tirelessly to maintain a quality education program for our students.  The chart below shows how Anthem School worked to maintain scores, reducing the decline comparatively to other schools.  We are very proud that Anthem School was 1 of 5 recognized in DVUSD for having minimal decline in math scores due to COVID.





Anthem School




Desert Mountain School




New River Elementary




Paseo Hills School




Sunset Ridge School




AZ State




The charts below highlights our consistent progress and scores above state averages from 2014-2019, averaging more than 20 percentage points above state average.  In addition, over time, our growth has surpassed state growth.  Each year our staff focus is on growth and improvement,  learning from our own data sets to set new benchmarks and goals. 


During the 2021-2022 school year, Anthem School worked with PLC trainers and our PLC-TL to ensure students had access to all 3 tiers of instruction.  Collaborative teams meet regularly on early release days to discuss student data, determine needs and next steps.  After mid year benchmark data, our teams conducted a deep data dive, resulting in identifying standards of need for Tier 1, 2, & 3 instruction.  An example of impact is below, indicated by a significant increase in proficiency among 6th grade math.  Beginning of year assessment indicated we had  74% of students were below grade level, 19.7% of students at benchmark and 6.6% highly proficient.  The team conducted a thorough analysis identifying standards of need, indicating the standards were tied to when students were on virtual learning during their 4th & 5th grade years!  Teachers provided targeted, short cycle intervention addressing the gaps during Tier 2 instruction.  Proudly, our mid year benchmark data showed we increased the number of students at or above grade level to 76%, with 47.5% proficient and 27.9% highly proficient!  Examples such as this are shared out with the whole staff, celebrating the growth of our students as a result of collaborative teams! 

Another example of the focus at the student level on targeting students below grade level is our first grade reading scores.  Tier 2 strategies using research based resources, i.e. 95% Group, were implemented.  Progress monitoring data showed favorable results, and mid year benchmark testing clearly demonstrates that their efforts are working.  Beginning of the year indicated that 58% of students were at grade level; whereas, even with increasing target levels, at mid year we had improved the number of students at benchmark to 65 % while reducing our well below students from 29% BOY to 18% MOY.  This downward trend is in line with our target of 9% or fewer students scoring well below benchmark.  Continued progress monitoring and strong focus on Tier 2 instruction shows improvement for nearly all students tested.  



Further example of focus on growth and progress through a multi tiered system of approach is our Reading Inventory scores.  Below, the left data set is beginning of year RI results whereas, the right column is the mid year scores. All grades 6th - 8th decreased the number of students below basic while increasing the students proficient/advanced.  For example, 6th grade beginning of year indicated 26 students at below basic/basic and 34 at proficient/advanced.  Students received differentiated instruction during Tier 2 time focused on the instructional needs.  The collaborative team ran short cycles and focused on growth of individual students.  Mid year scores improved to no students at below basic and 18 students at basic in addition to increasing to 42 at proficient/advance. Each of our collaborative teams follow this same cycle of analyzing student data, responding to the data including celebrations, then determining next steps.  Teams are regularly heard in powerful collaboration about what specific instructional strategies and resources were effective at improving student learning. The examples below for 6th - 8th grade reading scores, is an example of the extraordinary work and growth as a result of our collaborative teams.

Additional data links for sample mid year data reviews:

Mid year data review example responses

Mid year content collaboration push spreadsheet

  • A+ School of Excellence 2015

  • A+ School of Excellence 2019

  • Anthem Rotary Middle School Teacher of the year 2018 - Rebecca Humphryes

  • Anthem Rotary Middle School Teacher of the year 2017 - Sujata Kumar

  • AdvancEd accredited

  • DVUSD - Model PLC District

  • National Board Certified Teacher

  • Board recognition for having 2 years of high learning growth on AZ Merit - MS Math

  • Board recognition for having extraordinary growth AZ Merit score 2019 - MS Math

  • Counselor of the year, Teacher of the year and Rookie of the year nominations

  • Grants awarded