Horizon High School (2023)

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

    Horizon HS is a small alternative high school.  We have one teacher for each core academic area and a few elective/ CTE teachers.  We average around 60 students.  We service a small, fairly mobile, at-risk student population.  Our PLC journey started around the 2017-18 school year.  We created a schedule where our Horizon teachers had the same planning as at least one other teacher.  Social studies was paired with English and Math with Science and the electrice teachers were paired.  We brought in Aaron Hansen, author of “How to develop PLCs for Singletons and Small Schools”.  He worked with our district and school for a couple of years while we started this work.  At this point in time we did not carve out additional time in our schedule for this work and our teachers were not provided with much training about how to conduct it.

    In 2018-19 our district started sending groups of teachers and administrators to the Marzano/ Solution Tree PLC Institutes in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.  Over half of our staff participated in these.  We learned through these conferences how critical it was to have a master schedule that provided teachers with time to do the PLC work that was separate from planning time or additional time before and after school.  As a result in 2019 we implemented a new master schedule for 6-12 schools that provided teachers with this time.  At Horizon we aligned our schedule with the main, bigger high school (EHS) and that allowed our teachers to begin attending and participating in the appropriate content area PLCs.  We continued our building level/ guiding coalition PLC work on late start Mondays, a new additional district level schedule adjustment to provide regularly scheduled PD and PLC time for teachers.  During the 2019-20 school year, before COVID in March, a few more Horizon teachers were able to attend PLC institutes with their content area teams.  In May of 2019 Horizon achieved Level one certification from Marzano and High Reliability Schools Framework.  Tammy Hefflebower was our certifier at that time.  

    From 2019 to present (the last three years) we’ve focused our work on high effective instruction.  We’ve just applied for Marzano High Reliability Schools Framework level two certification.  During this time our PLC teams have continued work around using data to improve our student intervention systems.  In 2020-21 our district implemented the Marzano Focused Teacher Evaluation Model (FTEM) which is now our instructional model.  Much of our PLC work the last two years has been centered around learning and using the instructional protocols in the FTEM to achieve effective instruction for all students in all classrooms.  Maria Nielsen began working as a consultant at Horizon during this year as well.  We Maria in our building at six times that year observing and providing feedback based on the FTEM instructional model to our teachers and PLCs.  Jan Hoegh also began more intensive work with our district’s PLCs and individual schools during this time.

     In 2021-22 Horizon applied for and was accepted into the WDE PLC at Work Cohort.  Teachers that had not had an opportunity to attend a PLC institute participated with the principal in this cohort.  WDE hired Maria Nielsen to lead this training.  Three two day sessions later, we now have 100% of our Horizon teachers and staff trained in the PLC model.  We continued consultant work with Maria Nielsen this year as well.  We had her complete three two day sessions with our teachers where she met with them individually one day to plan a lesson, and then observed and provided feedback on the lesson the following day.  Teachers were able to refine their understanding of FTEM protocols through this work.  They became much more consistent at engaging students in higher levels of learning.  Their development and daily use of learning targets embedded in scales improved.  They were able to share this work and their experiences with their content area PLC teams as well.


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

For the last six years at Horizon we’ve operated on a quarterly system.  Students earn credit in year long classes every nine weeks (.25+.25+.25+.25 =1.0).  We do this for several reasons.  First, our student population is fairly mobile.  The main high school operates on semesters and will not take students that are behind on credits or come a few weeks late into the semester.  Two, our students are better able to focus on smaller chunks.  If they get behind, allowing them additional time to make up a few weeks of work is more manageable than a few months of work.  The quarterly system takes away the phenomenon of students just quitting halfway through the semester because it’s impossible for them to catch up.

The other advantage to a quarterly system is it requires teachers to assess, record and provide feedback on a minimum of a weekly basis.  The expectation at Horizon for teachers has always been that they have some sort of assessment recorded for students on a weekly basis. This could be formative or summative… but it must be posted in Powerschool for parents and students to see and it should be a clear indicator of progress towards priority standards.  

In addition to our quarterly system, on a weekly basis teachers assess their students progress and assign students to intervention or enrichment options accordingly.  Three days a week teachers have a thirty-six minute class during the school day that is used to provide students with extra time and support.  We call this “personalized learning time”, or PLT.  We also offer enrichment activities during this time.  In addition to this we have longer intervention time set aside for core area classes during our regular first hour.  This is for students who may fall further behind (usually due to attendance issues) that need longer, daily time set aside to make the learning they missed.  It also comes in handy for the transfer students we get from other districts that may need to start classes from the beginning.

The principal recognizes students that have a 70% or higher in all of their classes on a weekly basis.  The office does this for A/B and A honor roll as well.  This forces administration to review grades weekly.

We hold parent/ teacher conferences four times a year.  Usually at week six every quarter (the quarters are nine weeks).  Doing this also helps and motivates our teachers to keep their assessment data up to date.  More than anything though, it gives those parents who don’t track their students' progress through Powerschool an opportunity to receive feedback from teachers and their students with time left in the quarter to intervene and improve before the grade becomes final and credit it posted.  

Students also keep track of their credit earned on a quarterly basis.  At the end of each quarter they update a “Student Success Plan” or SSP with the credits they’ve earned and how they apply to their overall progress towards graduation.

Our school and district has been using the Marzano High Reliability Schools Framework to develop a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students.  Horizon High School has started work towards earning HRS level three certification and will pursue that certification in 2022-23.  

One of the main reasons our Horizon master schedule is the same as the bigger Evanston High School schedule.  This allows our teachers to work with content area specific PLC groups at EHS.  The work in these PLC groups is focused on instruction, curriculum and assessment.  Our goal at Horizon has always been to provide students with curriculum and instruction that is at least 80% equivalent to what is being provided for Evanston High Schools students.  In some content areas our curriculum and instruction needs to differ a little (20%) so that we might better meet the needs of our students.  Most of our students come to us with gaps in learning and/or behavioral/ social issues that have caused them to fall behind.  It’s critical that we recognize this, and allow time for practices and interventions that might help bridge the gaps our students have.  

In addition to this, Wyoming has a peer accreditation system in place for all districts that evaluates a district’s student assessment system to ensure that it meets state statute requirements and is aligned to the state content standards.  Our principal has been trained as a peer evaluator and serves on accreditation committees for other districts annually.  Through this work he is able to compare and assess our district’s curriculum and assessment with that of other Wyoming schools to ensure that we are providing the highest levels of learning for all of our students.



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

Some of our intervention systems were discussed in the previous question.  We have several ways that we provide for this at Horizon.  Weekly “Personalized Learning Time” or PLT is the first option available to all students.  This time is part of our regular master schedule and occurs three days a week during a 36 minute class period.  Each week teachers assess student progress and identify students they need to work with during this time to help provide them with additional support.  Students that are not identified are assigned extension or enrichment options usually with student council or elective classes.

Regular first hour Math, ELA and Social Studies classes are reserved solely for students that need more time than PLT allows to make up missed instruction and class time.  This time is reserved mainly for students who transfer in mid-quarter that might be missing three to four weeks of a quarter due to attendance issues, or simply not being in school, and/or transferring in from another state, district or school where they were not enrolled in similar classes or they did not have transfer grades.  Sometimes this time is also used for students who failed a quarter and need to go back and make some work up to regain credit for that quarter.

We also offer a regular class period or two called Apex credit recovery.  Apex is a self-paced on-line system that allows students to complete entire courses that they might have missed.  Apex is a last resort measure for students.  We only allow students to attempt Apex courses if they have exhausted all other intervention options and/or there are schedule conflicts which do not allow them to take or retake courses they need.

After school intervention options are available for students as well.  Students must make appointments with teachers and pre-arrange for this time.

The last Friday of every quarter is also reserved solely for intervention.  It is usually an early release day, so we only require students to attend that are not passing classes.  When they attend that day they are assigned to core classes in which it might be possible for them to demonstrate proficiency in the time that is left within that quarter.  For students that attend and make the most of this time… if it’s not enough to push their quarter grade to a 70% (passing)... we will usually give them a two week extension (using PLT time and 1st hour time) going into the next quarter to try and complete that quarter credit or class.

Finally, for students that do not take advantage of PLT, 1st hour, End of quarter Fridays, Afterschool or Apex opportunities to complete or make up instructional time or get additional support, we also offer summer school.  Students can attend school in the month of June to make-up or complete work in core classes that they may have missed or failed.  During summer school, teachers review assessment records and gradebooks to determine precisely where students have not demonstrated proficiency and construction options tailored specifically to individual student’s needs, for a student to gain proficiency in a content area.  Students can only earn back up to 2.0 credits (two full classes) through this option.  Depending on the student, if they are only missing one key assessment, they might only need to participate in summer school for a week.  If they are missing more, it might be the whole month.  Teachers determine what’s required by students, by standard.


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

Content area team PLCs approach this work a little differently.  Most meet weekly and some portion of their PLC work concentrates on tracking, monitoring current students and identifying needs for intervention.  Their work also focuses on broader needs around instruction, curriculum and assessment.

When our Horizon building level PLC meets our work is always focused on at least one or more of the following goals (they are posted at the top of every PLC agenda) …


  • Increase our overall proficiency on the 2022 Summative WYTOPP ELA and Math test to 50% at each grade level

  • Reduce our 2021-22 dropout rate by 25%

  • Increase our 2021-22 graduation rate by 25%

  • Reduce major discipline referrals by 15%

  • Increase our average course completion rate 

  • Increase our average 11th grade ACT score by 10%

  • Increase our overall WDE school climate survey score by 8%

Our work for a week might focus on an element of our instructional model and improving instruction to ensure effective instruction in all classrooms, or it might be the week we all bring our quarter grades to the table and compare/ contrast them to assure consistency and reliability.  It could be the week we review graduation data and look, in detail, at the students that were part of that cohort and discuss what we could do differently to ensure more students graduate.  Maybe it’s the week we review our twice annual climate survey data and discuss our PBIS practices to ensure we’re providing the nurturing, positive atmosphere we say we will as part of our overall mission at Horizon.  Whatever the work is, it’s going to be tied to at least one of the goals and the idea of improving it.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Under the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act (WAEA) Wyoming created a separate system for evaluating the state's alternative schools.  The system is comprised of several measurements ranging form achievement data, career readiness, graduation rates, climate surveys and growth data.  Under this system Horizon High School has been exceeding expectations.

Here's a link to the reports...


2022-23 Update

Attached are the three most current WDE WAEA Alt School accountability reports for Horizon High School.  Also attached is a WDE slideshow that I think best explains how each measure is calculated in the report.  Here is a link to WDE's accountability page-  https://edu.wyoming.gov/for-district-leadership/accountability/state-school-accountability/   -more info about how they determine Alt School Accountability can be found at the bottom of their page under Alt School Acct.
    Here is a link to WDE's website where they post all of the accountability reports... https://edu.wyoming.gov/data/accountability-reports/    Using the data on this page one can look up the reports for any alternative school in the state.  Here is a link that shows how all of the Alt Schools scored in 2021-22 and how we stacked up... https://reporting.edu.wyo.gov/ibi_apps/run.bip?BIP_REQUEST_TYPE=BIP_RUN&BIP_folder=IBFS%253A%252FWFC%252FRepository%252FPublic%252FAccountability%252F&BIP_item=SchoolPerformanceSummaryAltNew2022HTML.htm
   I've also attached a pdf screenshot of both the 2021-22, and 18-19 comparison data reports.  It's clear that Horizon has been in the top five on these reports.  The color ones on WDE website are easier to read.  17-18 comparison data is not available for some reason, but we did get scored that year.  By all indications, I think Horizon should be meeting or exceeding for the 22-23 school year two.
    As evidenced by our PLC agendas and meetings, at Horizon we set all of our annual goals and improvement strategies around the measures on this WAEA Alt school accountability system.  We work weekly on one or more of these goals- always referencing data to gauge improvement. 
   For 2023-24,  principal Shad Hamilton has accepted a new position as Special Education Director in his home town of Mountain View, Wyoming (UCSD #4).  Bren Payne will take over as principal at Horizon.  With 26 years of classroom teaching experience, several of which have been using the PLC process to guide his content area team in the process of school and instructional improvement.  Bren and Horizon teachers will carry on the excellent work we've done at Horizon using the PLC process.
Shad Hamilton can be reached at hamiltons@uinta4.com.  


  • HRS Level 1 certification- 2019

  • HRS Level 2 Certification- 2022

  • HRS Level 3 Certification- pending- 2024

  • 2018-19- Wyoming Accountability in Education Act (WAEA) Exceeding Alternative School Expectations

  • 2019-20- Wyoming Accountability in Education Act (WAEA) Exceeding Alternative School Expectations

  • PLC at Work- Promising Practices- 2022

  • PLC at Work- Model School- 2023