Dickerson Middle School (2023)

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

Dickerson Middle School began its journey toward integrating the PLC process and creating a school collaborative culture beginning within the 2014-2015 school year. While protective collaborative time was previously established, throughout this school year, teachers worked within their subject-area teams to build the groundwork for collaboration, individualized interventions, and common assessments. In 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, teaching communities were introduced, and teachers were asked to create norms, identify roles, record meeting minutes, and start using the 4 essential PLC questions to create common summative and formative assessments to analyze student data and performance (See "4-essential-questions.png" in Additional Files/Images). Teachers began "data digs" to guide instructional decisions and implemented the RTI process for student learning. Even though these steps were started, there were still members of teams who worked in isolation and a deeper approach to these practices had yet to be established. During June of 2018, a team consisting of an administrator and teacher leaders attended the Solution Tree “Principal Leadership in a PLC at Work” conference in Atlanta, Georgia. This ignited Dickerson’s process of integrating collaborative communities within the school culture.

With new leadership during the 2018-2019 school year, Principal Adam Hill ushered in a new invigorating approach to collaboration and provided guidance to further develop Dickerson into a formally organized PLC school. He used the previously established foundations and continually added integral pieces from the PLC process to shift the school culture to more effective collaboration. Because of his active role as a member on the district leadership and Guiding Coalition teams and his knowledge of how a true PLC process works, he was able to guide the Dickerson staff to fine-tune our cooperative teams into collaborative communities.

To start, Mr. Hill revised Dickerson's mission and vision statements (see "mission-and-vision.png" in Additional Files/Images) with the entire faculty to not only reflect on our goals as a school, but directly align with Cobb County school's mission and vision statements. In addition, the school's Guiding Coalition was established to begin a culture shift within the school where teacher leaders reflected on the effectiveness of their current cooperative team. At this step in the integration of PLCs, the Guiding Coalition members would go back to their teams and initiate teacher buy-in by reflecting on the effectiveness of the work that was already being done. To strengthen the team, teachers were required to establish more formalized roles, norms, norm violations, and record team meeting minutes in the Dickerson Planning Log (See "2017 Dickerson Team Agenda.pdf" in Additional Files/Images) which was uploaded to a shared staff drive. Initially, all staff members were not on-board or positively engaged in the process. Teams tended to function cooperatively instead of collaboratively. The Guiding Coalition members were charged with responding to negativity by educating peers about the PLC process and how it would further benefit student achievement. The GC promoted the message of CT's as a deep introspection of teaching practices and not just more work. In addition, all staff members were trained and certified as Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts in 2018-2019.  This training provided teachers with the tools to collaborate, share files, record data, and analyze student performance through products like Teams, One Note, Forms, Sway (which was extremely beneficial to teachers once the 2020 pandemic changed the teaching and learning practices of teachers and students).

During preplanning of the 2019-2020 school year, the concept of educational lottery was posed to the staff as an introduction to analyze collaborative practices. In a community where parents are actively involved in their children's education, it is imperative to ensure students are being provided with the same opportunities for learning, that students are being held to the same standards of learning, and that learning is being assessed in the same ways.  At this time, teachers came together before the school year started to refine and align syllabi to reflect common weights and classroom grading policies. Initially, this was not well received by all staff members due to the fear of losing their own teaching autonomy. This was an obstacle for the GC team to overcome by assuring their peers that the process would not take away from their art of teaching; instead, it would foundationally allow all students to be given the same opportunities to learn and be assessed consistently and fairly. During this same school year, we took a deeper look at the work being done in our current CTs by using the “Are We a Group or Are We Team?” rubric (see "group-or-team.pdf" in Additional Files/Images).  This was a very introspective process for team members, bringing to light that many CTs were not as effective as previously perceived.  This eye-opening realization was a turning point for some of our more hesitant staff members as it provided the opportunity for more self-reflection and growth.  The teachers began to shift from the mindset of “this is more work” to the realization that the PLC process is an ongoing cycle of continuous growth to develop better teaching practices. Additionally, the Guiding Coalition researched, discussed, and created Collective Commitments that would help to uphold and achieve our shared vision. Creating these commitments was a process shared by the entire staff.  There were discussions for options to revise, re-write, and clarify how the goals will work towards improving our daily practices.

CTs started the process of creating Mini-Units using backwards design which focused instructional delivery, reteaching, and re-assessing using the 4 PLC questions. Teachers developed units by identifying priority standards, creating common learning targets, setting SMART goals, and writing common formative and summative assessments. Teachers used the 5-step teaching-assessing-learning cycle to collect data and identify groups of students who needed remediation or enrichment to help them achieve mastery of standards (see "teaching-assessing-learning-cycle.pdf" in Additional Files/Images). In addition, we continued to strengthen our RTI process to create intervention plans for students. Student data was shared within collaborative sessions where teachers worked together to create additional learning opportunities. The 4 essential questions guided the process as teachers used a common Unit Plan Template (see "dms-mini-unit-plan-sample.pdf" in Additional Files/Images).  Within this year, the use of learning targets was presented to the staff as a practice to work towards implementing.  While the use of learning targets was not enforced during this school year, teachers began the process of becoming comfortable writing their own learning targets from their subject area standards. In March of 2020, our PLC work was hindered as we had to pivot to virtual teaching. The work we accomplished to this point, including the foundational work of our collaborative teams and MIE certification, better prepared us for the challenges the next year would bring in the face of an unprecedented year for education. 


Even though the 2020-2021 school year began in a virtual format, Dickerson continued our PLC journey. Though the methods differed, we maintained weekly collaboration by utilizing the skills we learned during MIE certification. We incorporated Microsoft teams to hold weekly collaborative meetings, complete unit planning logs, and gave virtual common assessments through Microsoft Forms and the Cobb Teaching and Learning platform. During this detrimental time for student learning, a collaborative decision was made to create a common gradebook for each grade level to establish unified grading practices. During the year, teachers were provided the book "The Energy Bus" by Jon Gordon for schoolwide books study that reinforced a positive school culture.

Through the district created calendar, students worked synchronously with teachers four days a week, while Wednesdays were reserved for remediation and enrichment asynchronously. Teachers used this time with students to help them navigate an unfamiliar learning environment while focusing on priority standards and learning goals. In addition, collaborative teams met on Wednesdays to focus on new instructional practices to meet student needs virtually. Starting in October of 2020, the district adjusted the schedule to allow families who felt comfortable a chance to return to in-person learning. At this time, teachers adapted their teaching practices to simultaneously teach virtually and in-person. The schedule still allowed for Wednesdays to be asynchronous learning days while schools were cleaned and sanitized. This provided teachers the opportunity to meet collaboratively and plan lessons using current data of student performance. Teams continued to use the 4 essential PLC questions to drive our lesson plans and student assessments. During this difficult time for instructional planning, the emphasis on the 4 questions became even more important to help us navigate how we were going to help students continue to achieve at high levels while facing the repercussions instructional loss and change would have on students.  While this was a difficult time for educators, it forced everyone to lean on the PLC foundations as a necessity instead of a task realizing we would need to take an all hands-on deck approach. As a result, we saw our teachers excel at implementing the principles of the PLC process — even those who did not fully embrace it in the past.


Ushering in a new type of school year with virtual learning during a pandemic brought different challenges to the PLC process as well as created new opportunities for growth. With the start of the 2021-2022 school year, all students were welcomed back into a face-to-face learning environment five days per week. To accommodate the deficits incurred with the challenges of the previous school year, we created a master schedule incorporating a Wednesday intervention and stretch block where students were in classes based on need or interest for a four-week period (see "focus-block-schedule.pdf" in Additional Files/Images). The teachers would place students into academic blocks according to subject-area need or students would choose extension classes based upon their interests. We found this schedule beneficial, but areas for improvement were needed to best reach students who had learning gaps in multiple content areas. Creating the focus schedule into four-week blocks caused missed opportunities to change focus more frequently for students who had multiple academic needs. A set amount of time a student spent in a block of four-weeks limited teachers' abilities to change student priority as their needs changed. We found some students needed to move onto other subjects prior to the end of the four-week period. The implementation of the intervention and stretch blocks did yield positive results as students were given the opportunity to meet with different teachers to help fill in the needs of their learning. For the first time, many teachers were working with students that were not in their daily academic classes which created opportunities for students to be taught curriculum from different team members.

In November of 2021, we received professional learning from teacher leaders on developing learning targets that were previously introduced by the administration. The goal of this training was to guide CT's to create meaningful learning targets that would focus instruction. This professional learning gave teachers an opportunity to rethink how they were currently utilizing learning targets and changed the focus to creating targets based upon priority standards. This training was especially beneficial to staff members who had not fully embraced the use of learning targets and helped them simplify the process. During this school year, teachers were required to create and post daily learning targets visible to students. In addition, staff members were provided with the book The Soup by Jon Gordon to study and discuss in CT's. The positive message of the book provided a continued focus on positive school culture. To further develop our positive school culture, a shout-out board was created in the mailroom where staff would write messages of gratitude and recognition of their peers. At faculty meetings, administration would randomly draw from the recognition board and acknowledge staff with additional gifts. 

This school year started with the very first summer leadership retreat for GC members. This was a time focused on team building and planning for the upcoming school year, specifically building the intervention and focus block into the master schedule.  GC members were also provided the third edition of Learning By Doing (A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work). For the remainder of the year, the GC would use the foundations of the book to guide discussions and evaluate our growth in the implementation of PLC practices. GC members would carry these discussions into our CT's as a way to continue to develop the practices of successful collaborative communities. Identifying the GC was missing representation from all content areas and grade-levels, the administration asked GC members to invite additional teacher leaders to join the for the 2022-2023 school year. 

The 2022-2023 school year began with a newly formed GC combining old and new members to represent all content/grade levels. During the summer retreat, team building activities were driven by administration to help acclimate new team members and create relationships to form a cohesive group. The book Revisiting Learning Professional Learning Communities at Work was used to structure the GC's agenda and focus the work that needed to be accomplished before the start of the school year. The GC used the foundations in the book to evaluate and re-design the master schedule with changes in the weekly intervention and stretch block. Instead of using the previous school year's four-week focus blocks, the new schedule would allow for students to change their block weekly with focus on by-student/by-standard learning needs. Currently, students are attending weekly intervention or extension blocks determined by assessment data based on individual content standards. The implementation of this new weekly flexible scheduling allows students to meet with teachers based on immediate learning needs, giving students the opportunity to receive help in multiple content areas more frequently. For Dickerson, this is an ongoing endeavor that we will continue to evolve based on current student learning data.

Selected members from the GC were invited to attend the Solution Tree PLC at Work Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. This was a valuable opportunity for members to receive validation of the current work being done, gauge our school’s progress, and identify the next steps in continuing the PLC process. In addition, professional development was provided to school counselors along with reading and math teachers where they attended the RTI at Work multi-day training. This training focused on shared leadership in the school to use data to prevent students from needing to move into Tier-2 or Tier-3. This shared leadership would involve the school intervention team, GC, and CTs.


This school year has been a year of consistent growth for our CTs. During preplanning, the staff was presented with a formal shared PLC notebook to be used as an integral part of collaboration documenting instructional planning and data analysis. The notebook is shared through Microsoft Teams to be accessed by all CT members and administration. A unified notebook created clear expectations and consistency for all subject/grade-level CTs. During staff meetings, administration promotes the work being done by recognizing CTs for exceptional work in embracing the process in completion of the data analysis and planning logs. The implementation and completion of the notebooks continues to be a work in progress. During our protected weekly time, CTs are more intently focusing on continuing the development of learning targets based on priority standards. In turn, CTs are using priority standards to create intervention and extension blocks that are being offered weekly to students. Teachers are utilizing the Cobb Teaching and Learning System (CTLS) to administer assessments and collect data by student/by-standard. Within the CTLS portal, teachers create assessments focusing on specific standards, and the data that is produced is uploaded into the PLC notebook. Teachers are using this data to formatively assess individual student needs and drive their discussions based on the 4 essential PLC questions. Teachers are continually learning how to utilize each other’s strengths and our academic learning portal, CTLS ASSESS, enabling teachers to analyze data more effectively by student, by standard. This continuous growth carries over into our daily conversations and interactions across the building. The use of the notebook provides growth opportunities for our staff. Further discussions are currently taking place to provide more opportunity for teacher development in evolving effective CTs including professional development, vertical teaming, and model samples of notebooks at varied levels of implementation. Looking forward, GC members have identified needs and strategies that were presented at the PLC Learning Tree Conference to be implemented at an appropriate for continued growth. For example, there is an opportunity to create and identify more meaningful roles, responsibilities, and norms as CT members based on individual team member strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Dickerson Middle School's commitment to evaluating and continuing the PLC work enables us consistently work towards our school’s vision to "be a school of excellence where all students succeed." 

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

This year, we have added even more structure to the PLC process by providing a uniform digital collaborative notebook template (See "Collaborative Notebook at a Glance" and "PLC Agenda Template" in additional files) that each collaborative team uses weekly.  We have focused our Professional Development with the teachers on the importance of data analysis of priority standards and looking at data by student, by standard.  

We have a few checks and balances in place to monitor student learning on a timely basis and well as creating and implementing a guaranteed and viable curriculum.  For our curriculum, our district and school has identified priority or essential standards.  The teachers collect and analyze data on the priority standards in their collaborative teams weekly.  Through this process, teachers are able to recognize trends or identify students that need interventions or enrichment based on their current assessment data.  Administration also supports this process by monitoring Collaborative Teams and making sure Learning Targets tied to Question 1 are posted on the class board.  

To ensure that interventions are given on a timely basis, we have created a stretch block into the master schedule that changes for students each week.  On Thursdays, teachers meet in their collaborative teams to discuss student data in relation to the four questions.  They form a list of students that need support on a priority standard based on assessment data.  On Mondays, students sign up for their recommended stretch block, and if students do not require intervention, they may choose a stretch block that allows for extension.  

This has been successful for us to ensure that our school is monitoring student learning on a timely basis.  

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

This year, we have added more structure, support, and guidance to our stretch block.  While we added the stretch block last year and made room for it in the master schedule, it was new for teachers and administrators and there was room for improvement.  For this year, the stretch block is actually added into the student's schedule in the system and they can view their choice on their mobile app, StudentVue.  

We received feedback from the teachers last year that the scheduling of our stretch block felt chaotic and they asked for more structure.  We prioritized supporting teachers with structure this year in order to ensure the students had access to the intervention or extension they needed (See "Weekly Checklist" in additional files).  

The process starts in collaborative teams with student data analysis.  On Thursdays, teachers meet in collaborative teams and analyze data to recognize students that need extra support or intervention to master the priority standards.  The teachers discuss which students they want to attend their Stretch Block on the following Thursday to receive extra support on a specific standard.  Each week, a different content area has "priority" in case a student needs interventions in more than one content area.  

The teachers then communicate to those students that need a specific intervention to sign up for their stretch block.  If a student is not told to go to a specific stretch block, they may choose their own based on a need for intervention, enrichment, or a quiet place to work.  

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

In addition to the Professional Development we have offered the entire staff, we have taken a few deliberate steps  in order to build our teachers' capacity to work as members of high-performing collaborative teams.  At the end of the last school year, we increased our Guiding Coalition to add teacher leaders from each collaborative team.  While this did increase our Guiding Coalition to a large group of 25 members, we have seen a huge change in consistency throughout the school as well as a positive change to our climate and culture.  

By including a member from each collaborative team on our Guiding Coalition, the message will be distribute more effectively and consistently, and we are increasing the capacity of our teacher-leaders as we follow a shared leadership model.  

We have also added two specific target Professional Development sessions for our teachers this year.  Early in September, we invited 12 teachers to attend the RTI at work conference to increase knowledge of the RTI process and how to be effective through the PLC process.  We also took 12 teachers and 2 administrators to a PLC at work conference in another state to increase the effectiveness of our teams.  By strengthening the Tier 1 instruction in all classrooms, the teachers are able to discern the specific needs by student, by standard more efficiently and effectively.  

Each week, the collaborative teams go through the agenda and analyze assessments, student data, and instruction through the lens of the 4 Questions.  

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

For some context, Dickerson Middle school is consistently ranked as one of the best schools in Georgia.  It is considered by many to be the top-performing middle school in the district, Cobb County.  The Cobb County School District is the second largest school system in Georgia and the 25th largest in the nation.  

One of our biggest challenges in implementing the PLC process with fidelity is convincing teachers why we need to do this.  We stuck to research in our Professional Development and explained why this would benefit our school and students, even though we were already a top-performing middle school.  

Another challenge was in analyzing the data.  As a top-performing middle school, there is little room for growth and improvement.  However, we are very proud of the efforts and strides we have made, especially with our students served with Special Education.  

Highlighted in yellow on our 6-8 data spreadsheet, we have focused on using the PLC process to analyze the data in our collaborate teams by student, by standard.  We have fine-tuned our interventions and extensions and it has truly helped our students served with Special Education services. 

On the 8th grade English EOG, Students with disabilities (SWD) improved from the 2017-18 school year to the 2018-19 school year.  Then, scores dropped signficantly in 2020-21 due to the pandemic but have actually risen higher than previous levels due to the more structured intervention as we get stronger in the PLC process.  

On the 8th grade History EOG, there was a similar trend with scores of SWD dropping significantly directly after the pandemic and increasing to above their previous marks in the 2021-22 school year.  

In Science and Math, SWD actually have improved achievement each year since the 2018-19 school year on the EOG as the school becomes more efficient and effective in the PLC process.  

However, another obstacle to progress was obviously the disruption of traditional face-to-face learning caused by the pandemic.  In order to analyze three consecutive years of consistent assessment data, we also supplemented the state assessment data with local student achievement data.  In the supplemental local achievement data spreadsheet, we analyzed our student achievement for two assessments: the Reading Inventory and Math Inventory.  

The Reading Inventory and Math Inventory (RI and MI) include a computer-adaptive screener that Cobb County School District uses to provide immediate, actionable data on students. The Reading Inventory tracks progress from kindergarten through 9th grade. The Math Inventory tracks progress from kindergarten through Algebra II. Cobb County School District screens all students in Grades K-9 at least two times per school year to assist teachers with monitoring growth and personalizing instruction.  

In light of our focus with the EOG achievement data, we have been striving to improve achievement in SWD.  For the Math Inventory, we saw improvement in the amount of growth that our SWD demonstrated since 2019.  Even though there was a slight dip in 2021 to 21.57% growth from 25% growth in 2020, there were many extenuating circumstances this year that students and teachers both had to overcome.  The school year was shortened, many students were forced to learn in a virtual setting, and teachers were forced to learn many new technologies.  However, by sticking to the PLC process, we reached our high growth seen in SWD in 2022 with a 30.34% growth from the first to second MI assessment. 

In the RI, our growth from year to year in SWD was not as consistent.  However, we did reach our highest growth in 2022 in SWD of 14.09% by targetting the reading interventions needed in our focus block schedule.  

Marietta Daily Journal
Voted Best Public Middle School in Cobb County in 2021-2022 

2019 - 2020

  • Percussion Ensemble Performed at PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention)
  • 10 Students accepted to District honor Band

 2021 - 2022

  • Percussion Ensemble Performed at PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention)
  • 15 Students accepted to District honor Band
  • All 4 bands received Highest Rating
  • 3 Students accepted to All State Band

Stock Market Club
2021 - 2022

  • Top 5 in the state overall, one student won the county all three seasons last school year

Spelling Bee
2019-2020 - Our student winner achieved:

  • Cobb County District Spelling Bee – placed 5th
  • Competed in the Regional Spelling Bee

 2020-2021 - Our student winner achieved:

  • Cobb County District Spelling – placed in the top 9
  • Completed in the Regional Spelling Bee

 Writing Fair – 2022

  • Our student was the 2022 district winner for all of 7th grade


Reading Bowl
Since 2018"

  • 1st place in 4 competitions
  • 2nd place in 4 competitions 
  • 3rd place in 1 competition

Georgia Association for Middle Level Education

  • 1 teacher serves on the Board of Directors


  • 2019-Outstanding Educator Award
  • 2019 9th District PTSA Birney Butler Outstanding Educator Award
  • 2019 Georgia PTSA Birney Butler Outstanding Educator Award

 Learning Commons Certification - 2022

 Cobb County 100 Word Story Middle School Challenge - 2020

  • Our school representative was recognized as one of the best out of the entire district

 Ronald McDonald House

  • Our school raises money to donate to RMH as a room sponsor ($5,000 per room to sponsor for a family).
  • In 2021-2022 DMS has sponsored 2 rooms (over $10,000 donation)