Cass High School (2023)
- School District: Bartow County Schools
- School Address: 1000 Colonel Way , White, GA 30171, US
- School Phone: 770-606-5845
- Principal: Stephen Revard
- Contact E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Number of Students: 1,541
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 50%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 4.9%
- Percent of Special Education: 13.3%
- White: 57.1%
- Black: 18.1%
- Hispanic: 18.8%
- Asian: 2%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.35%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.25%
- Multiracial: 3.4%
- Other: 0%
Cass High School embarked on our journey of building a shared understanding of the Professional Learning Community (PLC) at Work process in June 2018 at the Culture Keepers conference in Atlanta, GA, in which our principal Mr. Revard attended. During the conference, Bartow County School System (BCSS) central office staff and building-level principals were exposed to the work of Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, Thomas Many, and Mike Mattos. Each of the sessions during the conference was an opportunity to engage with practitioners in the right work and through these sessions it was evident that there needed to be a cultural shift from doing what we always did to doing what was right for the students.
During the fall of 2018, our school system introduced the BCSS PLC Implementation Guide: Year 1-3 found in our PLC Playbook p.57-61 (see resources for attachment) and Bartow County PLC Playbook along with the Learning by Doing (Mattos, DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2016) book which gave us a blueprint for a cultural shift within our school and an opportunity to engage in the right work. Utilizing strategies from these research-based resources and the established criteria from Mike Mattos (Guiding Principles for Principals workshop, Solution Tree PLC at Work conference, November 2018), we established our first school Guiding Coalition. Members were selected based on enthusiasm to promote change; expertise; credibility, and leadership (Sharon Kramer and Sarah Schuhl, 2017). One of the first tasks that our guiding coalition tackled was creating our Mission Statement, Vision Statement, and our Collective Commitments to behaviors that allowed us to focus on doing whatever it takes to ensure all students learn at high levels. We knew that this would be the catalyst to propel Cass High School into the “right work.” Learning by Doing (DuFour et al., 2016), taught us that our PLC journey is a process to perfect. So, by continuing to provide clarity and commitment to our staff, we were able to provide an opportunity to a portion of our Guiding Coalition members to engage with expert practitioners at the PLC Institute in Atlanta in November of 2019 in order to experience firsthand another level of clarity and inspiration.
We continued this level of clarity and inspiration by involving all our collaborative teams in the process through guided professional developments utilizing the four questions of the PLC process as outlined in Learning by Doing (Mattos et. al., 2016). We have taken to heart a quote “clarity preceded competency” from Becky Dufour. By providing a clear understanding of our goals and objectives as a school, our culture is shifting from what we have always done to what is best for students. The first undertaking that each collaborative team faced was creating a guaranteed and viable curriculum through the vetting process of selecting their content essential standards. By using the R.E.A.L. Criteria to prioritize their content standards, the teams were able to determine which of their standards were essential and which were “nice to know.” (Mattos et. al., 2016, p.115-116). This then allowed teams to utilize their content curriculum maps (see resources for attachment) to become more efficient at planning their instruction in the teaching and assessing cycle (Pg.19). As we started to become practitioners of the process, teachers received additional training on designing rigorous assessment practices using strategies from the text Design in 5 (Vagle, 2014). The data that they gained from these assessments helped to determine which students needed additional time and strategies to gain proficiency of the essential standards. In addition, the data determined which students required extensions based on real-world situations. This shift in culture allowed us to begin to refine our teaching and assessing cycle; master schedule; and the Response to Intervention (RTI) process. During the 2020 school year a specific master schedule was created to include protected teacher time for collaboration, which is in addition to their planning period. Our master schedule also included a built-in instructional Tier II focused time (Tier II schedule) outside of Tier I and Tier III instruction, this block of time is 45-minutes in duration and affectionately called GOLD Time. Since we have more reliable and rigorous data, our GOLD time has become more effective and efficient with it being geared towards what each student needs to show proficiency on the content essential standards. In addition, the Learning Support Specialist (LSS) position was created to support collaborative teams in answering questions three and four (How will we respond when students do not learn? How will we extend the learning for proficient students?) through the Response to Intervention (RTI) process, which is shown on our Cass High School RTI pyramid (see resources for attachment). Cass High School also implemented two new Tier III Courses: one for reading and one for math. Our data shows that some of our students still lack foundational gaps that prevent them from mastering content essential standards. Working in conjunction with our feeder middle schools, these courses have selective student placement (see resources for attachment); a course plan; and pacing to close the gaps for our most at-risk striving students. Our school has created a Site Intervention Team (see resources for attachment) that identifies and provides appropriate support for our striving students.
As we have found through this process, what we have always done stopped meeting the needs of our students. Through gaining clarity through the PLC process, we have found a renewed sense of energy. Our shifting mindset continues to push the staff and the students to be better than they were the day before. As our collaborative teams continue to collaborate and focus on the teaching and assessing cycle, our students are starting to take ownership of their learning. You can see this in the way that our collaborative teams operate and the discussions that they have. Before the PLC process our teachers would collaborate by sharing activities and assessments with each other that they were going to use. Now, you see collaborative teams having rigorous discussions about the assessment they created together; completing an item analysis of the common summative assessment (CSA); and discussing who and what strategies will be used to remediate and extend our students learning. From the student perspective, we realized that the students did not know exactly what they needed to master to show proficiency in the content standards. Now, students are provided with a learning progression ladder (see resources for attachment – Geometry Unit 5 ladder) at the beginning of a unit which shows the expectation of proficiency and extensions.
With a shifting culture from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning, our Guiding Coalition developed sub-committees, based on our school’s mission, vision, and collective commitments that have become the driving force to empower teachers to make decisions that are based on learning, collaboration, and results! Our subcommittees work to increase academic rigor, which has allowed us to expand the number of Advanced Placement (AP) courses offered. There has been a significant increase in students that take AP classes and the exams. Cass High school was most recently celebrated as the first BCSS school ever to achieve AP distinction in four categories: AP Access and Support School, AP Expansion School, AP Stem School, and AP Humanities as recognized by College Board. In addition, we increased our teachers of distinction to include teachers in AP Literature, AP Spanish, and AP Macroeconomics. In 2021 we saw our highest SAT mean score in your school’s history. However, with our 2022 cohort we saw a 48-point decrease in our SAT scores, but we also had more students take the SAT and in fact we had the most students take the SAT in the district. Moreover, our 2022 Cohort increased their SAT mean score by 137 points as compared to their PSAT Mean score of 858.
Furthermore, we introduced our first-ever Magnet Program, the Center for Advanced International Studies. Our cohorts of magnet students engage in a high-level academic pathway, with a focus on World Languages and Humanities. Outside of our AP exams, we have seen increasing progress in our state End Of Course (EOC) tests with three years of trending upward data in US History and Biology. As well as recent data that is trending upward in both American Literature and Algebra I. Our dedication to perfecting the process and providing clarity has allowed us to stay focused on a culture of continuous improvement where there are no excuses to move forward. This is evident in our increased graduation rates over the last three years. In fact, our last two years have been the highest graduation rates in our school’s history. Furthermore, we have seen the highest students with disabilities (SWD) graduation rate, along with the highest increase in graduation of our SWD students in both our school’s and district’s history.
The 2022-2023 school year has been centered around the idea of continuing to perfect our process. With our shared clarity, during the summer of 2022, a portion of our staff was able to attend a Solution Tree PLC at Work conference in Florida; and another portion of our staff attended the Achieve Institute in Cartersville, GA. Through both experiences, it was determined by the guiding coalition that collaborative teams will continue to perfect learning progressions ladders to create a more authentic student investment and accountability. One of the methods being utilized is through the screening of our striving readers by our recently established position of Reading Interventionist (RI). When striving readers have been identified through the screening process, our RI discusses the results both with the teachers and the students; share strategies and resources that can provide support; work individually and/or in small groups of students to close foundational gaps; and push into interdisciplinary contents to help scaffold material in order for the student to master the essential standards. As a school, we are committed to providing a guaranteed and viable curriculum in which collaboratively engages all students in relevant learning experiences by encouraging and empowering them to succeed. This continual mindset and culture shift occurred in collaboration with many Solution Tree Associates and we look forward to continuing our journey with their support in the right work. We are incredibly grateful for Jack Balderman, Nicole Dimich, Casandra Erkens, Angie Freese, Janel Keating, Jasmine Kullar, Mike Mattos, Rich Smith, Mandy Stalets, and Eric Twadell.
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
When creating a guaranteed and viable curriculum, each of our collaborative teams implemented a vetting process of selecting their content essential standards. By using the R.E.A.L. Criteria to prioritize their content standards, the teams were able to determine which of their standards were essential and which were “nice to know.” (Mattos et. al., 2016, p.115-116). This then allowed teams to create their content curriculum maps to become more efficient at planning their instruction in the teaching and assessing cycle (Pg.19). Their content curriculum maps include but were not limited to the beginning and ending date of each essential standard unit; tentative dates for CFAs (common formative assessments); tentative dates for CSAs (common summative assessments); response days; and Tier II remediation and extension dates. Collaborative teams created Learning Progression Ladders with their learning targets grouped by the following levels foundational, proficient, nice to know, and extension. After that, each collaborative team vetted their assessments using the designed rigorous assessment strategies from the text Design in 5 (Vagle, 2014). The data that they gained from these assessments helped to determine which students needed additional time and strategies to gain proficiency of the essential standards. In addition, the data determined which students required extensions that are based on real-world situations. Our collaborative teams have intentional data talks during their morning collaboration time. They discuss many different forms of data that drive their daily classroom instruction. These different forms of data include but are not limited to CFA and CSA results by each individual learning targets; daily classroom observations; ticket out the door activities; learning progression ladder student progress; and daily classroom work. The teachers discuss the data and determine what strategies are working with the students and which teacher(s) had the most success in students reaching proficiency on individual learning targets to determine small groups. Another system in place is a screening process of our striving readers by our recently established position of Reading Interventionist (RI). When striving readers have been identified through the screening process, our RI discusses the results both with the teachers and the students; share strategies and resources that can provide support; work individually and/or in small groups of students to close foundational gaps; and push into interdisciplinary contents to help scaffold material for the student to master the essential standards. Additionally, core content collaborative teams update their CSA and Tier II data on a school-wide form and submit it to our LSS (Learning Support Specialist) monthly. Our LSS reviews the data of each collaborative team and provides instructional support when needed. The LSS shares the data with the administrative team and Guiding Coalition to determine trends and needed professional development based on individual collaborative team needs.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
During the 2020 school year a specific master schedule was created to include protected teacher time for collaboration, which is in addition to their planning period; and teacher office hours twice a week before school starts. These office hours allow students to come in and get additional instruction on essential standards and/or foundational skills that they need to either be remediated or extended on. Additionally the master schedule that was created included a built-in instructional Tier II focused time (Tier II schedule) outside of Tier I and Tier III instruction, this block of time is 45-minutes in duration and affectionately called GOLD Time. In our initial year of implementing GOLD (Tier II) Time, we focused solely on reading and math courses. Our school-wide CSA data saw an increase of students reaching proficiency on essential standards. Based on this increase, the Guiding Coalition wanted to expand GOLD (Tier II) time to encompass all content areas. Therefore, during the 2021 school year, we included all content areas. The schedule allowed all teachers to see each of their course segments once a week for 45-minutes. Once again, we saw an increase in our CSA data and an increase in proficiency and distinguished students on our EOC (end of course) test for both US History and Biology. Based on these data points and feedback from teachers, our Guiding Coalition decided to tweak the schedule for GOLD (Tier II) time for the 2022 school year. This year GOLD (Tier II) time is focused on the four core content areas (ELA, math, science, and social studies). This schedule allows our core content collaborative teams and AP (Advance Placement) teacher to remediate and extend student learning at least twice a week. Over the years, our collaborative teams have worked on vetting and creating more rigorous assessments to truly determine student proficiency of the essential standards. Since we have more reliable and rigorous data, our GOLD (Tier II) time has become more effective and efficient with it being geared towards what each student needs to show proficiency on the content essential standards. Our GOLD (Tier II) time and office hours are our focus in providing remediation and extension opportunities to our students, but it is not the only opportunities that we have in place. The following are opportunities that we have for students to continue to remediate and extend their learning, these include afterschool EOC Bootcamp (EOC Courses Only) sessions; built in Tier 2 Week each semester; course extension sessions in January for Fall Semester courses; Credit Recovery classes; and Summer Intervention classes in June. Our mission is to engage all students in relevant learning experiences and empowering them to succeed, which is why we offer a wide range of opportunities for students to remediate and extend their learning.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
Building teacher capacity is not just a professional development that you attend throughout the year, in fact it is built into the fabric of our school culture. One of the approaches that we utilize is our built in protected teacher time for collaboration, which is in addition to their planning period and is considered a “tight.” This time is viewed as sacred and is not disturbed for any reason other than an emergency. We consider this time as professional learning for our teachers since they are discussing data and strategies that they use to increase their instructional agility. Another approach to building teacher capacity is learning sessions that are offered twice a month during their planning time. During these sessions teachers receive strategies, trainings, and/or resources based on the school-wide instructional plan (SIP) goals; input from the Teacher Skill committee; district initiatives; and feedback from teachers. This year in order for each collaborative team to receive the individualized support that they need to continue to work on being a high performing, they completed an efficacy analysis to determine their strengths and weaknesses in three areas, which are student investment; a focus on learning; and a focus on results. The data from this analysis has helped the individual collaborative teams and our guiding coalition to determine the next steps in continuing to build high-performing collaborative teams across the school.
Achievement Data Files
- First school in BCSS (Bartow County School System) history to be recognized by College Board in four areas of AP (Advanced Placement) (Advanced Placement) Distinction: AP Access and Support School, AP Expansion School, AP Stem School, and AP Humanities as recognized by College Board
- 3 teachers recognized as AP Teachers of Distinction by College Board
- Highest Graduation Rate in School History (92.1%)
- Highest Graduation Rate for SWD students in School and District History (92.3%)
- Collaborative Team of the Month
- BCSS High School Teacher of the Year
- National Model PLC District
- Two Governors Honors Program Recipients
- Highest BCSS average of students scoring Proficient or Distinguished on state standardized testing.
Awards and Accomplishments:
United States History EOC (End Of Course) scores were the highest in the county. This is attributed to the PLC (Professional Learning Community) process of collaboration and creating common formative and summative assessments that align with the EOC. However, this does not mean that they have stopped perfecting the PLC process as they continue to examine essential standards, assessment tools, and data management resources. Tier II instruction remains the current focus of this collaborative group.
Biology EOC scores had an increase of 5 % in 2021 and a 10% increase in 2022 of distinguished and proficient learners. We are projected to continue to improve due to a realignment of course sequencing. This realignment includes Environmental Science to be taught freshman year and Biology moved to Sophomore year. By facilitating year-long vertical teaming among collaborative teams and identifying common essential standards to be taught in Environmental Science, students will be prepared to be successful in the Biology course.
The graduation rate in 2018 was 82.7 % and we proudly had an increase to 90.7 % in 2019. During 2020, our graduation rate dipped to 89.8 % but in 2021 we increased to 91.9 %. This was the highest graduation rate in school history until last year (2022) when we graduated 92.1% of our students. Furthermore, our SWD (students with disabilities) graduation rate is both the highest in the district and our school history with 92.3 %. Students and stakeholders of Cass High school are committed to a graduation rate of 100% of all seniors for the 2022-2023 school year.
We have implemented a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program in which teachers, counselors, administrators, and office personnel are trained and encouraged to give points to students exhibiting positive behavior. Students can redeem items such as tickets to school sporting events, school spirit wear, concessions, and access to 3-D printers which all lead to more student engagement and school pride. With this focus on students doing the right thing, we have seen a decline in discipline referrals. From 2019-2020 to the 2020-2021 school year there has been a 50% decrease in teacher referrals of students. We did see a rise in discipline referrals at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year due to the fact that both teachers and administration were setting, enforcing, and reteaching higher behavior expectations both in the classroom and common areas. With this heightened focus on high behavior expectations in the fall, our discipline referrals in the spring decreased by almost 35%.