Tomball Independent School District (2023)

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

Tomball Independent School District started the PLC  journey in the fall of 2012 on the campus of Tomball Junior High School. A new principal arrived who set the vision of ONE TEAM ONE GOAL with aspirations to transform an underperforming campus. The work began with a cultural transformation, a shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning centered around the 4 Essential Questions of a PLC.  This shift allowed collective responsibility to flourish, improved Tier 1 instruction, required results be analyzed to drive decisions, and as measurable growth in student learning outcomes became apparent, the success story and the collaborative culture spread to other campuses. 

The district focus on collaboration soon followed and all district initiatives were aligned to the 3 Big Ideas of a PLC and practices of teams were tightened to focus on the 4 Essential Questions. As district support grew and more campus leaders gained knowledge and proficiency about successful collaborative practices leading to school improvement, district leaders continued to bolster their support. The resources offered by Solution Tree provided incredible opportunities to build additional capacity and expand shared leadership on campuses. Beginning in 2013, entire Instructional Leadership Teams (ILTs) began attending PLC at Work Institutes, followed by content/grade level team leaders on campuses.  TISD staff members have been regular participants in Solution Tree events since 2013, and in 2019 a School Support Officer position was created to promote our work as a PLC across all campuses. 

TISD created “Boulders” in 2019 (High Quality Instruction, Collaborative Culture, Social & Emotional Learning) which guide all professional learning across the district. Each school year begins with a three day Admin Rally, followed by half day Leadership Collaboratives held each month with PLC topics that navigate the 3 Big Ideas of a PLC. These districtwide events serve to focus and align the work of departments and campuses, while providing leaders time to collaborate, reflect, and learn. To level up ALL team members, Tomball ISD was able to host 11 Solution Tree Associates in the Fall of 2021 so that EVERY teacher in the district could participate to move the needle based on individual campus needs. This was funded through our Strategic Plan 2025 which includes a priority to “transform teachers’ roles to instructional designers.” 

Many campuses moved slow to go fast, cultivating personalized learning experiences for teachers, and sought to develop layers of understanding within teams to refine and add clarity to establish a common language of collaboration. Campus leaders and ILTs engaged in powerful book studies and district leaders engaged or led book studies. Campus efforts  coupled with district support through a consistent focus on responsive instruction and a collaborative culture led to increases in student performance. The free reproducible resources aligned to the Solution Tree publications have been pivotal in providing templates to shift mindsets of teachers, nurture campus culture, clarify and tighten team practices, and advance the focus on learning, all leading to improved and sustained student learning outcomes. Principals engaged their Guiding Coalitions in the process of refining vision and mission statements that aligned to their beliefs, established core values to institute lasting success, and set SMART goals.

One of the most powerful recent additions that supports team collaboration is the locally developed Tomball ISD Unified Vision of Collaborative Teaming. This resource serves to create clarity through true assessment of current reality, with a vision for the next steps required to advance team practices leading to increased student learning outcomes. In 2021-22, TISD created the district’s first comprehensive literacy plan (Leading with Literacy) which clarified best practices for instruction across all grade levels and content areas aligned to the curriculum. The aspects of Social & Emotional Learning are woven through the WHY of our work - ensuring all students learn at high levels. The basic human needs of students and teachers are important when striving for improvement, because you have to Maslow before you Bloom.

Over the past decade, every single campus has encountered leadership change, whether the principal was promoted or retired, and TISD has opened eight new campuses during that time. Of those eight, three are already Model PLC campuses and the others are on their way to earning that recognition through the relentless commitment to a learning for all culture. TISD will open five new campuses in the next three years, and undoubtedly each will open with the same foundational elements of a collaborative culture based on the success that the commitment to the PLC process has proven.


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

To ensure Tomball ISD has a guaranteed and viable curriculum, the essential consideration is “What do we want our students to learn and be able to do?” When our PLC work began over a decade ago, the shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning allowed teams to emphasize the processes and resources required in a “learning for all” culture. Using the state standards to determine priority learning standards allows the district to determine what students MUST know versus what would be GOOD to know. Those agreed-upon priority standards make up the Year At A Glance (YAG) documents for each course, so teams across different campuses can follow the same scope and sequence and appropriate instructional time is allocated to ensure mastery, with a system of intervention constructed to reach all students. While teams have the resources of a YAG for each course, students’ needs drive instruction and teams are granted the autonomy to reteach, flex students into groups for intervention, and push students into deeper learning experiences. 

Input from teachers engaged in the work has been the most integral aspect of the ongoing process of curriculum development and refinement. Feedback loops have been a vital part of the successful implementation and focus on continuous improvement. Because teacher teams practice backward design and engage weekly with their Designing Learning Templates (DLTs), they are able to refine their understanding by unpacking priority standards to create clarity and proficiency expectations, define how much leverage each possesses, determine necessary prerequisite skills, predict common misconceptions of students, develop plans to proactively address misconceptions, and create progressions of learning through I CAN statements. 

Questions 2 and 3 of a PLC drive the monitoring of student learning. Results from  various assessments guide the refinement of the curriculum based on student learning outcomes. In 2021, TISD began using a Summary of Major Assessment (SOMA) reflection to provide executive leaders concise insight into assessment results. TISD utilizes Content Specialists at the district and campus level to ensure effective lines of communication and support between the campus teams and content directors regarding curriculum writing and revision. CFAs drive the daily responsive instruction and flex groups at all campuses, and Tomball ISD employs multiple systems to monitor student learning within and across campuses through BOY, MOY, and EOY universal screeners. Student Data Trackers have been created by teams to compile longitudinal data related to student performance and growth. 

All of this collaborative work, from unpacking essential standards in a DLT, aligning I CAN statements to Depth of Knowledge levels, designing pre-assessments and CFA’s, feedback loops with district C&I staff, and the data-driven action set into motion after assessments, is all part of the learning process and supported by professional learning aligned to the TISD Boulders. TISD teachers act as instructional designers with autonomy to shift instruction as needed based on data to best serve all students. The Unified Vision of Collaborative Teaming clarifies this work to move teacher teams toward the work of a Model PLC.

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

In Tomball ISD, everything in the realm of learning is formative. Even state assessments (STAAR) are used by the successive grade level as a data point to compare with other performance measures. The Unified Vision of Collaborative Teaming provides the continuum related to systematic intervention and extension for learning to guide all campuses and teams toward Model PLC exemplars. Each grade span described below uses CFAs to drive the flex grouping and provide the ability to generate groups and assign teachers to reteach or provide targeted intervention or extension in small group settings. 

Students who demonstrate mastery engage in extension activities that push them deeper beyond the minimum learning requirements guided by I CAN statements based on Depth of Knowledge (DOK) levels. These team-designed extension activities frequently utilize critical thinking and critical writing activities so students can think “open-ended” beyond just a multiple choice question. Instructional Playlists and Menu Boards provide personalized options to extend learning outcomes. Each campus in TISD has intentional time built into their school day for intervention and extension for every student, regardless of need or proficiency level. 

Elementary school schedules have all been redesigned in the past five years to provide data-driven flex group time to target specific essential learning standards for students while providing additional DOK activities for students who are already demonstrating mastery of essential standards. Teachers and specialists provide flex group instruction based on student performance data and teachers’ strengths. 

At the Intermediate level (5th-6th grade), 5th grade has an Accelerated Instruction (AI) period, while 6th grade has an Intervention and Extension Lab (I&E Lab) period. Flexible AI & I&E groups are formed by student performance data on CFAs or unit assessments. Additionally, within the 90 minute math and language arts blocks, a designated “i20” time is preserved so no new instruction occurs for those first 20 minutes. During that time, students receive small group instruction by the classroom teacher, or may be pulled out of class for Tier 2-3 Reading/Math, Special Education, ESL/Bilingual, or GT support. This allows small groups within the class to be more focused for personalized “by student-by standard” instruction. This has been a game-changing addition to the intermediate school support system. 

Junior high and high schools all have a designated period each day, such as: PAW Period, Cougar Block, Wildcat Den, Tiger Den, and Power Hour. Students may receive: *math, ELA, or Science support (by student-by standard) based on CFA or unit assessment data, *extension activities designed to deepen learning experiences with current coursework, *while other students at the high school level may receive extensions geared toward college and career readiness if they have demonstrated grade level/course mastery. 

These intentional systems have not only tightened the processes for when students need targeted intervention through small group instruction (by student-by standard), but have refined Tier 1 instruction. Students who receive intervention are monitored through the Frontline system for accurate reporting, and growth for students receiving intervention is a major goal on the Superintendent’s Appraisal.


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

The process for teams to focus on improved student learning begins with the backward design model in which teams determine the essential learning standards with the course/grade level. Once those are agreed upon, teams unpack these essential standards to create clarity about expected learning outcomes and how learners will progress to mastery. The Designing Learning Template (DLT) provides the framework for teams to unpack action verbs, academic vocabulary, prerequisite skills, common misconceptions, I CAN statements and learning progressions, and guides the CFA creation process. Maximizing teacher clarity prior to initial instruction leads to high quality instruction across each grade level and reduces the number of students who need intervention. TISD has consistently focused on the Tight vs Loose concepts to create clarity about the right work of teams, as well as emphasized the Snapshot of a True PLC and what each means in actionable practice. The Unified Vision of Collaborative Teaming has refined local district practices leading to commitment over compliance while reducing reluctance and resistance.

As a historically high performing district, TISD defined and highlighted what high quality instruction looks like across different grade levels, including effective small group instruction. When students are referred to as “our students” and not “my” or “your” students, the culture of collaboration moves the needle toward ensuring all students learn at high levels. High Quality Instruction in TISD focuses not just on Tier 1 instruction, which is defined and supported through specific and intention professional learning and a comprehensive literacy plan (Leading with Literacy) that touches all subject areas to enhance listening, speaking, reading, writing, and thinking; HQI also includes responsive instruction that is driven by student performance data, provided by knowledgeable educators in small group settings, and monitored for effectiveness. 

As a Collaborative Culture, TISD seeks to “begin with the end in mind,” cast a relentless focus on the three Big Ideas of a PLC, and utilize innovative master schedules on campuses to provide intentional time for team collaboration to focus on the four Essential Questions of a PLC. Time for each question is allocated in team agendas and discussed during the creation of DLTs. Just as teachers are provided time each week for team collaboration, schedules were created to provide time for targeted intervention and extension. Each TISD campus redesigned their master schedule over the past 8 years to ensure job-embedded professional learning and team collaboration time is provided, centered around student learning to master essential grade level standards and close gaps. 

Data Protocols are utilized to break down student evidence of learning across the grade level and by student populations, but more importantly -  by student, by standard. The Data Protocol used by TISD comes from Rick DuFour’s In Praise of American Educators (2015) which has helped teams streamline their flexible grouping while also reflecting on their instructional practices. The protocol promotes intentional dialogue about student evidence of learning which allows teams to look in the mirror and not out the window to make informed decisions to improve learning.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Tomball ISD has historically outperformed the state of Texas on state assessment instruments. This trend was true prior to the COVID pandemic and certainly continues in its wake. The gap between the state of Texas overall and TISD has grown to double digits across all tested areas and is over 20% in some cases. In all reality, TISD does not make any comparisons to statewide data except to see if trends occur that parallel local performance data. TISD continues to leverage professional learning through the C&I Department and intentional master scheduling by campus leaders to equip teachers to serve as “instructional designers” to provide responsive instruction to all students. Job-embedded learning on campus during team collaboratives also provides time for teacher teams to analyze data to drive decisions focused on student achievement. 

When Tomball ISD is compared to regional districts, TISD students have outperformed all other surrounding districts in every tested category across all grade levels. TISD continues to be the top performing district in the greater Houston area over the past five years and one of the top districts in the state. TISD is the only straight A rated district in the area, according to Texas Education Agency ratings. 

Because of the longitudinal success on state assessments and the lack of comparable districts in the region, the TISD Board of Trustees requested in 2017 that the Superintendent report scores from other comparable districts in Texas that are similar to Tomball ISD. Those comparison scores are reported on the Superintendent’s Appraisal instrument annually and TISD has risen through those rankings in each of the last five years. When other high performing districts have contacted TISD to learn about how the district has attained and maintained such high levels of student performance, the difference is the collaborative culture in TISD compared to other districts. 

As TISD has grown in overall enrollment, student subgroups have also grown. Progress among students in special education, students who are economically disadvantaged, and students who are Emergent Bilingual are monitored for progress just as growth is measured for all students. Longitudinal growth is measured over time, and is measured from the beginning of the year (BOY) through the end of each year (EOY) using state assessments, district benchmarks, local CFAs, and unit assessments. 

A major development in how student progress is documented and analyzed to impact instructional change has been the Summary of Major Assessment (SOMA) documents. The SOMA documents are prepared by content directors and the analysis provides the TISD Executive Team and campus leaders with a high level data dig, but also guides campus teams to utilize the same format for unit test analysis. 

Student performance is monitored all the way through a student’s TISD career, as evidenced by ACT/SAT/AP data analysis, as well as by graduation rates among student groups. PSAT performance is tracked in comparison to enrollment in Tomball Advanced Program (TAP) courses and AP courses to ensure students in all groups are progressing far beyond grade level expectations.

Straight A Rated district by the Texas Education Agency *only straight A district in the greater Houston area: Harris and Montgomery counties (2019-2022) #1 Best Place to Teach in Greater Houston area (2023) #1 Best Teachers in the Greater Houston area (2023) Top 14 District in Texas (2023) Top 240 District in the United States (2023) #1 Best District in Harris County (Houston area) (2022)

Houston Chronicle Best District (2021)

HEB Excellence in Education Outstanding District Top Five (2023) *top district will be named in April 30, 2023

HEB Excellence in Education Outstanding School Board Top Five (2023) *top board will be named in April 30, 2023

Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Top Five Honor Board (2021)

HEB Excellence in Education Outstanding District Top Five (2018) 


11 PLC Model Schools in Tomball ISD: 


CREEKSIDE FOREST ELEMENTARY (application submitted) 












Great Expectations MODEL Schools:



STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) - 2022

*Highest Results among Regional Districts in ALL tested areas:

Reading: Grades 3-8

Math: Grades 3-8

Science: Grades 5 & 8

Social Studies: Grade 8

Algebra I


English I

English II

U.S History


STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) - 2022

*Results among Statewide Comparable Districts in tested areas:

Reading: Grade 3 (1st), Grade 4 (2nd), Grade 5 (3rd), Grade 6 (2nd), Grade 7 (2nd), Grade 8 (3rd)

Math: Grade 3 (2nd), Grade 4 (2nd), Grade 5 (1st), Grade 6 (1st), Grade 7 (3rd), Grade 8 (3rd)

Science: Grade 5 (1st), Grade 8 (5th)

Social Studies: Grade 8 (3rd)

Algebra I (1st)

Biology (2nd)

English I (3rd)

English II (4th)

U.S. History (2nd) 


PAEMST (Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching) Awards: 4 Science teachers and 3 Math teachers in the last 5 years. 

Regional Scholastic Writing Competition (7th-12th grade students): 605 awards in 2021 & 2022. 

Career & Technical Education students consistently earn over 1,000 Industry Based Certifications each year. 

Tomball ISD students consistently are awarded over 100 national recognitions each year, including National Merit Awards. 

Tomball ISD students earned over $26 million in scholarships in the 2021-22 school year.