Lake Hamilton Junior High School (2023)

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

Our PLC journey started in the summer of 2015 when our district’s curriculum coordinator heard about the work of Solution Tree and sent building leaders and representative teachers to PLC at Work Institutes. Immediately recognizing the positive impact this initiative could have on our school, district leaders contracted with Solution Tree for a hybrid PLC at Work Institute to be held in the school’s arena as the mandated preschool professional development in August 2016. Solution Tree associates were on hand to guide us through the process utilizing a series of videos and activities. This Institute introduced our staff to all things PLC- collaborative teams, common planning, essential standards, common assessments, data protocols, reflection on results, SMART goals, shared responsibility for all students, and interventions/extensions.

As we launched into the work of implementing a PLC at LHJH during the 2016-17 school year, it became quickly evident that we needed additional support to reach the high levels of success to which we aspired; therefore, we applied for the PLC at Work grant being offered by the Arkansas Department of Education and Solution Tree. When we were not selected to be part of the first cohort, we became more determined to continue the work on our own while simultaneously improving our application for the next cohort. Our selection as part of Cohort 4 in 2019 was the true beginning of our transformation into a fully-functional Professional Learning Community. 

One of our first and most important steps was to form a guiding coalition made up of key influencers throughout the building who each represented a department area/content team and could lead them through this work. Once formed, the guiding coalition began to learn together and build shared knowledge around the PLC process and its three big ideas: a focus on a collaborative culture, a focus on student learning, and an intense focus on results! We led our team and staff through a Learning By Doing Book Study and presenting our findings to our staff to gain input and feedback on next steps.  We understoood the phrase "people are less likely to tear down a fence they helped create" very well and used this philosophy moving forward to have commitment from all staff. Our guiding coalition and staff began to shift our fundamental purpose of why we exist and focusing on learning rather than teaching and managerial tasks, focusing on proficiency rather than standard coverage, and lastly a collaborative culture that focused on building shared knowledge around our curriculum and analyzing student data on a timely basis.  We developed our four pillars founded on our mission; to ensure high levels of learning and growth for all students and adults within a safe, supportive, and collaborative culture.

Our staff began to shift from a culture working in isolation to a more collaborative culture and working in teams centered around the four crtical questions! We developed loose and tight expectations for the work to fulfill our collective commitments! We built into our master schedule daily common planning time for the four core and began Late-Start Mondays to allow more time to collaborate around the right work!  Teachers began the process of developing norms, SMART goals, rolling meeting agendas.  Teams began the process of unwrapping their essential standards into learning targets, developing proficiency scales, common assessments, data protocols and essential standard unit maps. The work began to expand quickly and we needed a way to organize our work from a leadership/guiding coalition view to monitor and support the work of our teams.  This document has become the "one stop shop" for all of our teams work.  We have termed this document, Monitoring the Work of TeamsThis document serves as our focus during our guiding coalition meetings to determine where support is needed. We are always updating and tweaking this document to improve it based on the teams needs. Data is transparent across all disciplines. The PLC process has now prompted us to discuss effective grading practices that reflect student learning and place an even more intense focus on learning and interventions kid by kid, skill by skill. Grade transformation has also caused our teachers to reflect on thier professional practice individually and as a collaborative team.  Our singletons are now focused on skills that support the work of our teams through their individual content areas coming together each Monday to collaborate around schoolwide essential skills.  Our staff has been AMAZING through this process and continue to knock down barriers to fulfill our mission. We have placed a relentless focus on investing in our teachers so that they are confident in their work to benefit all kids. Our school has been truly transformed through this process and has created a culture of high expectations for both students and staff!  We are inspired to continue our school improvement efforts to ensure high levels of learning for ALL students through the development of our school improvement plan that focuses on critical indicators for success through the high reliability schools process as well as the highly effective schools process which hinges on the work and continuous cycles of inquiry of collaborative teams.  In addition we consistently reveiw our continuums twice a year to determine next steps for our school and what's best for our kids.

The Lake Hamilton Junior High School PLC journey is a never-ending quest for improvement through continuously-increased levels of learning for both staff and students. In order to facilitate a culture focused on getting better as educators, we engage in continuous job-embedded professional development. Not only do we still benefit currently from the coaching of Solution Tree associates, but we also participate in self-guided efforts to improve. For example, the guiding coalition participates in professional book studies that are then analyzed with all staff during collaborative team meetings. Our guiding coalition is currently wrapping up a book study on Bill Hall’s Powerful Guiding Coalition book to improve our leadership practices and build capacity. Teachers regularly participate in “learning walks” in order to have the opportunity to learn best teaching practices and observe elements of effective teaching from one another. 

Within our collaborative teams, teachers meet regularly to disaggregate common assessment data during their common planning period. They look for recurring student errors to determine students’ misconceptions and compare results among themselves to determine what strategies were most effective in reaching the highest number of students.  Additionally, teachers divide students into intervention/extension groups based on targeted needs identified on these common assessments. Sharing effective strategies and looking for common student errors both help facilitate a culture of continuous improvement. Teams use a data protocol (TACA) where teams review their individual and team data to share best practices for what worked or didn’t work.  This reflection helps ask and answer questions related to curriculum, assessment design, rigor, effective teaching strategies, and intervention and extension strategies for the purpose of improving each team's cycle of collective inquiry and improving professional practice.  Teams are continually in the process of reviewing and improving their work.  Professional development for our teachers has a new and renewed focus each year centered around the PLC at Work process.  New teachers are provided onboarding training centered around the work and partnered with mentors on each team.  Each team has team days built into their contract that is solely focused on curriculum, assessment, interventions, and extensions during the summer months and improved upon during the year within each unit of study.  We regularly attend institutes aimed at improving our work and gaining new strategies to grow.  We are continually reflecting on ways to celebrate with our staff to prioritize the value of our work throughout this process and sustain improvement efforts!


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

LHJH continues to strive to implement a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students in all subject areas. Recognizing that the entire set of state standards/learning targets for each course far surpasses the amount of instructional time provided during a school year, the work to establish a guaranteed and viable curriculum began with collaborative teacher teams identifying essential standards and learning targets using the R.E.A.L. criteria (Readiness, Endurance, Assessed on State Assessments, and Leverage) that we utilize during the summer as we review our work. Each team has developed essential standard units of study using Maria Nielsen’s 15 Day pacing guide as a tool to begin the unwrapping process.  Each team meets vertically throughout each year to determine gaps in curriculum and are beginning to meet building to building throughout the district.  These essential standards were placed in a “Proficiency Map,” visually displaying the pacing, resources, and assessments utilized. The goal of this aligned Proficiency Map was to ensure that all students received the same core instruction to mastery, regardless of which teacher they had. While continuing to monitor and adjust the standards in this guaranteed and viable curriculum in a quest to make it truly viable, teacher teams have also continued to adjust assessments to ensure that they are truly indicative of student mastery of essential standards. A key element in this alignment of standards to teacher-created assessments surrounds honoring the rigor involved in the verbiage of the standard. The standards deemed “essential” by collaborative teacher teams are guaranteed as instructional units where all students will receive intervention and will be reassessed to ensure mastery.  In order to monitor student learning on a timely basis, our collaboartive teams develop their curriculum together and create unit maps to ensure each teacher on the team is focused on the same standards and learning targets. The unwrapping process is done so collectively and teams develop common formative assessments (CFAs) and common summative assessments (CSAs) on each essential standard and learning targets. Individual teachers also utilize their formative assessments and checks for understanding on a daily basis.  Collaborative teacher teams align their instructional units and assessments using the aforementioned Proficiency Maps, units of study, and proficiency scales; this alignment allows for teacher teams to quickly come together to discuss assessment data using the teams analysis of common assessment protocol form (TACA). The common assessments are designed to determine students’ mastery of essential standards, broken down by learning targets. The results of these CFAs and CSAs are compiled within interactive data sheets that show mastery of each essential standard by student, by learning target. 


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

 In order to create time for intervention on these essential standards to ensure all students’ success, we have built a forty-five minute block called “Wolftime” into our daily schedule. Using common assessment data, teachers select students with whom to work during this allotted intervention period using a digital scheduling software called RTI Scheduler. This allows teachers and teams to select students for interventions while also allowing student self enrollment into enrichment or extension courses.  These data sheets are discussed during collaborative team data meetings, and intervention/extension efforts are planned for Wolftime based upon them- with students being selectively grouped according to which learning target(s) they struggled with within a unit of study, regardless of teacher. Furthermore, the teacher who had the most success with a particular standard and/or learning target is the one who works with the students most struggling with that concept. Teachers also share best practices through these discussions to improve their professional practice thus improving Tier 1 instruction.  Our teams have created proficiency scales that allow teachers and teams to select students individually by skill within one week for that current unit of study to provide extra time and support before moving on to new skills.  We also allow students to retake assessments to better their score on thier learning progression throughout a unit of study.  In addition to collaboartive teams providing extra time and support we also have a Tier 3 site intervention team made up of counselors, speech pathologist, social worker, school based mental health therapist, dean of students, assistant principal and principal to review attendance and behavioral data.  This past year we created a at risk list or undersupported list of incoming 8th and 9th graders that we placed with mentors throguh out advisory classes held once a week to check in with students who were either chronically absent or had behavioral concerns prior to school beginning.  We had a total of 103 students on our list and that number has improved to only 36 students that we are intensely focusing on moving forward. We decided to focus on just attendance as a leading indicator for success.  The criteria we are focusing on and adding a parameter per year is linked here:  8th At Risk Intervention List.  We also meet once a week to discuss our students who are at risk through this monitoring spreadsheet linked here:  RTI Attendance, Social, and Behavior Meeting.

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

Our high-performing, collaborative teams at LHJH constantly focus their efforts on improved student learning through the collaborative teaming process.  Teams are provided with job embedded professional development that directly impats their work through collective inquiry.  Our team leaders are assisting with leading their teams through the collaborative process and we monitor the work each week so that teams are provided with assistance to help support the team with any struggles they may be having.  Teams have developed collective commitment/norms to support their work to make time more meaningful and structured to ensure the focus is on student learning. Team agendas are soley focused on the four critical questions.  Each team begins with what proficiency looks like for each essential standard once unwrapped and backward plans developing their summative/formative assessments.  Teams then collectively pace out the unit by day using a calendar with linked provided resources that teams have researched.  Through the proficiency scale development there have been prerequisite knowledge/readiness targets identified to assist students who need it. Teams utilize the data from their assessments to provide extra time and support to students and to improve their professional practice.  Teams relflect using a data protocol (TACA Form) to determine ways to improve student learning and professional practice.  Reflection after each unit has prompted teams to make adjustments to curriculum and pacing and forces teams to ask the right questions throughout the process and each unit of study.  The PLC process has driven our teams to implement grading reform or transformation to reflect student learning allowing our teachers to place a laser like focus on student learning as well as reflecting on effective intervention practices to improve student learning.  Our staff also participates in Learning Walks to improve their practice once each semester adn implement new strategies in thier classrooms.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Note*  2019-2020 was a difficult year for collecting data as it was our first year in the grant and only recieved scores from our ACT Interims from fall to spring.  We did not recieve summative scores during this year.

This past year we recieved the Office of Education Policy award for highest ELA growth and moved from a "C" school rating to a "B" school rating. 


  • Awarded Arkansas Department of Education Professional Development Project Grant for Cohort 4
  • Raised Letter Grade from a "C" to a "B" due to High Growth
  • Recieved the Office for Education Policy Award for Highest Growth in ELA.
  • Recieved Award Certification for High Reliability Schools Level 1:  Providing a Safe, Supportive and Colaboarative Culture. (2021)
  • Recieved Award Certification for High Reliability Schools Level 2: Effective Teaching in Every Classroom. (2022)
  • Recieved Highly Effective Schools Award through Solution Tree and Marzano Resources.