Tongue River High School (2023)

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


Tell us how you built shared understanding and commitment to the PLC at work process? At the end of the 2017-18school year, which was the first year of the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (WYTOPP), the staff at Tongue River High School examined its student achievement results. The data painted a picture of an under-performing school. We beat the Wyoming state average in just one out of five required freshmen and sophomore tests, and we were also below the state average on the junior ACT. It became evident that it was time to fundamentally change our approach to teaching and learning at TRHS. Shortly thereafter, members of our Guiding Coalition agreed to further explore the PLC at Work concept, and we applied for the Professional Learning Communities at Work Initiative through the Wyoming Department of Education. We were accepted into Cohort Two, which was led by Brandon Jones of Solution Tree. This is how our Leadership Team began building its shared understanding of the PLC mindset and expected processes. Together we read, discussed ideas, attended cohort trainings, completed homework assignments, and shared our learning with the rest of the staff. Although there was some skepticism at first, as the year went on, mindsets developed, and new ideas began to gain momentum. We celebrated the “small wins” and maintained a consistent eye on a better academic future for students at TRHS.

In preparation for the 2018-19school year, we doubled down on our commitment to the process by making adjustments to our master schedule in hopes of better preparing staff for the transition from singleton isolation to the utilization of collaborative teams as “the engines” to propel our new ways of thinking about teaching and learning. Some of these changes included:  establishing common prep periods in the master schedule to allow for content team collaboration, assigning both math teachers to teach one section of Algebra 1 (the gatekeeper to college) to enhance math department collaboration, outlining clear expectations for weekly team collaboration (the use of Brig Leane’s Keep it Simple Schools protocol), and the rebranding of a low expectations study hall period into a What I Need (WIN) period that allowed for strategic student interventions. Brig Leane, another Solution Tree representative, conducted a Needs Assessment at Tongue River High School in 2019 after we were accepted into Cohort Two. At the start of the school year, we began the process of rewriting our school’s mission, vision, values, and goals. By the end of the school year, we had established an identity that would help propel our collective efficacy as a team. We started by rewriting our school mission statement first– the only one of the four pillars that was previously in place. The original mission statement “offered” students an education if they wanted to take advantage of it. By the end of the fall semester, we had a new mission in place– one that we created as a team, over time, and one that we were proud of and committed to. It read, “Our mission is to ensure that all students develop character and learn at high levels as we prepare them for Point B success.” We teach our students that high school is Point A, and that the purpose of high school is to prepare them for success after graduation– Point B, their chosen path after high school. At the end of the 2018-19 school year, TRHS beat the Wyoming state average in three out of five required freshmen and sophomore WYTOPP tests. We also improved from the 60th academically ranked Wyoming High School to the 36th academically ranked Wyoming High School as per At the end of the year, we celebrated student and staff success. We were pleased, but we were also hungry to fly even higher on behalf of the students we serve.

Tell us how you are facilitating a culture of continuous improvement in our school? Simply put, we adopted and lived by the mantras, “Fail forward,” and, “Celebrate what you want to perpetuate,” which the Guiding Coalition picked up at a Singleton Schools training led by Aaron Hanson of Solution Tree. The student achievement results experienced at the end of the 2018-19 school year energized the team and gave us confidence that our new systems and strategies were having positive impacts on students and their learning. Gaining that momentum, we focused on emphasizing and celebrating student academic achievement throughout our hallways. We implemented weekly student awards for academics and employability; quarterly celebrations for attendance, behavior, and grades; and we implemented an academic honor roll (something that had been lost over time during the district’s transition from traditional grading to standards referenced grading). We are currently working on implementing academic lettering for students earning a 3.75 grade point average or higher each year. We also started celebrating our teachers on a quarterly basis and recognizing them for their efforts. The most powerful way we did this was by having students write letters to their trusted adults at the end of the first quarter. Not only were these letters from students emotionally energizing for staff, they were also important for us in making sure that each student had a trusted adult within the building. During the 2019-20 school year, we also finalized our vision, schoolwide goals, and collective commitments. With the four pillars now in place, we began vetting each new endeavor through this framework, which helped us allocate our energy towards our collective priorities of building students up and focusing on academic achievement.

In addition to these culture building celebrations, we continued to reflect on our schoolwide systems such as team collaboration and student interventions. As Brig Leane once told us, “Collaborative teams are a slow cooker.” We knew perfecting our craft in this area would take years to accomplish. His six-step Keep It Simple Schools collaborative teams process helped focus our content teams on:  1) determining essential skills that all students must master; 2) utilizing preassessments and establishing SMART goals; 3) analyzing formative and common formative assessments; 4) sharing and discussing effective teaching strategies; 5) deploying instructional responses designed to help students in need; 6) reflecting on the process. This approach greatly aided our continuous improvement efforts because our collaborative teams were able to execute the process either on a unit or quarterly basis (depending upon their comfort level), reflect on what they learned, and repeat the process again with the intent of doing it better the next time. This combination of clarity and consistency improved individual competency and confidence. In March of the 2019-20school year, the TRHS was confident in its preparation and excited to see students compete in statewide WYTOPP testing the following month. Then, as spring break commenced, the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly struck. As a result, we did not return to school for the rest of the year, and statewide testing was canceled. After spring break, the team abruptly planned and launched a structured online learning opportunity, led by teachers via scheduled Zoom meetings, that students participated in (mid-March to early June) to close out the semester.

We began the 2020-21 school year happy to be back at TRHS with our students but concerned by the fact that many had failed to master essential skills while learning from home during the pandemic. As a result, we decided to attempt to teach students five quarters of essential content throughout the upcoming four-quarter school year. Teachers did an admirable job of working collaboratively to make adjustments to their curriculum and pacing guides in an effort to accommodate this endeavor. While the nine-month process was messy and challenging, our dedication to students and their learning paid off in a big way. At the end of the 2020-21 school year, we experienced an extraordinary academic performance from our students, especially considering the lingering ramifications of the Pandemic. TRHS beat the Wyoming state average in five out of five required freshmen and sophomore WYTOPP tests. The junior class also beat the Wyoming state average composite score on the ACT. Once again, TRHS moved up in’s Wyoming High School academic rankings– all the way to the number ten ranked school out of 81 total. TRHS was now being recognized as one of the top-performing high schools in the state. We responded to this great news by celebrating the success of our students and teachers. As a staff, we wondered, “Could we fly even higher?” on behalf of the students we serve.

As time went on, we began to feel more and more confident in our commitment to the PLC mentality and our ability to execute the collaborative team process. During the 2021-22 school year, we knew it was time to better respond to the formative assessment data that our content teams were analyzing during their weekly collaborative meetings. Accordingly, we implemented an Intervention and Enrichment (I&E) system for students to participate in that would take place every other Thursday during WIN. At the end of the 2021-22 school year, TRHS once again beat the Wyoming state average in five out of five required freshmen and sophomore WYTOPP tests. Our students set school records in four out of five tests for percentage of students earning Proficient and Advanced results:

- Freshmen English:  81% Proficient and Advanced – a TRHS WYTOPP record!  
- Freshmen Math:  74% Proficient and Advanced – a TRHS WYTOPP record!  
- Sophomore English:  72% Proficient and Advanced – a TRHS WYTOPP record!  
- Sophomore Science:  72% Proficient and Advanced – a TRHS WYTOPP record!  

Additionally, our junior class also beat the Wyoming state average composite score on the ACT test for a second year in a row. TRHS juniors had progressed from 14th place out of 16 2A Wyoming schools in 2017-18 to fourth place out of 16 2A Wyoming schools in 2021-22 in ACT composite score average. And finally, TRHS moved up in’s Wyoming High School academic rankings from tenth place to ninth place respectively and became just one of seven Wyoming high schools to earn back-to-back top ten honors out of 80 total schools. Shortly thereafter, the TRHS Guiding Coalition was at a PLC training in Casper, Wyoming, and this is where we were inspired by Maria Nielsen of Solution Tree to apply for Model School Status. We are proud of our recent results, we have had much to celebrate lately, and we are looking forward to what lies ahead throughout the 2022-23 school yearGo Eagles!

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Describe the strategies your school uses to monitor student learning on a timely basis. The next step in our collaborative team process is to discuss critical question number two, “How will we know if students are learning?” To help answer this question, teams collaboratively create formative assessments or common formative assessments and give them to students on agreed upon dates throughout each unit or quarter (dependent upon team capacity)– typically on Mondays or Tuesdays. Then, when teachers meet for collaboration on Wednesdays, they bring their students’ work. Conversations about what proficiency looks like take place, and student assessments are placed into one of three categories:  I Have Learned It (students will receive more challenging content), I Have Partially Learned It (students will receive additional guided support during class), I Have Not Learned It Yet (students will receive additional reteaching during WIN). Teachers then update student names into a shared spreadsheet that is used to communicate Thursday Intervention and Enrichment assignments. Students who Have Not Learned It Yet (the team identified essential skill of focus) are scheduled into their teacher’s intervention group, where they will receive additional reteaching on Thursday. Students who have missing assignments are scheduled into a mandatory WIN study hall, where they complete missing work. Students who are not in need of intervention or study hall attend their chosen Enrichment classes on Thursday.

Collaborative conversations about critical question number two are also utilized to strengthen the Tier 1 instruction of individual teachers. As student achievement results on formative/common formative assessments are studied, discussions naturally take place about the instructional strategies used and which ones produced the best results for students. This combination of analyzing student work– along with the sharing of teaching techniques– has become an effective and appreciated source of job-embedded professional development for teachers. Since most of our collaborative teams do not teach the same classes, teachers have become well-versed at taking turns sharing their data and utilizing teammates as content experts who provide feedback and guidance. Together they identify and discuss the most commonly missed questions and respond by discussing strategies to take back to their classrooms in an effort to help students who are not yet proficient. The work being done by our teachers to address the question, “How will we know if students are learning?” is having a positive impact on Tier 1 instruction for all students and is also helping teams to accurately identify students who are in need of additional time and reteaching at the Tier 2 level. The use of formative assessment and common formative assessment is currently assisting teachers in their ability to ensure grade-level learning for the students we serve. This gives us confidence that we are “living our mission” and not just using it as a fancy punchline.

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

Share how you are creating and implementing systems of intervention and extension to provide students with additional time and support for learning?During the 2021-22 school year, we implemented an Intervention and Enrichment system for students to participate in that would take place every other Thursday during WIN. We began the process by setting up a team who would teach each enrichment class and established ten to 12 offerings for students to choose from each semester. Enrichment classes were mostly taught by various faculty members (including social worker, librarian, and lead custodian); however, we also enlisted community members who were willing to share their unique passions with students as well. Leatherworking, fly tying, creative writing, cooking, auto mechanics, self-defense, mindfulness, guitar, school bulletin board design, and fire science are some of the enrichment classes currently offered. The fire science instructor is a certified trainer, which leads to a certificate of completion for students at the end of the class. It has become a sought-after opportunity for many students and a viable summer job option as well. At the beginning of each semester, students sign up for one enrichment class of their choice. They then attend this same class for the entirety of the semester (as long as they are not identified as in need of intervention or study hall). When the second semester begins, students choose a different enrichment class unless their first semester enrichment offering is specified as one year-long (fire science due to certification requirements). We have branded this experience as an “everybody learns” period regardless of whether they are in intervention, study hall, or enrichment, and it has served as a motivator for students to do their best academically to earn their bi-weekly enrichment opportunity.


Working in partnership with our Thursday I&E system is our system of Wednesday collaborative team meetings, which is when decisions about student placements into intervention, study hall, and enrichment take place. On Wednesdays, when our collaborative teams meet, content area teachers base their decision-making off of the analysis of formative and common formative assessments given to students, which are specific to their team-identified essential skills. This work naturally lends itself to collaborative discussions around critical questions three and four of the PLC process: “How will we respond when some students do not learn?” and “How will we extend the learning of students who demonstrate proficiency?” After student work is analyzed and placement decisions are made, teams then dedicate their energy to the challenging work of helping those who are not yet proficient and in need of intervention. Conversations about how to best reteach the content and what strategies to implement ensue and response plans are then finalized for the following day’s intervention opportunity. During intervention time, students are typically provided with a mini lesson and then practice in small groups or one-on-one with their teacher. Teachers may also utilize the support of peer tutors from our National Honor Society program, which has proven to be mutually beneficial. Struggling learners receive opportunities to discuss and practice challenging content with a capable peer, and NHS students receive scholarship money (from local donation to NHS) for their tutoring services. This structured reteaching opportunity is providing students with timely and data-driven support from teachers and peer tutors and additionally opportunities for them to demonstrate proficiency. As we look to the future, our goal is for teachers to share students during intervention time instead of simply just reteaching their own students. This is currently a challenging aspect of “small school life,” and we are looking at ways to overcome it.

In addition to Thursday I&E, we also run Character Education, ACT Prep, and Career Class rotations for students to participate in during WIN. A “WIN Dibs” process is in place and occurs at our weekly Tuesday morning staff meeting, which allows teachers to request students in need of help during WIN for the rest of that week. If a student is “dibsed,” he or she visits the teacher during WIN instead of attending Character Education or Career Class. ACT Prep takes place on Wednesday for sophomores and juniors and becomes the priority for all students on that particular day.

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

Explain how your high-performing, collaborative teams focus their efforts on improved student learning. Continuous improvement in learning for all students in a small rural school requires collaboration at all levels. Agreement about what a school is prepared to start doing, and working jointly to implement the plan, is key to highly effective education. Through the guidance and leadership of our school administrator, our content area collaborative teams have successfully implemented effective practices to grow learning.

The hallmark of our successful collaborative teams at TRHS begins with “the [sustained] pursuit of the four critical questions of the professional learning team process” (DuFour et al., 2006):  What knowledge should every student acquire? How will we know the students have attained the essentials? What will be our actions when some students do not achieve? How will we broaden the learning for students who are proficient? These four essential themes guide everything we do as a school (i.e. faculty meetings, scheduling, school-wide activities, and celebrations).

What knowledge should every student acquire? As content area teams (science, language arts, and mathematics), members began meeting together four years ago. Teams worked tirelessly to break national, state, and district standards down into educational concepts and organized them into units of time (mapping). With the goals of all students in mind, formative and summative assessments were created as a team (or from a district team) that were based on the standards and mapping.

Because TRHS has a 170-student enrollment, the majority of content area teachers do not teach similar subject levels or subjects as their colleagues. Therefore, collaborative teams searched for common threads running through curriculums that could serve as topics that might be reiterated throughout the entire school. Our entire school team has worked on improving content area literacy. We were given instruction during professional development and then intentionally implemented those ideas during classroom instruction. We have also received training in punctuation from our language arts teachers. In this way, our faculty are striving together to strengthen targeted curriculum items.

How will we know the students have attained the essentials, and what will be our actions when some students do not achieve? During staff meetings, missing assignment lists for the entire student body are distributed. Students with missing assignments are flagged for WIN. Teachers use this time to assist students as they complete and understand coursework. Another example: Content area teams utilize district commonly-created assessments written using district priority standards and the Tongue River mathematics team collaborates to administer formative assessments. The team then studies the completed assessment using a scoring guide and performs an item analysis. Student work is sorted according to performance on individual concepts rather than using overall scores. It is the most-missed concepts that serve as the focus of remediation efforts with students during WIN.

How will we broaden the learning for those who are proficient? Four years into the process of building schoolwide collaborative teams, the teachers of elective courses have joined forces and are currently working to build a knowledge base that will serve all of our students socially or in the workforce. These teams have also taken the challenge to provide opportunities for proficient students to broaden their learning in other areas through a schoolwide program. This work is currently happening in addition to our Thursday I&E system which provides students with structured, biweekly enrichment class offerings.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

An Explanation of the Attached Data Sheet

TRHS WYTOPP Data:  Percent Proficient & Advanced versus the Wyoming State Average
The 2017-18 school year was the first time the state of Wyoming required the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (WYTOPP) for statewide standardized testing in grades third through tenth. That year, TRHS beat the state average in just one out of five freshmen and sophomore level tests. In 2018-19, TRHS committed to the Professional Learning Community (PLC) mindset and began utilizing collaborative teams as the engines that propelled our mission of character development and grade level learning for all. Since that time, TRHS has beaten the state average in 13 out of 15 freshmen and sophomore level WYTOPP tests. During the past two years, TRHS is ten and zero versus the state average and has grown its percentage of Proficient and Advanced students into the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s in math, science, and language arts– significantly surpassing the state average in all three content areas. In 2019-20, TRHS was unable to participate in statewide testing due to the unexpected pandemic. In the attached data sheet, you will see WYTOPP Winter Interim assessment results in this row instead of WYTOPP Summative assessment results. The Winter Interim is a practice opportunity provided by the Wyoming Department of Education in January/February prior to Summative testing in mid to late April. Please note that the state did not develop science Interim testing until the 2022-23 school year, so you will observe an NA in that particular cell. You will also observe No Scores Recorded for ninth grade language arts. This is because it is not our practice to administer the writing test to freshmen during the winter. The writing test is required in addition to the language arts test in order for schools to be able to receive and view freshmen language arts results. Had we known the pandemic was just two months away, we would have administered the writing test to our freshmen students.

TRHS ACT Data:  2A Conference ACT Composite Score Averages
At the end of the 2017-18 school year, TRHS produced one of the worst ACT composite averages when compared to 16 other Wyoming high schools in the state’s 2A classification (which is based upon similar enrollments). In an effort to climb this ladder, TRHS staff planned and implemented an ACT Prep program. We began delivering 30-minute ACT prep lessons to sophomore and junior students on Wednesdays of each week during What I Need (WIN) period. This program has now been in place for four years. Over the past two years, TRHS juniors have beaten the Wyoming state average ACT composite score and have placed fifth and fourth respectively in 2A. As you will see in the attached data sheet, TRHS staff and students have made significant gains in this area preparing for college readiness.

TRHS Graduation Rate versus the Wyoming State Average  
Throughout the past four years, TRHS has beaten the Wyoming state average graduation rate (which has hovered between 81 and 82 percent). We are proud to note that TRHS has produced a 100% graduation rate in two out of the past three school years.

Wyoming Accountability in Education Act School Report Card
2017-18 – Not Meeting Expectations
2018-19 – Meeting Expectations
2019-20 – COVID
2020-21 – COVID
2021-22 – Meeting Expectations Academic Rankings
2017-18 – Ranked 60th out of 73 Wyoming High Schools
2018-19 – Ranked 36th out of 77 Wyoming High Schools
2019-20 – COVID

2020-21 – Ranked 10th out of 81 Wyoming High Schools

2021-22 – Ranked 9th out of 80 Wyoming High Schools

2019-20 - 100% Graduation Rate (state average of 82%)

2020-21 - Sheridan County School District 1 Teacher of the Year, Dr. Ed Hinzman

2020-21 - ACT composite score average of 20.2 (state average of 19.0)

2021-22 - one student National Merit Scholar (the first since 2009)

The Class of 2022 earned a school record $310,428 worth of community and institutional scholarship money.

2021-22 School WYTOPP Records Achieved:
Freshmen English: 81% Proficient and Advanced
Freshmen Math: 74% Proficient and Advanced
Sophomore English: 72% Proficient and Advanced
Sophomore Science: 72% Proficient and Advanced

2022-23 Best Teachers in WY – TRHS Teachers Ranked #1 out of 77  

Athletics and Activities
Five-year running average of 90% participation rate in athletics and activities

State Championships
2020-21 Boys Cross Country
2020-21 Girls Cross Country
2020-21 Girls Track and Field
2021-22 Boys Track and Field
2021-22 Girls Track and Field

2021-22 Boys Regional Basketball Champions

Coach of the Year
2020-21 Cross Country, Tim Maze
2020-21 Track and Field, Steve Hanson
2021-22 Track and Field, Steve Hanson

All-State Choir
2019-20 one student qualifier
2022-23 one student qualifier

2021-22 all-class State Champions in Ag Mechanics
This team also placed 8th nationally in Indianapolis

State Art
2020-21 eight Blue Ribbons 
2021-22 ten Blue Ribbons