Foothills Elementary (2023)

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


Foothills Elementary is in a suburban area, with boundaries in the Riverton and Herriman area in Salt Lake County, just about 20 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. It serves approximately 930 students in Kindergarten to 6th grade. Foothills Elementary is in the Jordan School District. In 2008, the district began the PLC journey, sending administration and teacher leaders from each of the 41 schools to the PLC institute over the years. In 2017, Foothills' principal, Cherie Wilson, along with teacher leaders, after establishing the school's mission and vision as staff, evaluated the PLC process and journey that each grade level team was on. We wanted to shift our focus from a planning period to a focus on learning, focus on collaboration, and focus on results. That year, Principal Wilson started a rotation schedule where classroom assistants taught Library, Art, PE, STEM, Drama, and Technology classes while teachers met in PLCs once a week.

During the 2017-18 school year, we created agendas to help guide teams using the 4 PLC Guiding Questions: What do we want students to know and be able to do? How will they know if they learned it? How will we respond when some students do not learn it? What do we do for students that already know it? We evaluated our school climate and culture and it was not where we wanted it to be. Principal Wilson brought in the work of John Hattie and the teams studied the effect sizes of various strategies to make decisions on what they needed to focus on with professional development and learning for the teachers so that the students could obtain high achievement and learning. The leadership team attended the PLC institute in Salt Lake City, Utah, and came back energized, committed, and excited about the 4 PLC Guiding Questions. Team leaders led their teams through data dives throughout the year and we started to see some progress in student achievement. Our focus on collaboration increased as we moved towards a more positive climate and culture as we kept the progress of students in mind.

In the fall of 2018, our school had Tim Brown from Solution Tree out to conduct professional development and provide insight and learning to strengthen our grade level teams during PLCs. We wanted to focus on collaboration the first couple of years and Tim Brown helped us look at where we are and where we are going. As a school and as teams, we created solid mission and vision statements again, as well as collective commitments. The staff had this a-ha moment about collective commitments and how we must work with intention and commitment. We worked together on what our non-negotiables were for student learning and evaluated our impact on student learning through the PLC process and collaboration. Each year, we establish the mission, vision, collective commitments, and goals, which are:


Foothills Elementary Mission Statement:

Foothills Elementary, as a caring community, is committed to preparing ALL students for the future by providing an optimal learning experience, encouraging students to reach their highest potential in a safe environment.

Foothills Elementary Vision Statement:

“Through Kindness, Accountability, and Empowerment, Staff and Students will Discover and Strengthen their own Superpowers.

Each year we also create collective commitments and goals, which have been included in the documentation. It is important to establish this together as a staff so that we know where we are going for the year. It creates a vision and intention for the work we will accomplish for the school year. Together, teams will also create their own mission, vision, collective commitments, and goals at the beginning of the year. As a leadership team, we also create our mission, vision, collective commitments and goals. Because of these actions, our teams have tightened up PLCs with a focus on students and results. Tim Brown had a lasting impact on our teams that has carried us every year.


We began to evaluate student data more closely during PLCs and started to plan for interventions for those students that did not learn the concepts during Tier 1 instruction. Teams also wanted to meet together to plan and establish a guaranteed and viable curriculum. Teams established pacing calendars. A master schedule was created that allowed for Tier 1, 2, and 3 instruction in the subjects each day. Some of the teams meet twice weekly during PLCs to evaluate student data and establish teaching strategies that work for students. Our focus on learning really tightened up for teams.

During the 2019-20 school year, we began looking at essential standards and decided on the 8-10 standards in Math and ELA that students had to learn in order to move on to the next grade level. We began collaborating together on the essential standards and created learning scales. Principal Wilson created student achievement trackers to keep track of data and where students were across all assessments so as to obtain a better picture of each student. Because of our processes with tracking data and planning for and providing interventions, we started to see more student achievement gains. This allowed us to focus on results as we went through the school year.

During the 2020-21 school year, after COVID hit, test scores began to decrease due to the stress of COVID. We had a lot of attendance issues, but we stayed committed to student learning and progress. Our leadership team re-evaluated school culture and climate and began to study John Hattie's 10 Mindframes. The teams of teachers each took a chapter and presented to the rest of the staff on their mindframe presented in each of the chapters. That year, though the stress was high, and student skills were low, our teachers learned a lot about the strategies that make a difference and high impact for a year's growth or more. We kept our commitment for learning, collaboration, and results. 

During the 2021-22 school year, our leadership team led teams through learning scales and improving outcomes for students. Though we saw a dip in student achievement from COVID, we were committed to high collaboration in PLCs. We started a new intervention program in literacy, called 95 Percent Group, where we tested the students every three weeks on phonics and phonemic awareness skills and placed them in appropriate groups to learn at their skill level. Students that tested on and above level were also placed in fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary groups, to continue to learn and extend on their level. During PLCs, we dug deep into the data and placed students in their appropriate groups. We looked at each individual student and the skills they possessed and how to further their learning. The teams saw tremendous growth in students in reading skills by the end of the year. The skills carried into Math as students were becoming more literate. Teachers were excited about the progress in Math and ELA scores, as well as the collaboration that took place to create learning scales and common formative assessments.

At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, we invited Nathan Wear from Solution Tree out to examine our PLC processes so that teams could learn more and become more successful in the PLC journey. Mr. Wear was quite impressed with our teams, as they continued to create and refine their own mission and vision statements each year, and to solidify collective commitments. Teams were more collaborative than ever and they were excited for the progress in student achievement. As a leadership team, we were committed to leading the teams through the PLC process as we use the 4 guiding questions to create impact for students. Currently, we continue to create learning scales and CFA's so that students, parents, and teachers are aware of the skills in the essential standards necessary for solidifying learning before moving on to the next grade level. Teams are so committed to PLCs and student learning, that some of them are meeting every day for PLCs!

In conclusion, Foothills Elementary is committed to continuous growth of our PLCs, understanding that the work that we do has a great impact on student learning. Though we started out with little knowledge about PLCs, the commitment and dedication is strong. We are starting to see high achievement in all students, with the 4 PLC questions as our guiding focus for student learning. The teachers and administration have definitely gone through a process of building our skills and growth as educators in all aspects, especially PLCs, as we want ALL students to succeed.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Every three weeks, we assess every student on the 15 skills through the 95% Group literacy program. We place students according to the skill that shows they need intervention on. We have seen great success in this. Last year was our first year using this program and we saw great gains in achievement with the skills. Most of our kids moved out of skill groups and into the on and above groups, focusing on fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary to help them with their reading skills. I have included this document in my application.

In Math, we assess students every 1-3 weeks on the power standards and group students according to the proficiency on the standard and/or foundational skills in Math. We call this "Walk to Math" and this is the first year using it. 

By creating learning scales, we are implementing a guaranteed and viable curriculum, as it relates to the power standards. If students master skills, we adjust accordingly so they can continue to have interventions according to their need.

Each year, I have paid for substitutes to come in while teachers have job-embedded time to look at curriculum and creating a scope and sequence so that we have a guaranteed and viable curriculum, where every teacher is intentional on content according to standards, and instructional strategies.

We monitor student achievement through achievement trackers each year. We are able to collaborate and make decisions together for instruction.

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

During PLCs, teachers use the time to create learning scales and CFA's so that students can see their proficiency level and where they are now and where they are going. We use these scales to communicate to parents on where their child is according to the standards. We also use the learning scales to ensure rigorous instruction according to the standards and to create intentional common formative assessments.

Teachers test all students on literacy phonics skills in ELA and essential standards in Math every week and place students in skill groups. Teachers will plan for the classroom assistants on what is taught in the on and above groups. These groups for on and above students are based off of the essential standards for ELA. For those students that are not mastering the essential standards in both subjects, skill groups are created according to the skills that are needed for students to be on grade level. Teachers and aides will be assigned a group of students (we plan this together with our instructional coach) to work on the skills necessary to master the essential standards. Teachers use learning scales to determine where students are at before and after intervention during the skill groups.

We have hired classroom assistants to teach large groups of students on or above level. Every student is getting what they need whether they are below, on, or above. We changed our master schedule a few years ago to have 30 minutes of ELA intervention and 30 minutes of Math intervention (Tier 2) every day. The teacher used to provide this intervention in the classroom for students, but now it is a whole school endeavor. All teachers on each grade level and all classroom assistants are working with all students in each grade level for 30 minutes each in ELA and Math throughout the day. We have also integrated time into the master schedule for students needing tier 3 intervention with the teacher in small groups in ELA and Math. Interventions are research-based and strategic for students. I have included the spreadsheets for our "Walk to Read" and "Walk to Math" to show the groups that have been made for tier 2 instruction (skill groups discussed above). For students that need tier 3 intervention, we discuss together as teachers, administrators, classroom assistants, and special education teachers, to ensure that ALL students understand the concepts and are obtaining mastery. These tier 3 interventions are completed by the teacher but can be completed by our highly trained classroom assistants. We love watching our students move through the skills and increase achievement. We also progress monitor our students each week that are below and well below level to track their progress and to change course in their intervention if necessary. I have included our master schedule, "Walk to Read" planning spreadsheet for a round, "Walk to Math" groups, and our learning scales folder. I have blacked out some names if the teachers used full names of students.

We have added our classroom assistants and resource team to PLCs this year. In the past, we have only had the teachers, administration, and instructional coach plan for intervention and the teacher instructed their own students in tier 1,2, and 3. Last year, we added our classroom assistants to ELA Interventions (so we would have six teachers and six classroom assistants for each grade level). Because this was going so well in ELA, we added this structure to our Math interventions and we now have six teachers and three assistants working with all students in each grade level for 30 minutes. We also have added more collaboration among staff. We take the day to collaborate together- all teachers, classroom assistants, the instructional coach, and administration to talk about all students and their needs. We participate in this every 2-3 weeks. I have built this into our scheduling and the assistants feel like they are making a difference and are contributing, instead of being told what to do. Everyone knows their part and the 'why' behind every lesson and intervention. We truly are collaborating with everyone involved in educating our students! It has made a difference. We have built upon our collective teacher efficacy and we ALL believe that ALL students can learn and be successful!

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

The past year, our teams have been working on learning scales (document in the evidence). Our work the past couple of years has been focused on choosing the power standards and creating learning scales with the CFA's, but our teams have really amped up the work. The past two years have resulted in a few learning scales created, but this year, our teams have about 8-10 learning scales EACH in ELA and Math. They were so excited to get this going (as Administration, we conducted a lot of Professional Development on the WHY behind learning scales). I took my leadership team to see Mike Mattos a couple of years ago and he talked about essential standards and creating learning scales. My teachers became really excited. If you would like the link to our learning scales folder, I can share it with you. There are too many documents to individually download and share them all. I have included our excel spreadsheet of the learning scales we have learning scales for and a couple of learning scales as an example of the kind of work teachers are a part of. I have also included the document on the power standards that teachers visit and re-visit, determining the essential standards for their grade level. We started this document in 2019 right before COVID and use it to ensure that we are creating learning scales according to the essential standards. Discussions come up as teachers get to know the standards. If a standard is no longer deemed essential because there are other more essential standards, we adjust as needed.

In our PLCs with classroom assistants, as the leader, I have been able to provide a lot of professional development to our assistants throughout the year. My teachers were trained by the district on the Science of Reading, and I asked the district if our classroom assistants could be trained as well. My instructional coach has played a big role in this. We are able to meet with the classroom assistants every three weeks to discuss interventions and research-based practices, which is what the teachers are already receiving during professional development times. The classroom assistants have an opportunity to feel a part of the 'teaching community' within our school by getting the same training that teachers are getting. This helps us with our goal to have high-performing collaborative teams that focus on improved learning for all students.

I have also developed teacher capacity for classroom assistants and teachres through professional development on engagement strategies for ELLs and SPED, as we see a wide gap in achievement. I was able to conduct my dissertation on collective teacher efficacy and how it impacts the achievement gap in literacy for ELLs. We are seeing great gains for all students in ELA. Next year, we will focus our efforts on Math Tier 1 instruction, and continue to focus on rigorous, strong Tier 1 instruction in ELA, as we have learned we cannot intervene our way out of Tier 1 instruction that doesn't work.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Some notable achievements with Acadience Reading last year were:

-Kindergarten went from 63% proficiency at the BOY to 72% at the end of the year; 1st grade went from 49% at the beginning of the year to 53% at the end of the year; 3rd grade went from 66% to 72%; 4th grade went from 61% to 71%, 5th grade went from 51% to 65%; and 6th grade went from 78% to 82%. The only grade that saw a reduction in proficiency was 2nd grade.

None at this time.