Union Park School (2023)

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

Shared Understanding and commitment to the PLC at Work Process:

Every member of the Union Park School staff started the PLC journey in different places at different times. Union Park Schools journey to become a Model PLC School began with thoughtful and focused planning while hiring each teacher. It was our goal to become a Model PLC School prior to even opening our doors in 2020, the year that changed everything as we knew it in education. We did not even have a physical foundation built before we were all placed on mandatory lockdown in Arizona. Fortunately, most of our staff was hired by March of 2020 and we were able to work together virtually to build the figurative foundations for a school that was set to open to our Toros in August of 2020.

Union Park is a school within The Deer Valley Unified School District (awarded as a PLC Model District at Work! in 2021). The schools in the district began the journey in 2015 starting with book studies on Learning by Doing and Taking Action. Each school worked at their own pace and were at different levels of implementation in January of 2020 when we began to staff Union Park School. However, the founding principal, Tricia Graham, was already working closely with a Multi-School Collaborative Team for two years with Constitution Elementary School (named a PLC Model School at Work! in 2019) and Canyon Springs STEM Academy (her school at that time). She had also attended the Phoenix Summits on Professional Learning Communities at Work with large teams of her teachers in 2017 and 2018. 

Mrs. Graham envisioned Union Park School to embrace collaborative work in cohesive grade level and multi-school teams, and focus on standards based learning and planning following the PLC process. She took that ideology and hand picked each staff member and teacher on the campus by asking focused questions about the PLC process, grading practices (based on Fair Isn’t Always Equal by Rick Wormeli), and collaborative work in every interview as she built her team in 2020 and with every new hire over the past three years. She looks for specific answers regarding the four questions of the PLC process, how a person collaborates with team members, Tier I & II instruction, and grading practices. Specific job requirements include, “Utilize the AZ State Standards to plan instruction and develop/support planning within collaborative teams…Utilize a variety of authentic assessments within the teaching/learning process…Commit to work with team-mates and grade level or multi-school collaborative teams through the PLC process.”

Union Park School is fortunate to have many teachers make the move to our school from schools within our district that already embrace the PLC process and consistently work in collaborative teams through the PLC process. There is at least one teacher per grade level team who can lead the collaborative teams. Teacher capacity is what helped us power through the pandemic with a hyper-focus on student learning and achievement.

Prior to opening Union Park School, our Multi-School Collaborative Teams (MSCT’s) were built. All teachers received the same training and expectations through virtual and paid professional development and planning days after their contract days ended in May of 2020 (and each year thereafter). The principals of those schools also agreed on a collective commitment to ensure that budget resources were set aside. TIme is also honored for our 4th-8th grade MSCT to meet each quarter for a full day and our teachers meet on the agreed upon early release Fridays in their collaborative teams focusing on the PLC questions. Generally on the early release Fridays, teachers create a CFA or discuss questions 3 (How will we respond when students do not learn?) and 4 (How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient?), while also sharing high yield instructional strategies. 

We began 2020 teaching online. However, this did not dissuade us from prioritizing collaborative structures and planning times. Teachers were given full release days to collaborate and walk through the entire PLC process. Mrs. Graham attended each content area and grade level full release day to ensure the process was followed as well as to have the hard conversations about what we want all students to learn and be able to do as well as how we will know if they learned it. We found if administrators prioritized this time as important and valuable, teachers find it equally valuable. The collaborative time together opened deep conversations about district provided resources as well as how to measure mastery of our Arizona State Standards. 

The conversations about how to measure state standards led to the drive and development of a clear standards-based mindset. It was also our first year of practice together that Tom Schimmer presented Grading from the Inside Out to DVUSD about standards based mindset. We quickly studied the book and the leadership team at Union Park agreed that this aligns beautifully with the PLC process and moved forward as a “Phase 1” School for standards-based grading. The teachers and staff at Union Park School collectively agreed to move forward and build the path for our district. However, this was not a fully acceptable grading method by all members of our school board and the DVUSD community.  We continue to consistently and passionately work through the process of building understanding and acceptance of innovation in the education industry. 

Facilitating a culture of continuous improvement:

The Union Park Mission and Vision statement was created in a virtual environment before our school was even built. We were only able to have two community meetings to introduce staff we had hired and update prospective families with our philosophies, building updates, and receive collaborative input on what we wanted our school to be. Once we were placed on lockdown in March of 2020, we did not have access to our newly registered families via email, so asked for input on social media. We created a google form asking our stakeholders four simple questions based on the research in Creating and Protecting the Shared Foundation of a Professional Learning Community at Work; What is our fundamental purpose? What are our priorities? What is our focus? And What do you hope to see at Union Park School in one word? We compiled the information received, met with our new Guiding Coalition, and created our Mission and VIsion Statements: Union Park School provides an environment for students to embrace inclusivity and other cultures through the lens of awareness and Spanish language literacy. The learning community works together to inspire and empower innovative insights and rigorous opportunities for academic and social emotional growth. Vision: Empowering tomorrow's leaders with second language literacy and fostering extraordinary, motivated, and culturally conscious life-long learners.

As we regularly refine practices, we quickly found that students who began with us in 2020 outperformed students who were new to us. During monthly MTSS meetings with grade level teams, when discussing specific student needs, we found that there is a large learning gap between students who were online for over a year and the students who came to us from the beginning. As a growing school, we decided that our MTSS structures needed refining to meet the needs of our learners. Master schedules changed to include MTSS times during each core content area. This was particularly important to note in middle school. The expectation to create choice boards and pull small groups of students for interventions (like we do in lower grade levels) was embedded in our daily practice and identified as a key “look for” in observations. We are finding that the use of “Toro Time” where students who do not complete their work need to come in before or after school to do so is being used less. When teachers pull small groups, students do not have an opportunity to NOT complete their exit tickets or show the teacher what they know.

One more large refinement is critically looking at our original Mission and Vision Statements. They were written before Union Park School was an actual school building; before we knew who we were. The Guiding Coalition at Union Park School is currently gathering input from all stakeholders to revise the mission and vision statements to better reflect who we are and where we want our future Toros to be. We are utilizing the “All Things PLC” and 2022, “Virtual PLC’s at Work,” Solution Tree Press, to guide the way. 

As a new school, Union Park had the unique opportunity to build a strong foundation of PLC structures and teacher efficacy from the beginning with focused leadership. This allows us to be innovative and clearly committed to doing what is best for our students each and every day.


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

The guaranteed and viable curriculum at Union Park School begins with the Arizona State Standards first then we use the district provided curriculum and curriculum maps as provided resources. The Union Park Teacher Values statement encompasses our beliefs: As highly qualified educational professionals at Union Park School, we strongly believe in our obligation to not only teach content and skills, but more importantly, to ensure that students learn and master the standards. We will accomplish this by reteaching, reassessing, and utilizing multiple and tiered instructional approaches to support standard mastery and growth.

Ensuring time for collaborative teams to walk through the PLC process started with collective commitments from our teachers and the each grade level and multi-school team. This practice began virtually in May of 2020 and has continued to grow stronger each year and in person to present time.

Our grade level and Muti School Collaborative Teams (MSCT) meet for one full day each quarter as well as at least two early release Fridays per month to walk through the PLC process. The teams follow an agenda, Work Collaboratively and create Collective Commitments to follow them throughout the year. They Discuss student data, instructional strategies that worked and did not work to positively impact student learning and mastery (Here’s What, So What, Now What). The teams then Unwrap State Essential Standards by Noun and Verb then:

  • Identify the Depth of Knowledge the Essential Standard addresses (and use to build rubric)
  • Identify essential knowledge and concepts (What do students need to know and understand?)
  • Identify essential skills (What do students need to be able to do?)
  • Identify essential vocabulary (What do students need to comprehend?)
  • Identify learning progressions (pathway of skill development to standard mastery)
  • Identify Learning Intentions for each Learning Progression (I am learning…)
  • Identify Success Criteria (I will know I have learned this when…or I can…)
  • Create an analyticrubric for the Standard: Agree upon and create evidence of student mastery (How will we know when students have mastered the standard or concept and at what level?)
  • Create a common summative assessment
  • Create common formative assessments
  • Createholistic rubrics for skills and practice

Once the teams have created their planning documents, they Align and set-up gradebook to reflect collaborative planning with their grade level or MSCT team to reflect Learning Progressions and Standards & Assessments. 

In the classroom, teachers work with students to create and actively update individual data binders to reflect goals for the year and each learning cycle. They also include collective commitments like the Class and personal mission, clear understandings of their learning progressions and what standards mastery looks like and then students graph and reflect upon their progress for their own knowledge as well as to report to parents during conferences. 


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

The Union Park School Leadership Structure clearly defines the schools tiered practices and responsibilities. Grade level teams meet monthly with administrators to discuss tiered supports, write SMART goals for specific students in Panorama, a data driven platform that helps us make informed decisions about student progress and better outcomes. Teachers implement specific interventions based on data and track student progress. 

The big picture is protecting and ensuring proper time is allotted for teachers to be able to have effective Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction in their classrooms. Union Park School makes built-in MTSS time for each content area in the Master Schedule a priority. This is particularly important in the middle school grades, as pulling small groups for intervention and extension was not a normal practice until last school year. When discussing and observing students' progress through the data protocols as well as exit tickets each day, teachers are able to pull small groups of students to address learning progressions and focused skills rather than at the end of a unit when we have to continue on to the next set of standards.

Teachers create and facilitate Toro Time for students who need time to complete their work due to absences or lack of work completion. Students are never given an opportunity to choose NOT to do their work or show a teacher that they understand or have mastered a learning progression or standard. They also clearly and consistently communicate with students and parents regarding classroom practices and grading.

During collaborative team meetings, teachers Discuss student data and instructional strategies that worked and did not work to positively impact student learning and mastery (Here’s What, So What, Now What). Teachers learn from student data, reflect on their practices, and are willing to share or change practices after their valuable time together.


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

Collective efficacy is key to ensuring highly effective collaborative teams. It is especially important when working with other schools within MSCT’s. We have to create agreed upon, school-wide processes. However, the hard work is in the learning, professional development opportunities provided, and the accountability to one another to keep the work going while also refining practices to consistently improve student learning. 

Union Park School provides opportunities for professional development (PD) & Learning that has included:


  • Fair Isn’t Always Equal, Rick Wormeli (book study or video series)
  • Teacher Clarity Classes
  • Opportunities to attend conferences and/or invite experts from Solution Tree regarding the Professional Learning Community Process (17 teachers attended the Summit in Phoenix in February 2023). 
  • Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) or Response to Intervention
  • High Yield Instructional Strategies
  • Grading & Reporting

The Union Park Master Schedule ensures that common prep periods are a priority for grade level teams to be able to discuss interventions and student needs at least once per week.

All of our multi-school partners agree to protect and ensure ongoing opportunities for grade level teams and Multi-School Collaborative Team (MSCT) to work collaboratively. The schools have the same schedule for early release days as well as the collective commitments of one full day of collaboration in July (preservice day), one Full Release Day in Q1, Q2, & Q3, and three paid collaborative days after contracts end in May.

It is also important for administrators at each school to attend the collaborative team meetings, contribute, and be an active participant in the work teams. This helps administration know, understand, and fully grasp the standards and work involved within each content area. Ensuring that we all work smarter, not harder, administration also connects teacher observations to reflect the importance of the PLC process. Additionally, administration must attend PD to learn and adjust with teachers, be visible and talk with students and teachers consistently about what is working and what needs refining throughout the year, and importantly, Communicate with Families regularly regarding the why/how of our systems and processes.

The administrators and teachers at Union Park school build PLC capacity district-wide. We aim to help the system become stronger. Teachers consistently facilitate professional development sessions not only to our staff, but also district-wide. Each year, Model PLC Teacher leaders present  at DVUSD PLC Summits and are asked to present PD to other schools in our district. 


The staff at Union Park has also presented to our DVUSD Board, Parents, Teachers, & Principals on many occasions to share standards based mindset practices and how we integrate them into our collaborative team processes. 


  • Pre-Service Day Training for Multi-School Collaborative Teams; July 2021: Jessica Carr,  PLC
  • PreK-12 DVUSD Principal Meeting; March 2022: Tricia Graham, Standards Based Grading; School-Wide Processes
  • Union Park PTSA Meeting; August 2022: Tricia Graham, PTSA Meeting
  • DVUSD Board Study Session, November 2022: Tricia Graham, Amy Brice-Nash, Karen Beeman, Jessica Carr, Alicia Johnson, & DVUSD Dept. Superintendent, teacher leaders, students, and parents.

It is our belief that strong teacher PLC capacity can build efficacy, improve processes, mindsets, PLC capacity district wide. In partnership with all stakeholders, we can focus on improved learning for ALL students.

Further Evidence may be found here:

MAKING CONNECTIONS work shared with the community and DVUSD Board

Union Park School Model PLC School at Work- Shared folder of evidence

Newsletter to Community




Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Union Park School is unique in that we opened in 2020, during a world-wide pandemic. However, we did not let that allow us to create excuses or reasons for our students to underperform or achieve goals we set with and for them. We are proud to be recognized as an “A” rated school by the state of Arizona from the very beginning. We attribute our student achievement to the PLC process and the focus on essential standards instruction and collaborative work within established teacher teams. 

The Guiding Coalition (comprised of teacher leaders at each grade level and content area) at Union Park School leads the PLC process by; becoming PLC experts by learning about the PLC process-from common vocabulary to the cycle of continuous improvement in which collaborative teacher teams participate; becoming experts on how the PLC process benefits students, teachers, and the school community; monitors the overall health of the MTSS process for academics and behavior; and disseminates and supports information about the PLC process to collaborative teacher teams while championing a sense of urgency around the work of MTSS (Powerful Guiding Coalitions, 12). The Guiding Coalition has also created sub groups (ELA, Math, STEAM, and Stakeholder Satisfaction) to utilize school-wide, vertical data to create and monitor the yearly academic goals for the campus-wide continuous improvement plan.


K-2 DIBELS Benchmark Data:


3rd-5th Grade AASA State Accountability Data:

6th-8th Grade AASA State Accountability Data:

Union Park School opened as a K-7 school in 2020 and grew to a K-8 school in SY2021-22. It is also important to note that over 225 new students have joined us from various educational experiences and institutions from across the US and world since the doors have opened. There are new apartments, townhomes, and single family homes being built all around the school. Taiwanese families are moving into our attendance area as the TSMC Semiconductor is built in the north Phoenix valley. It is notable that many students were enrolled online, homeschooled, and had various levels of educational and learning supports during the pandemic. Our teachers know and understand this well with each new student they welcome into class. This is why our focus is on highly engaging and effective Tier 1 instruction with clearly focused and dedicated time to Tier 2 instruction.

Union Park School houses a Spanish Dual Language Immersion (DLI) Program. It began with Kindergarten and 1st Grade and has grown through 3rd Grade since 2020, growing with our original first graders a grade level each year. It is interesting to note that 47% of the third grade students have received mathematics instruction in Spanish only. This is the reason for our year-to-year 3rd grade decline in state test scores (AASA) in mathematics. As 4th graders, they will be learning math in English. As such, we are looking forward to 2024 State Data.

National research from The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) indicates that students in DLI Programs may develop reading skills later than their non-dual language immersion peers. However, Union Park School student DIBELS scores do not reflect this research. In fact, the students in our DLI program are outperforming our English only students in English reading acquisition.

Although we do not yet have a breakdown of the 2023 Full Academic Year (FAY) students, Toro students who begin the year with us within the first ten days of school (FAY) consistently tend to outperform students who join us later in the school year. This is a testament to our focused standards-based instruction and collaborative work within the PLC process.




Union Park School values student and school data. It allows us to make informed decisions for continuous improvement regarding student-centered practices and interventions.

2020-21 DVUSD Teacher of the Year: Bradley Land

2021-22 DVUSD Coach of the Year: Coach Conway

2021-22 DVUSD Teacher of the Year: Kristen Crisp

2021-22 DVUSD Rookie of the Year: Mindi Wagner

AdvancEd Accreditation

DVUSD Model PLC District at Work!

AZ Cardinals Awards:

  • Touch Down for Teachers: Paula Ward
  • Touch Down for Teachers: Teresa Sanders
  • Touch Down for Teachers: Jenny Andrade
  • Touch Down for Teachers: Jackie McCormick
  • MVP In the Classroom: Jessica Carr

2021 Macaroni Kid Gold Daisy School of the Year

2021 Macaroni Kid Gold Daisy Teacher of the Year: Holly Flory


  • ASCE Grant 2022-2023: Teresa Sanders
  • APS/Suns Grant 2021-2022: Hope Loveland
  • APS/Suns Grant 2022-2023: Hope Loveland
  • SRP Grant 2023: Hope Loveland

ASU STEM Fellow: Hope Loveland

AZ PTA Teacher of the Month, December 2022: Jackie McCormick

Math & Reading 2022 AASA Highest Scale Score Award

2023 DVUSD Middle School Boys Conference Basketball Champions

2023 DVUSD Middle School Conference Spiritline Champions

2023 DVUSD 5th/6th Grade Boys Conference Cross Country Champions