Fern Creek High School

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

May 23, 2010, the Courier Journal’s Headline read Fern Creek Traditional High School –Test scores give school “hit in the gut”.  Our overall accountability rating placed us in the bottom 10% of all high schools in Kentucky and we were labeled a Persistently Low Achieving school. However, Fern Creek High School is now proud to be labeled as a Proficient school on Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning Assessment.  We have increased our accountability from 10% to 76% in the last five years.  U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan commended Fern Creek for its "dramatic academic transformation" during his visit to our school in April 2015. 

Fern Creek can attribute much of our successful turnaround to our philosophy and practice of truly integrated collaboration. It is the principle upon which our Professional Learning Communities are based and the driving force of all its attendant systems. We have been privileged in our access to high- performing schools and educators who have informed our practices, and credit many of our systems to their ideas. Rick Dufour’s work on Professional Learning Communities has been the cornerstone of our professional collaboration at Fern Creek.   Our teachers plan together, analyze data, and design interventions using common language and practices. Our leadership team collaborates to design innovative solutions to school challenges. We believe we work better together. This collaborative spirit drives all that we do and allows us to transform our expectations regarding what our students know and are able to do.

The Fern Creek Professional Learning Communities are a content-specific grouping of teachers committed to working together to improve student outcomes.  Using a standards-based approach, teachers administer formative assessments, analyze common data, and design interventions based on a tiered system of student needs.  We forgo weekly faculty meetings to preserve our meeting times for PLCs.  This time allows teachers to work together to build quality lessons that support student learning, building on the individual strengths of the team members.

Our Process

  • Protected PLC Time- Teachers meet in content-specific PLC every Tuesday from 2:30-3:30.

  • Standards Based Instruction- Teachers use a common language to guide instruction. Standards define what matters, provide transparency and a fixed point of reference for teachers. 

  • Weekly Common Formative Assessments- Teachers use formative assessments to inform instruction and share experiences with their PLC members.

  • Data Analysis- Teacher regularly share and analyze common data to look for trends, determine what is working and what is not, and to plan next steps for instruction. Transparency of teacher and student level data assists Fern Creek in holding all parties accountable for participating in the teaching-learning relationship.

  • Instructional Design- Teachers work together to build quality lessons that support student learning, building on the individual strengths of the team members.

  • Interventions- Teachers offer support and recovery based on student needs.  Students are provided alternate ways to show competency through in class Tier II- RTI support and Academic Advising.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Fern Creek’s teachers monitor student learning through rigorous questioning techniques and formative assessment.  During PLC meetings, teachers set aside specific time to report and reflect on components of the Framework for Teaching (Danielson) with a focus on “Questioning and Discussion Techniques” and “Using Assessment.” Each teacher is expected to add to the professional discussion with examples of their practice during the preceding week.  Additionally, Fern Creek has instituted a system of academic advising to monitor students on an individual basis. Fern Creek’s approach to advising capitalizes on the existing relationship between classroom teacher and the students on his or her roster. Our teachers participated in professional development to explore the various ways to conduct conferences with their students and developed tools to provide detailed progress data to students throughout the grading period. The advising sessions are tailored to the individual students’ need and can include strength/weakness assessments, a writing conference, feedback on standards acquisition, or student reflection.

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

Response to Intervention (RTI) is an essential component of Fern Creek’s commitment to exceptional instructional practice. It requires our teachers to work together to analyze formative assessment data and determine instructional interventions tailored to our students’ needs. Our teachers implement scheduled Tier II Interventions within the weekly instructional schedule where they make use of small-group instruction. Students who need extra support and instruction meet in smaller groups or individually and are invited to our Extended School Day program after regular school hours.

An Example of an RTI Plan from a Science Classroom

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

To build high-performing collaborative teams, teachers need time. One afternoon once a week was not enough for teachers to build the collegial relationships that are the cornerstone of a high-functioning PLC. To provide teachers the time they need, Fern Creek allows our PLC members to participate in Data Days. A Data Day at Fern Creek is a full-release day for PLC teachers occurring each trimester.  The data we examine during Data Day is focused on core content standards.  We color-code each student and each class by monitoring the standards assessed on proficiency exams and common formative assessments. Data Days offer our teachers the opportunity to conduct a sustained analysis of individual and group data, and the opportunity to dissect and diagnose where efforts in the classroom are successful. Data Day products include curricular pacing maps, tiered intervention protocols, and innovative lesson plans.


  • Allowing teachers in a PLC a full work day to examine data firmly establishes the priority goals of the PLC.

  • Teachers have time to work. Supervisors have time to participate.

  • Interventionists assume teaching responsibilities to minimize lost instructional time.


  • Jefferson County Public Schools has established a 6 week testing cycle of formative and summative assessments. Data Days ideally happen after a formative assessment that generates enough data to drive the collaborative process.

  • Teachers have time to make adjustments and plan for the summative assessment.


  • Teachers who teach common course and produce common data, but qualitative data can be shared and instruction design for CTE and Pathway teachers who need to align instruction

What (Work Products)

  • Lesson Plans

  • Assessments

  • Schedules

  • ESD invites, etc.

Additional Achievement Data

Achievement Data with Gap Population Increase

Perhaps the statistic of which Fern Creek is most proud is the fact that we have continued to show gains in our Achievement and Gap (at risk) scores despite our increasingly challenging population.  The percentage of our students with disabilities, our English Language Learners, our Free/reduced lunch status and our minority population has increased over the last five years.  Our teachers’ dedication to recovery and professional collaboration has allowed us realize gains despite the challenges some of these students face in achieving proficiency. Additionally, our GAP scores in Math and Social Studies outpace the state and district averages.


Awards and Recognitions

  • Bronze Medal- Best High Schools in the United States by US News and World Report

  • Gheens Institute for Innovation Award Winner

  • 2013 Hilliard Lyons Excellence Award

  • Kentucky Continuous Improvement Summit – Best Practices Presenter

  • United States Secretary of Education and Kentucky Commissioner of Education visit- Model urban turn-around school

  • Bingham Fellowship for Food Literacy

  • Named the only Nature Conservancy School in Kentucky

  • Kentucky English Teacher of the Year

Notable Achievements

Fern Creek has evidenced steady improvement since being designated as a Persistently Low-Achieving School in 2010. We have increased our KDE percentile rank from below the 10 percentile to the 76 percentile in 2015.

The following data speaks to the 2014-15 School Year:

  • Fern Creek boasts a College and Career Ready Rate of 78.9, better than the district average CCR rate.

  • Fern Creek is the only PLA high school in the district to reach “Proficient” status.

  • Fern Creek outscored the district and state averages for GAP students in Math and Social Studies.

  • Fern Creek’s graduation is 9% higher than the district average.

  • Fern Creek exited “priority” status for their 2014-2015 scores.

    (Progressing School/District has met its Annual Measurable Objective (AMO), student participation rate for the all students group and each subgroup, and has met its graduation rate goal. A school exiting “priority” status has met its AMO and graduation rate goal for three consecutive years and is no longer in the bottom five percent of schools.)

    Advanced Placement

  • Our students receiving qualifying scores and college credit on their AP exams in 2014 increased by 34% from the previous year.

  • Students received $6900 in incentives from Advance KY for their AP exam scores in 2014.

We have increased our AP offerings to 16 AP courses during the 2014-2015 school year.