Vernon Barford Junior High School (2019)

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

Building a Culture of Shared Understanding and Commitment and Facilitating a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Vernon Barford Journey - Abstract/ Executive Summary

The Vernon Barford school journey toward becoming and effective professional learning community is a story that contains three different chapters or phases.  The first chapter of the journey was the initiation phase and  began with the arrival of my principal colleague.   In discussing this phase with my colleague, it has been confirmed that the key actions steps included coming to consensus around the core purpose of the school, a mission statement (i.e., We believe all children can learn and it is our moral responsibility to ensure that they do), making operational and process changes to support a focus on the three big ideas (i.e., learning, collaboration, and results), and beginning work around the four guiding questions of a PLC.  With regard to the four guiding questions, the focus was initially on the question of “What should be learned?” and then progressed into “How will we know what has been learned and what level?” during the second year.  While some initial conversations and experimentation with respect to the third and fourth questions (i.e, How will we respond if/when students struggle to learn?, How will we respond if/ when students learn quickly or easily) also occurred, systematic response in these areas was only just beginning when my colleague was called away to serve as principal at another school.

It should be noted that while the progress outlined above was described in a few sentences the journey was far more complex and involved significant effort, skill and effective PLC leadership over multiple years.  My colleague has also shared that the changes mentioned above also took time to take root and as such the results changed minimally (and even declined slightly) in some areas after the first year. However, this trend was reversed in subsequent years when results on standardized tests showed improvement in many areas.  While results did not all improve to the same degree and or to the same amount it has been shared that overall trend in results during this time was in an upward direction.

The second chapter of the Vernon Barford story could be titled the status quo phase.  In this phase the work that had been begun was allowed to continue but minimal impetus, action, or expectation for further learning or growth around PLC concepts occurred.  Furthermore, as we know that both as individuals and as schools we are either moving forward or we are moving backward; during this phase some erosion of belief, focus, processes, and expectations around what it means to be a PLC occurred.  This movement away from PLC concepts not done intentionally but rather came about due to the new leader seeing the principal role in more traditional way (i.e., to provide operational and relational leadership and stability while leaving educational leadership up to individual teachers or teacher teams).  The end result was that while people felt good about being at the school and operational realities were addressed at a high level, minimal educational change or progress toward becoming a more effective PLC occurred. Results during this time were interesting in that prior gains were maintained for a short period before a gradual decline started to appear that continued for a number of years.  In talking to my colleague about this reality, it was shared that it was during this time that student demographics began to change dramatically and it was observed that strategies and systems that had worked before were no longer working as effectively while new strategies and systems that were effective with the new reality had not yet been incorporated.

The third chapter of the Vernon Barford school story could be titled the reengagement and refinement phase.  Having initiated the PLC journey at two prior schools, I was interested to see how things would be the same or different in a school that had already been exposed to PLC concepts.  The first step toward reengagement was to check on people's understanding and commitment to the idea that the core purposes of the school were Ensuring Learning and Positive Development of the whole child (i.e., development of positive academic and social behaviors/ habits).  The implications and commitments in the mission statement created during the initiation phase were reviewed and reflection around celebration and growth areas occurred. This reflection step was important as it allowed for the introduction of the concept of journey and the idea that in order to continue our school journey we needed to have clarity and consensus about our desired destination, our current location and realities, as well as the next steps and speed with which we desired to move between the two locations.  This reflection was accomplished by having each department team identify and share celebration areas, growth areas, I wonder’s, and next steps with regard to our foci, the three big ideas of a PLC, as well as the Ensuring Learning/ guiding questions of a PLC. The process revealed that while commitment to students was strong and we were united around the common foci (i.e., Ensuring Learning, Positive Development of the whole child), we lacked awareness of potential next steps as well as lacked unity in both our understanding and our behavioral commitment to the cultural and system aspects that would allow positive progress to occur.

Once we had consensus on our desired destination and current location, the refinement process commenced.  The refining process was focused on creating positive changes that supported a faculty culture, school systems, and a student culture that all aligned with the school's mission statement as well as supported effective PLC practices (see additional details and specifics in appropriate sections below).  Additionally, the refining process allowed us to formalize our thoughts and ideas into a coherent structure, enhanced clarity and understanding for all, helped us determine next steps, and also provided a lighthouse to focus and check our individual and collective actions when the inevitable setbacks and challenges occurred.  

Results during this time are interesting in that while overall school results and trends are positive and our results have continued to significantly exceed other schools in our catchment, the Edmonton Public School Board, and Alberta; not every single result in every area has moved in a positive direction every year.  In reflecting on this matter, a number of factors appear to have contributed including increased turnover with faculty in some areas and in key leadership positions (e.g., ILT), continued changes in student needs and demographics (e.g., ever more students with foundational delays) which faculty initially hesitated to accept as being more than a short term trend, and occasional infections of “we are tired or busy with other good things so just want to talk the talk but not fully walk the walk” (e.g., commitment to regular analysis of learning data).  Fortunately, the good doctors on our team have learned how to both spot and treat these realities when they arise - smile. That having been said, one other factor that was clearly evident initially and not as easily addressed was that the positive impact of prior adjustments (e.g., use of common resources) had already occurred and if additional significant change in results was to occur then more fundamental and dramatic adjustments would be required (e.g., moving to outcome based assessment and reporting, doing the work and taking the extended time necessary to come up with an intervention plan that more effectively addressed existing needs, demonstrating greater commitment to ongoing collection and use of data to guide next steps, etc).  These dramatic and significant changes involved widespread and foundational shifts in both thinking and practice and were also more public and visible so it took time to convince members of senior administration, parents, etc. that they were necessary as well as to implement them effectively. These fundamental changes have now taken root and are bearing fruit such that school results in many areas (see results section for details) are trending upward with most recent results in a number of different areas meeting and exceeding school all time high levels. As a last word, while it is important to recognize and celebrate our positive progress and results to date, we also know that the journey is never over and thus we continue to learn and grow as we strive to ensure the learning as well as the short and long term success of all of our students.

Faculty Culture Refinements - Additional Details

This process of refining faculty culture began with ongoing messaging and conversations about why our work was vital, the fact that we could enhance student learning in positive ways (e.g., Hattie’s research), as well as what it meant to be an educational professional.  Over time key messages were distilled into the acronym SEARCHING (see below) which essentially enshrined powerful concepts related to the desired faculty culture and the need for constant individual and collective improvement in all areas.  The concept of searching was subsequently reinforced across the school in a multitude of ways and both formal and informal influence strategies were employed in an ongoing manner to ensure ongoing commitment to the ideals contained within the searching acronym.


As school faculty we are professionals. Being a professional implies:

Rights and Obligations:

  • Educated and Highly Trained
  • Completed a certification process
  • Ongoing practice governed by a set of common expectations
  • Teacher Quality Standard, Principal Quality Performance Standard
  • Guidelines for behavior and conduct (i.e., Code of Conduct)

Attitudes/Behaviours = We have a moral obligation to constantly be SEARCHING for the most effective ways to help our clients be successful:

  1. S = Students First at all times. Primary focus is what is best for our clients (kids).

  1. E = Ensuring Learning and Educational Equity.

  1. A = Accountability is a positive and needed to maintain our focus and measure our progress toward our goals.  We are always striving to improve as individuals and a team, Embrace change as the path to improvement, and understand that while everyone likes improvement nobody likes change.

  1. R = Results oriented and Research Based.   We collect and use data to guide decisions.  We seek out and apply research on human learning, effective schools, etc. to improve our practice in an ongoing manner.

  1. C = Ongoing Collaboration and Collective Wisdom are essential to success

  1. H = Honor ongoing tension between need for unity and diversity.

  1. I = Integrity in all we do. Intentional processes and actions (Plan -> Try -> Check impact -> Adjust -> Repeat).   We focus on solutions (not problems) and we are willing to do what we ask of our kids in terms of learning new things, trying things that are uncomfortable, and being honest about celebration and growth areas.

  1. N = Nurturing of clients as a whole people, our school, and our profession.  Positive outlook, choices, and communication. We work to build confidence in our profession, teachers as professionals, and informed professional judgment.

  1. G = Galvanized to action.  We learn by doing. We accept the reality that the path to success is never a straight line. We model and support a growth mindset.

Sample System Refinements - Overview and Additional Details

The Ensuring Learning Questions/ Guiding Questions of a PLC provided provided the system structure we required to align and focus our school improvement efforts.  We again utilized the concept of a journey in that we began with considering what our school would look like, sound like, and be like if we were to accomplish our stated mission (i.e., our desired destination).  We then examined the celebration area, growth area, and I wonder data shared by departments (i.e., determined our current location and reality). Finally, I examined the potential next steps that had been submitted by both departments and individuals and realizing that we could not do everything at once I laid out a multi year plan as well as prioritized next steps.  One reality that stood out was that if we were to improve as a school and enhance our systems to better support student learning then the adults in the building had to become the biggest learners. For example, I knew that we could not get to by the student by the skill intervention until we actually changed to assessing and reporting around outcomes. Likewise I knew that as a school we would not make the jump from compliance to commitment if I did all of the leading, PD, etc.; and for this reason I had to be very intentional about ensuring all department leaders/ ILT team members grew in both their general leadership ability, their understanding and commitment to what it means to be effective PLC, and in their ability to effectively lead the process of refining department and school systems and processes.  Thus a variety of intentional practical steps were taken to ensure high levels of faculty learning (see a few examples below) and in turn create both the impetus and depth of understanding necessary for significant refinements to systems focused on ensuring student learning (see monitoring student learning and creating intervention and enrichment section) to be welcomed, valued, and implemented in an ongoing and positive manner.

  • Attendance at weekly department collaboration meetings was a tight expectation and at the request of faculty leaders, collaboration time was increased from 60 to 90 minutes per week.  Weekly collaboration is focused on enhancing student learning and has resulted in common assessment, resources, timelines, collaborative marking, etc. once again becoming the reality in our school.  In an effort to create a greater focus on learning, a shift to outcome based assessment and reporting; a focus on skills and processes (vs knowledge) outcomes; and the regular use of conversations, observations, and products to collect learning evidence from students also occurred.  All of these developments had a profound positive impact on reinforcing that learning and constant improvement were the goal for both students and faculty as well as represented significant departures from historical school practice. In essence, students are now provided with a profile of learning around essential outcomes, skills and processes are the focus with knowledge simply being the vehicle to teach skills and processes, and multiple ways to show learning are both accepted and encouraged across the school.

  • The initiation of an ongoing faculty wide book study in which all faculty were provided with the same book, asked to read a section, and come to faculty meetings prepared to discuss how they as an individual and as a department were currently/ could in the future honor what was learned.  A couple of the books faculty have read to date include “Make it Stick” by Roediger (a summary of recent research on the most effective practices around learning and retention) and “Mindset” by Dweck (a foundational shift in how we look at change and learning). Additionally each year a contingent of faculty attend a PLC conference with expenses covered by the school.  Upon returning, they present lessons learned to faculty and invariably were so positively impacted that they also took on greater advocacy and leadership around PLC culture and processes in the school. Finally, the whole faculty have been periodically required to to attend local PLC related professional development. Recent examples include attending PD with Anthony Reibel around the development of proficiency scales and participating in PLC sharing and scouting events with other PLC schools during district wide PD days.

  • Shortly after my arrival, the instructional leadership team/ ILT (i.e., Guiding coalition) was expanded so as to include not just core department leads but also department leaders from all enrichment areas areas as well.  ILT team members were defined as being DR’s in that they were “Department Representatives” both to and from the ILT. The ILT team meets weekly for 75 minutes and each meeting contains sharing around a preassigned reading.  A sampling of books read by ILT members to date include “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Carnegie; “Five Languages of Appreciation” by Chapman and White; “Five Disciplines of PLC leaders” by Kanold; “Learning by Doing” by Dufour, Dufour, Eaker, Many; “School leader's guide to standards based assessment” by Heflebower; and most currently “Taking Action: A Handbook for RTI at Work” by Buffam, Mattos, and Malone.  With each reading, ILT team members are asked to either bring and share products from their department (e.g., norms, data analysis timelines, etc) and these products are collaboratively reviewed and discussed in terms of alignment with current reading. DR’s are also exposed to practices they will employ with their teams (e.g., data analysis, consensus decision making, norms reflection conversations, etc) in an ongoing manner.  Finally, all ILT members are required to attend PLC related leadership PD in an ongoing manner with recent examples being 2016 Leadership Institute with Anthony Muhammad, 2017 Leadership institute with Tom Hierck, and upcoming 2018 RTI institute with Austin Buffam and Mike Mattos.

  • Administration team members also attend a monthly network meeting of schools who are on the PLC journey.  Focus of these meetings is schools sharing and learning from each other while also deepening their understanding and skill with respect to how to lead PLC work in a school.  The network is made of schools at all different places on the PLC journey and so both mentoring and learning opportunities for members of the administration team occur in an ongoing way.  In addition, I serve as a member of the PLC network steering committee and as such join with other experienced PLC principals (and even some PLC associates such as Greg Kushnir and Bob Carter) in both planning and providing PLC presentations and PD at monthly network meetings.   Finally, all Vernon Barford administration meetings are intentionally organized around the themes of operational, relational, and educational leadership such that all three areas continue to be addressed and receive intentional and ongoing emphasis.

  • One area of growth in recent years within our team is that all staffing advertisements, paper screens, reference checks, etc. occur using the lens of “will this person be a good fit for our PLC?”  Additionally, once hired to work in our school intentional steps are taken to ensure an effective merging process (e.g., meeting with admin prior to school start, periodic merging meetings with admin throughout the school year, required participation in mentoring meetings focused on PLC concepts and classroom management, department mentoring and accountability regarding incorporation of PLC concepts, etc.)

Student Culture Refinements - Additional Details

Another enhancement that has occurred during the refinement phase has been to define the desired student culture (i.e, desired social behaviours).  The desire is to have all members of the Vernon Barford School community (home of the BLUES) develop and consistently be able to demonstrate habits related to being True BLUES (Big Hearted, Leaders, United, Engaged, Successful).  While every school faces the periodic reality of school community members expressing frustration with student behavior or lack of alignment between colleagues behavioral expectations, this reality provided yet another doorway for us to grow, improve, and be proactive as a school.  Specifically, when these conversations occurred, my question to our team was if they thought it would be appropriate to hold students or each other accountable to something which we had never articulated, defined, taught, celebrated, or reinforced. After a moment of uncomfortable silence in the room, the process of determining what was desired and how it would be defined in behavioural terms commenced.  Drafts were shared with students and parents for input and the process culminated in the attributes of True BLUES (and the associated behavioral standards) being determined, taught, and reinforced in all ways possible with our school community. A leadership point of interest is that the same Ensuring learning/ guiding questions that we use when looking at learning were also used during this process with the result that when the process was complete all members of our team had reflected on “what we wanted students to learn?”, “how we would know what was learned and to what level?”, “how we would respond if/ when students struggled to learn?”, and “how we would respond when students learned quickly or easily?”.  In reality this process challenged our team to be intentional and proactive rather than reactive such that further refinements included the initiation of school wide BLUES learning and celebration days, monthly BLUES celebration assemblies, and the creation of a mentoring program in which our grade 8 and 9 students receive training and then provide mentorship to our incoming grade 7 students around what it means to be True BLUES. Terms like being successful were defined in relation to behaviours like showing a growth mindset and doing one’s best rather than meeting an external standard. This was also reinforced in our celebration assemblies by honouring students “On A Roll” (not just on the honor role) around meeting learning or True BLUES expectations.  Additionally, ongoing efforts were made to ensure that all supportive conversations in our school were connected to being True BLUES with the result that our student conduct and behavior improved and our faculty were much more able to support students and each other in positive ways. Finally, our growth in this area also helped to reinforce many important PLC processes and concepts as well as the idea that as individuals and as a school we were on a journey of constant learning, growth, and improvement.

The above information is provided to demonstrate that in all ways possible the idea of constant learning, application, and improvement is messaged, reinforced, expected, supported, and constantly refined.  However, the old adage of Together Everyone Achieves More (i.e., TEAM) is also relevant in that as we moved from compliance to understanding and commitment in each area the combined creative energy of the whole school community was unleashed in ever more creative and PLC aligned ways.


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Monitoring student learning on a timely basis and Creating systems of Intervention and Extension to provide students with additional time and support for learning

A foundation of effective collaboration

While building a shared understanding and commitment to PLC work as well as facilitating a culture of continuous improvement are essential aspects of the PLC journey, another area of importance is how a student learning is ensured, monitored, and supported on a timely basis.  Being able to effectively monitor student learning begins with effective faculty collaboration. As with all collaboration, it is not that collaboration occurs but rather what it occurs around that is the essential question (Rick Dufour). Thus to lay the foundation for effective collaboration, our teams are asked to initially establish group norms and then they must come to consensus around what learning outcomes will be taught, in what order, what resources will be used (or choice of resources that are acceptable), how teaching and reteaching will occur, what common assessments will be used, when and how common assessments will be provided, how learning evidence will be shared, how data will be collected and analysed, how intervention will occur and be tracked, etc., etc.  Additionally and in support of the focus on learning, teams must also collaboratively determine and share each day with students the desired learning outcomes in KUDOS format. KUDOS are our collaboratively determined learning goals in which K =What students must know (facts, dates, definitions, etc.), U = What students must understand (concepts, real world applications, connections, etc.), D = Demonstrate (what students must be able to demonstrate), O = Outline or agenda, and S = Special Days/ No Secrets (assessment dates, LEAP schedule, enrichment sessions, etc). In my daily class visits I ask students and faculty about the KUDOS which both ensures they are shared, ensures we are focused on learning, and also allows me to check on alignment and expectations across classes and departments.  Refining the collaboration process is an ongoing reality but the foundation of departments employing common norms, outcomes, rubrics, marking guides, tiered resources, assessment, data analysis procedures, content delivery methods, assessment calendars, intervention, etc has been a powerful force in making collaboration meaningful as well as laying the foundation for effective monitoring of student learning on a timely basis.

Identifying general trends

At the start of the year the vision, mission, values, and goals are reviewed.  The concept of being on a journey and needing to know where you started, where you are, and where you are headed are also reviewed.  Provincial achievement data is reviewed and year over year trends are noticed and plans are put in place to address specific areas of concern.  Provincial achievement data (PAT) results are analysed in teams by the Instructional Leadership Team (ILT). Once the analysis process is complete, school results are compiled and form part of the annual school improvement plan. PAT results are also shard with departments so that all team members are aware of the annual starting point of the journey, year over year trends, and specific department realities.

At the departmental level, all departmental teams employ common assessment and then review the data from these assessments to determine student learning celebrations and challenges.  Both the assessment instrument and the learning data collected by the instrument are reviewed looking for trends. When trends are noted, the departmental team then determines next steps for individuals and for groups using the tiers of intervention.  As intervention occurs, additional evidence is also collected until such time as the student demonstrates the desired level of competence related to the outcome in question.

At the classroom level after each assessment students are provided a summary of data related to their performance on assessed outcomes.  An opportunity for reflection is provided and required and students have the opportunity to discuss things they still need to learn and then are either invited or required to be part of intervention and then connect with the teacher to arrange a time to arrange a time to share additional evidence of learning.

Monitoring student learning and providing curricular intervention

Additional details and Current practise

In terms of more specifics around how we monitor student learning in a timely, meaningful, and collaborative manner as well as how delays would be addressed might best be accomplished by sharing the current practice of our teams.  Specifically, as team members provide strong initial teaching they also note delays and provide individual/ group reteaching as needed. A common assessment is then provided with assessment questions previously organized into outcome related groups. Once the assessment has been marked and exemplars collaboratively discussed (ideally within a few days) students are provided with a score sheet that includes the various outcomes (usually not more than 3 outcomes) and how the student did with respect to each outcome.  Students are lead through a reflection process so as determine celebration and growth areas specific to each outcome as well as reinforce the idea that additional learning is always possible. The idea of additional learning always being possible is also reflected in alignment with levels of learning research (e.g., Marzano) and our assessment practices in the level 3 (of 4) is always the target, students are encouraged to strive to demonstrate level 4 learning. Students who did not meet the collaboratively predetermined desired standard are individually informed that they are required to attend LEAP (Learning, Literacy, Enrichment, Application, Practise) intervention time. Behind the scenes, faculty submit class learning data (again broken down by outcome) using the Smarter Marks program and department leaders run the grade level summary data.  At the next department meeting for that grade level the grade level summary data is shared, students who need extra time and support or enrichment are identified, and based on the data it is determined which faculty members will provide the reteaching or enrichment sessions related to each specific outcome. Students in individual classes are informed where they need to go for extra support or enrichment and a reteaching session on the specific outcome is provided (all students with the same need). A caveat to the extra time and support session is that it must teach the concept in a different way than it was initially provided as obviously the first method was not as successful as desired. Once the help session has been completed the regular classroom teacher connects with the student(s) so they can demonstrate their additional learning using any of conversation, observation, or product formats.  Finally, adjustments are made to level of learning scores or additional time and support is scheduled as needed and the cycle repeats with a frequency of one to three week cycles. On a related note, an interesting byproduct of our move to focusing on skills and processes (vs knowledge) outcomes is that this move also helped our ability to track student progress as well as our intervention plan. Specifically, both students and faculty now recognise that skills and processes are the key area of focus and that repeated opportunities to show learning will naturally occur vs in the past always feeling like we were never being able to catch up to the extensive list of “facts” we were trying to have students master (and which both they and we can now access electronically in minimal time).

While the above is not a complete listing of the systems and supports in place to support learning, it does show how teams collaborate to ensure the best possible instruction occurs, how student learning is monitored in an ongoing and timely manner, and how intervention is provided in our school.  The message of being able to show additional learning is constantly reinforced and enrichment opportunities are also scheduled as needed. An interesting phenomenon has also occurred during this journey in that while in our school students once regularly asked “when can I have retest?” (sometimes even before they wrote the first assessment to the chagrin of our teachers - smile), now the question has become “when can I/ when will you come and show you additional learning?”


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

Creating time for intervention and enrichment

One point of note relative to the above information is that over the course of our journey, the faculty of Vernon Barford have attempted many different ways of providing intervention time during the school day that did not force students to miss new learning. While each of these had some celebrations they also possessed some significant challenges which necessitated ongoing searching and experimentation. After our faculty engaged in much learning, reading of effective schools research, reading of “It’s about time: Planning interventions and extensions in secondary schools” by Mattos and Buffam, talking with other schools near and far about their intervention plans, and local experimentation; our school is now employing a 30 minute intervention time ( i.e., LEAP) at the end of the day.   Instructional minutes are still accomplished in all areas and the current plan allows us to allocate and additional time each day to intervention, to effectively meet student learning needs, include the intervention time in teacher teaching minutes, meet operational realities, and also allows for department collaboration time during the day (when not providing LEAP). Getting to this point was certainly not without some “falling forward” moments but with the ongoing commitment and efforts of students, faculty, and parents we have come to a solution that is working far more effectively than any of our previous versions.

Complimentary tiers of intervention and support

At Vernon Barford, the currently available tiers of intervention include  Tier 1 (pre screening, great teaching, re-teaching, and additional supports in the regular classroom), Tier 2 Curricular (LEAP time as described above which occurs at the end of every school day), Tier 3 Foundational (Extensive intervention around foundational delays in literacy, numeracy, or language acquisition.  This time is provided by removing students from second language classes and providing them additional time and support in needed areas while also still allowing students access to regular core and option programming in an ongoing manner). Tier 4 involves referral to our STAR (students temporarily at risk) team for additional consideration of what educational, behavioral, and non educational supports are required for the student to be successful at our school.  The goal is that we would be able to meet the needs of all students in Tier 1-4 and that students are able to access support in multiple tiers all at the same time. Tier 5 involves accessing special needs supports at both ends of the spectrum. The fact that our school is home to special needs programs at both ends of the spectrum has also been helpful on our journey as it has made us far more aware of the fact that virtually every student can be helped with Tier 1- 4 support and it is only the truly exceptional cases which require Tier 5 support.


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

Building Teacher Capacity to work as members of high-performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students

It is hoped that the information shared previously serves to demonstrate that building teacher and team capacity is an ongoing area of focus at Vernon Barford. While a number of specific strategies designed to enhance individual and team function have already been shared it is also important to note that even our organizational structure has been intentionally established to support our agreed upon foci, mission statement, culture and systems.  Specifically, Vernon Barford is organized into eight curricular/ department teams (math, science, social studies, language arts, physical education/ athletics, languages other than English, fine arts, and career and technology foundations) as well as two support teams (support faculty, custodial faculty). As noted above, each curricular team is required to meet a minimum of 90 minutes per week (generally 30 minutes per grade) to work on items related to improving student learning while support and custodial teams touch base daily and meet formally a minimum of once a month.  Curricular teams work on reviewing learning outcomes, establishing clarity around levels of learning with respect to a given outcome, creating and reviewing common assessments, looking at learning data, reviewing and revising tiered resources, conducting active research projects, reviewing and revising instructional calendars, etc. As we want to be intentional about promoting and ensuring progress in all areas, every team is led by a designated formal department leader who is responsible for ensuring that team is focused on completing appropriate learning related tasks agreed to by the ILT team or assigned by the principal (e.g., sharing data analysis protocols).  Department teams are asked to present their work and active research projects in rotation at faculty meetings and all faculty (including custodial and support) must attend the first part of every faculty meeting at which time celebrations are shared, book study occurs, etc. All department leaders meet weekly as part of the instructional leadership team (ILT). ILT meetings are chaired by the principal and composed of all department leaders as well as all members of the school administration. Department leaders are required to report on team progress at ILT meetings, share celebrations and challenges, and provided with professional development around instructional leadership as well as leadership in general.  Weekly department meeting agendas are determined by department leaders with members of the administration dropping in on a regular basis. In addition to the above, our school also has grade level coordinators who meet regularly with teachers to review the progress of our STAR (i.e., students temporarily at risk) and determine next steps to ensure learning and growth occur.


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Achievement Results and Data

While our school continues to make positive gains the journey is certainly not over and we continue to examine all aspects of our professional practice with the goal of helping more students learn and all students succeed.  We have made year over year gains in our achievement and both our conversation, observation, and product learning data as well as our standardized Alberta Provincial Achievement Test data support this reality. Additionally our internal measures and our projected level of achievement data support that students make significant positive academic gains while in attendance at our school and our subgroup data also supports that some of our more vulnerable students are also attending, learning, and making significant gains.  That having been said, we have not yet achieved the goal of getting every child across the line every year and until this occurs, our work is not done.

As requested, please see a summary of our most recent 3 years of our results attached.  Note that the document is in spreadsheet format, the data comes from a variety of sources, and contains two sheets of information including:

  • VB vs VB year over year results with clarification notes

  • VB vs Catchment schools, EPSB, and Alberta results with clarification notes


While neither the Edmonton Public School Board or the Province of Alberta provide recognition for individual schools we continue to receive very high results from all available sources of data (PAT results in comparison to Alberta province and EPSB district, EPSB surveys, Alberta Learning Accountability surveys, External reviews and rankings, etc).  We also continue to receive many compliments and informal data from consultants, social workers, psychologists, etc. around the positive impact results that arise when students are part of our school community. Additionally while junior high is often a challenging time for students and families we continue to receive many complimentary words from past and current students, parents, faculty, colleagues in other schools, and community members who see a clear difference in the experience of students at Vernon Barford vs other schools and also recognize the tremendous learning and growth that occurs in curricular areas, academic behaviours, and social behaviors at our school.  The challenge, of course, continues to be to try to get every student every year with as well as demonstrate continued significant growth despite already extremely strong results in many areas.

As a last word it is hoped that what has been shared in this application will be sufficient to allow our school to be accepted as a model PLC school.  That having been said, should additional information about Vernon Barford school or my understanding and effectiveness in providing leadership around the PLC work be required then please allow me to encourage you to connect with Mr. Greg Kushnir (Solution Tree associate, Current model PLC school principal) who can also provide an external perspective and additional insight into our lived evidence and commitment to honoring PLC concepts in our school.