Etowah High School

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

In recent years, Etowah has experienced a change in student population and backgrounds causing student achievement data to slip in multiple areas.  While our school had the vision to initiate collaborative teams, we lacked focus and direction towards an end goal.  We realized we had been “lucky” for many years earning high results but with low understanding of how to replicate such success.  Our luck was changing.  In 2014, Etowah teachers and leadership shifted our thinking from teacher-focused to student-focused collaborative teams implementing more data-driven decision-making at the instructional level.

This culture shift from teaching to learning began by creating the conditions necessary for effective implementation of data-driven collaborative teams.  First, common protected planning time built into the master schedule for all teachers.  Second, a guided template aligned to our instructional frameworks (Design, Instruct, Assess, Reflect) utilized to focus weekly collaborative team conversations.  Third, the addition of an Instructional Lead Strategist position to support collaborative teams, provide customized school-wide professional development and individual coaching to teachers. 

Our customized professional development hinges on John Hattie’s Visible Learning research as we continuously strive to increase our effects on student achievement by strategically selecting methods proven effective.  Literacy initiatives are in place for our physical education and fine arts collaborative teams to maximize our efforts and maintain a shared school belief that through our collective actions we can positively influence student outcomes.  Teachers utilize an online platform as a collaborative space to share instructional strategies, create short and long-term SMART goals, collect and analyze data while school leadership can track data to focus on results.

Our shared commitment is evident as we extend vertical teaming to our feeder middle school, administer common assessments, use learning questions in all classrooms daily to ensure student clarity, and regularly discuss evidence of student learning.  Our building administrators attend weekly collaborative team meetings and teacher leader opportunities are embraced as best practices are shared monthly during faculty meetings as celebrators of success.  Teachers have realized how important their shared expertise has become in the collaborative team conversation.  They avoid thinking only about the success of their own students and instead consider all students.  When teachers were asked how collaborative teams have impacted their teaching, here were some of the responses:

“My collaborative team has greatly impacted my teaching. I have learned many new teaching techniques and strategies while meeting with my collaborative team that I have implemented into my classroom. I have also learned how to better analyze the data from my formative and summative assessments to inform my instruction and to determine the concepts I need to review or reteach. I enjoy collaborating with the members of my collaborative team and exchanging lessons, teaching ideas, materials, etc. Overall, I feel my teaching has improved because of what I have gained from meeting with my collaborative team.”

“Collaborative teams have made me more aware of my teaching and how it is impacting not only my classes but also individual students. It enables us to look at data across a group of teachers and bounce ideas off if something does not go well. We have been able to have great conversations about what is and is not working in our classes.”

Etowah is committed to this professional journey and continues to strive towards leading practices that yield high results with high understanding of how to replicate such successes.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Early in the school year teachers analyze EOC, AP, and ACT data from their content area to determine their weakest standards and domains.  Teachers also utilize the Georgia Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) platform providing student growth percentiles in order to make more informed (data-driven) decisions designed to increase individual student achievement and close achievement gaps.  This information is then used to drive the focus of collaborative team units or cycles.  Collaborative teams utilize our school planning form which mirrors our district instructional frameworks:  Design, Instruct, Assess, and Reflect.

As part of Design, teachers identify, prioritize and break down standards into concepts and skills students will be able to know and do.  All collaborative teams are required to create a minimum of one common formative and summative assessment per unit/cycle.  There are a variety of common formative assessment options teams may select such as a pre-test, anticipation guide, mid-unit assessment, task assessed with rubric, or “almost there” assessment.  This flexibility allows the team to determine what type of assessment will provide them with information needed about the content or skill being taught.  Teachers have a variety of resources to assist in creating formative assessments including state released EOC guides as well as several website subscriptions to access additional test banks.  Each teacher contributes questions for consideration that the team then evaluates and modifies as needed to ensure items are standards-based and will provide needed data for designing instruction. 

Collaborative teams then set a SMART goal for the unit/cycle and begin the Instruct section in which a learning plan pacing guide is outlined for the team.  Teams collaborate to construct learning questions for students that are posted daily in each teacher’s classroom and on their websites.  The posted daily learning questions are:  What am I learning today?  What am I going to do today?  How will I show that I learned it?  In addition to posting these questions, teachers address the learning questions as success criteria during class to provide students with clarity. 

The Assess section of our planning form then guides teachers to report formative assessment data, identify most missed concepts/standards/themes (item analysis) and discuss why students may be experiencing difficulty in acquiring essential knowledge and skills.  This process also allows teachers to monitor individual student scores and identify performance groups for targeted strategies.  Teachers then Reflect and respond to student needs by sharing research-based intervention strategies designed for each performance group to reteach, reinforce, and enrich as appropriate during the school day.  Since our collaborative teams include teachers from all levels, SPED resource to honors and AP, the teacher strengths and expertise are in one room to ensure differentiated interventions for all levels of students.  This continuous monitoring of student learning allows interventions to be in place as soon as a student begins to struggle.  Selected strategies are then incorporated into teachers’ classrooms as appropriate for their student needs.

Summative assessment data is shared within the collaborative team and is used to reassess the learning SMART goal was met.  From there, teachers develop an action plan to maximize student proficiency and growth in those unit standards for the remainder of the year.  Grades are updated weekly and accessible to both students and parents online at all times.  Parents and students may also set up customized notification settings to receive information in a timely manner.

The collaborative team cycle for physical education, fine arts, and career tech courses varies somewhat.  In response to our school’s standardized testing data, physical education and fine arts collaborative teams focus on incorporating literacy skills.  Specifically, students are reading articles while organizing thoughts into a graphic organizer then composing an essay and completing a peer review for constructive feedback.  Career tech collaborative teams focus on the Georgia BEST Standards which emphasize employability skills common to all career tech courses.  These teams also breakdown standards, collaborate on instructional best practices, analyze data using common assessments and respond to individual student needs throughout their cycles.

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


We have several systems in place as a school for responding when students experience difficulty in learning.  At the collaborative team level, remediation and reinforcement are built into the PLC planning form and addressed by teachers each unit/cycle based on formative assessment data.  Teachers collaborate on strategies for reteaching, reinforcing, or enriching student learning that are then incorporated within that unit.  Specific students are identified as close, progressing, or needing practice with particular standards.  Teachers then design credit recovery during the course to get students back on track or provide enrichment for students demonstrating mastery.  Additionally, teachers give benchmark assessments to remediate tutoring topics for students prepping for standardized tests.  Collaborative teams then work together to offer additional tutoring sessions for students to attend in preparation for such EOC exams.


ExP after school tutoring is provided for any student repeating a grade, off-track for graduation, or at high risk of failure in science, social studies, math and language arts.  The purpose of ExP tutoring is to provide at-risk students with a content teacher to preview upcoming concepts and standards.  A summer BRIDGE program is also offered for these at-risk students to provide academic support in math, science, and language arts as our incoming freshmen transition to a high school setting.  With the focus of previewing priority standards and commonly difficult concepts for students to master, both of these programs are designed as intervention rather than remediation methods. 


We have many opportunities for students to access additional time and support during the school day as well.  Homeroom teachers are case holders for RTI Tier 2 and 3 students to ensure communication between all teachers of those students as strategies are implemented and data is collected.  Math support classes are built into the master schedule for at-risk students to have access to additional assistance during the school day.  ESOL students attend push-in courses with an ESOL endorsed teacher in the room to support content teachers.  Each student has a Teachers as Advisors (TAA) period once a week that focuses on college and career readiness centered around such activities as transcript review and connecting academic achievement to post-secondary goals. 


Students that initially fail a course have two options to recover their credits and stay on track for graduation:  course extension and APEX credit recovery.  The course extension option is available to students with a final grade of 65-69% in five different EOC courses required for graduation.  Timely, directive and systematic crosswalks are utilized by teachers for students to recover credit using a school-based online platform within 10 days.  For other courses, students may elect to take an APEX self-paced course during the school day in order to recover credits.  These programs are used as interventions to recover content students not mastered during semester one in an effort to increase a student’s success rate in semester two of the same class.



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

Teachers teaching common courses are structured into collaborative teams with tested subjects taking priority.  Fine arts teachers are grouped together, physical education teachers are grouped together, and career technology teachers are grouped together.  Since teachers do not teach common courses in physical education and fine arts, these collaborative teams have a literacy focus related to our school-wide goal of improving reading and writing.  Career technology teachers also teach singleton courses but their collaborative team focus is on the employability skills shared in each career technology course standards.  Weekly collaborative team time is built into the master schedule and considered protected time for teachers to remain duty-free.

A PLC planning form was designed by our school to mirror our county’s instructional frameworks and focus the collaborative team conversation.  Teams prioritize and breakdown standards, create standards-based common assessments, compare data and collaborate on instructional strategies. More specifically, teachers analyze data to identify most missed concepts or skills by students and design instructional best practices to reteach, reinforce, and enrich for students as appropriate prior to the summative assessment.  The collaborative focus remains student-centered as teachers continuously look for evidence of student learning.  Our customized weekly professional development guides collaborative teams through data-driven dialogue and getting results.  Student work is analyzed during collaborative team meetings to establish proficient criteria and align goals.  Effective feedback and transparency with students is emphasized as evidenced by three learning questions daily posted in each classroom:  What am I learning today?  What am I going to do today?  How will I show that I learned it?  Collaborative teams are centered around two main questions:  How will I know students have learned?  What will I do if students don’t get it?

Additional support is available to teachers and collaborative teams having difficulty or questions throughout the process.  Our Instructional Lead Strategist attends collaborative team meetings and works with individual teachers to build teacher capacity within our building.  Building administrators participate in collaborative team meetings and review documentation weekly to track student growth and progress throughout all departments in order to support a collaborative culture.


Additional Achievement Data


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U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools Silver Award 2014 & 2016

College Board AP STEM School 2016

The Washington Post America’s Most Challenging High Schools 2016

Highest Composite ACT Score in Cherokee County School District 2013-2016

National Blue Ribbon School 2010


One Act Play Region Champs 2017

Wrestling State AAAAAA Champion 2016

Baseball State AAAAAA Champions 2016-2017

Cross Country Area Champion 2016-2017

Boys Golf Region Champs 2015-2016