Lava Ridge Intermediate (2022)

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

Perhaps C.S. Lewis said it best when pondering re-calibration: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” In the 2012-2013 school year, tragedy struck Lava Ridge Intermediate school, unsettling our very foundation. Within the space of two short months, two students ended their lives. There are no words to express the heartache felt by our school and community. Although the suicides were not school-related, they became a catalyst for positive change. We focused on changing the story of our school, and it all began with intentional, powerful PLC utilization.

Since that pivotal school year, Lava Ridge has continued to use the PLC model to learn and grow. We have increased our expectations of students and staff and set students up for success by providing multiple levels of support for academics and social-emotional needs. With a change in leadership in 2020-21, we have shown our school commitment to the PLC model and have worked together to identify areas to tighten up our school’s collective commitments and continue to improve our school-wide PLC. This has included consistently emphasizing our school’s mission, “We are dedicated to doing what is best for all students,” and purpose, “We will ensure that all students learn at high levels.” We recognize the need to carefully identify what students need to know and use evidence-based grading practices to reflect that knowledge. 

Louis and Marks (1998) found that a dedicated, organized PLC leads to higher expectations for students, students being able to count on teachers for help, and higher classroom pedagogy with increased academic levels. Our school uses a Steering Committee made up of department chairs who help drive the school, which continues to make a tremendous difference in our school-wide PLC. Our interdisciplinary teams (I-teams) pair math, language arts, and science teachers into teams that share groups of students. These teams extend beyond departments to serve students across the curriculum. Teams discuss specific students, implement interventions, and make cross-curricular connections to better meet the needs of all students, focusing on the four PLC guiding questions.

Our school-wide PLC successfully utilizes RTI. Response to Intervention is critical as it facilitates customizing instruction and interventions for individual students. We use a faculty website to document individual students’ struggles, specific interventions tried, and the results of those interventions. The site also includes research-based interventions to use after identifying if the problem is a “will” (behavior) issue or a “skill” (academic) issue. I-teams formulate and implement interventions that are tailored for individual students. We experience success as students see teachers united to help them; furthermore, we see academic levels improve. Our journey has led us to utilize intervention time in a more targeted and impactful way, focusing on best practices to reteach and enrich specific skills in content areas to ensure that all students learn at high levels. 

Part of setting students up for success is having an increased emphasis on mental health. Our students need social and emotional support. Departmental and interdisciplinary teams work on creating a strong rapport with all students. Before the school year begins, each team identifies high-risk students and conducts home visits or phone calls to welcome these students to our school. School-wide we teach weekly lessons from the Second Step SEL program. Our counseling department provides specific small-group counseling, monthly lessons to the entire student body, and continued instruction to faculty on helping struggling students. Our school has a Wellness Center which is a source of emotional support for students. Whether they are feeling unsettled, needing a place to calm down, or needing assistance to increase school attendance, the Wellness Center provides a safe place to find help.

Students have a voice at our school and know they are valued, and our student leadership teams provide opportunities for their voices to be heard. We expanded one 30-member student council to a wider variety of student leadership opportunities. We now have student leadership that is inclusive, including representatives from every ethnicity, ability, and socioeconomic status. These teams include HOPE Squad (building friendships and suicide prevention); Culture Crew (school-wide service-learning, unity building), Safety Patrol (school safety); Student Ambassadors (building friendships, helping new students, school spirit); Tech Team (technology opportunities, student news), and Yearbook. These groups have increased student involvement and have generated excitement in our school. Increasing our PLC effectiveness throughout the school has built a tangible, positive school climate, increased academic performance, and allowed us to reach the individual student on all levels. 


1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Under our school’s PLC umbrella, our departmental and interdisciplinary teacher teams have a wide variety of strategies to monitor student learning. Over the last few years, we have successfully implemented an advisory period where an advisory teacher facilitates students checking grades each week and doing missing work daily. Our focus this year is to use advisory as a targeted intervention time. On priority days, content area teachers clear their advisory classes to request those students who need reteaching or enrichment for specific learning targets. Teachers request students to work with them individually or in small groups to provide the instruction needed for students to achieve proficiency. The main focus of the advisory period has evolved to be used as a targeted intervention program to reteach and enrich based on student needs.

Conducting frequent CFA (common formative assessments) is key to monitoring student progress at our school. Departmental teacher teams meet weekly to create assessments of our GVC (guaranteed and viable curriculum). These CFA tests are given to all students and the data is carefully analyzed. Teachers decide how to offer remediation to students who fall short of demonstrating knowledge, and our RTI program is used effectively through the advisory period. Likewise, students who have shown mastery of a concept can move on to higher-level activities. Teams discuss the effectiveness of CFAs and make notes of what changes to make in the future. Washington County School District has created a secure data bank (DCSIP) where all CFA data is logged, analyzed, and stored for use. Teams meet regularly with the principal or vice-principal to discuss CFA data and analyze how well they are effectively meeting student needs and how teams are offering help and extension for a wide variety of students. These meetings focus on how teaching practices have proven (or not proven) to be effective, how teachers are helping individual students, and what the next steps should be. CFAs truly guide our instruction and are the cornerstone of school-wide progress monitoring.

CFA data is used frequently to drive instruction. Departments and content areas use the data to implement focused RTI, small group and individual support, and enrichment activities. The frequent progress monitoring of learning through CFA data allows teachers to quickly implement interventions and help all students become successful. Scores have continued to climb, student knowledge is increasing, and students take pride in trying their best and knowing there is help if they don't understand a concept the first time. Our school is proactive and aims to empower students with the idea that they can guide their own knowledge, teachers are here to help them, and there's no room for giving up. The RTI scaffolded support provided through our CFA data has been a tremendous positive factor in our school. Students know they matter and that teachers will never give up on them.


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

Our school PLC has created an RTI (Response to Intervention) structure geared to helping all students at every level of learning.

Tier 1 provides school-wide support to all students. It’s the first of many steps to reach students by providing needed time and support. Our Advisory period, as described above, provides an additional half-hour of time for students to monitor grades, complete work, and receive extra help from teachers. Our school is eMints certified and offers one-to-one technology to give students the needed time and resources to complete schoolwork. Teachers implement departmental and content area RTI activities where students, based on CFA data, are assessed on mastery of a GVC. Students who “get it” move on to a related enrichment event, students who need extra help have an entire class period of focused reteaching with a teacher. Gaps in learning are pinpointed, and appropriate interventions are put in place, so students can be successful. Our teachers are skilled at Tier 1 instruction as well as intervention, changing the pacing according to student understanding, constantly doing formative checks, requesting students for advisory, and meeting with students before and after school for additional help.

Tier 2 is where teachers create supplemental interventions to help students who are still struggling despite Tier 1 interventions. Our school has created an intervention document where a student’s problem is pinpointed (either academic or behavioral), then teacher teams document interventions that have been tried and research ideas to help that individual student. These interventions and discussions are key to giving students the support they need across settings. This might include referring a student to a Study Skills class or Learning Strategies, referring them for possible special education qualification, pairing them with a peer tutor or peer mentor, making schedule changes to accommodate the student, arranging individual reteaching with a teacher, or placing them in an enrichment or co-taught class. Another Tier 2 intervention that has proven to be highly successful is to conduct home visits or make personal phone calls before school starts to students who have been identified as high risk. Building rapport by welcoming these students to our school before school even begins has let the students know they matter and we are invested in them.

Although Tier 3 is unusual, it does happen and our teachers are prepared! Students in Tier 3 might have unusual scheduling structured to give the student the support they need. It might include in-depth assessments and testing to see if there is a learning disability that hasn’t been caught yet. If behaviors are the identified challenge, our school has a restorative justice program that uses positive behavior interventions to address social skill deficits. Tier 3 is absolutely tailor-made for the struggling student, and there is nothing our administrators and faculty won’t do to help students. Our mission statement says it best: “We are dedicated to doing what is best for ALL students!” Likewise, our school purpose states: “We will ensure that all students learn at high levels.” We’re all about the students and will do everything to help each individual child experience success at our school.


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

Our teaming has been innovative and highly successful. Like many schools, we've always had departmental teams. Seven years ago our administration decided to add interdisciplinary teams to increase our effectiveness and impact student learning to a greater degree. These I-teams pair core teachers together (Language Arts, Math, and Science) with shared students to create common interventions and have real conversations about students to better know and help them. Our I-teaming has continued to improve by leaps and bounds, stretching teachers, and ultimately, doing what is best for all students.

There are three aspects of the departmental and interdisciplinary teams that are powerful catalysts for improving student learning. 1) Time: our administration has built-in time to collaborate and meet as teacher teams. Whether it’s having a common prep period, weekly collaborations (rotating between I-teams and departmental teams) during contract hours, or additional paid collaboration days (such as in summertime), our administration has created specific time periods for us to meet regularly and do the meaningful work necessary for continued growth. 2) Focus: Before school even starts, our departments create and review GVCs to drive instruction. This is the base level of what teachers will teach and assess (and remediate as needed) for each student. Teams discuss GVCs, plan hands-on, engaging instruction, as well as targeted reteaching and enrichment. In both departmental and interdisciplinary teams, teachers set meeting norms to stay focused, and each team has a representative from administration to serve as a resource and to take concerns back to the Tier 3 team. Likewise, as departments, teachers meet with administrators regularly to review data and determine how to use data to drive decisions and interventions. Our I-teams meet with a similar focus, using the intervention document and resources, to plan what is best for students. 3) Opportunity: Our administrators have created a climate of opportunity for teachers and students. They provide needed resources to facilitate Monster Days (enrichment/reteaching). School-wide PLC meetings give teachers specific training on how to improve student learning through a wide variety of methods. Opportunities to assess, teach and improve are provided on a regular basis.

Our high-quality, focused teams have created a tangible synergy in our school, visible to students and teachers alike. Students know they are surrounded by teachers who really care and who are dedicated to doing what is best for them. It’s a wonderful example of a school-wide PLC in action.


Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

Evidence of Effective Data: 

Our school’s state end-of-level RISE data (2018, 2019, and 2021) was compared with the two schools in the state that most closely match our student population and demographics. Our District uses two measurements to evaluate testing data: percentage of students who are proficient and median growth percentile (MGP). Our school doesn’t emphasize proficiency because it only measures students who achieved proficiency without considering students who made growth toward or beyond proficiency. Additionally, year-to-year proficiency scores report on different students. Our commitment to ensure all students learn at high levels can be seen in the gains represented by the MGP results in Language Arts, Math, and Science. In our district, an MGP of 40 is considered acceptable. In each content area we have exceeded this standard, and in all but one, achieved an MGP of 56 or higher. Because of COVID, 2021 does not have MGP data. To compensate for this, last reported proficiency data and 2021end-of-year proficiency data were compared, and our students made proficiency growth in all content areas. Upon review of 2018 data, it was evident Language Arts scores needed improvement, which led to adopting the RH Elevate program as an intervention. 

One recent success we’d like to share is our tiered Reading program which was implemented based on the Language Arts PLC reflection. Assessment data from both 5th and 6th grade was used to assign students to one of three interventions: students who show no need for intervention receive Tier 1 instruction in the Language Arts and Social Studies classrooms; students who are very near proficiency are given a Tier 2 placement in an Advisory class where they receive instruction 3 days a week through an online adaptive computer program called RH Elevate, along with targeted teacher lessons; and students who are reading at a Lexile level of two or more grades below grade level are placed in a Tier 3 Reading Class with a dedicated Reading teacher, as well as RH Elevate support. Through the PLC and I-Team processes, the Advisory and Reading teachers collaborate with core teachers to ensure that reading support is happening in all classes and at all levels. We have seen an increase in proficiency across all three tiers, with our Tier 2 proficiency increasing by more than 30 percentage points from beginning of the year to year's end, with Tier 1 and Tier 3 increasing 12 percentage points and 9 percentage points, respectively. Although Tier 3 interventions showed the smallest gains in proficiency due to the initial gap in skills, Tier 3 Reading Classes did show the most growth with an increase in Lexile level of 19.9%, followed by Tier 1 and Tier 2 at 8.2% and 8.6% respectively. This data was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions for the economically disadvantaged, ELL, and special education populations in order to make appropriate instructional changes. 


*RISE information was accessed through the Utah State School Board's Data Gateway:

2020-2021 - Twenty One (21) Teachers received $500 Foundation Grants each
2020-2021 emints Grant (part 2) - providing one to one technology for school
2019-2020 World Wide Warrior Service Club received State Recognition
2019-2020 Rose Swallow selected as a Solution Tree editor
2018-2014 Utah State Board of Education, consecutive State School Grade of "A" for Lava Ridge Intermediate School
2018 Utah State Principal of the Year Finalist, Kalyn Gubler
2018  Schools to Watch Designation (application under review)
2018 St. George Area Economic Development "Tech Champ Educator", Janna Gifford (6/7 Computer Coding)
2018  National Advocacy in Music Education Recognition, Caroline Harris (Choir)
2017-2018 Music Department Grant, $15,000 from The Ellen Show, April Nielsen (Orchestra) 
2017-2018 Recipient of Learning Disabilities of America Conference Scholarship, Rachel Robins (LA 7)
2017-2018: WCSD Fine Arts Teacher of the Month, Caroline Harris (Choir)
2017: Top Finishing Math Counts Team in WCSD (6/7 Math)
2016 eMints Grant, $300,000 (providing one-to-one technology)
2016 Utah State Assistant Principal of the Year, Greg Bozarth
2016-2017 State of Utah Outstanding Middle School Rookie Teacher of the Year, Alison Lund (Science 7)
2015-2016 State of Utah Outstanding Science Junior High Department (Science 7)
2015-2017 Spanish Language Fair consecutive 1st and 2nd place, Spanish speaking students with Isabel Lopez (6th and 7th grade Dual Immersion)
2014 Utah School Counselor Association Rookie Counselor of the Year recognition, Tonya Jesienouski
2012 University of Utah Department of Educational Psychology Leadership Award, Tonya Jesienouski
2012-2013 Superintendent's Award of Excellence, Cheri Maxwell and LRIS SPED Team (6/7 Special Education)
2010 St. George Magazine Teacher of the Year, Kathryn Leany (LA 7)
2006 Utah State History Fair Teacher of the Year, Kathryn Leany (LA 7)
2005-2006 Superintendent's Award of Excellence, Kathryn Leany (LA 7)
2004-2005 Superintendent's Award of Excellence, Jason Wilding (PE 6)
2003-2004 Superintendent's Award of Excellence, Lisa Stolen (Science 6)
Teachers receiving "Best Teacher on the Planet", a student-nominated recognition from local radio station The Planet 105.1: Steve Jolley, Kathryn Leany, Alison Lund, Rachel Robins
Teachers receiving Classroom Grants from Washington County School District: Caroline Harris (2017, 2016, 2011), Alison Lund (2017), Jamie Drew (2017), Helene Morse (2017, 2016), Isabel Lopez (2017, 2016), Rachel Robins (2015), Tonya Jesienouski (2017, 2018)
*WCSD=Washington County School District