Sheridan County School District 2

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

Sheridan County School District No. 2 began its PLC journey in 2006. As our district actively piloted improvement models, an elementary principal stepped forward with the desire to implement the Professional Learning Communities philosophy and framework. This principal was given the green light, with clear expectations that the PLC model be implemented with 100% fidelity at Meadowlark Elementary School.

District administrators closely monitored Meadowlark’s implementation, asking tough questions, tracking building culture, addressing challenges, and measuring outcomes. After a two-year pilot, Meadowlark’s PLC model yielded strong results, especially when compared with the merit pay system piloted at another district site. Based on Meadowlark’s success, the SCSD2 superintendent and his leadership team hit the books and began to study the literature generated by the PLC architects, most notably Learning by Doing and Transforming School Culture. District leaders also began empowering all principals to embark on the PLC journey with their schools.  

Over the ensuing five years, all district buildings dove into the PLC philosophy and framework. Each principal was encouraged to find his or her own loose/tight style, adhering with fidelity to PLC fundamentals while maintaining a unique school culture and empowering teams to develop their own PLC tools. The district invested heavily during these years in staff development, sending hundreds of teachers to Solution Tree events. Staff across the district also engaged in professional study of seminal PLC texts as they worked within their buildings to design systems for addressing the four critical questions of a PLC.

As expected, some schools moved more rapidly toward embracing the model than others. In the schools where principals truly embraced the PLC philosophy and purposefully led staff in the development of collective mission/vision/values/commitments, we saw immediate improvement in student learning outcomes. We also observed great progress where principals empowered skillful teacher-leaders, our true believers, to step forward and support colleagues in the complex work of PLCs. At the same time, we learned that fundamentalists were damaging to the change process. When necessary, principals and district leaders spearheaded personnel changes. This sometimes meant teachers deciding our district was no longer a good professional fit. At other times, termination was necessary to help a school progress without the negative impact of fundamentalists.

The transformations in our school buildings paralleled a thinking shift within our district leadership. While our superintendent and his team had always fostered a strong results-orientation, the PLC model finally provided traction. Truly, implementing a PLC approach operationalized the focus on results that had existed in theory for years. The shift also changed the way that central administrators interacted with principals. Relegating lengthy procedural discussions to written memos, leaders instead began spending time in group study alongside principals, deliberately dissecting the most important literature underpinning the movement.

An unintended consequence of our journey has been the improvement of programs that pre-dated Professional Learning Communities in our district. SCSD2 has focused on research-based programs for decades, including Reading Recovery, Math Recovery, Balanced Literacy, and Advanced Placement. In the past, these programs sometimes felt disconnected from the general curriculum and classroom. Through focused efforts, however, the PLC process has improved connectivity with these programs and they now yield their best results ever.

Today, two pursuits dominate the PLC landscape in our district: monitoring and refinement. Our current systems for addressing the four critical questions have evolved greatly from our roots in 2006. And over the last two years, district leaders have taken principals back to the basics by addressing culture and empowering every school to re-develop its mission, commitments, and norms. We still see the strongest student learning results from buildings where teachers take the highest levels of ownership under the leadership of visionary principals. 

As a PLC district with the mission of improving learning outcomes for all students, we have reached beyond our boundaries to provide leadership to colleagues from around the state. Across three summers, SCSD2 hosted statewide PLC conferences featuring top PLC thinkers such as Thomas Many. Our schools have also welcomed numerous visiting educators over the last decade and recently piloted a PLC Principal Academy, providing ongoing PLC mentorship in three Wyoming districts. SCSD2 staff members have also collaborated with Solution Tree author Casey Reason to teach an online PLC course.And finally, our district superintendent Craig Dougherty’s first PLC book, co-authored by Casey Reason, will hit shelves in spring of 2019. Inside PLCs: Your Guided Tour Through One District’s Successes, Challenges, and Celebrations is written to help educators across the globe implement the PLC philosophy and framework.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Since we embarked on our PLC journey, the pursuit of accurate, efficient data monitoring has evolved a great deal. Our teacher teams, district leaders, and technology integrators have designed and refined systems that provide actionable data to collaborative teams as they work to address critical questions 3 and 4 of the PLC framework. This is truly the heart and soul of the results orientation we foster in SCSD2. Here are examples of current systems, many of which are simple in nature but powerful in result:

PLC Hubs: Hubs have become the nerve center of monitoring at all of our elementary sites. Because our teams develop numerous custom spreadsheet systems to help them collect and analyze data, the volume of files quickly becomes overwhelming. A PLC Hub is a simple linking system that provides one-click access, standard-by-standard and assessment-by-assessment, to all student learning data collected in a school. When a collaborative team meets, they open the Hub for instant access to actionable data.

Benchmark Reading Assessment Data: SCSD2 has been using Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Reading Assessments for over a decade. Until recently, each school developed their own system for recording and tracking the data. This disparity prevented us from analyzing district trends in Benchmark data. So our Literacy Coaches set to work and developed a common system for recording data and documenting interventions for at-risk readers. Teams have also worked diligently to create common formative reading assessments, based on the standards, that complement the Benchmark trajectory and align with its structure for measuring comprehension.

Standards Tracking Sheets: Our longest-term data projects revolve around spreadsheets designed to track student performance against individual standards. These sheets have gone through many iterations and continue to improve over time. Today’s versions include student level data for each formative assessment and reassessment relative to a standard, rosters of students assigned to intervention/enrichment, proficiency levels within classrooms, conditional formatting to visually indicate student performance, and a grade-level overview of proficiency within the standard.

Tech-Enhanced Assessment: SCSD2 is currently in the process of rolling many of our district-level assessments into an online assessment system. The benefits of the subscription-based system are many, including exposing students to technology-enhanced item types that mirror those on our state assessment. Teacher teams are also benefiting from the analytics offered by the system. Because each item is linked to a specific standard, teams are able to generate standard-by-standard reports, as well as student-level and item analyses. This shift is a major time saver and offers visual representations of data.

Graduation Coach Data Sheet: Working with students at risk for dropping out, our Next Level Graduation Coach at Sheridan High School collects and monitors a unique data set. Each week, he collects attendance, grades, missing assignments, and grades for each student on his caseload. The coach also closely tracks the progress of any student participating in credit recovery. He then uses this data to drive his 1:1 work with students and help them overcome obstacles standing in the way of graduation.

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

SCSD2 has devoted years and extensive resources to developing our approach to critical question 3 of the PLC framework. We believe in timely, targeted approaches to intervention that meet the needs of individual learners. Here are examples of current approaches that provide students with additional time and support for learning:

Reading Recovery & Math Recovery: SCSD2 began implementation of Reading Recovery and Math Recovery two decades ago. These systems provide targeted intervention for first graders who demonstrate need at the beginning of the year. We know that time is a critical variable in learning, and we must connect struggling students with the highest quality instruction. These programs therefore provide 30 minutes of daily, focused intervention in Reading and Mathematics under the guidance of our most highly trained educators. Over 90% of qualifying students successfully complete these programs, and longitudinal data suggests that gains achieved through Reading Recovery and Math Recovery continue through the remainder of a child’s K-12 experience in our district.

Elementary WIN Groups: All of our elementary schools devote a minimum of 30 minutes daily to WIN (What I Need) Groups. Based on formative assessment data, students in a grade level are re-organized into leveled groups for this daily experience. Teachers then work in cycles of roughly three weeks to intervene or extend student learning relative to the assessed standard. When a cycle completes, the teacher team then re-groups students based on new formative assessment data on a new skill. Then, we repeat.

Junior High Intervention: Sheridan Junior High School runs a traditional seven period daily schedule. Through the course of its PLC journey, the school has purposefully decided against an alternate schedule for intervention and enrichment. Academically, teachers respond to common assessment data at the classroom and team level by grouping and regrouping students for enrichment and intervention within their scheduled periods. This can involve teachers trading students for differentiated lessons, utilizing teacher leaders to teach small groups, or establishing centers within single classrooms. This system finds its structural foundation in class-stacking, a system that ensures that there are always multiple sections of core classes scheduled simultaneously to ensure that teachers can re-group students across classrooms to meet their needs.

High School Intervention: Sheridan High School’s intervention system consists of several layers. Some PLC teams function similar to our junior high model, regrouping kids among teachers based on assessment results. Much more time and energy, however, goes into an intervention called Friday Early Out. Classes are shortened on Fridays to create two intervention periods at the end of the day. Students with D/F grades, or those requested specifically by teachers, are scheduled to attend intervention sessions. The remaining students earn an early release for the day. Finally, the high school’s Next Level Success Academy is a standards-based credit recovery system. Students who fail a course are not automatically required to retake the entire course. Instead, they focus on only those concepts they need to master in order to pass the class.

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

All SCSD2 teachers are members of collaborative teams that implement/refine answers to the four critical questions of a PLC. Teams meet weekly for 45-60 minutes to engage in the process. Team meetings are embedded in the daily schedule, with the exception of elementary Art, Music, and PE teachers, who gather after school every two weeks. As a district, we put great emphasis on building the capacity of our teams to collectively improve student learning.

Norms & Commitments: Each fall, all teams revisit and refine guiding documents, including norms and commitments. We believe strongly in the value of clear norms and pre-planned responses to violations. This approach is emphasized at all levels in our district, ranging from the custodial support team to the central leadership team. Some teams, such as K-12 PE, take this a step further by establishing a common department philosophy that guides collaboration at all times.

SMART Goals: All district teams develop SMART goals each fall. We have learned that the most meaningful goals are tied to ongoing data produced by the team, not state tests. For example, a third grade team recently set the following SMART goal: “In 2018-2019, 90% of 3rd grade students will be proficient or advanced on all common reading and math assessments after intervention and reassessment.” Our teams revisit SMART goals at every collaborative meeting, measuring student outcomes relative to the goal. In addition to academic goals, our schools set SMART goals for factors such as attendance and graduation rate.

Priority Standards & Proficiency Scales: Over the last three years, SCSD2 has dedicated extensive time and resources to refining our answers to critical questions 1 and 2 of the PLC process. Our approach involves teacher teams identifying priority standards in each content area based on clear criteria, including alignment to state test blueprints. Next, our teams have undertaken the process of building common, district-wide proficiency scales for all priority standards. This work has been transformative, bringing together educators from across the district for intense, focused conversations around the standards. The work has also impacted our approaches to critical questions 3 and 4, as proficiency scales direct teachers to dig into the causes of student struggle and opportunities for extending beyond each standard.

Professional Study: Professional study is a major part of our district collaborative culture. Teams work with leaders to select professional literature relative to their growth areas in student learning and instruction. Study and conversation around these topics is a regular part of PLC collaboration.

Team Coaching: Many of our teams are led by coaches, usually building principals or teacher-leaders. We fully acknowledge that each team has unique strengths and areas for growth, and we rely on our team coaches to guide teams through the growth process and to help them tackle challenges.

PLC Experts: SCSD2 has collaborated directly with many PLC experts over the years to gather feedback and identify opportunities for growth. Experts who have visited our district include: Anthony Muhammad, Timothy Kanold, Thomas Many, Casey Reason, and Jan Hoegh.

Achievement Data Files

Additional Achievement Data

In 2017-2018, Wyoming introduced a new statewide achievement test for students in grades 3-10. The WY-TOPP (Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress) assesses English Language Arts and Mathematics at grades 3-10 and Science at grades 4, 8 and 10. WY-TOPP is administered by American Institutes for Research. Wyoming’s previous assessment, PAWS (Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students) assessed students in grades 3-8 only.

A strong results orientation fostered in SCSD2 has led to high levels of student learning. Without question, the PLC philosophy and framework have transformed the results in our schools. Here are a few examples:

  • SCSD2 students have achieved Wyoming’s highest aggregate performance on the state assessment in ELA, Math, and Science every year since 2013. This includes all students tested in grades 3 through 10.

  • The SCSD2 composite ACT average has topped the state’s large districts five out of the last six years. Nearly 70% of Wyoming’s total student population attends schools in large districts.

  • In 2018, 67.5% of students at Sagebrush Elementary, a Title I school, achieved at the advanced level in Mathematics, compared to roughly 51% proficiency in Math statewide.

  • More than 90% of fourth and fifth grade students at Woodland Park Elementary, also a Title I school, demonstrated Math proficiency in 2018. Wyoming statewide averages were 50.9% and 53%, respectively.

  • Every elementary school and the junior high school are National Blue Ribbon Schools. Three of these elementary schools are Title I schools, as is the junior high. Two of our elementary schools are National Distinguished Title I Schools.

  • Of the 267 Advanced Placement exams taken by Sheridan High School students in 2018, 72.7% showed a score of 3 or higher, compared to 55.5% in Wyoming and 61.3% globally.

  • Data from the 2018 Wyoming state assessment, WY-TOPP, revealed that SCSD2 special education students outperformed the state proficiency average for all students in five areas: 3rd grade Math, 4th grade Math, 4th grade ELA, 5th grade Math, and 10th grade Math.

  • On 14 of the 19 subtests on the 2018 WY-TOPP assessment, SCSD2 free and reduced lunch students outperformed the state proficiency average for all students.

  • Since 2008, SCSD2 has increased its high school graduation rate by 12.4 percentage points, compared to the 1.0 point average increase for all Wyoming districts.

National Blue Ribbon Schools

  • Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School

  • Highland Park Elementary School

  • Meadowlark Elementary School

  • Sagebrush Elementary School (two-time recipient)

  • Woodland Park Elementary School

  • Sheridan Junior High School

National Model PLC Schools

  • Highland Park Elementary School

  • Woodland Park Elementary School

  • Sheridan Junior High School

  • Sheridan High School

National Distinguished Title I Schools

  • Sagebrush Elementary School

  • Woodland Park Elementary School

Business Insider Best School District in Wyoming, 2018

College Board AP District Honor Roll, 2017 - #1 Best School District in Wyoming, 2017 & 2018; #2 for 2019

Highest Wyoming district ranking (aggregate) on state assessment in Reading, Math, and Science at all grades tested, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, & 2018

High School Accolades

  • 100 Best Public High Schools in the US,, 2018

  • US News & World Report Best High Schools (Silver Award - top 6%) in 2013, 2015, 2016, & 2017

  • Washington Post America’s Most Challenging High Schools, 2016 & 2017

  • National Merit Scholars

    • 67 finalists since 2000

    • 78 semi-finalists since 2000

  • Advanced Placement Scholars, 2017 - 51 Scholars, 9 with Honor, 16 with Distinction, 1 National AP Scholar (35 AP Scholars in 2016)

  • ACT District Composite Averages

    • Highest in Wyoming, 2016 (22.6)

    • Highest among Wyoming 4A districts, 2017 (21.5)

    • Highest in Wyoming, 2018 (21.8)

  • We the People Wyoming State Champions - 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, & 2018

  • Wyoming All State Music - largest number of student qualifiers of any Wyoming district

  • Sheridan High School 2018 AP exam pass rate - 72.7%  (Wyoming - 55.5%; Global - 61.3%)

Wyoming Teacher of the Year

  • Mick Weist, 2014 - Winner

  • Lorna Poulsen, 2015 - Finalist

  • Rebecca Adsit, 2016 - Finalist

  • Ryan Furhman, 2017- Winner

  • Addrienne Sims, 2018 - Finalist

  • Katie Medill, 2019 - Finalist