Arlington High School

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

During the summer of 2007 we sent a team of five people from the building leadership team to the PLC Conference in Seattle to learn about Professional Learning Communities. We had staff members who had read articles by Rick Dufour and others who had read his book, “Professional Learning Communities at Work”. We wanted to learn more, and so we sent a small team to the conference to bring back information to share with staff. It started the beginning of school-wide culture transformation. We organized our teachers into content area teams that began to meet weekly and, in some cases, daily. We began to focus our building budgetary resources to learning more. Since this first team went in 2007, we have sent over 20 staff members to PLC conferences. Currently, it is part of the job description for our building leadership team that they have attended a PLC Conference.  For some they have attended multiple times.  Each time staff have gone there is a little more they gain because we are at a different place each time in the PLC journey.

When I ask teachers how PLC’s have impacted their teaching they are quick to point out the cultural shift to student learning rather than a focus on teaching. I am entirely more focused and the "why" of what I am doing becomes very clear. The data collection has been a real eye opener. I explain to my students how the data I have collected from them is driving what I am asking them to do in class and they really seem to understand - more than before. The student buy-in then comes naturally. It is a lot more work - but the time I spend outside of class makes my in-class time way more effective and actually easier to manage.”

“It has made me more effective because I am much more organized. My lesson planning and assessments are clearly laid out and prepared ahead of time. Our team has common goals for all of our students across the board in science, and we share in all of the work to get them to reach these goals. Essentially, instead of working alone, we now split the work amongst our PLC team members. In my case, the PLC concept has relieved stress of constant lesson planning and helped create more time to focus on what is actually being learned by my students as opposed to what I am going to do next.”

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Each content team in our school has a minimum of four common assessments they give their students. Most teams do these assessments towards the end of each quarter. Teams also have more frequent formative assessments they use such that are formal (quizzes, mini-assessments, writing responses, exit slips) and informal (discussion, student feedback). Teams meet each week and, as part of their agendas, they discuss student progress. We use an assessment protocol to guide their data discussion. It begins by making sure the assessment is measuring the intended learning target. It asks team members to look at the data and determine:

  • What areas did our students do well in?
  • What instructional strategies helped our students perform well?
  • What skill deficiencies do we see?
  • What patterns are we seeing and what does this tell us?
  • Which students did not master essential standards and will need additional time and support?
  • What interventions will be provided?
  • Do we need to tweak or improve the assessment?
  • How are we doing in reaching our team SMART Goal for student achievement?

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

For the 2015-2016 school year we chose the theme for the school year as “Building the Foundation for the Future.” We made it a priority to limit iniatives and focus in three key areas:  1) Collaboration, 2) RTI, 3) Standards-aligned units of instruction.  Conversations in content and department teams as well as our building leadership focus less on the management of the building and classrooms to answering the question, “How will I know students have learned” and “What will I do if they don’t get it.” In developing our RTI tiers we began several years ago looking in the area of greatest need, which was math. We started a Math Support class in Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II, which established an additional period of math for students following a pre-teaching model. Students would work in this support class on information to be covered in their regular math class. The results have shown a decrease in failure of math classes as well as an increase in our standardized state test scores as well as common benchmark assessments. This year we have added another intervention in math by creating a Pre-Algebra class which uses input from the middle school teachers on students not meeting standard at the end of 8th grade.  Both the Math Support and PreAlgebra classes are proactive and the results have demonstrated our failure rate in math has decreased.  We identified students in the summer who had not passed the state assessment to be in the math support classes. After the first common assessment, in response to these results, we moved some additional students into these support classes. They are fluid and have students moving into and out of them throughout the year based on student need.

Along with math support, we created an Extended Learning program for identified students needing additional support in English, Math, Science and Social Studies. There is a core group of teachers working with students after school for two hours and we keep our Library open and available to students. 

We have an Advisory program we call, "Eagle Period," during which time each staff member has a group of students that work with throughout their four years in high school. We focus on goal-setting, organization, study skills, future planning, college and career prep as well as developing and updating each students' High School and Beyond Plan. We meet as grade level advisory teams during the year to review lesson plans and activities that support students.

As part of Eagle Period, our teachers and counselors have started using the Naviance online platform.  The lessons that advisors go through assist students in self-exploration, post-high school career information, and assisting in search for and applying for colleges.  This college and career readiness platform helps connect academic achievement to post secondary goals.  Naviance empowers students and families to connect learning and life.  It also provides our school with the information we need to help students prepare for life after high school.  Most importantly, it allows students to create a plan for their future by helping them discover their individual strengths and learning styles and explore college and career options based on their results.  



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

In order to ensure we have multiple opportunities for teachers to grow as leaders, there are three different leadership teams we have at our school. We have a staff of over 100 teachers and classified personnel. Departments choose a leader to guide the work that is focused on scheduling, budget and other business items. They also select one member to serve on the School Improvement Team, which also meets once a month. This team member works to support the department’s improvement plan, guide professional development opportunities, inservice day activities and curriculum. The two department leaders work closely together in planning department meetings as well as PLC content team meetings. They establish an agenda, team norms, and send feedback notes to the administrative team. We also have a leadership team called the Instructional Leadership Academy who meets regularly throughout the year with teams from other buildings to facilitate our learning about the instructional frameworks and improving instructional practice. This team works closely with the building leadership team to plan inservice time throughout the year devoted to this learning. We are fortunate in that members of our Instructional Leadership team are also a member of our building leadership team. This helps with communication and planning.

When our PLC teams meet throughout the school year, they use the analyzing data protocol we’ve developed to see what the data tells us. The power in the use of this protocol is not just the discussion that takes place, but how the teams use the results. They are able to identify strengths or weaknesses in their own teaching as well as the entire team if it appears they are struggling to teach a concept. We, as a staff, see feedback loops through common assessments and the support the team structure as the best ways to build capacity across the system.

The key to building a collaborative team is selling the fact that everyone should want to "work smarter NOT harder." Once teachers have realized that the PLC teams would make their life easier, they jump “on board” immediately. Once staff members are on board and begin to see the changes and success that it brings, it just snowballs into a culture.

The PLC process in our school has set up our teachers for success in looking at the newly defined teacher evaluation criteria and domains. New work will not come as a shock or require major adjustments as they already do it on a daily basis through our PLC work. 


Additional Achievement Data

Please list source of comparison data: OSPI Report Card

Grade 10


(EOC 1)


(EOC 2)







Year 2011-12


  90.5/81.3 91/85.4  83/61.3  
Year 2012-13   87.8/83.3 90.5/83.6 84.3/85  83.4/71.5  
Year 2013-14 83.6/79.5   89.6/82.9 88/85.6  84.8/77.7  
Year 2014-15 N/A N/A N/A 81.5  85.4/72.5  

Percentage of students passing: School Scores/Comparison Scores

All Grades Math 1 EOC Math 2 EOC Biology EOC
Year 2011-12  51.00/56.5  78/73.4  84.4/64.3
Year 2012-13  54.7/53.1  83.2/76.5  83.6/68.6
Year 2013-14 58/58.4 44.9/53.4  79.8/70.3
Year 2014-15 N/A N/A 81.1/63.9

2011  Washington State School of Distinction

2012  Washington State School of Distinction

2015 Puget Sound #4 School with the Most Success