Lake Hamilton Junior High is a part of the larger Lake Hamilton School District, which serves as a K–12 independent school district in Garland County Arkansas. Lake Hamilton aims to provide an atmosphere where students, parents, educators, and the community work hand-in-hand to empower each learner with knowledge, skills, and direction. Their motto, seen throughout the district, is “One pack. One purpose. Our students’ success!”
- 4% English learners
- 53% Eligible for free or reduced lunch
- 9% Special education
Principal Jason Selig of Lake Hamilton Junior High was first exposed to the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) at Work® process as an elementary school principal. When he arrived at LHJH, he created plans to implement the PLC process so that every eighth- and ninth-grade student who attended LHJH had a place where learning was at the forefront.
As a team, LHJH needed additional support to reach the high levels of success they’ve always aspired to have. Although basic collaborative structures were in place, teacher teams lacked the tools and strategies to effectively review data, analyze results, and focus on the right adjustments that would increase student achievement.
“We’re focused on collaborating and learning now more than ever, which we’re excited about because it takes the pressure off, knowing we don’t have to do it alone.”
Within Selig’s second year as principal, LHJH applied for and was awarded the Arkansas Department of Education Professional Development Project Grant for Cohort 4.
After gaining this opportunity, LHJH’s first step was to build a guiding coalition made up of key influencers throughout the school, who each represented a department area and who could lead others through the work.
Next, teams began building shared knowledge around the PLC process. LHJH’s guiding coalition and staff began to move from teaching in isolation to a collaborative culture that focused on learning for all students and a collective commitment to create and maintain a guaranteed and viable curriculum.
Soon, teams began unwrapping their essential standards into learning targets, developing proficiency scales, common assessments, data protocols, and essential standard unit maps.
The staff also committed to analyzing student data on a regular basis and designing appropriate interventions and extensions. The PLC process allowed LHJH to create effective grading practices that reflect student learning and place an even more intense focus on learning and interventions kid by kid, skill by skill.
As they dug into best practices of Response to Intervention (RTI) at Work™, Lake Hamilton Junior High moved to include a 45-minute block called “Wolftime,” which gave priority days to their English and math teachers. Using common assessment data, teachers selected students to work with during that intervention period based on what skill needed improvement. It also gave students the opportunity for self-enrollment into enrichment or extension courses.
“When our teachers claim students to help or students claim teachers to help them, we see the hope, excitement, and love that everyone has for learning. Students are finally understanding that they can grow even though they don’t learn at the same pace that someone else does. Our teachers believe . . . that all kids can learn. So it’s taken hold here at the junior high, and we’re excited about that. That’s a different feel and culture when you get to that point,” Selig said.
In just three years of implementing the PLC at Work process, Lake Hamilton was named a Model PLC at Work school.
At the beginning of their PLC journey, LHJH found challenges in analyzing the data for students, but now what was once a daunting task has become a streamlined process for their teachers and administrators. They were able to move away from the traditional grading system to a more innovative and standards-based approach, which created accountability for their students to want to learn.
Lake Hamilton Junior High plans to move into a proficiency-based grading system that helps them target student learning more frequently and respond when they aren’t learning in a timely manner.
Other Notable Achievements
- Marzano High Reliability Schools Level 1 and 2 certified
- Solution Tree Highly Effective Schools Accreditation
- Best Growth Scores in English Language Arts by the University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy
Student Proficiency Trend Data
WHY PLC AT WORK®?
Professional learning communities are schools that empower educators to work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.