In recognition of its sustained success in raising student achievement, Sparks High School has been named a Model Professional Learning Community at Work by Solution Tree. Only 200 schools and districts in the United States and Canada received the honor as a result of their focus on learning, collaborative cultures, and results-oriented approach to teaching and learning.
“All of us at Sparks High School have worked so hard to help our students achieve and succeed,” said Sparks High School Principal Kevin Carroll. “We have seen the results not just in our statistics, but in our hallways and classrooms each and every day. The collaboration of our staff has transformed the culture of Sparks High School over the past four years. Our students face many challenges, but they are determined to succeed, learn, and grow. I could not be more proud of our teachers, staff, and students for their hard work. This is wonderful news for all of us at Sparks High School.”
“This is a great accomplishment for everyone at Sparks High School,” said Lauren Ford, area superintendent for Area 4. “The teachers and staff have focused on improving their skills, and that focus and dedication have helped them achieve this great success. Congratulations to everyone at Sparks High. We are all proud of your achievement.”
In 2013, Sparks High School was deemed a school in need of improvement, and was placed into the newly-created Acceleration Zone. New leadership was assigned to the school. Graduation rates were low, and credit attainment among 9th– and 10th graders were well below District averages.
Immediately, Carroll and his staff implemented procedures that enabled teachers to work together on their Student Learning Objectives (SLO’s) and formed collaborative departmental teams to examine student data and share effective teaching strategies. Teachers and staff attended professional development training sessions to learn about how to become a more successful professional learning community, create common goals, review data, and collaborate on best teaching practices.
Teachers and staff continue to refine their methods and work together to achieve academic goals with their students and families. In 2017, Sparks High School achieved an 89 percent graduation rate—up 21 percent from the 2013-2014 school year, when the school posted a 68 percent graduation rate. The school now exceeds the statewide average of 82 percent.
Sparks High school is also quickly narrowing achievement gaps among English Learners (whose graduation rate rose from 26 percent to 85 percent) and Special Education students (whose graduation rate rose from 31 percent to 67 percent). Hispanic female students posted a graduation rate of 91 percent and Hispanic males achieved an 88 percent graduation rate.
The overall climate at the school has also undergone major changes, as staff members have become more invested in professional learning opportunities at the school, and continually praise the positive, collaborative climate and culture at the school.
Solution Tree, which recognized Sparks High School as a Model Professional Learning Community at Work, is a private company which partners with school districts to provide professional development services and guidance via online courses and in-person training.