Curriculum, Instruction, & Assessment » Instruction


Our Instructional Coach Team
Amber Rice
Combs High School
Christine Murphy
Combs High School
Brady Thorpe
J.O. Combs Middle School
Cassie Bates
Combs Traditional Academy
Alyssa DeBois
Ellsworth Elementary School
Suzanne Petersheim
Jack W. Harmon Elementary School
Joline King
Kathryn Sue Simonton Elementary School
Nimisha Tejani
Ranch Elementary School
We believe that if we have schools that focus on learning, collaborative cultures, and are results oriented, then we will have students that have the critical skills, knowledge, and understanding that will allow them to successfully participate in a changing global world. We believe that the tool that best allows us to do this is through the PLC Data Teams process. This process consists of five steps - Collecting and charting student data; Analyzing and prioritizing needs; Setting SMART Goals; Selecting Instructional Strategies; and Determining results indicators. This allows us to most effectively address what we expect students to learn, how will we know they are learning it, how we will respond when students experience difficulty in learning, and how will we respond when students do learn. For more information on PLC Data Teams:
English Learner Program Staff
Brenda Bencomo
English Learner Content Coach
Diance Ouellette
Combs High School SEI Teacher
Ellsworth SEI Teacher
Michele Rhodes
Ranch/Harmon Elementary SEI Teacher
Veronica Henderson
Simonton Elementary/Combs Traditional Academy SEI Teacher
The J.O. Combs English Learner Program works with students identified as English Learners to address English proficiency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Students are initially identified based on the AZELLA Placement test, which is administered within 30 calendar days of the start of school or within 10 school days after the student enrolls. Identified students will be placed in a one hour Targeted Structured English Immersion block with a qualified SEI Teacher and receive an additional hour of Integrated Structured English Immersion in their ELA block. All students that qualify to receive English Learner services will be reassessed for English proficiency each spring on the AZELLA Reassessment.
Additional Resources for the Sole and Exclusive Use of EL Students
Gifted Program Description
The J.O. Combs Unified School District is committed to identifying and providing differentiated instruction for students who qualify for placement in the gifted program. The elementary schools use a Gifted Cluster Model, in which gifted identified students are clustered into gifted cluster classrooms with teachers who have been designated as such by their school principals. Gifted Cluster teachers hold a gifted endorsement issued by the state of Arizona, or are working toward acquiring one. In this model, gifted students receive differentiated curriculum and instruction in all content areas on a daily basis.


In The Schoolwide Cluster Grouping Model, gifted students are clustered into a mixed-ability classrooms at each grade level. The teacher has had training in understanding, planning for, and instructing gifted students. If there are more than eight gifted students in the grade level, two or more clusters may be formed. High-average students are placed into classrooms without the gifted clusters to create a balance of ability/achievement levels in classes across the grade level. Because all classes maintain a slightly narrowed range of performance and abilities, this method of grouping students does not represent a tracking system. Classroom compositions are carefully structured with two main goals: to ensure that there is a balance throughout the grade level, and to reduce the learning range found in any given classroom. This system provides opportunities for teachers to more readily respond to the needs of all their students.


Gifted cluster teachers plan appropriately challenging instruction for their gifted students. This may involve acceleration, enrichment, and various extended learning opportunities targeted to develop the following skills through learning in the content areas:

  • Logical thinking
  • Reasoning skills
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Problem-solving


Gifted students receive instruction that is differentiated in content, process, product, learning environment and assessment:

  1. Content — Complex, abstract ideas presented in a variety of disciplines, including interdisciplinary curriculum
  2. Process — Higher-level thinking through Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Multiple Intelligences
  3. Products — Alternative methods of demonstrating mastery with a range of complexity
  4. Learning environment — Student-centered, flexible grouping based on readiness, interests, and abilities
  5. Assessments — Pre-assessment and testing out-of-grade level curriculum.
Identification of Gifted Students
The J.O. Combs Unified School District uses the Cognitive Abilities Test, which is approved by the Arizona Department of Education, for identification of gifted students. It is an abilities test measuring a child’s ability to reason in three different areas. Reasoning abilities have substantial correlations with learning and problem solving, both in and out of school. Each level of CogAT offers three test batteries: Verbal (reading), Quantitative (math), and Nonverbal (spatial). Having multiple measures in each domain greatly increases the dependability of the score profile that is reported for each student. To qualify as gifted, a student must score at the 95th percentile or above on at least one of these test batteries. Students currently enrolled in grades K-6th can be tested at their school site by parent request. Students enrolled in 3rd grade will be tested automatically in the spring. For more information on the characteristics of a gifted learner, please check out this link on Gifted Characteristics from the Paradise Valley Unified School District.
Testing Dates
  • KG-6th Grade - Saturday, November 21, 2020
  • Blanket Testing of all 3rd Grade Students - February 1st-5th, 2021
  • KG-6th Grade - Saturday, April 17, 2020
    • TBD
  • Thinking Maps
  • Write from the Beginning - Builds on the power of Thinking Maps to establish a focus on effective writing across all grade levels and content areas.  Its approach helps students internalize the skills and strategies used by effective writers, so they can apply them in academic discourse wherever their paths take them.
  • Units of study are organized around the principles of Understanding by Design. For more information, please see ASCD's UbD Framework Page.
  • We employ the ICLE Rigor and Relevance model to instruction. For more information please see ICLE's Rigor and Relevance Framework Page.