Friday, May 3, 2013

Job imbedded professional development

When I arrived in Fort Dodge I was directed by the board to take a look at the schedule and improve the climate at the high school.  Our curriculum coordinator and one of the assistant principals, Ben Johnson, had pursued the AIW initiative which was a new thing to the state of Iowa. I placed Ben in charge and asked him to select an initial group of teachers to participate. That initial group did an outstanding job of really engaging in the process and promoting it to the rest of the staff. Over the past four years we have gradually added groups until this year when we now have asked all staff to participate. We started this process with the understanding that if it is important work then we as administrators should be providing our staff time to do it. We looked at how staff time was currently being used and then eliminated supervision duties that existed in their 90 minute duty/prep time.  We asked all staff to use the time we freed them from duties to engage in either AIW or another PLC focus which aligned with the building goals. By placing this in their existing schedule, during the day and in place of less than professional responsibilities allow us to respond to the typical "I dont' have time" arguement.  An AIW leadership team was established which really began to direct this initiative.
With the success we had with this implementation process, we included collaboration time as one of the requirements for a new schedule. This year we are on a six period day in which instructional responsibilities are assigned five of the six periods with one period being reserved for preparation time. However, the building leadership team decided that on Wednesdays, collaboration would take place during that preparation period and the AIW process will become how we do business rather than something we do. Peer critique is now part of our teaching process.  Within the new schedule we have three semesters each 60 days in length. During one of those semesters, teachers are only asked to have 4 traditional instructional periods with the an additional period spent on preparation and the last period spent in a PLC. The topic was RTI and the process went like this... First the teachers read some lliteratuire on the use of data.  It quickly became clear to all that data does not instantly give us answers, but rather frames better questions and points to what information it is important to keep, what we have and what we need to go get. This also led staff to the idea that we need to look at establishing common assessments which are geared towards what specifically we want students to know and be able to do. We also quickly recognized that not only do we need to create higher quality assessments, but an assessment structure/plan to ensure measurements are taken routinely and strategically. The next readings were around screening and diagnostic tools including their use to identify struggling students and specifically what problems they are facing.
Once we practiced using some diagnostic assessments on just a few students and then reflecting upon that experience with our peers, we looked for specific strategies that would address the needs. Fortunately, we had built a strategy toolbox the previous year in anticipation of this professional learning.. The strategies were again practiced with studensts in a small group situation. We purposefully put teachers into situations where they could develop and sharpen skills in a safe learning environment.It proved to be very successful.
A facilitator/coordinator was placed in charge of the whole process and she created a Google Doc to allow teachers to reflect asynchronously.  This enhanced the reflection even more due to more input.
It has been a great move for our school and for our distruct. We are exciteded to continue this practice next year as well moving the focus from our own learning to providing students the support they need to be successful in the regular classroo setting.

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