Monday, January 31, 2011
Consistently Doing What Is BEST for KIDS and
How Professional Development Provides the Means to Get Us There!
Kim Tierney, Denver Elementary Principal
We at Denver Community Schools pride ourselves in doing what is BEST for kids. We pride ourselves in consistently performing at high levels in all facets of education. One of the main reasons I moved to this community was due to the reputation that this school district has in terms of academic success, rigor, and the overall assumption that this community produces well-rounded young adults. My opinion has only been proven stronger during my three years here.
I am so proud to work with the teachers that are currently part of our K-12 system. Our professionals consistently find ways of supporting students and helping them to the next level, regardless of where our students begin, and regardless of what it takes to get them there. Professionalism, collaboration, continued learning, and data-driven instructional decision-making is at the forefront of everything our teachers do……EVERYDAY!
In addition to the countless hours of learning our teachers take part in independently; they also spend an average of one day, every month, participating in “Professional Development”, which is led by our administration. Our most recent professional development (PD), on January 12, 2011, focused on four main areas: Technology, Olweus (Anti-Bullying), Iowa Core, and Professional Learning Communities. As I continue, I hope to provide you with a glimpse of what each of these areas entail.
Throughout each Professional Development opportunity, we further explore why keeping pace with technology and staying relevant to change is imperative to the success of learning in our district. This month, we learned more specifically about a new resource that we host internally, in order to create teacher/student web pages. Next month, we plan to have breakout sessions related to several technology resources that are virtually free, online, and easily accessible to our teachers and students.
Olweus, is a bullying prevention program, and currently, there is a team of educators and community members that meet regularly during Professional Development to discuss this most researched and best-known bullying prevention program. As a team, we are discussing and planning exactly how we will successfully implement and introduce this whole-school program next fall. Our goals with this program include reducing any existing bullying problems, to prevent development of new bullying problems, and to promote better peer relations at school.
In addition to the focus on technology and Olweus, we continue to focus on all facets of the Iowa Core during professional development. The Iowa Department of Education, adopted the National Common Core Standards for Mathematics and Reading/Language Arts on July 29, 2010. Since then, Iowa incorporated 15% of our “state standards”, thus creating the final version of what we now know to be “The Iowa Core”. It is important for us to stay up-to-date on the changes within our intended curriculum, so that is exactly what we spent time doing as a staff. We learned where our current benchmarks overlap, and where within the Iowa Core, we need to pay further attention. This is an effort that never ends for our school system, as curriculum is constantly evolving. We must consistently look at our intended curriculum, our enacted curriculum, and also our assessed curriculum, in order to remain cutting edge.
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
Finally, after technology, Olweus, and The Iowa Core, we turn our attention to Professional Learning communities (PLCs) during Professional Development time. PLCs are the “vehicle” we use in order to continue our focus on learning. Our teachers have created professional goals, each having a strict focus on student achievement. They consistently look at our intended curriculum within ALL content areas, and decipher where our students need more support. This past summer a group of educators from our district attended the Professional Learning Community (PLC) Conference, held in Minneapolis, those members now make up our PLC Leadership Team. At this conference, we learned that we must continue to grow as a “cohesive school, organized into interdependent collaborative teams, united by a shared purpose, shared vision, collective commitments, and shared goals”.
It will continue to be our job as a leadership team, to introduce all teachers K-12 to the essential components of an effective PLC culture, and I must boast, that we are making progress! For example, there are several grade levels that meet regularly to discuss grade level data, to create common assessments, and to discuss what they can do to better support all students regardless of where they fall on the learning continuum. During these collaborative opportunities, teachers brainstorm ways to change their current instruction to support more differentiation through small group work. For example, several teachers incorporate “The Daily Five”, which allows for the smaller group work to take place in the areas of reading and math. Several grade level teams are implementing what they are calling “Intervention and Enrichment” time into their classrooms. This is where they change or differentiate their instruction based on smaller groups of students, which correlates to the data collected within the skill area. Other teachers such as our reading specialists, our special education teachers, and even our teacher/librarian help those teachers in order to support SMALLER GROUP SIZES. This is so POWERFUL and GREAT FOR KIDS! Our teacher’s constant collaboration and refinement of the characteristics of effective instruction are a token of our school’s success.
In closing, I want to reiterate the great educational institution that DENVER is, and will continue to be. I am SO VERY proud to be part of this educational system, and feel that our teachers and administrators always have and will continue to do what is best for students. Professional Development opportunities within this district are so important for each of us as educators in order to continue learning and challenging ourselves. It is our shared responsibility to continue to ask tough questions and seek to find solutions collaboratively, in order to prepare our young people so that they may be globally competitive far into the 21st Century.