Thursday, February 20, 2014

Professional Development at Denver Elementary

As we implement the Iowa Core Curriculum with fidelity in our classrooms, it is easy to get caught up in the daily grind and attention to each individual standard as a “single tree”, rather than admiring the “entire forest”.  At our February 14th professional development, we took a step back, a glance at our curriculum from 10,000 feet if you will, to focus on an article written by Lauren Davis, which allowed us to look at the shifts that have occurred in our instruction.  The article is entitled, “5 Things Every Teacher Should be Doing to Meet the Common Core State Standards”.  

Using the article as the foundation for our activity, we were allowed an opportunity to celebrate in most cases, but to also reflect on our teaching practices as a whole.   We provided the task to small groups of teachers to become an “expert” on one of the five shifts.  In their collaborative groups and by way of a jigsaw activity, they were to determine the meaning of their shift with the intention of being able to share out to the entire group, but they were also asked to create an argument, as to why their shift was the most important.  We really had fun with the activity, but the real power was in the affirmation that occurred through rich conversation, as well as teachers challenging one another’s thinking as to how we could become stronger within each of these areas.  As we compiled a list of ways in which we are meeting the shifts, we felt great about our commitment to the Iowa Core and our implementation, which is occurring with strong fidelity.

To give you some further insight, the shifts described in the article are as follows:

1.     Lead High-Level, Text-Based Discussions
2.     Focus on Process, Not Just Content
3.     Create Assignment for Real Audiences and with Real Purpose
4.     Teach Argument, Not Persuasion
5.     Increase Text Complexity

Again, affirmation was high, however we learned that shift number 3, in particular deserves further attention moving forward.  Our new curriculum materials are not only fully aligned to the core and support rigorous learning at the highest levels, but again, it is important for us to look at the forest as a whole, and make sure that we are empowering real and purposeful learning through activities that include real audiences, rather than spending too much time admiring the “single trees”.  

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting us during our professional learning days.  I realize that the early dismissal days and the full Fridays are not always easy for families, however, research suggests that of all school related factors that improve student achievement, teacher’s matter most.  It is our administrative team’s responsibility to ensure that our teachers are current with the best practices and most aligned resources to empower learning for every child, every day.  This only happens through ongoing and high quality professional development, and again, I thank you for your enduring support!

All My Best,

Kim Tierney