Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What do they do during those late starts anyway?

It has been a busy year with teacher professional development. While various teacher groups have tackled many tasks, there is a common vision.

The district vision is, “FCSD will be the world’s dreamers, thinkers, and leaders. Dream. Think. Lead. Act.” Dreaming represents the creativity and dynamic problem solving that will play a major part in the world in which our children will work and raise families. Thinking represents critical thinking, independent problem solving, and looking beyond the issue at hand. Leading represents refining the gift within every student, because each one is special and has much to contribute to the world. Leading is not just about positions, roles, and titles, but is about character, quality, and empathy. Act represents the urgency we have in our mission to serve our students.

During professional development at the beginning of the year, teachers planned common lessons in grade-level teams. This was especially important because we just adopted new standards-based mathematics curriculum. At that time, special teams wrote action plans for the year. These teams included Title I reading, fine arts, PE, and pre-school teachers, and school counselors. Special education teachers have supported classroom planning, as well as worked as a team to develop progress monitoring plans to better track student progress toward specialized goals.

Parents who have kindergarten and 1st grade students this year are familiar with the new standards-based report cards. Standards-based report cards support parent-teacher communication. They detail what a child knows and can do, rather than assigning a letter or numerical value to a subject area. This kind of communication tool is incredibly valuable in helping families, students, and educators ensure that all students are mastering concepts. Mid-fall, it was decided that 2nd - 4th grades would implement standards-based report cards starting with the 2011-2012 school year. To accomplish this lofty goal, teachers rolled-up their sleeves and dug in, never looking back. We have reviewed our grade-level benchmarks, aligning them with the Iowa Core Curriculum (and now the Common Core Curriculum), and making sure that they spiral and build in complexity from kindergarten to 4th grade.

Teachers are in various stages of finishing the alignment process needed to build the standards-based report cards. Grade-level teams are naturally moving to the next phase in planning, which is to create and organize common assessments for each grade-level. Common assessments are tests, projects or tasks that teachers use to determine whether or not students have mastered the concepts and benchmarks on the report card.

Teachers are working hard during our professional development late-starts to create robust tools. This work will support our students, families, and community so that together we can dream, think, lead, and act!

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