This past year the Professional Development Advisory Committee worked to create a PD plan that will offer teachers multiple opportunities to earn professional learning units. As you know, teachers seeking professional or advanced certificates will be required, once fully phased in, to complete the equivalent of 20 professional learning units annually. Professional learning communities – teachers helping teachers – are an allowable activity to fulfill this requirement.
To propel district initiatives and support all educators in earning PLUs, we have applied for grant funds to implement professional learning communities. Professional Learning Community facilitators will be able to earn PLUs and earn $32per hour. Participants will be able to earn PLUs but will not be paid to attend. The PLC initiative was developed based upon the previous programming which has produced excellent results. Working in PLC's has strengthened culture, created a vehicle for a common language, strategies, and accountability. The work aligns with the RI Quality PD Standards: Quality teaching is informed by individual, school and district goals to deepen educators content knowledge, provide them with researched-based instructional strategies to assist all students in meeting rigorous academic standards. This initiative will foster an intellectual environment by providing opportunities for dialogue and ultimately increasing student achievement.
I am reaching out to teacher leaders and administrators to encourage them to facilitate a PLC. The grant allows a PLC to be developed based on the following topics: content and standards, instructional strategies, social/emotional learning, integrating technology into instruction, literacy best practices, and assessment literacy. Each PLC may run for 5, 10 or 15 hours. Each hour will equate to one PLU.
The facilitator will be responsible for creating agendas, keeping logs of teacher attendance and facilitating the study of a topic that aligns to the grant. There are funds available to purchase texts that align (ie. book study.) All district teachers will be eligible to participate in all learning communities.
If you are interested in facilitating a PLC, please submit a proposal using this (short) google form.
As you know, the Common Core State Standards were adopted in August of 2010. NS curriculum teams have worked over the years to understand the standards and the impact of the standards on teaching and learning. As part of the next steps, we are going to begin a Reading Program adoption for English Language Arts.
When the CC ELA standards were first adopted, the curriculum companies were way behind in providing materials that were high quality and they were loosely aligned at best. As time has passed, curricular materials are now available that are tightly aligned to the standards and best practices in instruction.
Quality Instructional Materials are incredibly important. High-quality instructional materials are designed to help build a teacher’s content knowledge, provide guidance to inform lesson planning and offer structures to support collaboration with other teachers. Research shows that students gain months of learning when teachers use high-quality instructional materials. This year the Reading Program Adoption Committee evaluated materials and programs aligned to the current standards to replace Treasures that was adopted in the 2006-2007 school year.
The process followed to evaluate reading programs was:
Embedded within the program is the ReadyUp Intervention which was designed to support ReadyGEN students with Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 interventions. ReadyUp! Intervention offers flexibility through multiple entry and exit. During core ReadyGEN instruction, foundational skills are taught to the whole class through Foundational Skills Mini-Lessons. For students who are struggling with a skill, instruction is differentiated during Small Group Time using the more robust Foundational Skills lessons at the back of the Teacher’s Guide. For students who continue to have difficulty with specific skills, instruction can be further differentiated using ReadyUp! Intervention lessons.
It points to accommodate students’ differing intervention needs and rates of mastery. The way students learn to read and develop critical thinking skills depends on many different factors, including age, primary language, cultural heritage, and experiences (FirstSchool 2014). To address the needs of all students, a curriculum must be flexible. The skill sequence should be progressive but integrated, with each grade’s skills building on previous grade-level instruction. The sequence for each grade makes connections and prerequisites among skills clear, within and across grades, to make scaffolding and targeted intervention appropriately flexible and efficient. To facilitate skills mastery, research supports a gradual release of responsibility. Teachers model first, and then they guide practice. Eventually, students work in groups and then independently (Frey and Fisher 2011). This approach matches the common “I do it,” “We do it,” “You do it together,” and “You do it alone” model for lessons (Fisher and Frey 2014). Readyup intervention teachers use assessment to set goals for students, monitor progress toward those goals, give feedback on that progress, and adjust teaching as needed (Allal 2010). By observing how students respond to this ongoing formative assessment, teachers can adjust or focus activities in each lesson. Research shows that effective formative assessment strives to answer the questions Where am I going? Where am I now? and Where to next? (Frey and Fisher 2011). By answering these questions, students know exactly why they are being assessed, what skills they need to address to improve, and what skills they will need for future classroom work.
We are incredibly appreciative of the time, energy and effort of the Reading Program Evaluation Committee members who volunteered their time for this important initiative: Tracy Lafreniere, Kristin Murphy, Bernadette Hawkins, Heather Ingram, Cristina Albanese, Heather Santurri, Jenn Fraioli, Jen Daigneault, Rachel Salvatore, Corinne Ferri, Kelly Hubacz, Jane Foster, Anna Piasczyk, Deana Cook, Erin Spaziani, and Brittany Robichaud.
As you may know, RI made significant changes to the State Assessment system. PARCC was replaced by "RICAS" which was purchased from Massachusetts, who uses the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) to measure student achievement in English Language Arts and mathematics. Massachusetts has been implementing the MCAS assessment for over twenty years. In late November, districts received assessment results from the first RICAS administration, and North Smithfield students scored well above the state average in both ELA and mathematics. However, there is significant room for improvement.
We are in the process of analyzing data and making adjustments to curriculum and instruction based on the results. One particular area of note is that North Smithfield ranked #1 in average student growth in both ELA and mathematics compared to all other districts. We are making progress at a faster rate due to the emphasis on standards-based instruction, using assessment data to inform instruction, and building a system and structure of intervention. This work is possible due to the commitment of our teachers that are in the trenches doing the everyday work that engages students in rigorous learning activities grounded in clearly defined standards.
District Ongoing Professional Development is provided in many different, easily accessible ways to accommodate diverse learning styles and needs. Examples of ongoing professional development activities include:
A professional learning community (PLC) is a group of educators that meets regularly to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. Our district continues to implement grant funded PLCs focusing on standards-based instruction, embedding technology to engage students and assessment literacy.
Halliwell School has implemented a PLC comprised of eight teachers and one administrator participating in a book club featuring “Math Workshop” by Jennifer Lempp. This book details the steps to implement the math workshop model including: Guided Math, Learning Stations, Reflections, and Number Routines. Teachers read the assigned chapters and meet regularly to discuss and organize ideas to implement the math workshop model. We are grateful for the time, energy and efforts of: Deana Cook, Mary Jannetta, Victoria Costa, Lauren Galoski, Jennifer Albrecht, Jennifer Fraioli, Andrea Lafleur and Rachael Salvatore.