February 15, 2016

Professional Development & Work Time

Professional development that includes staff "work time"

Last Friday our staff at Vanderbilt Area School participated in professional development. Before beginning, though, we had a potluck lunch and enjoyed each others’ company. Everyone contributed something to the meal, including our guests from the Cheboygan–Otsego–Presque Isle Educational Service District. Enjoying lunch together provided a good beginning to the afternoon.

We must realize both the importance of standardized testing as well as the limitations. The results are a snapshot of the school year, maybe a specific day. What we can learn from standardized test results is the effectiveness of our curriculum. A solid curriculum with best practice instruction within the classroom will take care of most standardized testing results.

As the superintendent/principal I shared a few words to start the learning session. I shared a few slides and led the staff in a brief discussion of where we are going as a school district. We have made a focus this year on “Every Child. Every Day.” Changing the community’s mindset to focus on each and every child is a key thing to do for our school.

We spent a few minutes reviewing some possible data files we can use when English teacher Mr. Cody Ferrier presented on Illuminate, the software program we use for data. We had some useful data around the room, as well. We had information about students, information about attendance at parent/teacher conferences, and information on last year’s state testing.

After some guiding words, the staff began working — some individually, others collaboratively — on a plan to clarify instruction and assessment for the next several weeks. We have worked on our curriculum throughout the year but we have much work still to do. At this point in the year, with state testing beginning the week after spring break, we want to make sure that our teachers have a clear plan and the resources and materials they need to implement the curriculum and provide students with appropriate assessments as they prepare for the MSTEP and SAT tests.

In addition, the paraprofessional staff participated in their own professional development, as well. Mrs. Diane Kabat provided training to the four parapros. In addition to learning some new intervention ideas, the parapros were trained in how to DIBEL. The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of early literacy skills from kindergarten through sixth grade. They are designed to be short (one minute) fluency measures used to regularly monitor the development of early literacy and early reading skills. Our goal is for our parapros to be able to DIBEL the students to allow teachers to continue teaching.

Time to move from old technology to modern technology.

Kabat is going to assist the school district for the remainder of the school year as a Title I teacher. She is also going to continue to work with the parapros and teaching staff on professional development. The school was able to hire Kabat due to carryover in the Title I budget. Carryover is federal funds that went unspent in the previous school year. One of the district’s new goals is to spend all Title I funds each year so there is no longer carryover.

Friday was a great day of professional development. You know that teachers are working hard when five minutes after the day was supposed to end you have to interrupt and thank them for a great day of work! We have additional PD sessions scheduled in the remaining months of the school year and will be focusing on curriculum and assessment. The PD provides staff an opportunity not only to work on their own materials but also a change to work together with their colleagues.

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