Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A New Look at Professional Learning!

Here we go, my leap into blogging!

What a fantastic start to the school year in Regina Public Schools. As a Superintendent of Student Achievement with RPS, I have the privilege of overseeing the Grade 7-9 middle years teachers and students with a focus on improving transitions and engagement during that critical age through adolescence and the adjustment from elementary to high school.

The journey has been over a year in making. It began at school start up in 2102 when we met with all the Middle Years (MY) teachers to gather feedback on direction the school division should consider in promoting and improving the achievement, engagement and transition practices for MY students. Our target was to create an action plan in order to attain the RPS CIP goal of 95% of grade 8’s achieving adequate and above scores in reading and math at grade level by 2017 and to close the achievement gap for our FNM students. From these conversations the Grade 7 - 9 Results Team was created. This group of educators, teachers, facilitators, coordinators and administrators met monthly and formulated 6 recommendations to advance achievement for MY students. The full report can be found here.

Grade 7-9 Results Team Recommendations Summary:

1. Literacy and Numeracy

Identify, share and recommend best instructional practices, structures, resources to be adopted by the Division. This will help schools with accountability. Examples may include Balanced Literacy, Daily 5, First Steps, Structural Innovation practices…

Explore Leveled Literacy Intervention for the Middle Years to provide Reading and writing intervention for struggling readers.

Identify a similar structure for numeracy to be consistently found in Middle Years’ classrooms that permits collaborative practices and flexible groupings.

Check out the RPS website on literacy and numeracy.

2. Information Sharing

Develop a template for grade 8 teachers to document their understanding of their students’ learning needs and easily share with grade 9 teams in high school.in PowerTeacher so that it will follow the student to high school through PowerSchool.

Areas of focus should include: 
    • Student strengths
    • Academic achievement indicators 
    • Interventions: tier 1 strategies, ROA, assistive technology, modified programs
    • Attendance
3. Middle Years Practical and Applied Arts (MYPAA)

Continue to expand the MYPAA offerings for all grade 7 & 8 students in RPS. These portable kits do not rely on typical PAA shop areas and can be easily accommodated in any elementary classroom. Joni Darke (MYPAA facilitator) and I shared a presentation to the School Board this February and are committed to the expansion of MYPAA kits for grade 8 students. Currently our kits include CO2 cars, wind turbines, sewing, electrical, wood work projects (including plywood snowshoes, cribbage and chess boards, stud walls), robotics, cooking, set design, photography, and flight. In addition to being extremely engaging, these activities support experiential learners and literacy and numeracy in an alternate medium.

4. Tell Them From Me (TTFM)

Over 30 school volunteered to pilot the TTFM student perceptual survey to give students voice to their school community. These recommendations can be used at both the school and division level to inform our work and planning. The themes touch upon intellectual and social engagement, student advocacy, sense of belonging, safety and well being. All grade 6 to 10 students this fall will participate in the survey. Here are a couple of examples from one of our schools:

Students are intellectually engaged and find learning interesting, enjoyable, and relevant.

Students feel safe at school as well as going to and from school.

5. High School Advisory

We have reaffirmed our commitment to offer the equivalent of 15 minutes of daily contact time with a high school advisory teacher. The role of the advisory teacher includes being a student advocate, My Blueprint, cumulative reviews, credit monitoring/count, weekly academic monitoring, ensure classroom teacher is aware of IEP, ROA, tier 1 adaptations, personal circumstances and barriers, communication with family, attendance monitoring, promotional and 3-way conferences. Ideally, the advisory teacher is the one critical adult that will be there for a student throughout their entire high school career to help them overcome any challenges and ensure a successful completion in graduation. Check out the Leader Post article Easing the Transition for Back to School

6. Transitions Teachers to Support our Aboriginal Learners

A shared staff member between elementary and high school to focus exclusively on our Aboriginal learners. This role may be an extension and enhancement of the Aboriginal Advocate. Check out the Leader Post article featuring one of our Transition teachers.

School Opening 2013

This work was the impetus for the structure created for school opening on Wednesday morning with the theme of Promising Practices for Engagement and Achievement

Middle Years Transitions and Engagement. After a brief welcome message with Division Priority overview from our Director Julie MacRae, I continued to set the stage for the morning of professional learning with a Grade 7 - 9 presentation by touching upon:
The remainder of the morning was designed to provide an opportunity to highlight and share promising practices by teachers to teachers. We tend to forget to tap into the expertise that we have in-house. this was a chance to promote a sample of exceptional practices that have resulted in significant achievement gains for students. Thanks go out to the following presenters. Please feel free to contact them for more information. Please do not hesitate to also identify other teachers whose practices need to be highlighted and shared in the division.

1. Acting on Literacy 
A balanced literacy framework of Whole Group Instruction, Small Group Instruction and Independent Practice is essential to an effective literacy program. This session led by Kira Fladager (Literacy Coordinator) and Sharmayn Hollinger, Grade 7/8 Teacher (McDonald), , will focus on the essential components of balanced literacy and how the key literacy resources in Regina Public support a balanced literacy framework. This session will explore the key resources Literacy in Action, Live Ink and Turtle Island Voices and will provide practical examples of how these resources can be used in the classroom.Click here for the RPS literacy website.

2. Teaching and Assessing Mathematics 
Aaron Warner (Grade 8 teacher) and LJ Hantelmann (Numeracy Coordinator) will focus on Grade 7-9 fraction (rational numbers) outcomes to discuss how to maximize learning for all students. We will include ideas for using Explore +4 and manipulatives. Click here for the RPS numeracy website.

3. Planes, Trains and CO2 Automobiles (Middle Years Practical and Applied Arts)– Joni Darke (MYPAA Facilitator) and Luke Braun (Mironuck).

4. Marshmallow Man and Literacy
Cross-curricular literacy and reading/writing strategies. Innovative ways to create a literacy block for all grade 9 students as well as a resource to support literacy instruction. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 Heather Findlay (Martin) and Rob Koroluk (Johnson)

5. Differentiating in Math: Tour De France or a Guided Bicycle Tour 
Jennifer Wyatt (Sheldon), and Doug Sthamann (Jack Mackenzie)

6. Teaching Curriculum Outcomes with Big Ideas and Essential Questions 
Corrine Toews (Braun) and Doug Dahl (Perry)

7. Inter-school Novel Study
Rochelle Rugg (Hawrylak) and Scott Motlik (Mironuck)

8. Creating and Supporting Smooth Transitions
A snapshot of current transition programming, the expectations of Regina Public Schools Continuous Improvement and Accountability Plan 2013-2014 and what educators can do to support smooth transitions for Aboriginal learners. Dawn Cassell (Thom) and Natalie Agecoutay-Sweet (Wascana)

9. Successful Transition practices from elementary to high school –bridging the gap for our FNM students. 
A conversation with high school administrators and their corresponding associate elementary schools to plan for additional opportunities to encourage students to attend their home high school.


In addition, we were very fortunate to have a group of committed educators who wanted to provide an opportunity for professional learning in a format called an "unconference" on Thursday Aug 29 am. In this format, participants attend the event willing to share and learn. Through participant interest an agenda of sessions is created featuring but not exclusively technology related practices that enhance learning. We were very fortunate to have Alec Couros as a guest speaker to support the 150 teachers Follow the activity on Twitter at #Edcampyqr and their blog. in addition, the Leader Post gave a nice overview of the morning. The sessions were incredible with so much energy and passion from the educators who attended, especially when they were giving up their preparation and planning time to participate. How to use twitter, the flipped classroom, blogging in a primary classroom, exploring apps, backward planning and rubric design around outcomes, incorporating technology in the middle years, how to use iGo, Evernote and other cloud based services in the classroom are but a few of the many engaging interactive sessions offered. Thanks again to all the organizers and session leaders for the hugely successful 1st annual edcamp.

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