Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Testing Week: Iowa Assessments

Students in grades 3-12 are taking the Iowa Assessments (formerly ITBS/ITED) this week.  For more information about testing, please refer to this letter from Mr. Wright.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12/12 PD Overview

On Monday, the staff at ECSD continued their learning about using technology to provide feedback to students for formative assessment.  An agenda of the day can be found here, and a short synopsis of activities is described below.

CLT groups discussed PD & walk-through data, then reflected on practices over the first half of the year in regards to setting objectives and providing feedback and discussed ways to improve their practices over the next month.

Once again, teachers had options for technology training time, so they could choose what fit their personal learning needs.  PK-2 teachers, our elementary technology teacher and our 7-12 band teacher received training on using iPads with students from Apple trainer Susan Chaplik.  (Thanks to a generous donation from our P.I.E. group, 10 additional iPads are now in the building for students and teachers to use for enhancing instruction.)  Teachers could also choose to attend SMART Response System training with Matt Dix from Tierney Brothers.  A handful of student response systems are being tested in the building by 4-12 grade teachers.  These systems allow teachers to give quick, informal or formal assessments in class, which allows the teacher and student to gauge student understanding of key concepts.  The final options were to attend training on using the SMART Exchange Gallery or the Lesson Activity Toolkit in SMART notebook to create feedback tools to use in the classroom.

In the third hour of the morning, teachers collaborated to put the learning and tech training into practice by developing lessons to be used with students over the next month.

During building time, 4-6 grade teachers focused on analyzing Skills Iowa Assessment results.  Secondary teachers analyzed data from a technology survey given to 7-12 students during the first week of December.   Data was then used to make adjustments to future instruction in a 1:1 environment.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Parent Survey

Parents of Earlham Community School students:  Below is a link to a survey regarding professional development times and foreign language offerings.  If you could please take 5 minutes to take this survey, your participation is greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Professional Development for Teachers

If you've been wondering what teachers do on professional development days, be sure to read this post!

Approximately three hours of each morning are devoted to district-wide professional development. As our district PD plan (which if you haven't checked it out, look for the link in the resources section on this blog) states, the ultimate goal of professional development is for teachers to grow in effectively integrating technology into instructional based practices grounded in the Iowa Core in order to increase student engagement, college readiness, and achievement.

During this time, we are working toward this goal by studying the book Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works and engaging in technology training centered around SMART boards (since a majority of classrooms have access to this tool.  Teachers then collaborate with their grade level or content teams to plan upcoming lessons that are grounded in Iowa Core content and infused with the instructional strategies and technology tools studied during PD.

Teachers are expected to complete assignments in a virtual environment, the Moodle, before the next professional development day.  These assignments include uploading lesson plans, contributing to online discussions based on book study and technology, and reflecting on classroom practices.

The remaining hour is designated as building level time and plans for that time are determined by the needs of the specific grade levels in that building.  Throughout the year, buildings will examine district data, receive additional training in assessment or technology, and/or plan and prepare for upcoming initiatives.

Effectiveness of professional development is tracked by administrators and the District Leadership team through the use of teacher feedback surveys and walk-through observations.  The data is evaluated to measure if the teachers are growing in their personal learning and if that learning is reaching students at the classroom level.

If you are interested in more specifics, check out the agenda for November 7 to see what learning teachers will be engaged in next Monday.  If you have any questions, please contact the district for more information.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

IC Implementation Plan

You may have noticed a new link in the "related links" section on this blog within the past month: the Iowa Core Implementation Plan.   If you are unfamiliar with this plan, read on for a brief, and hopefully helpful, explanation that will answer the big questions that may be floating around in your head.

The Iowa Department of Education mandates an annual update of the Iowa Core Implementation Plan for each district to ensure that the Iowa Core's six outcomes are fully implemented in grades 9-12 by July 1, 2012, and in grades K-8 by the 2014-2015 school year.

To meet this mandate, the District Leadership team completes an annual self-study, evaluating the district's implementation progress and developing action plans to outline additional improvements in the six outcomes.  District administrators then work to finalize the implementation plan and work on implementing the action plans into district practices, such as designing professional development, communicating with the public, and improving district curriculum.

Many of the links on this blog are included because of the past years' implementation plans.  Please refer to the Community, Parent and Teacher Pamphlets for more information on what the Iowa Core means to these stakeholders.

If you have any further questions about the Iowa Core, please contact a DLT member, or visit the Iowa Core page on the Department of Education's website.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 6th Professional Development

September 6th Professional Development

While students enjoyed an extra day in the sun on their Labor Day break, teachers were back in the classroom for the morning. Many people have asked, “What is it that teachers do on those professional development days?” Following is a synopsis of what was done during our 4-hour block of time on Tuesday, September 6th.

The morning began with small-group discussions of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, a book that will be studied a chapter at a time throughout the school year. The book was selected by a committee of teachers dedicated to integrating technology in education and will help our staff to make good use of the many SMART boards, computers, and ipads the district purchased this year.

Following the book discussion, teachers attended practice sessions to increase their knowledge and experience in the use of SMART boards.

To insure application of new learning, teachers spent the next hour in grade-level and content area groups to create lessons based on recommendations from chapter 1 of the book study, technology training, and Iowa Core objectives.

Analysis of fall DIBELS data was the focus for K-2 teachers in the last part of the morning. This assessment gives teachers information about the basic early literacy skills of our youngest students. Teachers combined this information with what they had learned from district assessments and classroom observation to create lessons and activities that will move students forward in their learning.

New to grades 3-6 this year is the Skills Iowa assessment . Teachers in these grades attended a training session to learn about these assessments, which will give us information about students’ knowledge of the Iowa Core Curriculum.

Middle School and High School teachers performed a data review of fall MAP scores and learned how to access reports to better understand student achievement on the test.

To stay informed about professional development at Earlham Community School, check our blog often at

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Professional Development and School Calendar

When I am asked questions about the school calendar, one common questions has been, "Why are there so many days for professional development?" According to the Iowa Professional Development Model:
  • The professional development process must ensure that teachers have adequate opportunities to learn and implement new curriculums, instructional strategies, and assessments. Teachers need to have sufficient workshop and workplace supports to develop a deep understanding of the theory of the strategy/model they are learning. Professional development design will build in time for teachers to learn together and to collaborate with each other. If teachers have opportunities to learn new content and implement it in their classrooms, the investment in professional development will pay off in increased student learning.
  • Professional development is a continuous process rather than a one-time event. To be able to transfer new learning into the classroom, teachers need multiple opportunities to see demonstrations, plan together, work out problems, rehearse new lessons, develop materials, engage in peer coaching, and observe each other.
In the development of a professional development schedule within the framework of a school calendar, the goal is to provide staff the opportunities to begin practicing and implementing their learning so it reaches the students without reducing the student learning time.

As indicated on the school calendar, the district is only dismissing classes early four times this year for professional development. In previous years, the district would dismiss classes early two or three times per month. By dismissing two hours early several times per month, the students were missing 6-8 instructional hours each month. The current year calendar has reduced that to 8 hours for the entire school year. In previous years, student would miss out on approximately 50 hours of instructional time in a school year. That is more than a full week!

In addition, the days in which there is NO SCHOOL for Professional Development are not counted as part of the required 180 student contact days. In other words, students don't lose any instructional time on these days as they are made up at a later time. I realize that this "extends" the school year, but I believe this is an effective way for the teaching staff of the district to improve and better serve the students of the Earlham Community School District.

Michael Wright
Superintendent of Schools