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Building Capacity of Teachers, Growing Leaders and Practicing Two-Way Accountabiity

The Schenectady City School District is working with the The Institute for Learning (IFL), an outreach of the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center.  The IFL serves as a professional development leader and functions as a bridge between the domains of research and practice, bringing Schenectady educators current knowledge, research, tools, and models related to instruction and district design.

The goals of our work with the IFL are to build capacity of SCSD teachers, teacher leaders and district leadership to carry on the IFL work across the district.  All of our work is aligned with our theory of action and our drive to ensure that race, economics and disability will no longer be predictors of student achievement.

Through the plan and process, we have identified teachers who can lead the IFL work in their schools.  We have engaged district leaders in ways that make the IFL work the heart of how they support and monitor curriculum and instruction.

As part of this work, we have established a SCSD Guiding Coalition to spearhead and guide the work before us.  In 2015-16, the partnership and work of the guiding coalition focused on creating a learning organization that practices two-way accountability.  The professional development of all administrators continues to be on supporting teaching and learning and growing professional practice of all participants.  

Central office administrators, principals and teacher leaders and teachers all have a role in the nested learning community. 
                           Central Office Administrators

                           Principals and Teacher Leaders

                           Teachers

The SCSD Guiding Coalition and IFL have collaboratively decided on an arrangement of cohorts, the ongoing support of each and a calendar that will guide work.

Examples of professional development and work that is becoming practice includes:

Scaffolding and Formative Assessment
Participants:  principals, assistant principals and central office administrators

The goal is to extend understanding of formative assessment practices in ELA that support teacher and student learning including English learners, language minority students, special needs students and fluent English speakers. Through this module, participants learned what formative assessment requires of students and teachers and the implications for curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development.

Taking Descriptive Note and Giving Quality Feedback
Participants:  all principals and assistant principals

The goal of this module is to understand the meaning of quality feedback, to consider the role trust plays in the feedback process, to understand how to take descriptive notes, to consider the content and language of notes intended to be descriptive and non-evaluative in nature, to practice taking descriptive notes, to anticipate teacher concerns about notes, to understand how to mine the descriptive notes to give quality feedback to teacher observed and to provide feedback that improves practice and builds community.

Classroom Observation that Improve Practice
Participants:  all principals and assistant principals

The goals of this module to provide an understanding on how to plan, prepare and lead a learning walk, understand how to provide clear expectations for what to look for in the ELA classroom and understand what evidence to look for in classroom observations.  This provided school leaders with tools on how to give evidence-based feedback and ways to talk with teachers that invite problem-solving and improved practice.

Use of Learning Walk Routine to Build Community
Participants:  all principals and assistant principals

Through this exercise, school leaders planned, prepared and led a learning walk.  The administrator was responsible for providing clear expectations for what to look for in the ELA classroom and observe how talk and other features and routines are used to assess learning of English learners, language minority students, special needs students, and fluent English speakers.  Participants were responsible for preparing evidence-based feedback and ways to talk with teachers that invited problem-solving and improved practice. 

Use of Quality Feedback Conversation to Advance Practice
Participants:  all principals and assistant principals

The goals of the Quality Feedback Practice is to extend the principals' understanding of using the observation process to improve teacher practice using two-way accountability process and understanding of using descriptive language and evidence based statements to give quality feedback.  This also extends the principals' understanding of using the learning walk and the quality feedback conversation to improve practice in all classrooms.  Through this process, principals began to collect evidence of changes in practice.  

Two Day Institute

Through the IFL, a two-day institute was held for teacher leaders and central office professionals who support instruction.

The work over the two days was designed to extend teachers' understanding of formative assessment practices in ELA that support teacher and student learning.  Participants also learned what formative assessment requires of students and teachers as well as the implications for curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development.

A Unit Writing Boot Camp was held for central office professionals who support instruction and teacher leaders for grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Participants learned about coherent curriculum in ELA and the differences among different kinds of questions that guide text-based work.  They learned to develop unit outlines that include sequenced complex texts that build students' knowledge of important and interesting texts and topics and overarching inquiries that reach across and connect unit texts.  The boot camp also focused on developing and sequencing questions that scaffold students' comprehension of text and develop their proficiencies as readers, writers and thinkers.  Special attention was paid to English learners, language minority, and special needs students in addition to fluent English speakers.  

Teachers of English Learners engaged in foundational professional development for English Learners:  Talk, Text, and Task.  This training introduced teachers how to use socializing intelligence, academically productive talk, reading comprehension, vocabulary development, mediating for access to high cognitive demand and English language unit features.

Our work with the IFL continues and the strategies, tools and practices gained through this collaboration and professional development opportunity and experience continue to be practiced and implemented throughout the district. 

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