On many occasions we are asked questions about the value of professional development days when the students are not in school. Some of the questions that we are asked include: What are staff doing on those days? Why are these so valuable? Can’t we eliminate the day so that we can have a shorter school year?
As we continue to transition to the higher expectations of the new Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, providing professional learning time for staff is critical to the success of our school district. Staff will need opportunities to work together by team, department, and grade level to fully understand the frameworks, how to best teach those frameworks, how to assess how students are doing, and how to address students who are struggling with the concepts and expectations of the learning standards. Throughout our district, our teachers are focused on four critical questions:
- What is it we want our students to learn? What knowledge, skills, and dispositions do we expect them to acquire as a result of this course, this grade level, and this unit of instruction?
- How will we know if each student is learning each of the skills, concepts, and dispositions we have deemed most essential?
- How will we respond when some of our students do not learn? What process will we put in place to ensure students receive additional time and support for learning in a way that is timely, precise, diagnostic, directive, and systemic?
- How will we enrich and extend the learning for students who are already proficient?
The opportunities to answer these questions are provided in a variety of ways including after school meetings, early release days, and full inservice days. This Tuesday, October 14th, the Reading Public Schools will be using their full inservice day professional development time to continue working on answering the above questions.
At the Elementary level, teachers will be reviewing the new first quarter report card reporting and conference format, identifying the key data that will be reported on the new conference report form, and developing a process where all subject areas have the opportunity to give feedback on student progress. Some elementary staff will be visiting other schools to observe math lessons from the new Math in Focus program. In addition, each school will be working on building specific initiatives, such as MCAS data analysis, that are focused on school and team goals to improve student learning and success.
At the middle school level, our math teachers will be attending a day-long training with the new Pearson curriculum material that we received through a grant this year. Other grade level departments from both Parker and Coolidge will be meeting together in professional learning communities to answer the important questions above on student learning.
At the High School, staff will also be working in a professional learning community format on creating and reviewing common assessments (also known as District Determined Measures) which will be administered across a grade level subject area to all students. These assessments will help teachers assess how students are learning and what areas need to be reinforced and strengthened. In addition, Math teachers will be receiving training on the new Pearson curriculum material that was received through a grant.
Special education teachers, specialists, school psychologists/behavioral staff, and therapists will be meeting in their PreK-12 groups in order to improve transitions between levels, coordinate curriculum, and share ideas.
In addition, art, music, health-wellness, library media, and technology will be meeting with their colleagues at the elementary and high school level to discuss how to better align their curriculum standards and skills to promote student success.
Our paraeducators and secretaries will also be involved in training opportunities with our paraeducators attending sessions on topics such as de-escalation techniques, behavioral intervention tools, anti-bullying, CPR, and strategies to address substance abuse and our secretaries learning receiving training on our financial management software system called MUNIS.
We appreciate the support that we receive from our community to give staff the time during the school year to work together as professional colleagues in doing what is best for the children of Reading. It is these opportunities that will continue to make our district stronger and more prepared to address the educational challenges that our students face today and help prepare them for their futures.