Monday, April 20, 2015

First Steps

I think our first steps after we have done some initial orientations is to get right to work drafting the PBGR and Performance Indicator language. It will be tedious grunt work but everything needs to flow from that language. The more clear we can be at the outset the more productive our later work will be.

So I have the people smiling here. That may not actually be the case. This actually works in 4 rounds, or two stages each with three rounds. The rounds progress with a)writing b)feedback c)revision.

So the groups stay the same in each stage. They are composed of content people from the high school and an elementary representative. Their job is to go through the PBGR's and evaluate them. I have used the criteria from the great schools partnership and just created a tally sheet more or less. The goal here is actually two fold. First I want to make sure we actually read what the state has suggested as PBGR's. Second I think it is important that we carefully consider the language of any requirement we adopt. I predict it will be fairly straight forward in Math, Science and ELA. I suspect/hope the other areas will want to make changes since their national standards have changed. Luckily there are no more than ten Proficiencies per content area. Having an elementary rep on these teams is essential for input and communication. They are going to need to keep their schools abreast of the work. I hope we can get one person per school to sit on each of the main content areas. 

The second round of each stage consists of bringing the draft statements to teams of elementary teachers for feedback, I did not include students here but this may be a great entry point for them. This feedback round stays true to our overall mission of collaboration and feedback. It also directly involves elementary teachers in the process without asking them to do any of the heavy lifting in year 1.

In round three the teams then go back  and make any revisions based the feedback they received.  So if you are paying attention, and I know you are, you are wondering where we are going to find the time to do this. Well, we aren't unless we go with a full year of 1/2 days once a week.  In this first stage we have already used 3 half days. Stage two will take longer since there are many more Performance Indicators, and trust me I have plans for many more days.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

PBGR Implementation Some Initial Thoughts

I am going to look a bit big picture first and then start breaking down what implementation could look like.

I am thinking we have four primary groups involved in implementation: the leadership team, students, high school teachers and elementary teachers. These groups do not play equal roles and are involved at different levels at different times. The level of involvement of any group will like shift over time.

Lets start with the groups

This is the PBGR team. They are going to need to stay together and meet regularly throughout implementation. Communication and consistency is going to be key. Much of the work of this group will be looking at the work teachers produce to give feedback and adjust instructional and work plans.

We will need to enlist a handful or make plans to engage large groups of students. Their interest and engagement levels will likely be inconsistent so when we engage them we will need to make sure we make good use of their time. However it will be important to have their input and they should be brought onboard at the very beginning.

Elementary school teachers will need to be involved in year 1 but I think their role should be limited. They will need to be connected to the early development work and will need to give feedback, but they could largely sit the first year out.  They could also be doing some preparatory work perhaps in unit development.

The lion share of the work is going to fall on these guys. This will involve just about every teacher in the high schools. The guidance folks will spend time working on their parts of the implementation as well.

I see three kinds of work we will need to engage in over the first year. The biggest challenge we face is finding the time to do the work. I believe it has to be dedicated, sustained and consistent. We cannot make this transition using staff meetings, ski days and inservice time. Those times are too fragmented and inconsistent to be of much use. I'd love for the boards to give us dedicated time to make this transition, say a half day every Tuesday for the first year of implementation. Crazy idea, I know.

Direct Instruction is going to be crucial for this initiative. We are going to have to develop units for each part of the work we need to do. We will need to model as best we can the lesson design, assessment activities and feedback so that teachers see us walking our talk. If you pay attention the thickness of the arrows you can see that the high school teachers and the leadership team have the heaviest involvement here. I put a chart at the bottom of this post outlining the topics we need to focus on for direct instruction.

Time To Create we are going to need dedicated and uninterrupted time to do the work of identifying our proficiencies and indicators and perhaps rewriting some. That is going to be a big issue in the arts and social studies, national standards have changed and Vermont's standards has not taken that into account. Most of that early work will be in teams. Then as we move to assessments and instructional ladder work teachers will need more individual creation time.

CFG Work this is where everybody is involved. The work the high school teachers create is going to need multiple sets of eyes on it. Creating some standing CFG's that are intentionally focused on PBGR work will be a big part of not only doing the work well, but also staying true to our vision. Having students and elementary teachers look closely at the work and give feedback invests everyone in its success.

So here are the major topics I think we need to address in year one.