The 11th-grade English teachers developed the model used by other teams. Beginning with the state standards for their course, they decided what needed to be taught in each unit of study. They agreed on the texts they would use and the skills they would teach for each unit throughout the year. The team also detailed the types of writing assignments students would complete and even developed sample writing prompts. But most important, they developed a common test for each unit.Those three excerpts pull out the teacher practices and the results. It's also important to say that this level of collaboration built on a strong school culture of trust and was a major priority for an effective, focused principal.* * *After the common assessments are administered, teams of teachers analyze the results to determine what they need to focus on, which teachers seem to have figured out instruction in certain areas, and which teachers are struggling in certain areas. This information about their students’ achievement provides them with information that will inform their instruction and help their students to improve academically.* * *The efforts are paying off. Today, the school has more than 90 percent of students meeting state standards, while continuing to have a strong track record accelerating the learning of students who enter ninth grade behind academically.
The story starts out as classroom assessment, but in it you can feel curriculum, instruction, culture, professional growth, and leadership, all working together. For fans of Kentucky's Standards and Indicators of School Improvement, that's six of the nine Standards in a single collaborative effort. For folks working to understand and apply the research on professional learning communities, it's a powerful example of the key ideas coming together.
(Earlier posts on professional learning communities (PLCs) are here and here. An explanation of Standards and Indicators (SISI), with a link to the full text, is here.)