I love the fall — especially the one we are having this year. And I love football … the Huskies-Stanford game on Sept. 27th was not to be missed. The teamwork, split second handoffs, and do whatever it takes attitude, contributed to the win. The Huskies were not predicted to win against Stanford — but they did ... with time, teaching and teamwork.
In schools these same three elements — time, teaching, and teamwork — are critical to the success of our teachers and students. And our game plan now includes the new national Common Core Standards that are more rigorous than previous state standards. In football, the team works hard to make every play successful; in education teachers work hard to help every student be successful. Teachers need time and teamwork to share teaching practices that help every student meet these new more rigorous standards. Our new teacher evaluation system also supports the new standards — and includes teacher collaboration as part of the evaluation.
Teams are critical. Teachers look at data frequently to see if students are making progress — not waiting until the end of the year. Teams also insure that every student has access to the same learning opportunities and curriculum.
Creating time for teacher teams to work together has always been a challenge. During the day, teachers are working with students. Before and after school, they prepare lessons, communicate with parents, and grade papers. To ensure that teachers have time to work with colleagues on helping all students be successful, we have made several changes to the school calendar:
Consistent early releases — nearly every Friday — and nearly all two hour early releases. This provides families more consistency in their schedules and, based on feedback from parents, Fridays work better for most families than Wednesdays as we had last year.
Fewer Furlough days than last year — three longer four-hour early releases to make up for teacher pay cuts at the state level. One of those days — October 12th — gives us the opportunity to provide a district wide day of learning. Many teachers will give up their furlough day to learn from colleagues who will share their expertise in teaching.
Same instructional time as last year: We still provide the same 1,000 hours of instruction that we always have. We have moved the time around but still keep the focus on instruction and learning.
Collaboration time. Time for teachers to work together on student learning is more important than ever. Those early release days that parents see on the calendar provide time for staff to work together to improve student learning and become knowledgeable about the new common core state standards.
Our mission remains that every student be proficient in literacy and math, graduate on time, and be prepared for success in college, career, and responsible citizenship. To accomplish our mission — to win the game even when that may be as challenging as the Huskies game against Stanford — we need time, teacher expertise and teamwork. Football is about entertainment. School is about a more successful future for our kids. We can do this — with each other.
Gail Miller is the Assistant Superintendent and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 360-653-0818.