The Toll Gate Tidings
March 20, 2016 Edition
Important Dates to Note
3/20 - Spring begins!
3/21-23 - 2nd Grade CogAT testing
3/21 - Faculty Meeting - including 'Dr. Smith's State of the District'
3/22 - Author's visit with 3-5th graders
3/24 - "Be in-JEAN-ious day" - wear jeans!
3/24 - 4th grade trip to Liberty Science Center
3/25 - No School
3/28 - 5th Grade Campfire/DARE Program
3/29-3/31- Kindergarten Registration
3/31- 3O'S "Footprints" program
4/1- Staff Placement Preference Survey due
4/1 - "Don't be a fool - READ!" day - dress as your favorite book character
4/1 - 3P's "Footprints" program
4/4-4/8 - Spring Break - No School
4/11 - K-5 Grade Level Meetings
4/12 - 5th grade night at Trenton Thunder
4/13 - Faculty Council
4/14 - 3O'S "Footprints" program
4/15 - 3P "Footprints" program
4/15 - Dr. Smith's monthly visit
4/15 - End of 3rd marking period
4/15 - Science Fair
Author's Visit Schedule
Just a reminder...
Ms. Funari Willever will be meeting with grades 3-5 for more focused mini-workshops with our students this Tuesday, March 22nd. Teachers should stay with their classes during these times. Here is that schedule:
10:40-11:25am - 3rd grade - in the cafeteria
11:48-12:37pm - 4W - in classroom
1:50-2:35pm - 4M & 4S - in the cafeteria
2:40-3:25pm - 5th grade - in the cafeteria
March is our Reading Spirit Month!
We have two more Spirit days!
March 24, Thurs. - Be In-Jean-ious Day - Wear jeans.
April 1, Fri. - Don't be a Fool - READ!- Dress up as your favorite reading character.
A Yearbook Note from Mrs. O'Leary
Please would you send your photographs for your class candid pages by Friday, March 25th. Ideally, I am looking for shots with multiple children rather than individuals as we have a maximum of 25 photos per page. You can use Wetransfer.com to send your files or flash drives/CD delivered to the PTO mail box in the office. I will of course return these once downloaded.
I am also looking for staff candid photographs so if you have a great shot of yourself or others, please send it along too.
Staff Placement Preference Survey for 2016-2017
It's about that time! Please take a few minutes to think about next year and where you would like to be working in the building. This is for both teaching staff and paraprofessionals!
Please have this form completed and submitted by Friday, April 1st. Thank you!
Tech Bytes by Vikki!
Click here to find out how . . .
Toll Gate Treasures
“PLC Lite” Versus the Real Thing
In this article in Kappan, PLC guru Rick DuFour and author/consultant Douglas Reeves say that, unfortunately, “PLC Lite” is the most accurate way to describe the current state of professional learning communities around the country. “Educators rename their traditional faculty or department meetings as PLC meetings,” say DuFour and Reeves, “engage in book studies that result in no action, or devote collaborative time to topics that have no effect on student achievement – all in the name of the PLC process. These activities fail to embrace the central tenets of the PLC process and won’t lead to higher levels of learning for students or adults.” They list the characteristics of a true professional learning community:
- A teacher team takes collective responsibility for students’ learning;
- A guaranteed and viable curriculum is established, specifying the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students are expected to acquire, unit by unit.
- Frequent, common, team-developed interim assessments measure students’ mastery of the curriculum.
- These assessments identify the students who need additional time and support; students who would benefit from enriched or extended learning; teachers’ individual strengths and weaknesses based on what their students learned; and areas where none of the team members were able to bring students to proficiency.
- A system of interventions guarantees that struggling students get additional time and support in ways that don’t remove them from new instruction.
All this flows from the four questions school staff are continuously asking themselves:
- What do we want students to learn?
- How will we know if they have learned it?
- What will we do if they haven’t learned it?
- How will we provide extended learning opportunities for students who have mastered the content?
“We recommend that faculty members keep a very simple one-page protocol that helps them focus on these questions,” say DuFour and Reeves. “Meetings that only address standards, that focus entirely on disciplinary issues and parent complaints, or that center on employee issues may be very interesting, but they do not represent the work of high-performing PLCs.”
They go on to discuss three areas that are particularly important in productive professional learning communities:
• Assessments – DuFour and Reeves draw a distinction between on-the-spot checking for understanding and periodic interim assessments – two equally important but quite distinct success factors. With the former, teachers direct questions at randomly selected students, move around the room checking students’ work, and use whiteboards, clickers, and exit slips to see how well students are grasping the material and follow up accordingly. Students are also involved in assessing their own understanding and taking increasing responsibility for improving their work.
With interim assessments, team members give students a test or performance-based assessment and use the results to identify struggling students, provide timely, systematic support, give students another chance to demonstrate their proficiency, and use the data to improve their classroom skills. DuFour and Reeves are scathing in their assessment of the “uninformative” interim assessment process they see in many schools. It often amounts to little more than shallow test prep including very brief team conversations concluding with, “Thank goodness that’s over – now we can go back to what we were doing.” Even if state tests consist largely of multiple-choice questions, teachers’ job “is not to mimic state tests but to challenge students to show what they know in ways that exceed traditional tests.”
• Data analysis – “Many PLC Lite schools have no process for collective analysis of student learning,” say DuFour and Reeves. Without that structure, teacher teams may spend time discussing their policy about student use of cell phones or sharing preferences about how to teach a skill (“I’ve always taught it this way”). All too many teams fall into the time-honored rut of teach, test, hope for the best, assign students to remediation, and move on. “Perhaps the worst examples of faux data analysis are the unfortunately named ‘war rooms’ in which district leaders display data from the previous year’s state tests and use this as a vehicle to publicly praise and humiliate principals and faculty members,” say the authors. “This is what military veterans call ‘fighting the last war’… The best examples of data analysis lead to specific actions by teachers and administrators so that an examination of the data leads to interventions and changes in instruction, feedback, and support.”
• Interventions – The key question is, “What happens in your school when students don’t learn what you have deemed is essential?” say DuFour and Reeves. “The least effective response to this question is that students must repeat a grade or a course… The research is overwhelmingly against retention, but facts are merely an annoyance to those with strongly held opinions.” What does work? Systematic, intensive, focused, immediate follow-up instruction at the individual or small-group level. “These interventions do more than improve student success,” say DuFour and Reeves. “They also dramatically improve faculty morale. Imagine what next year would be like if we had fewer repeaters and more elective classes. It might begin to restore the joy of teaching and the reason most teachers entered the profession: to make a positive difference in the lives of students.”
“The Futility of PLC Lite” by Rick DuFour and Douglas Reeves in Phi Delta Kappan, March 2016 (Vol. 97, #6, p. 69-71), www.kappanmagazine.org; the authors can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.