April 2019, Vol. 1

Community of Practice For Principals

It is extremely challenging for building leaders to find efficient and effective ways to collaborate, network, and stay informed. Being out of our buildings leads to a pile up of emails, dozens of voicemails to return, and a lack time to prioritize our own professional development. With the number of demands placed on administrators, staying up-to-date on important school improvement initiatives is nearly impossible. Why not consider joining a Community of Practice (CoP) for Indiana school administrators? Join our community of practitioners today. Satisfaction guaranteed with a lifetime warranty #PLCs4Principals.

Sign up HERE.

Professional Learning Communities Today

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
Mark Twain

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have been around since the 1960s, so are they still relevant? Do they work for schools in 2019? The answer to both is, “Yes.” In fact, they have been linked to high student achievement when implemented with fidelity.

First, we have to dispel a few misconceptions. PLCs are not book studies, data talks, or professional development plans. Nor are they Response to Intervention (RtI) meetings or Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS). PLCs are none of the above - in isolation. So what are they? PLCs are all of the above, wrapped in a special culture. You see, culture is the ‘secret ingredient’ to successful PLCs.

Picture a high-energy staff, seamlessly working together toward a unified goal. Students, parents, and the community all understand what the school is doing, and are behind them. The school has involved all of these groups from the beginning of the PLC journey and keeps them informed. The culture is positive because the purpose is clear: All students will learn at high levels. Students understand what they are learning and why. They even track their own progress. Staff members collaborate and support one another. Trust is high and teachers say to themselves, “I wouldn’t teach anywhere else.”

We’ve seen these schools in Indiana, and the Indiana Department of Education's Office of School Improvement is committed to helping all schools who want to join them. Contact us to get started and watch for a series of articles on PLCs in our newsletter.

Ambitious Instruction for All!

We, as educators, are often overwhelmed with the task of improving our instruction to meet the varying needs of all our students. We often don’t know where to start or how to start. Over time, we will investigate each of Marzano’s Nine Essential Instructional Strategies. It is our hope that if we take our time to critically analyze each of these, that we will become more comfortable in utilizing them with our daily instruction, which will greatly improve our students understanding and achievement.

Marzano’s first strategy-Identify Similarities and Differences

The research conducted states that “students should compare, classify, and create metaphors, analogies, and nonlinguistic or graphic representations. This allows students to think about the content and the relationships within the content.” In the classroom, this strategy could look many ways. Teachers may utilize: t-charts, venn diagrams, thinking maps, classifying, analogies, cause and effect links, compare and contrast organizers, QAR (Question/Answer/Relationship), sketch to stretch, affinity diagrams, or the Frayer Model. The key is to break more complex content into a simpler form. This may begin with teacher-directed activities to support students in the beginning and move towards the students independently breaking complex problems into a simpler form.

More information about identifying similarities and differences can be found here.

  • Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Growing Teacher Leaders

Do you have amazing teacher leaders in your building? Who do you go to when you need someone to lead a project or committee? Which teacher has to be on board first before you roll out a new idea to the rest of the staff? These teachers are your teacher leaders. Not only do you trust and value their input, but the rest of your staff most likely respects them as well. Teacher leaders are one of the most important resources you have as a principal, but only if you utilize their leadership potential. In the article "Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders" by Cindy Harrison and Joellen Killion, they outline ten roles that your teacher leaders could fill. Below is the list, but please follow the link to read the brief article which gives a great description of each role.

Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders:

1. Resource Provider

2. Instructional Specialist

3. Curriculum Specialist

4. Classroom Supporter

5. Professional Learning Facilitator

6. Mentor

7. School Leader

8. Data Coach

9. Catalyst for Change

10. Learner


Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices

The Office of School Improvement is planning the launch of a Cultural Competency Resource Hub, to aid Indiana Educators throughout our diverse classrooms. Cultural Competence is a key factor in enabling educators to be effective with students from various cultures throughout the world.

Cultural competence is having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference, and the ability to learn and build on the different cultural and community norms of students and their families. It is the ability to understand the within-group differences that make each student unique, while celebrating the between-group variations that make our country a tapestry. This understanding informs and expands teaching practices in the culturally competent educator’s classroom.

The Office of School Improvement Resource Hub

Last fall the Office of School Improvement debuted a new Resource Hub with specific tools and tool-kits that address the 5Essentials for School Improvement.

The School Improvement Resource Hub is designed to provide educators with access to tools that can be adopted or adapted to support locally-driven school improvement efforts. Additional guidance is provided to (1) describe potential ways to use each tool, (2) outline strategies for getting started with each tool, and (3) share background information on the individual tools.

The "5Essentials for School Improvement" framework is anchored in the belief that effective leadership is a "catalyst" for school improvement and thus it is the first essential support. The school leader is responsible for fostering an environment in which the other four essential supports (i.e., collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment, and ambitious instruction) can flourish. Although each of the essential supports is independently important, they have the greatest potential for impact when they are integrated effectively. Each of the essential supports will be described at greater length in their respective sections of the School Improvement Resource Hub.

Each month the School Improvement team will be highlighting a tool from the Resource Hub, but we invite you to take a quick tour by clicking HERE

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