Saydel on track to transformation
November 12, 2013
Quick takeaways from observing fourth-grade teachers in the Saydel school district meet with a master and a mentor teacher for nearly an hour of professional development in late October:
- No time was wasted. The meeting started with a review of the previous week’s topic:
managing student behavior. Teachers reflected on strategies they’d tried, what worked, and what didn’t.
- Then they moved on to the current topic: how to best use assessment to improve instruction.
- The overarching purpose of the meeting, called a “cluster group,” was making sure what happens in the classroom helps students learn more. “How will this assessment affect future instruction? That is the heart of things,” explained Stacie DeHaan, who serves as both the master teacher for Cornell Elementary School and executive master teacher for the 1,300-student district in rural Des Moines.
- Everyone around the table worked to resolve questions or concerns as a team. While DeHaan made sure they didn’t stray from the agenda, all the teachers helped move the conversation forward to some degree.
- The atmosphere was supportive, not critical. At the same time, the teachers didn’t seem to hesitate to acknowledge shortcomings as part of figuring out how to better address the issue at hand.
- They learned how to set up a data wall, to see where kids are, and where they need to be.
- Their big goal right now is one year’s growth in reading.
- Each week, teachers will work together using a progressive rubric that should more tightly align state academic standards, district curriculum, classroom instruction and a variety of assessments. High expectations include teaching students how to develop higher-level thinking skills.
Why does this matter?
Saydel is one of two Iowa school districts that won a federal grant to adopt a teacher leadership system – called TAP – that is similar to a teacher leadership model in Iowa’s 2013 education reform package.
Watching Saydel teachers work together is inspiring and encouraging. They have a clear commitment to working together in a new way that stands to be transformational for their students. Next school year, districts with about a third of Iowa’s students will be implementing their own teacher leadership systems.
What I saw in Saydel is promising.