Staff Professional Development
Our staff engages in ongoing professional development. Our school district is excellent about providing a variety of training in a multitude of areas. A sample of such “PD” for the 2018-2019 school year can be seen below:
Our staff has learned and has been engaged in a process called Inquiry Teams. Inquiry Teams is a method of examining data and making meaning of that data. This examination is used to identify areas of learning where students are struggling as a whole. Grade levels create goals and action plans in order to address these areas of concern. The teams execute their action plans, examine how they are going, and then re-evaluate based on new data. Our staff has been engaged in this process since September.
1) Our staff engaged in a process to align district assessments in math, reading, and writing early in the school year. This ensures that teachers in the same grade level across the district can engage in meaningful conversations around student growth.
2) Staff received training this year in the implementation and data analysis of the STAR reading test. The STAR reading test is used in grades 2-5. It is a reading comprehension test under the umbrella of the Accelerated Reading (AR) program.
3) Staff in grades K-2 receive ongoing training in the Basic Phonics Skills Test (BPST). The BPST is an informal test of high-utility, spelling-sound relationships for reading single-syllable words. The test directly assesses consonant sounds and names, consonant digraphs, short vowels, and one-syllable words with five common vowel patterns: shore vowels, final e, long vowel digraphs (lvd), other vowel digraphs (ovd), and r-controlled (r-c). Two-syllable patterns are also examined. Students’ responses can also be used to indirectly evaluate their knowledge of blending and the alphabetic nature of reading in English.
Approaches to Academic Curriculum
1) Independent Reading: One of the primary district initiatives this year was a focus on independent reading. Staff received training in the Accelerated Reading (AR) program, setting goals, quizzes in AR, and reading AR reports. Staff has been receiving ongoing training in literacy centers, small group reading strategies, and conferring with students 1-1. This is all part of a greater push to develop student reading stamina and engagement, as well as student reading identity. When students see themselves as readers, they are more likely to read for fun and enjoyment, which is what we would love to see for all students.
2) Guided Reading: Staff was trained in guided reading in March. This is an approach of teaching specific reading strategies in small groups, rather than to the whole class (whole group instruction). Models and methods of this were shared and examined, and time to plan was included.
3) Lexia: Staff has received training this year in Lexia. This is a program that can have powerful impacts on student literacy. It is an online program that is adaptive and provides personalized instruction. Lexia is used in class where appropriate, and occasionally at home when discussed with specific families.
4) iPad apps for Kindergarten: Kindergarten teachers engaged in a process to determine most effective apps for that particular grade level.
5) Writers Workshop Light: 3rd grade teachers across the district received training to pilot and experiment with a writing approach we are calling “Writers Workshop Light.” This is basically a less restrictive re-imagination of the Units of Study (Lucy Caulkins’ Writers Workshop) model. The training our teachers received allowed for greater flexibility and adaptation of the model to fit their style and program.
6) District Learning Wednesdays: Once a month, each district grade level meets to discuss alignment across the district. For example, all the 4th grade teachers from Vallecito, Dixie Elementary, and MES would meet to discuss approaches to reading, writing, math, etc. At the same time, all the district Kindergarten teachers meet, all first, etc. Our teachers report that this keeps our district unified, and keeps best practices in the spotlight so all sites feel they are generally “on the same page.”
Social Emotional Learning
1) Mindfulness: By the end of the school year, our entire staff will have been trained in a mindfulness program. For more information on that program, Click Here.
2) Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: In light of the achievement gap prevalent in Marin County, the entire teaching staff across the district has been engaging in a process to increase equity and inclusion in our district. We have been having conversations and engaging with mini-trainings around implicit bias, gender, race, privilege, etc. in order to increase awareness among our staff at all levels. We participated in district-wide book club to examine diversity in literature. We have also been training teachers and staff in equity, diversity and inclusion by having them participate in the Beyond Diversity Workshop held at the Marin County Office of Education.
3) Digital Citizenship: Staff received training in a variety of digital citizenship lessons to be taught throughout the school year.