Initiative Insights

Based on the evaluation feedback from the August 12 professional development day, most teachers found the day to be productive and the information helpful to start the year. Over 94 percent of the staff either agreed or strongly agreed that the day was helpful to them in understanding the Believe to Achieve focus, and that the breakout sessions increased their understanding of the three initiatives.

These results are very encouraging, and while a few staff members expressed concern about the length of the sessions (some thought they were too long while others thought they were too short), the overall response was extremely positive. All of this good will and enthusiasm is only valuable if it leads to implementation of the ideas and strategies that were discussed in these sessions, and if this implementation leads to improved student learning.

So while this article could quote lots of percentages (most of them very high) showing that teachers agreed that they learned things on August 12 and that the things they learned were relevant to their jobs, the real results of Believe to Achieve will only reveal themselves over time through increased student learning and achievement.

Since August 12, the staff in every school has had follow-up professional development related to at least one of the three Believe to Achieve areas. All of the schools have had continuing discussions about standards-based grading and how to realistically implement the “principles and practices” of effective grading into teachers’ classrooms and gradebooks. These conversations are ongoing and while the vast majority of staff understands the “big ideas” we’re trying to accomplish, there will still be many implementation challenges.

Likewise, across the district there are examples of teachers moving forward with the assessment for learning strategies. Kindergarten students are setting learning targets related to writing their names legibly, and high school students are developing independent ways to demonstrate to their teachers that they’ve mastered complex skills. Teachers have taken part in building PD and collaboration to help them develop learning goals together and to implement AfL ideas with students.

Individual schools are also taking great strides forward with response to intervention ideas and strategies. Most of the elementary schools have begun their regular intervention blocks with students, and some are already seeing great results as they target specific students to acquire specific skills. Additional PD will take place in October in all schools that will help give teachers specific strategies to use as interventions.

It’s wonderful and exciting that teachers found the August 12 professional development day beneficial, but it’s only the beginning. We can’t allow Believe to Achieve to become an “I came, I saw, I bought the t-shirt” kind of initiative. Our students need and deserve our support, and it’s only through ongoing implementation that real results for students will be achieved.