Superintendent explains professional learning
The Fairfield Community School District staff is continually learning and growing so that they can better serve and challenge the school district’s students. Much of this learning takes place on the Wednesday later starts, and other conferences and training are attended as well. I am taking this opportunity to mention just a few of the things our staff has been working on.
• PBIS: PBIS stands for “Positive Behavior Intervention Supports.” Our elementary schools and middle school have had training for teachers and associates in PBIS. Through Trojan Traits and Trojan Values that have been developed, staff consistently communicates and reinforces positive student behaviors in the classroom, on the playground, in the hallways, and throughout the school day. These behaviors are well defined, and students have been doing a very good job of rising to high expectations. The end result is a more positive school culture that is more focused on learning. The middle school has seen a dramatic reduction in discipline incidents since PBIS was instituted, and anyone unfamiliar with PBIS would be impressed to see it in action in the elementary schools as students handle themselves with respect for self and others. Even when inappropriate behaviors arise, PBIS gives staff and administration a shared set of expectations and shared vocabulary to address the behaviors. Thank you to the school board for supporting this training and to community partners who contribute to PBIS assemblies and awards!
• AIW: AIW stands for “Authentic Intellectual Work.” The high school is in its third year of this professional learning, and the middle school is in its second year. High School Instructor Kevin Hosbond and Middle School Principal Laura Atwood have been trained as trainers for AIW to help the district sustain its efforts. AIW gives teachers a research-based set of rubrics to score the tasks they are assigning students, the work students complete, and the instruction teachers provide. This scoring is done in small groups with lost of open, honest conversation. AIW keeps the focus squarely on continuous improvement for teachers and recognizes the critical role the classroom teacher plays in student achievement. Much of the Wednesday morning professional development time for high school and middle school staff is spent examining classroom assignments, work, and instruction for elements such as construction of knowledge, elaborated communication, conceptual understanding, and value beyond school. The level of professional discourse that AIW has sparked in our schools is impressive and valuable!
• Instructional Rounds: Instructional Rounds is a network initiative for superintendents, organized by AEAs throughout the state. This year I am becoming a facilitator for superintendents in Great Prairie AEA. Instructional Rounds came out of the work of Richard Elmore and Liz City at Harvard. Based on the model of medical rounds by doctors, superintendents gather to study a problem of practice centered on the instructional core (teacher instruction, student activity, and content). In simple terms schools have a group of outside superintendents come and observe classroom learning to address an identified area where the school is not getting the results it wants. Then observation notes are discussed, patterns are identified, and the school is left with ideas about things to try. Having outside observers’ eyes in our classrooms can be very beneficial. I have been involved with rounds visits at Oskaloosa, Danville, Harmony, North Mahaska, and Forest City. I will also be at Mediapolis this year, and Fairfield Middle School will host a visit. Our admin team will use this model to visit our high school this fall and our elementary schools next spring.
Thank you for allowing me to tell you about some of the professional learning our staff is doing. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact me or another administrator.
Art Sathoff is superintendent of Fairfield Community School District.