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Column: Staff development boosts student achievement

District 518

WORTHINGTON -- One of the goals of the Independent School District 518 District Staff Development Committee is to provide effective staff development opportunities for all staff to increase student achievement. This has been addressed at numerous trainings throughout the 2012-2013 school year.

On Aug. 16, 2012, our teachers attended the FLY Joint Professional Development Day in Marshall. Cassandra Erkens' presentation "Beyond Grades: Promoting and Certifying Student Learning" expanded our knowledge of summative and formative assessments, mapping an assessment plan and feedback focused on purposeful targets. Todd Whitaker's session on "Teaching Matters" emphasized the importance of authentic, specific, immediate, clean and private forms of praise for the students in our classrooms. In his words, "Teaching is the profession that makes all other professions possible." The day concluded with teachers meeting with grade-level or department colleagues to share their essential outcomes and a lesson, activity or strategy that they use to meet one of the power standards. These breakout sessions have proven to be excellent opportunities to network with other colleagues in the 24 surrounding school districts.

The focus on assessment continued at our FLY Teacher In-service on Jan. 21 at Southwest Minnesota State University. Dylan Wiliams, the keynote speaker, presented "Assessment and Grading-Connecting the Dots." He shared with all of us strategies and practical techniques for assessment, effective classroom tasks that elicit evidence of learning and providing information that moves learners forward. Once again, we were reminded that raising achievement does matter as we personally empower our students and prepare them to be successful citizens in the future.

Our teachers have expanded their knowledge base at different staff development presentations in our district as well. The focus at Prairie Elementary this year has been Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) trainings with Martina Wagner. SIOP is a research-based instructional framework that provides clear and accessible content and academic language to English Language Learners. Our teachers have went through this training to help them provide instruction that all students can learn from, as research has shown that is does impact their learning in positive ways.

The K-12 Curriculum and Instruction meetings that have occurred this school year have provided opportunities for teachers to monitor and support standards embedded curriculum and research-based best practice instruction. Our professional learning communities continue to work together on a weekly basis to achieve our common goal of increased student achievement. They have been focusing on what they expect students to know and be able to do, sharing ideas for how to assess that learning and discussing what to do when students struggle to meet these standards.

The teachers in our district have participated in numerous professional development opportunities that have enabled them to improve their professional knowledge and keep them abreast of new practices in the field of education. We are indeed lifelong learners!

Connie Hesse is the coordinator of teaching and learning for District 518.