Consistent conversation is key to changing professional growth culture at WJUSD

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Trustees and site administrators engaged in a serious discussion regarding professional growth and development and what kind of changes and conversations are taking place at the Nov. 15 Winters Joints Unified School District board meeting. Director of Educational Services Sandra Ayón reported an update on work with Educational Planning for Improvement (EPI, LLC) and independent consultant Roy Casey on the school districts Professional Growth Cycle. According to Ayón the 2018/2019 school year would be Casey’s final year to work on the WJUSD’s professional development for the Professional Growth Cycle. Casey has been working with school district instructional coaches and site administrators for four days a month since January 2017. She told the board change doesn’t happen all at once, and instead occurs small steps at a time. “Little by little we’re working in the district,” said Ayón. “We had to learn our professional growth cycle and add professional development on top of that.” This school year Ayón has been shadowing Casey in working with the coaches, administrators and staff and in bringing new ways of doing things to the table. She said one of the new things being done differently is they have been collaborating and talking with the instructional coaches and site administrators about planning and reviewing professional development. They also went down to three instructional coaches (one on each site) from previously having five. Wednesdays remain to be professional development opportunities at each of the schools and detailed to the Trustees the process of working with site administrators and observing their coaching sessions with their teachers. The goal being by the end of the school year Ayón will have little by little taken over all of Casey’s professional growth tasks. “We can observe the full circle. It’s all open now,” said Ayón. “It’s interesting. It’s another level up.” Additionally on the conversation of Professional Development Ayón reported this school year is the moment that all the different pieces of their previous and current work of gathering data and making curriculum changes are coming together. “There’s a conversation happening now that wasn’t happening before,” said Ayón. “The data is saying what the data is saying and we have to talk about it. There’s a constant conversation of where we want to go and what do our students need support and help with.” Ayón said the goal is to continue to talk about the data regarding student achievement and make having these conversations about it the culture of the Winters school district. Ayón shared she’s seen a lot of positive things happening by talking to teachers about the data and working with them using the assessments to find the holes in the curriculum and what the students aren’t understanding. “We’re getting there. It’s probably not fast enough for you, but we’re getting there,” said Ayón. Trustees asked if there are conversations happening with staff about using the assessments in their lesson plans and if teachers are on board with the changes. Trustees also asked if there will be conversations happening with students. Trustee Carrie Green asked if there will be a goal to have conversations with students in third grade and up to provide some accountability regarding the earlier topic of older students not taking assessment tests seriously. Ayón reported part of her goal is that the assessments will be a part of the curriculum to help serve as a foundation for student learning. Site administrators took turns at the podium to report to the Trustees about actions being taken at their school site. Winters Middle School Principal John Barsotti shared they utilize the Advisory period every Wednesday to work with students on setting achievement goals. He said individual teachers at the middle school are sitting down with students in their specific coarse to make sure students are in the loop and have some say on what their goals are. He said in terms of staff buy-in there’s still questions being asked, but with good cause. He said he wants to make sure it’s clear to his staff that the changes being asked of them are because they will lead to different results and not just because it was decided this is how it will be. Barsotti said there’s a lot of evidence there’s a lot of good planning happening at the middle school. He said sitting down individually with teachers to look at their lesson plans is the best way to see that they’re doing and gives them opportunity to explain what it is their doing. “The roadblock to buy-in is not that ‘we refuse’ or understand,” said Barsotti. “We can’t just direct without having some back and forth. We are having questions. We want them.” Winters High School Principal Nicole Reyherme reported there has been some push back from staff because while the teachers believe data is important in some form, they don’t all agree on what data is good or important. Reyherme said there’s been questions on this specific data set and if there’s a better form of data source available. She said this has led to some staff using the state assessment tests as a sub assignment, which students do not always take seriously. “I don’t think they think this is not important or that they don’t want it to improve,” said Reyherme. “The staff is writing what we’re bringing and they’re making comments. I do indicate that when they look at this data they do wonder if there’s a better data source.” Trustee Mike Olivas shared frustration that this is the only form of data on student achievement the board is presented with that determines how the district is doing thus it is important to the board. Trustee Rudolph Muldong touched on the fact that it’s easier at the elementary school level because students are with the same person each day, however at the middle school and high school it tends to be a little difficult because of the different teachers and subjects being taught. Muldong said the fact that teachers who aren’t teaching math or English are taking a look at the data to help assess achievement and are taking part of the team effort to help make change to build an academic culture is a positive. “I look forward to the change,” said Muldong. “All of us are in the same boat together, it will work out.” Reyherme replied there are a lot of good examples at the high school of good follow through of staff bringing change to their classes that balance out with the lack of follow through from others. She said she has seen a change where staff previously were creating their own assignments are now pulling from the curriculum to fill in those missing pieces. But the challenge is the high school is currently in their ACS WASC (Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges) year and a lot of planning opportunities are being taken up by WASC discussion.  They can collaborate, but there’s not a lot of time for them to effectively do it,” Reyherme said. Winters Elementary Schools Principal Greg Moffitt reported students and teachers are sitting down together to look at the data being presented and are working together to make different goals to reach the achievement goals. He said teachers at his site are charting the data in a variety of ways and have taken a lot of initiative to spend time looking at the adopted curriculum and assessments to help support students by showing them where they are, what they need to work on and things they should do to work on it. “It’s incredible to see what teachers do when they have to time to go explores the stuff we already have. To see what they’re doing,” said Moffitt. “When we give teachers time to be professionals and look at the stuff that we have, we get buy-in.” Moffitt said giving teachers an opportunity to direct their professional growth and the ability to see and hear another teacher teach is valued and providing coaches gives teachers a resource and person to collaborate with and bounce thoughts off of. “We don’t always agree on it, but I don’t think it means that we don’t have buy-in,” said Moffit. “It means we have healthy debate. We all have buy-in to see our students succeed.” Ayón circled back the value of the having conversations with teachers. She said sometimes when teachers don’t have their objectives posted in a classroom it doesn’t mean they didn’t have them created, but it does give them a point to start a conversation with those teachers and gives an opportunity to see the start of change. Ayón reiterated instructional coaches are a vital role in professional development because they can do the follow up with teachers. “Professional development is usually a one-time sit down thing. Instructional Coaches keeps it an every day thing,” said Ayón. “Unless it’s brought back over and over it goes back to the back, and you go back to your old ways. If it’s a constant conversation it becomes a part of the culture.”]]>

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