Rogers High among schools se­lected for state pi­lot project

Group em­pha­sizes team build­ing among teach­ers to im­prove learn­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - BRENDA BERNET AND CYNTHIA HOW­ELL

Rogers High School is among 11 Arkansas schools and one school dis­trict se­lected to par­tic­i­pate in a pro­fes­sional learn­ing com­mu­ni­ties pi­lot project.

They were among 86 ap­ply­ing to re­ceive sup­port from So­lu­tion Tree, a na­tional pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion that spe­cial­izes in team build­ing among teach­ers as a way to im­prove stu­dent learn­ing.

The schools and dis­trict will re­ceive up to 50 days of train­ing, coach­ing and sup­port to build and sus­tain a

strong cul­ture of col­lab­o­ra­tion.

A num­ber of schools in Rogers ap­plied for the project, and Vir­ginia Aber­nathy, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of teach­ing and learn­ing, is ex­cited Rogers High School was cho­sen.

Staff at Rogers schools are at var­i­ous stages of work­ing in teams and are fa­mil­iar with So­lu­tion Tree work­shops, she said.

The state project will pro­vide more in­ten­sive, fo­cused work to im­prove in­struc­tion and use stu­dent aca­demic data to drive in­struc­tion, Aber­nathy said. The teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors also hope to see im­prove­ment in the grad­u­a­tion rate and to re­duce ab­sences.

“The ul­ti­mate goal is to im­prove stu­dent achieve­ment,” she said. “How can we do a bet­ter job of meet­ing the needs of every stu­dent that at­tends Rogers High School.”

Par­tic­i­pants in the state’s pi­lot project will be matched with a cer­ti­fied Pro­fes­sional Learn­ing Com­mu­ni­ties at Work as­so­ci­ate from So­lu­tion Tree. The as­so­ciates will pro­vide on-site train­ing, ob­ser­va­tion and coach­ing. The se­lected schools and dis­trict will cre­ate action plans that fo­cus on in­creas­ing stu­dent achieve­ment through aligned cur­ricu­lum, for­ma­tive assess­ment and proven in­struc­tional strate­gies.

Many schools sched­ule time for teach­ers to meet in struc­tures they call pro­fes­sional learn­ing com­mu­ni­ties, but a true pro­fes­sional learn­ing com­mu­nity in­volves teams of ed­u­ca­tors work­ing in­ter­de­pen­dently to achieve a com­mon goal, ac­cord­ing to the late Richard Du­Four. The long­time pub­lic school ed­u­ca­tor was one of the ar­chi­tects of Pro­fes­sional Learn­ing Com­mu­ni­ties at Work. He died in Fe­bru­ary. He spoke

dur­ing a 2015 three-day in­sti­tute at Spring­dale Har-Ber High School.

The term pro­fes­sional learn­ing com­mu­nity has ex­isted since the 1970s, but Du­Four con­trib­uted to a greater un­der­stand­ing of how to make them work ef­fec­tively when he co-au­thored the book Pro­fes­sional Learn­ing Com­mu­ni­ties at Work with Robert Eaker, a pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tional Lead­er­ship at Mid­dle Ten­nessee State Univer­sity. So­lu­tion Tree pub­lished the book in 1998.

“When ed­u­ca­tors share best prac­tices and work to­gether to ad­dress ar­eas that need im­prove­ment, our stu­dents have end­less op­por­tu­ni­ties to grow and learn,” Arkansas Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sioner Johnny Key said in an­nounc­ing the se­lected cam­puses. “Th­ese schools are com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing Arkansas leads the na­tion in stu­dent­fo­cused ed­u­ca­tion.”

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