Standard 3: The school’s curriculum, instructional design and assessment practices guide and ensure teacher effectiveness and student learning.
The staff and administration at Simons Middle School are highly dedicated to ensuring our school's curriculum, instructional design, and assessment practices guide student learning and promote teacher effectiveness. After spending quality amount of time with the standards and reviewing our curriculum and practices we have identified the following areas as strengths:
Our goal is to ensure that all students are provided curriculum and learning experiences that help them develop the learning and thinking skills necessary to be successful not only in the classroom, but in life. Each course is carefully planned in collaboration with everyone involved in teaching the course. Outlines for the offered courses are posted on our school website along with long range plans that provide an estimated time frame for each unit within the course. In addition to our school curriculum being planned by our staff, each department meets vertically (K-12) several times a year to ensure our curriculum is providing students the prerequisite skills needed to be successful in future classes.
Our staff strategically and systematically uses data to monitor and adjust our curriculum and professional practices through a continuous improvement process. Each department meets in weekly PLC's to share assessment data and high yield instructional strategies using a common PLC Protocol found in our evidence. Summative assessment data is tracked and posted in our conference room along with formative and summative assessment data posted in classrooms and tracked in student agenda's. Together with assessment data, we use classroom PDSA's to involve our students in making decisions on how they learn and what adjustments to instruction need to be made.
School leaders are committed to supporting the improvement of our instructional practices. Other than classroom observations, they attend weekly PLC meetings and provide guidance on ways to improve our instruction based on the data and information we provide. Every three weeks, our administrators share ELEOT data they collected. They also gather information from students by meeting monthly with students nominated by their peers to be on a Principal's Cabinet. This cabinet shares concerns and suggestions which administrators then share with the staff. Information from the TELL survey, student/parent surveys, and input from the school leadership team also play a role in the decisions that are made.
At SMS, all teachers participate in collaborative learning communities to improve instruction and student learning. In addition to PLCs, our daily schedule is evidence that teachers are provided daily common planning with their departments so they have adequate time to plan common instruction and adjust curriculum. We are also in the beginning stages of implementing peer focus groups. After careful examination of teacher professional growth plans and conversations with teachers, our administrators strategically grouped 3-5 teachers to be a support system for one another.
Simons Middle School teachers systematically use an instructional process that clearly informs students of learning expectations. Through the use of classroom PDSAs, students are informed of the classroom expectations for participating and learning on a daily basis. Teachers provide the students with daily/weekly learning goals and a list of standards on which they will be assessed. Our evidence provides examples that show how our classrooms incorporate multiple measures to guide instruction and provide data including the use of GradeCam which allows for immediate feedback on assessments. Students and teachers review data together to make informed decisions about the curriculum and make the necessary adjustments to learning taking place. Along with data, teachers provide students with exemplars of quality work to inform students of the learning expectations.
Parent surveys conducted by our school told us that our parents prefer to be informed of their children's learning progress electronically. Our administration uses Remind to communicate information about activities and events happening at school. Several teachers also use Remind to inform parents of things happening in the classroom. Along with Remind, the school and teachers send information via Facebook, Twitter, and email. Parents receive phone messages using Bright Arrow and parents can access their children's grades through the parent portal in Infinite Campus. Parents can also find out how students are doing in individual classes by viewing the data charts provided in the student agenda books. Even though we have multiple ways of regularly informing parents, we are striving to offer more programs to engage families in the children's education.
As previously stated our parents have immediate access to their children's learning progress using the parent portal in Infinite Campus. All teachers consistently use common grading and reporting practices. These practices are stated in our school/district grading policy found in our evidence. The grading scale and practices are in the student agenda books used by all students as well as posted on our school website.
All the faculty at SMS participate in a rigorous, continuous program of professional learning that is aligned with our school's purpose and direction; teaching and guiding today's learners into tomorrow's leaders. Our Curriculum and Instruction Committee meets monthly to review the school's curriculum and works with our administrators to use teacher's professional growth plans and survey results to identify areas of growth needed for teachers. Once the areas have been identified, professional development opportunities are provided to our staff throughout the school year.
One area we identified as an area of need was in the use of high yield instructional strategies in the classroom. Two teachers attended the Kagan summer training and are training our teachers throughout the school year. Every team has been provided a Kagan Cooperative Learning book and every teacher has been given a folder of Kagan strategies that they add to every training. Our teachers also can seek out up to six hours of professional learning opportunities offered outside of the school/district professional development.
While we are very proud of our accomplishments and strengths, we still recognize there are areas that need improvement. Even though our teachers work diligently to provide students with instructional strategies that require student collaboration, self-reflection, and development of critical thinking skills, we feel this is an area in which we need to grow. It is evident that we are in the beginning stages of implementing Kagan strategies in our classrooms. We do offer our students intervention classes in reading and math along with after school tutoring in other subject areas.
We are in the infancy stages of implementing mentoring, coaching, and induction programs that support instructional improvement. All teachers have been strategically placed into focus groups of three to four teachers that will complete classroom observations tailored to the needs identified by the teachers in the group. A Google Form has been individualized for each Focus Group and can only be accessed by the members of the Focus Group. After observations have been completed, teachers can meet to discuss the classroom observation and work together to identity strengths and needs. This school year, we also implemented an induction program for our new teachers. An overview of this program can be found in our evidence.
Just as we are in the infancy stages of implementing our mentoring, coaching, and induction programs for teachers, we are in the infancy stages of implementing a mentoring programing for our students. Every student in our building completed a survey where they identified three teachers they would like to have as an advocate for them in the school. Upon completion of the surveys, our administrators worked to place every student with a teacher of their choice. Every two weeks, students meet with their Cougar Coach to discuss things that students decide they want to discuss. Teachers talk with students about their current grades and offer support to help them maintain or improve. Our student surveys show that our students are very excited about this new program and feel like they have someone that is looking out for them. We are pleased with how this program is going and are looking for other ways to assist our students.
The learning support services provided to meet the unique needs of our students is planned with the use of current research data. Our evidence shows that there are multiple services offered to our students by the Youth Service Center. Even though we are offering many services to our students and families outside of the classroom, we realize we need more ways to meet the unique needs of our students within our classrooms. Our teachers have indicated they need more information on how to address the various learning styles of our students and differentiate the learning taking place.
- Every department uses curriculum that is aligned to national and state standards.
- Departments meet weekly to review curriculum and adjust based on student performance data.
- District vertical teams (K-12) (6-8) etc. meet four times a year to discuss curriculum and adjust based on student performance data.
- Every classroom uses the PDSA process to monitor student performance on formative and summative assessments throughout each unit.
- Departments use a PLC protocol to monitor student progress on each unit and adjust teaching strategies, long range plans, assessments and curriculum.
- Teachers use common summative assessments and use student progress data to adjust curriculum and future assessments.
- Teachers use a variety of high yield instructional strategies such as Kagan to actively engage students.
- School leaders use the ELEOT to gather data on instructional practices. The results are shared with departments in PLC.
- Teachers use exemplars when using performance assessments.
- All teachers are assigned to a focus group that observes each other and meets to identify strengths and weaknesses to instructional practices. New teachers go through an induction process before school starts and are assigned a mentor to assist them throughout the school year.
- Teachers and school leaders communicate information to parents about student progress and events happening at school through Bright Arrow, newsletters, emails, phone calls, Facebook, Twitter, and Remind.
- Every student is assigned to a Cougar Coach (SMS teacher/staff) that meets bi-monthly to discuss student concerns and progress.
- All teachers use a systematic grading process and grades are documented in Infinite Campus.
- Teachers meet a few times each month with school leaders and participate in various professional development.