California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II
Most teachers want and need direct support in implementing standards-based instruction in difficult classroom contexts. The following list incorporates some of the many items school teams can build into their plans for site-based professional learning. In some cases, the experts will need to come from “outside” the school, while in many cases the expertise exists among team members. Team members might start with a discussion of the
the California Department of Education's (CDE) 12 Recommendations for Middle Grades Success
to determine which of the following relate to current school priorities:
For an extensive list of other professional development topics, refer to Idea Bank: School-Based Professional Development from Appendix 14 of the original Taking Center Stage (2001).
A. C. Stelle Middle School, Las Virgenes Unified School District
At A. C. Stelle Middle School the English/language arts (ELA) department has transformed how they teach writing to their students. Beginning in 2003, ELA teachers believed their students could improve their writing yet felt unsure of which best practices to employ. Supported by their principal, Mary Sistrunk, and using school improvement monies, the English team developed an extensive two-year staff development effort to improve student writing. The new plan centered on implementing the six-trait model popularized by Vicki Spandel, teacher and author or more than 25 books including Creating Writers.
As commonly understood and used today, the six-trait writing model teaches students how to write well while giving teachers a common language for grading the following traits:
Ideas and Content (clear main idea, focused, interesting, complete).
On the 2005 seventh grade writing proficiency test, student test results showed:
On the 2008 test, scores showed:
How did they make such impressive gains? Beginning in school year 2003-04, the English/language arts and the history social-science departments began with two days of on-site training on the six-traits writing model (board members, principals, district assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent participated in parts of the training to model district support). The teachers used the rest of the year to practice implementing the model and used staff planning time to assess the effectiveness of their strategies.
In the second year, the school administration used school improvement funds to hire Fred Wolff, a writing consultant who specialized in the six-trait model. Working with teachers during two weeks of in-classroom training, he modeled lessons using the six traits, then observed and critiqued as teachers conducted their own lessons. Wolff met with several middle school principals, the district assistant superintendent of education, and English department chairs from all three middle schools to develop a five-year plan for continued improvements in student achievement.
As a next step, teachers studied how to conduct student conferencing from Carl Anderson, literacy consultant and author of How's It Going? A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers. As a result of the conferencing, teachers have noticed writing is stronger and more authentic.
Alice C. Stelle DataQuest School Profile
A. C. Stelle Middle School (Outside Source)
How's It Going? A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers (Outside Source)
Each teaching team needs veterans who know middle grades content and understand the unique needs of middle grades students. In addition, each team needs access to specialists who can help them develop intervention strategies. For example, members of a grade-level teaching team can use some of their common planning time to learn how to apply literacy strategies in all of the content areas (math, science, the arts, and social sciences).
The teaching team members can also learn from experts and one another about how to weave learning concepts and strategies into their lessons. For example, Howard Gardner’s work suggests that schools must develop the following thinking capacities for America to survive as a global economy. PLC members challenge each other to analyze how their teaching encourages students to develop:
Serrano Intermediate School, Saddleback Valley Unified School District
The Orange County Department of Education has provided content experts to assist Serrano Middle School teachers through on-site professional learning exercises. In addition, the county offers many seminars on a wide range of topics related to improving student performance. Teachers at Serrano have used the concepts from those seminars to improve their instructional practices.
Alvarado Intermediate School, Rowland Unified School District, a 2004 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage Model School
Delivery to special education students is different from delivery to students with limited English proficiency. As a result, the school staff uses targeted professional development so that teachers know specific skills for delivering curriculum to special populations at each grade level and in each content area. They also receive training so they understand how to use accommodations, tutors, supplemental materials, and scaffolding for students with special needs.
Rincon Intermediate School, Rowland Unified School District
Teachers add lessons and project ideas into a best practice binder that is organized by subject and grade level and is available for all team members to use.
Alvarado Intermediate DataQuest School Profile
Alvarado Intermediate School (Outside Source)
Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage—Model School-Visitor Guide: Alvarado Intermediate School (PDF; Outside Source)
Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage
Rincon Intermediate DataQuest School Profile
Rincon Intermediate School (Outside Source)
Serrano Intermediate DataQuest School Profile
Serrano Intermediate School (Outside Source)
Ongoing professional learning for teacher satisfaction and retention
Professional learning from instructional coaches
1Howard Gardner, Beyond the Herd Mentality: The Minds That We Truly Need in the Future (Outside Source), Education Week, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Sept. 14, 2005), 44.
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California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814