Successful partnerships are to be celebrated every chance we get. Successful partnerships provide not only hope to others but also a proven blueprint of what works as a result of strategic partnerships. One such partnership to be celebrated is the partnership with Prosper ISD- a public school district that is putting student achievement at the core of everything they do. During the 2015-2016 school year, I had the distinct pleasure to serve the teachers at Baker Elementary providing a series of professional learning to address the needs of their English Language Learners (ELL). Leading this initiative were the campus principal and the district director for bilingual/ESL services. It is always admirable to witness dedicated leaders!
Meeting the needs of English Language Learners requires strategic designs that promote systemic flexibility. Baker Elementary during this said school year explored an alternative model of professional learning that would correlate to student achievement. It was a model that enabled continuous professional learning. This model is nothing new. Research from Dr. Darling-Hammond on teacher effectiveness is widely used in designing professional learning that is continuous in nature.
Prosper educators are some of the finest educators in Texas! Their capacity for growth is outstanding and inspirational. Mr. Gorman- the principal of Baker Elementary committed to the charge for all his teachers to be fully equipped in meeting the needs of all students and not just their English Language Learners. Using a professional learning approach that was continuous enabled the teachers to measure their professional growth in addition to the intended student achievement growth. Together we planned a series of professional learning opportunities to span the entire school year. As the facilitator of their learning, I was impressed to see teachers take ownership of their own professional growth and practice.
Teachers are in the trenches of teaching and learning. Their input is not only crucial but also necessary in discovering what works in student achievement. The return on investment at Baker Elementary was evident when the 2016 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) accountability was released. Baker students not only met their goals for the 2016 STAAR accountability ratings, but also exceeded in some areas. Anyone in education knows that meeting set goals for accountability is not an easy task to accomplish. As all good leaders, the principal analyzed his campus data and compared results to previous years. He discovered some things that stood out. Mr. Gorman believed the continuous approach to professional learning helped to increase his teachers’ effectiveness for meeting the needs of all their students.
Last semester (2016), I received an opportunity to nominate an outstanding campus through Learning Forward Texas- a state affiliate organization of LearningFoward (formerly known as National Staff Development Council). LearningFoward offers national opportunities for educators to grow and learn. As part of its purpose and mission, LearningFoward Texas recognizes districts and campuses who use high-quality professional learning to impact student achievement. It was the best custom-made opportunity to highlight the excellent work Baker Elementary staff had accomplished.
With the penchant of a proud facilitator and friend, I nominated the campus for the Outstanding Campus Professional Learning program- an award that highlighted campus level professional learning that are results-driven with an impact on student achievement. Imagine my excitement when the news came that Baker Elementary won the 2017 Outstanding Campus for Professional Learning award! I was beyond thrilled! Mr. Gorman and Mrs. Gassman's leadership played a key role in this exceptional result. Without the trust and support of using an alternative continuous approach to professional learning, the results would not have been possible. Not only did both attend the sessions, the principal reinforced session concepts during faculty meetings and encouraged his teachers with what they were learning during each session. They both made my service and job smarter and not harder. This is the mark of outstanding instructional leaders!
At the January 2017 Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Mid-Winter Conference in Austin, Texas, Baker Elementary was recognized for its accomplishments. The commitment that Baker Elementary has made to professional learning is commendable. The commitment speaks to the district and campus-wide belief in teacher and student success. Students succeed because teachers commit to life-long learning; thereby creating a culture of student achievement.
Darling-Hammond, L., & Sykes, G. (1999). Teaching as the Learning Profession: Handbook of Policy and Practice (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Texas Education Agency 2016 Accountability Rating System
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). The Condition of Education 2016 (NCES 2016-144), English Language Learners in Public Schools.