First Listening Session of School Year
Thank you to all of those who took the time to attend the first Superintendent's Listening Session for employees last week. Below are some answers compiled by staff in response to the questions asked.
QUESTION: Are we considering going back to block scheduling?
ANSWER: Currently, a committee made up of principals, counselors, members from the Teaching and Learning, Human Resources, Assessment and Accountability, CTAE, and Technology departments are studying the possibility of piloting a block schedule in one or two of our high schools. Curriculum, personnel cost, operational details, teacher readiness are some of the issues being explored.
QUESTION: There has been an issue with power standards – some of the guides are more like a list of standards for the same quarter after quarter. Teachers need a guideline for power standards because they’re not always clearly outlined. Can we get something that identifies those power standards and when they’re to be taught? What about for elementary ELA?
ANSWER: For those who do not know, some of our schools have received Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) training from consultants from Solution Tree. This year, we wanted to make sure all district leaders received training from Solution Tree. Dr. Sharon Kramer, the consultant from Solution Tree has been here twice to work with administrators and instructional coaches to discuss the importance of a guaranteed and viable curriculum and a coherent assessment cycle. On September 13th, Dr. Kramer introduced “power standards” to the instructional coaches. To make sure everyone has a clear understanding “power standards” are the most essential standards for students to master, the most critical outcomes of their learning experience. Power standards are "key learnings" that will prepare students for the next grade level.
Dr. Kramer stressed that these are the standards that collaborative teams “unpack” and have intentional conversations around during collaborative planning. She also stressed these are the standards teachers are intentional with designing their lessons and with creating formative assessments.
What needs to be understood is “power standards” do not relieve teachers of the responsibility for teaching all standards, but do identify which standards are critical for student success and which ones can be given less emphasis. Georgia has not identified “power standards”; however, after working with Dr. Kramer last spring, we decided to include power standards in some of our curriculum documents.
As many of you may know with the implementation of Georgia Standards of Excellence we have anchor standards in reading and writing which are very closely weighted on the Georgia Milestones, and these same standards continue progress throughout K-12. Ms. Dennard, the ELA Coordinator, Mr. Jolley, the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, and Dr. Kilcrease, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning met on Friday to discuss how to best determine which standards would be considered priority when all the standards in reading and writing are so vital to literacy. We are in the process of researching if other states with similar standards have completed this task.
It has been Dr. Kilcrease’s practice to ensure administrators are aware of all expectations for Teaching and Learning prior to implementation. With that being said, please know that we are in the introduction phase of “power standards”. This was a part of the presentation from Dr. Kramer, and she will continue to work with our district to teach us the components of Professional Learning Communities. We look forward to continuing to learn from more about the components, and do know you will receive explicit guidance when you are expected to implement any new curricula.
As one has mentioned, the ELA pacing guide does include the progression of standards that should be taught; however, there is a more detailed pacing guide for Journeys that will provide more guidance especially for new teachers. When this pacing guide was provided in the past, some teachers wanted more autonomy with the choice of literature. We will make sure that all teachers are aware of the pacing guide for Journeys implementation.
QUESTION: Students with disabilities and RTI have increased dramatically. Can we get extra support at the school level?
ANSWER: Our population of SWD's has remained fairly consistent. Our enrollment sits under 2,300 each year. The RTI process is being worked on and streamlined. The goal this year is consistent use of system forms. Further, the PEC Department, Psyche Service Department Behavior Coordinator and RTI Coordinator have worked to identify one central office staff person to support RTI site leads in increasing fidelity of implementation, respond to questions and review student records.
Members of the Teaching and Learning Department have been meeting with administrators and teams to discuss how schools are responding to students’ needs. Our screening data indicate a significant number of students who are at-risk in reading and math; therefore, prevention built into Tier I instruction is imperative. Schools will have to be strategic and intentional in providing structures for Tier II and Tier III instruction. We are trying to work with schools to ensure teachers have a reasonable number of students to progress monitor. We will continue to check in with schools to provide additional support as needed. All of our schools are attending the RtI Summit on September 24-26, which will give us more insight on how we can improve, solidify and simplify our current processes.
QUESTION: I teach reading at middle school and most of my students with lower Lexiles have very few books available on their grade level. Can we get more books on level for these students?
ANSWER: Middle school media specialists may partner with elementary school media specialists in their feeder zone to share books. Teachers should coordinate this effort with their media specialists to find available books at the right Lexile level. Also, as the district roles out use of the Office365 Suite, there are several accessibility tools built in the suite that could support reading for students with lower Lexiles.
QUESTION: We love the new furniture but we didn’t receive enough chairs. Are there more chairs available?
ANSWER: Principals should contact Penny Harvey in Capital Program with specific furniture needs. Capital Program may not be aware of all situations and this will help ensure everyone has the same information.
QUESTION: Can we have a listening session geared toward classified employees?
ANSWER: The Listening Sessions are open to all employees – not just teachers. Due to the difference in schedules and areas of interest, it may be necessary to schedule a separate listening session for classified employees.
QUESTION: Last year there was an idea of having technology taught to non-tech people. Where are we with that?
ANSWER: Multiple classes have been offered through PD EXPRESS. These classes will continue to be offered for certified as well as classified personnel. Please check PD Express for list of course offerings. Requests for specific technology training can be sent to Dr. Monica Radcliff.
QUESTION: I’ve had problems with ClassLink not saving passwords and have not received any help through Technology. What should I do? Also, why do the computers time out so quickly?
ANSWER: Media Specialists are trained and support ClassLink at the school level– teacher was referred to media specialist – Michelle Lenderman is following up. Computers have a 30-minute time-out period when not in use. This is a safety feature that prevents other uses from getting on your computer and using your applications.
QUESTION: What accommodations will DHH (deaf hard of hearing) students receive for assessments like Keenville and STAR 360?
ANSWER: Students that are supported with sign support staff should be given sign support for any assessment requiring auditory processes. The zone coordinator will work with the school to address any questions.
QUESTION: There has been an issue with special education co-teachers having enough microphones for a classroom. Are co-teachers docked for not wearing the mic since we’re not in the room all day?
ANSWER: The expectation is that the microphones be worn at all times as they have the safe alert feature for teachers to push in the event of an emergency. The alert works in any classroom. Teachers should wear the microphones at all times whether using for audio or not.