MSU Office of K-12 Outreach has worked with hundreds of schools throughout Michigan, many of them high-priority and low performing. Through this work, we have found that schools that made significant progress made high-quality teaching a priority and put systems in place to support teacher growth and development. Professional learning communities—when they were practiced with fidelity—were instrumental in helping teachers collaborate with colleagues to evaluate and improve their own teaching. Instructional learning cycles (ILCs) provided a structure that enabled teachers to frequently evaluate (and reevaluate) student growth and identify where they needed to try different instructional strategies to facilitate that growth. ILCs were also key to successfully implementing multi-tiered systems of support. The building leadership team was indispensable to making these structures work by providing feedback and support, as well as holding teachers accountable for implementing them with fidelity. The schools that were most effective in utilizing these strategies were located in districts that implemented these reforms in every school, provided extensive training and support to teachers and building administrators, and met monthly with building leaders to check on progress.

The articles in this category will explore multiple aspects of professional learning.

During a recent visit to Michigan State University’s (MSU) College of Education, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said using data well is a common characteristic of turnaround schools. “In schools that have improved student achievement, everyone knows and understands weak spots, and tries to create strategies based on them,” Flanagan said.

collaborative school improvementBook Author: Trent Kaufman,  Emily Grimm, and Allison Miller

Data-based decision making is standard practice in districts and schools across the globe. Often, school-level personnel find data-based inquiry to be challenging for a variety of reasons, many of which are beyond their control. Collaborative School Improvement is an examination of three districts' efforts to reform and support teaching and learning in their schools through an increased emphasis on building capacity at the school level to employ data-based inquiry into instructional reform strategies. The authors identify eight practices that districts can use in connecting with schools toward improving instructional performance.

visible-learning-meta-study-by-john-hattie-book-coverBook Author: Hattie, J. (2013)

After collecting and analyzing 15 years of research, John Hattie’s review of 800 meta-analyses provides a compelling perspective on the key influences to student achievement. Visible Learning incorporates research on several areas of influence including the student, home, school, curricula, teacher, and teaching strategies. The major takeaway from Hattie’s work is that those influences that have the largest impression on students, are strongly related to those influences which have the largest impact on teachers.

Visible teaching and learning occurs when learning is the explicit goal, when it is appropriately challenging, when the teacher and student both (in their various ways) seek to ascertain whether and to what degree the challenging goal is attained, when there is deliberate practice aimed at attaining mastery of the goal, when there is feedback given and sought, and when there are active, passionate, and engaging people (teacher, student, peer, and so on) participating in the act of learning. (p. 22)

KochanekBook Author: Julie Reed Kochanek (2005)

The text Building Trust for Better Schools Research-Based Practices (published by Corwin Press in 2005) intends to aid school practitioners in developing a better understanding of the importance of cultivating and maintaining trust among school stakeholders (i.e., administrators, teachers, students, and parents). According to the author, Professor Julie Reed Kochanek from Southern Oregon University, trust within schools is a "key resource in school reform" (p. XV). The level of trust within a school is "linked to increased participation among faculty in school reform efforts, greater openness to innovations among teachers, increased outreach to parents, and even higher academic productivity in a school" (p. XV). Namely, trust aids in creating a school culture that is focused on collaboration and a narrowed set of goals—which translates into a higher-quality learning environment for students.

When Dorinda Carter Andrews was a high school teacher, she was her own worst critic about how issues of culture, power and privilege impacted her teaching. She devoted time and energy toward reflective practice and trained to be a more effective multicultural educator. Now an associate professor at Michigan State University (MSU), Carter Andrews shared in last month’s MI Toolkit article strategies to become a more effective multicultural educator which, she says, is “not an option but a must” to serve all student demographics.

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