Central Valley School District to Launch Collaboration Time
Adjusted Schedule Allows Teachers to Focus on Student Learning
Central Valley School District is implementing the next step in a series of continuous improvement initiatives to strengthen student learning and teaching. Beginning in the 2006/07 school year, all district schools will have one hour of dedicated time each week for collaboration, forming a foundation for the creation of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) within the district’s neighborhood schools.
During collaboration time, school professionals will be working in teams using assessment data to evaluate student learning and intervening as a team when they find students are not learning or are excelling. Collaboration time allows school professionals to share ideas for instructional improvement, giving students access to the strengths of all teachers. As school professionals work together, instead of in isolation, a sense of shared responsibility and accountability is created, focused on the success of each student.
“Collaboration time will permit teachers with a regular, uninterrupted time to work in core unit teams, evaluating student data to provide a more diagnostic review of a child’s learning,” explained Dave Bouge, principal of Bowdish Middle School, who has successfully used collaboration to produce dramatic improvements in student learning in another Central Valley school. “Teaching is a science, not an art form. We use pre- and post-assessments as diagnostic tools to evaluate a child’s learning. We need to prove students have learned or go back and adjust our instruction to make sure they do.”
Collaboration time will be built into the schedules of Central Valley elementary and middle schools with a one-hour late start for students on Thursday mornings, beginning September 14, 2006. The district’s high schools built collaboration time into their schedules nearly two years ago, with a one hour late start on two mornings each week.
“We absolutely need this time,” explained Linda Uphus, principal of Liberty Lake Elementary. “Education reform and growing state and federal expectations for student achievement are placing tremendous pressure on our schools. There is simply not time during the current school day for regular, uninterrupted time for teams of teachers to work together. Collaboration time gives teachers time to analyze student work, identify and act on student learning needs immediately. When school professionals work together, it creates a common focus for teaching and learning and extends the responsibility for student success across the whole building.”
On May 22, the Central Valley School District’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a one-hour late start schedule to create collaboration time in the district’s elementary and middle schools, as the next step in a series of district-wide continuous improvement measures dating back nearly two years. In August 2004, the district adopted the Nine Characteristics of High Performing Schools, establishing goals and objectives to improve learning and teaching for the next 36 months. Characteristic #4 states “staff will collaborate regarding assessment, curriculum alignment and instructional strategies between and among all grade levels.” Following the adoption of the Nine Characteristics in the fall of 2004, Central Valley’s high schools implemented a one hour late start schedule, two days per week. The “Collaboration and Student Access Time” schedule gives students access to half of the school’s teachers on each day while the other half use the time for staff collaboration. During the same year, the district was negotiating a new three-year teacher contract. The final agreement included a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to develop a plan for collaboration time within the school day for elementary and middle schools by Fall 2006.
Central Valley School District is not the first to implement a one-hour late start for collaboration time in the Spokane area. Spokane Public Schools, Cheney Public Schools and Nine Mile Public Schools have all followed the one-hour late start model for collaboration with successful results.
“As I am talking with parents about this change, I am assuring them that my experience with collaboration and the impact on student learning has been extremely positive,” explained Bouge. “I tell them that this is going to worth their time, effort and sacrifice.”
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