A Change in the Culture of Learning at Gauger-Cobbs Middle
In 2008, Gauger-Cobbs Middle School joined the Vision Network to enhance the intensive academic and cultural supports that Principal Dr. Amy Grundy had been putting into place. Under Dr. Grundy’s leadership, Gauger-Cobbs had secured a grant from The Wallace Foundation and the State of Delaware in 2005 that brought a framework of distributed leadership to the school. Distributed leadership brings teachers and administration together to better address the needs of their school and their students, creating truly effective teacher collaborations.
Through the Vision Network, Gauger-Cobbs reinforced and intensified Dr. Grundy’s plan by establishing a new team of school leaders called an “Instructional Leadership Team,” composed of teachers, administrators, and other key staff. With support from Vision Network data coaches, the Instructional Leadership Team analyzed school data and teacher feedback in order to devise an instructional focus–an area in most need of attention and improvement. As its instructional focus, Gauger-Cobbs selected “critical thinking,” to help every student build skills in learning, applying, and (most importantly) conveying his/her understanding of content.
Through this collaborative process, the Instructional Leadership Team has helped focus the entire school on creating a learning environment that encourages students not just to remember and use information, but to communicate it, as well. Students are taught using a focused curriculum, encouraged to use this knowledge in class exercises and projects, and are expected to talk about their knowledge in and outside the classroom. “We believe if students can communicate what they know, they know it,” said Dr. Grundy. “That’s clear evidence of learning.” The basic philosophy behind this communications focus can be summed up with three words: learn it – use it – share it. This is a philosophy Gauger-Cobbs has been applying to all subjects, from mathematics to physical education.