Changing the Language of Instruction at Central Middle School
Central Middle School is changing. At least that’s how Principal Dr. Darren Guido sees it. Just a few years ago, data and instruction were far less prevalent in conversations among teachers, and Dr. Guido himself spent less time on instruction. The students acted differently, as well. “Our students had issues looking at a problem,” explains Dr. Guido. “They didn’t go down deep to solve the problem, so they couldn’t communicate the issues or solutions.”
This fact was discovered after Dr. Guido and his staff began working with Vision Network data coaches. These data coaches assisted the staff in putting together an instructional leadership team (ILT) and training them to analyze five years’ worth of DSTP results and other data. This led them to develop a new instructional focus concentrating on developing their students’ ability to problem-solve and to communicate solutions. To implement this focus, changes were needed.
The first action taken in partnership with Vision Network trainers and the ILT was a complete overhaul of the school’s scheduling to allow for more collaboration among teachers. The school was split into four teams per grade level and also split into teams based on subject area. These teams met during the school day to discuss common issues in their grades and subject areas and to brainstorm on ways to solve these problems.
Next, the school began to utilize Vision Network data use training sessions to track student progress through the school year. The school instituted a program called “Meet the Challenge,” replicated from a successful program that began in Indian River School District, which focused on using math and reading exercises in all classes to track a student’s understanding of the topic. This program also brought teachers together to figure out common terminology between subjects to provide for greater cross-topic understanding of the material.
“The conversations that my staff has are changing. They are now willing to talk instruction and are open to allowing other teachers to come in and observe. Our language of instruction is changing,” said Dr. Guido. “With this change, we can provide a better instructional environment for all of our students.”
The work did not end there. Dr. Guido also has worked with a Network “thought partner” to better allocate his own time. The goal is to focus more of his time on instruction, rather than on administrative tasks. Although he now spends more of his time on instruction than ever, he continues to work every day to minimize the bureaucratic aspects of his job in favor of a school that runs more smoothly and focuses more energy on teaching students.
These changes have been transforming the instructional and structural environment of Central Middle School. Teachers are working together. Administrators are working more efficiently. These changes are producing students who can think through and solve problems, as well as communicate ideas.