Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Professional Learning Communities and the Instructional Leadership Team.

First, a disclaimer: I will NOT do justice to the process of teacher learning that is place in my school. It is just too big to cover in depth in a blog and is more of a research paper.

Our school, in Minneapolis, MN, is part of the Minnesota Teacher Advancement Program (MNTAP). It's part of a larger QComp, professional pay program through the State of Minnesota. The Teacher Advancement Program is a national organization working to improve teacher quality. In Minneapolis Public Schools we are using TAP (district TAP page) at several schools, including mine.

As part of our involvement in TAP, we get the following:
  • 3 full time TAP mentor teachers who lead professional development, conduct teacher observations and field test new strategies based data evaluation.
  • 3 TAP coaches who teach all but 1 hour per day. That last hour they do things similar to what mentors do.
  • 1 hour per week of cluster meetings to share best practices from your classroom and get new learning to bring back to your classroom.
  • Reflection in a Individual Growth Plan that is completed weekly.
Teacher Observations

I love the teacher observations by the mentor teachers. Partially, because I have a mentor that, even though new to the building, I respect and admire for her teaching and leading powers. I am observed formally, by her, twice a year. However, informally, she is in my room often observing my teaching and management and she gives written feedback on that. I am observed on a rubric that has 13 different categories from standards and objectives to questioning to academic feedback. It's a comphrehensive rubric that really covers high quality teaching. I am also observed once a year by a principal or assist. principal.

Instructional Leadership Team

But back to pedagogy (I don't like that word). In our cluster meetings, we have time to share what is working, what isn't working and what are mentors have learned that is working. Its usually focused but does get side tracked.

At my school, we have an Instructional Leadership Team. It is composed of the principal (who sits back and lets the other members have the leadership, it's nice) and 2 A.P.s, 3 mentors, 3 coaches, our math specialist, our reading specialist and me, the AVID representative. It is also open to any other teachers who want to have a say in what happens in TAP (only one person has taken us up on it)

In our hour long weekly meetings, we plan the cluster meetings for the week for the teachers. We talk about data and how that is driving our instruction. We discuss the district mandates that are constantly coming at us. We work through issues that were brought up in cluster meetings the week prior. Basically, we figure out how to make teaching and learning better in our school and to improve (can't believe I'm going to type this) our test schools (there I wrote it!).

Professional Learning Communities

We call them TAP Clusters. It's an hour every week, lead by the mentors and coaches. I get to enjoy the new learning, even though I had a hand in creating it. This is really where the reflection comes in. We complete an Individual Growth Plan (IGP) weekly. We take notes on the new learning. At the end of the hour, we write about how we are going ot apply it to our classroom. The next week come back and write about the outcomes, including number and ancetodatal evidence.

What do I think?

Overall, it's a good system. Professional development, teacher feedback on classroom instruction, rubric accountability and dedicated people to ensure that we stay on track.

The floor is now open to questions. I answer them as best I can in the comments below or via Twitter.

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