TLC program helps Greene Co schools in staffing

Student performance impacted by uncertainty in state assessment

~by Victoria Riley, GreeneCountyNewsOnline

Karen Sandberg, Greene County Schools director of teaching and learning, reported to the Iowa Department of Education that the district has created “some incredible momentum toward system-wide continuous improvement” through the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) program.*

Reports released last week by the Department of Education note the TLC system is strengthening the teaching profession and improving classroom instruction, with a significant increase in school districts reporting they met local goals for student achievement in the 2017-18 school year.

An end-of-year report from school districts statewide showed teacher leadership was a factor in student achievement gains, with 56 percent of districts reporting they fully or mostly met their local student achievement goals in the 2017-18 school year. This is up from 50 percent of districts the year before. Student achievement goals are based on multiple measures, such as the state test, literacy screening assessments and student engagement data.

Sandberg’s report notes more progress on goals relating to teaching than on student achievement.

The district fully met its goal of attracting “promising” new teachers by offering competitive salaries. Greene County’s base salary is at or above salaries in neighboring districts, allowing the district to fill all open positions including science and industrial technology, both areas in which teachers can be hard to find.

Statewide, 89 percent of school districts met local goals for attracting and retaining teachers in the 2017-18 school year, up from 85 percent the year before. Most districts credited the teacher leadership system’s salary increases and meaningful leadership opportunities with their success in retaining all or most of their teachers.

A goal to reward professional growth and effective teaching by providing pathways for career opportunities that come with increased leadership responsibilities was also fully met in the Greene County district.

The Greene County district was in the first phase of a three-year phasing in of the TLC across Iowa. Sandberg said of the seven instructional coaches in the first year of TLC funding, one retired and one chose to return to classroom teaching fulltime. Of 20 other teacher leadership positions, eight who were in the program the first year are still in those positions, with the other 12 adding in at different times. “We believe this is a healthy balance of retaining expertise and continuity, while also welcoming new people aboard with fresh ideas and new perspectives,” Sandberg wrote.

A goal to promote a school culture of collaboration has been mostly met. During the 2017-18 school year, instructional coaches and teacher leaders established a schedule in each school building that allows for collaboration within and across grade levels and content areas.
“We are excited to enter the 2018-19 year with this schedule and now truly work on becoming fully functioning PLCs (professional learning communities) across the system,” Sandberg reported.

The goal of improving student achievement by strengthening instruction was only somewhat met. Sandberg reported that teacher coaches shifted gears to a model of student-centered coaching during the 2017-18 school year. All teachers reported student growth and 97 percent of the staff reported shifting their instructional practices due to the student-centered coaching.

Sandberg told GreeneCountyNewsOnline that since the first ear of the program, the Department of Education has changed the reporting format and the requested information, and that the state has discussed changing the state assessment for three years.

She said she has moved away from using data from state assessments because she knew the assessments were being discarded. “We shifted the way we reported student achievement from 2016-17 to 2017-18 and focused on the classroom-level data tied to coaching cycles,” Sandberg said.

“With the shift from the state level for our summative student assessment, we have placed less of a focus in that area, and are excited to see our new assessment next year and start the conversations of connecting these classroom practices to the achievement on this new assessment,” she wrote on the Department of Education report.

Because of the new report format for the TCL data and it’s impact on students and teacher, Sandberg said teachers would work collaboratively to write better goals to align them better with the format of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals. They will then write action plans for moving toward the goals.

“We have seen amazing changes in our system since implementing the TLC system and we have finally created some incredible momentum toward system-wide continuous improvement. We are so excited to see what comes next,” she reported to the state.

She is also excited to see the results of implementing MTSS (multi-tiered system of supports – students receive reinforcement or enrichment depending on their needs) at the high school. She said strong teacher leadership at the high school has resulted in teachers looking at student achievement data regularly, and that schedule changes have been made so students receive intervention or extension regularly. “We can’t wait to see how it comes together for the benefit of all,” she wrote.

* The strategies in the Teacher Leadership & Compensation plan included establishing full-time instructional coaches, tailoring professional development to meet the individual needs of schools and including teachers and other stakeholders in the planning and implementation of teacher leadership plans.

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