C.L.A.S.S. Project

(Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success)
is an inno
vative education initiative to raise student achievement by focusing on four areas of effective teaching to raise student achievement and strengthen teacher leadership: expanded career paths, effective performance evaluations, relevant professional development and new compensation models.

 

 

Introduction

The purpose of the CLASS project in the Crook County School District is to increase student performance by increasing teacher quality, satisfaction, and professional growth and development. In 2009 Crook County School District welcomed the opportunity to become a stronger school district through its participation in Chalkboard’s Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success (CLASS) Project.

Since 1993 and the beginnings of the Certificate of Initial Mastery and then the 2002 re-authorization of the federal education law , No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Crook County School District has recognized the importance of the connection between student achievement and teacher performance and leadership.

The district began in earnest to provide an education for students that could close the achievement gap in a district with an undeserved reputation for producing students with low levels of academic success. The notion that 100% of students meeting standards in reading, mathematics and writing along with all students graduating from high school became the primary district goals.

The district implemented full-day kindergarten (lost now due to budget decline), made a commitment to lower class sizes at the primary level, implemented the Danielson evaluation model, provided training and mentoring to all new teachers, made a commitment to a systematic approach to education (Baldrige), provided teachers with staff development opportunities both in and out of district, provided building level academic coaches, added district level elementary academic coaches in three buildings, participated in the Oregon Data Project, trained many administrators/teachers in The Leadership and Learning Center Data Team work, renewed the commitment to core reading/mathematics instruction , began full implementation of the Response to Intervention (RTI) model at the elementary level and have begun providing some intervention classes in reading and mathematics at the secondary level.

In reflection, district teachers and leadership are engaged in improving instruction for student success; however, because of the challenges in the current economy, the district needs to refocus energy. This year, the CLASS project has enabled a group of staff members to develop some parameter around the business of education, thereby putting the elements listed above into perspective. Because of the conversations, Crook County School District embraces the four components of CLASS:

1. Expanded career paths,

2. Rigorous performance evaluations,

3. Relevant professional development,

4. New compensation models.

By expanding career paths, budget considerations aside, the district will be able to encourage some of the most motivated and best teachers to work in collaboration with others to improve student performance. Also, younger, less experienced teachers can benefit from working with those teachers.

Within the conversation, the CLASS committee realized that a rigorous evaluation process in conjunction with the appropriate targeted and systematized staff development were necessary elements leading to student achievement.

Finally, looking at different ways to compensate personnel is necessary not only for motivation but because of a new movement toward accountability for districts and teachers alike.

 

Career Paths

In a traditional school district, teachers are either teachers for the extent of their careers or they become administrators. Teachers need opportunities to demonstrate leadership and share skills and knowledge with peers on a regular basis. New career paths are good for recruitment and retention, they are good for district morale, and they are good for student outcomes. Teachers can take on new roles and responsibilities and still be great classroom teachers.

Teachers are mostly isolated in their own classrooms. New career opportunities would allow for the regular sharing of knowledge and expertise.

Teachers that want to take on new responsibilities, but don’t want to become administration, have the ability to do so.

All teachers get the opportunity to learn from their peers’ successes and improve their practice.

Student achievement is higher in schools where principals share leadership with teachers and the community. (Wallace Foundation Report, June 2010)

 

Performance Evaluation

A performance evaluation system that does not provide useful feedback to educators is a waste of everyone’s time. Teachers want feedback, but they want feedback that is based on clear standards and a shared language. When teachers find a performance evaluation relevant and useful for informing their professional development, the evaluation becomes a teaching tool rather than a inspection checklist. Student outcomes based on multiple measure are en essential part of an evaluation tool that meets the needs of teachers, administrators and students.

Most current evaluation systems are about inspection, not about continuous improvement.

A meaningful evaluation encourages trust and becomes the foundation for conversations about professional practice.

Effective Performance evaluations would help teachers better understand how their efforts affect student learning.

 

Professional Development

For the most part, teaching is an isolating career. Teachers by and large have very little time to collaborate with colleagues and the time they do isn’t always well spent. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Districts can invest in their staff and give them the tools to become their own best professional development. Professional Learning Teams that spend time talking about student data and developing instructional strategies together help create a culture of high expectations and success. Professional development that is based on what individual educators need for their professional growth rather than what happens to be offered, makes good sense.High quality professional development impacts student learning.

Time to collaborate creates stronger school communities and gives teachers peer support.

Job-embedded professional development gives teachers time to look at data and reflect on their teaching in order to better educate all students.

 

Compensation

When teachers take on new roles and responsibilities and help to raise student achievement, they should be recognized and rewarded for their work. Teachers can develop new compensation models that value their contributions, knowledge and instructional practices, and help create cultures of excellence and professionalism. Tying teacher pay to one test score is bad policy and CLASS does not support such extremes.

Current salary schedules are based on seniority and educational attainment and have no direct connection to a teacher’s work in the classroom.

Recruiting and retaining effective teachers is essential to the success of our students, but excellence, for the most part, goes without recognition or reward.

Teachers that take on new roles and responsibilities which aid student learning would be compensated for their work.

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