|To get an idea of how the school improvement process enhances school communities and supports collaborative improvement efforts, we asked for some feedback from a group of administrators, teachers and parents from around the county. |
We asked parents how the process helped them better understand their child's school and what they got out of the process. We asked teachers about the impact that the LSPI process has had on their own teaching and what benefits they saw for their students. And we asked school leaders about how LSPI collaborations support their school communities, and ultimately, improved student achievement. Here are a few of their remarks:
If you have an interest in getting involved in the improvement efforts at your child's school, talk to your child's teacher or principal and watch for news about upcoming opportunities to get involved.
Kathy FitzSimons, PTA Volunteer and Board member, Arcado Elementary
"Helping to mold and determine what future academic years could look like, helps me to best advocate for my children as well as those to follow. It is one thing to touch the experience of my child and quite another to think about future students and teachers and parents and what we can do now to make their time as productive as possible too. We want an academic achievement level that is set high enough to encourage and push our children to meet - but not so high or unrealistic that we lose staff and heart as a neighborhood. This is where to live and learn it...where we are, what our educational experts see coming and what our impact could be, and then determine a reasonable, measurable plan for accountability. Good schools make good neighbors and good connections, and those in turn make for more desirable neighborhoods."
Scotti McClung, Foreign Language Department Chair, Shiloh High
"The most important thing I have learned by working with the LSPI, is the importance and benefit in getting everyone to look at our school from the big picture point of view and not as if we are a small pieces of a puzzle working separately. It is helpful to see how each department is working toward our common goals for the good of our students. Anytime a large group or organization is collaborating for the good of a common goal, improvements will be made and for us in education, that means that our students will directly benefit."
Dana Pugh, Principal, Summerour Middle
"When the school has the opportunity to collaborate as a staff of teachers using LSPI goals and data for improvement efforts, it allows for the opportunity of unified expectation. Using the data collectively allows all teachers to see the common challenges and strengths so that lessons and efforts are more accurately focused. Common improvement efforts and goals formed through community collaboration allow for strong efforts towards equal educational opportunities for all students on all levels. Scaffolding becomes efficient without lowering the bar when common goals are set and when all students are held accountable for common improvements, also allowing all students to reach for the same goal regardless of their prior knowledge and retention of that knowledge."
Richard Voss, Kindergarten Parent, Duncan Creek Elementary
"I would recommend involvement in the LSPI process to other parents and all members of the community. Knowledge of the LSPI, school strengths, and challenges will help everyone remain aware of the current demands placed on today’s elementary schools."
Dr. Dot Schoeller, Principal, Simonton Elementary
"The LSPI process helps our school to move from random acts of improvement to focused acts of improvement based on Data. The mid-year check up is a great opportunity to see if initiatives are working or if they need to be tweaked.…We have been very fortunate to have an active parent group that helps us make decisions about our improvement plan. Letting the outside folks look at what we do helps us to see education from a different lens. It both validates what we are doing well, but it also causes us to question why we do things. We have gotten some great ideas from our parents."
Dr. Patty Heitmuller, Principal, Louise Radloff Middle
"[The LSPI process] has helped me to work both strategically and systemically as a leader. I also like to call this running the 'sprint' and the 'marathon' at the same time. Strategically, because looking at data allows me to isolate specific areas where focused work could create small successes— breakthroughs if you will— followed by more sustained success. Systemically, because the LSPI process helps me see how so many processes interface to move the school forward. When one key process is out of balance, it can throw the school's improvement efforts out of alignment. I would like to attach this work even more directly to our school's Parent Leadership Academy and Mentor Program. Those are channels in place where we have large numbers of parents and community members coming together on a consistent basis to learn more about the school and to leverage their talents and interests to benefit students."
Gwen Tatum, Principal, Shiloh High
"The extended 5-year LSPI process will benefit our school by allowing us to focus on the same goals, while making incremental steps to improve student achievement. Teachers and students will have a razor sharp focus on the goals and the expectations each year."
Peggy Westbrook , Parent and PTSA Co-President, Shiloh High
"One cannot help but understand your local school's improvement efforts, strengths, and challenges when one is looking directly at the data and results from various methods used to test student achievement. By being involved, I have been able to voice my concerns and make suggestions to possibly improve student achievement. Our children are our future and you get a good chance to help mold that future when you are working so closely with teachers and administrators."
Mahlon Bryan , Social Studies Department Chair, Shiloh High
"The Social Studies Department has used the LSPI to develop our individual RBES goals. As each teacher incorporates the RBES goals established within our department, we are linking the efforts of our individual classrooms. Just as an Essential Question guides and directs our daily classroom learning, the RBES goals give us direction in the greater picture."
Patrick Norton, Language Arts Department Chair, Shiloh High
"The LSPI process has clarified and emphasized the importance of accountability and reflective analysis in my teaching. There are so many things competing for my attention every day that it's easy to deal with the urgent and ignore the important."
Debi Shane, Teacher, Arcado Elementary
"As a teacher, it helped me to be involved in the LSPI process so I could focus my lessons on areas that needed improvement. My goals and implementation plans were designed to help students gain academically in the areas that had been identified as needing improvement. By studying the data that our LSPI team had reviewed, I did not have to guess where my focus as a teacher should be; I had the data to support my academic goals for my students."
Lynne Wampler, Teacher, Simonton Elementary
"My involvement in the LSPI process has helped me formulate teaching and learning goals for myself as a teacher by becoming more focused on the objectives of our school as a whole and how my classroom fits in the "big picture." The students benefit when the entire school community, not just individual teachers, are focused on accomplishing the same common goals and objectives through whatever means are available in all areas of a student's school life."
Denise Burks, Parent and Member of Parent Leadership Academy, Louise Radloff Middle
"[The LSPI process] provides me background information about the school including how the school is run, how the school is viewed outside of our community, and how the system works. That knowledge helps me be an informed advocate for my children and for all children in the school. We all need to be advocates for all of our children. Being involved lets parents know what is expected of them to help their children be successful in school."
Jennifer J. Martin, Counselor, W.J. Cooper Elementary
"Not only are we on the same page when we collaborate, we also learn from our colleagues and our parents what teaching strategies have been successful and which ones were not successful- therefore we can adjust, modify, and add strategies that will give our students the best learning environment and teaching strategies that will ensure success for the students at Cooper Elementary."
Kendall Johnson, Principal, Berkmar High
"The LSPI process enables leaders to keep our actions aligned. As anyone could imagine, there are a great many 'moving parts' associated with keeping a large school or school district on the path of continuous improvement... assessment, data analysis, instructional strategies, accountability measures, etc. Working from a coherent plan keeps all aspects of improvement moving in one direction, which is crucial for achieving our mission and vision. Our LSPI process guards against unaligned acts of improvement which many would argue are the enemy of organizational effectiveness."
Tracey Alston, Parent and School Council Member, Shiloh High
"The benefit to any parent is to actually see how dedicated and focused the administrators are towards our students, and how much they care. As a parent you actually have great insight and input in these meetings that will affect the future of your student."
Dan Lakly, Assistant Principal, W.J. Cooper Elementary
"The LSPI helps me to focus on what is truly important to making Cooper world-class. If there is a question about what to do or how to do something, all we need to do is consult our LSPI. Will what we want to do help us meet our goals? Some initiatives require more than one year to reflect full effectiveness. The five-year plan will allow us the time needed to stick with a plan that might take more than a year to show dramatic improvement."
Lisa Canipelli, Math Teacher and Instructional Coach, Louise Radloff Middle
"The [LSPI] process has helped me see clearly my individual piece of the bigger puzzle of student achievement. My piece of the puzzle is continuously improving how I engage students in work that is rigorous and gets them to think and problem-solve at higher levels. At the same time, it motivates me to work toward a goal that is bigger than me as an individual. Students benefit from more resources and expertise when the school community works together."
Christine Emsley, Principal, Duncan Creek Elementary
"I am thrilled with the way we are able to use the LSPI process to focus all of our instructional time, personnel, and resources on measurable academic goals. The LSPI process also integrates beautifully with the individual teacher instructional goals in the RBES [GCPS' Results-Based Evaluation System]. It enables the school to stay on track and do periodic checks to make sure we are all aiming at the same target."
Mike Serafin, Parent, Simonton Elementary
"I feel that my involvement in this process has helped me to understand the amount of thought, time and energy the administration of Simonton puts into helping our children. I feel better that there are resources to help my child to excel and be challenged in all academic areas, as well available faculty to see his potential and assist him in achieving more in school based on his ability. It is a good feeling to know that Simonton truly cares about every student, and has the foresight to plan and address multiple learning environments based on the ability of the school’s students and truly makes the effort to help every child reach their potential."
Joe Ahrens, Principal, Arcado Elementary
"The extended five-year LSPI will provide new opportunities for schools to look at long-term goals.…In addition, the ability to assess our performance over five years as opposed to one allows schools to easily compare the growth of students over time. For example, we can compare the results of our first graders in 2008-09 to the results of those same students as third graders in 2010-11, providing significance to our results and more opportunities to reflect."
Wendi Pitts, First Grade Teacher, W.J. Cooper Elementary
"The LSPI is an in-depth process that requires collaboration and focus on what needs improvement. It is more involved than I once realized. Students also benefit when we get an outsiders’ input to what is important. Students benefit when they hear the 'school language' more than just at school."
Eleanor Neal, Fine Arts Department Chair, Shiloh High
"The LSPI has allowed the Fine Arts Department to be engaged across the curriculum by providing critical-thinking skills activities which challenge students through problem-solving, small projects, test-taking strategies, and through reading and writing critiques in content area."
Dr. Walt Snow, Science Dept. Chair, Berkmar High
"The LSPI process has, I believe, helped make me a more thoughtful and deliberative teacher. The process has created a vehicle by which we can actually do some 'action research' in our own classrooms and quantitatively measure our effectiveness at helping our students achieve the agreed-upon schoolwide goals. This enables us to see what works well for us and what doesn't and what we need to do differently or more effectively to achieve the desired gains in student achievement."
Melanie Mount, Reading Specialist, Duncan Creek Elementary
"The most important thing I have learned is how to set goals based on student achievement data that benefit students, teachers, and the community. Focusing on key professional development, Quality-Plus Teaching Strategies used in the classroom, and developing a plan that allows for teachers and administrators to work together and collaborate while continually focusing on student achievement is important."