Teamwork is a significant core value within the Bexley City Schools -- from the administration all the way down to the student body.

Teamwork is a significant core value within the Bexley City Schools -- from the administration all the way down to the student body.

For three days this week, more than 30 Bexley teachers attended a summer institute to work on curriculum development and student enrichment specifically in the areas of language arts and math.

Jana Clarke, who teaches second grade at Cassingham Elementary School; Christina Williams, who teaches fifth grade at Montrose Elementary School; and Rachel Niswander, a teacher of fourth grade at Maryland Elementary School, served as the grant writers and catalysts for the program. The summer institute was developed and arranged by Laura Lipsett, the district's executive director of student programs.

Consultants helping with the effort were enrichment expert Joan Smith, from the Teaching and Learning Collaborative, and reading/literacy representative Barb Golub. Smith demonstrated problem solving and critical thinking techniques in the classroom during the school year and returned to the institute to further her collaboration with Bexley's teachers.

Williams said organizers wanted to build ongoing relationships with both consultants throughout the year.

Teachers focused on using student assessments and data to help build action plans that could assist students in meeting their academic progression. Teachers studied tests and writing samples of students to understand their abilities and thought process.

"It's all about meeting our students' needs and what are the best teaching practices to meet our diverse population of needs," Niswander said.

Progression of learning is a focus of the teachers at Bexley. The teachers use test assessments to identify students' strengths while trying to support them in other subjects.

"Good teaching is going to support whatever tests are out there," Niswander said.

Clarke said that data of each student assessment is analyzed and then an action plan is created for each student through a language arts and math lens.

Niswander said a test does not define their students, but they are seen by their growth over a year-long process that carries from grade to grade.

"Getting quicker at making decisions about what kids need so that we can right away intervene," is key, said Williams. She said teachers want to set high and attainable expectations for students by connecting the information they know and using that to build upon the subjects they may be uncertain about.

The seminars placed teachers in small groups to discuss the perspective of students when analyzing their work. The language arts workshop consisted of evaluating reading skill levels, the depth of student work and the interpretation of literary passages. Teachers went through a line-by-line analysis of a student's writing sample to understand why the student responded in a certain manner.

Kelly Harris, a second-grade teacher at Cassingham, said teachers want students to not just know the answer when it pertains to math, but to understand and combine concepts and why they arrived at an answer.

"As a district community of teachers, we always value coming together as a team to either refine our teaching practices or develop new ones," she said.

The Bexley Education Foundation sponsored the grant that was written for the three-day program and the expenses of the consultants. All three elementary schools and grade levels were represented at the institute to demonstrate the community approach that Bexley teachers have within the district. The teachers who attended will be able to share their training with their colleagues throughout the district.