Back to school
Administrators, teachers spend summer working on goals
New Albany-Plain Local students may not start school until Monday, Aug. 20, but teachers and administrators have been working most of the summer as part of the district's five goals for the school year, Superintendent April Domine said last week.
"The staff has been here all summer long," she said.
Domine said the district has educated teachers on state-mandated changes in evaluations, integration of the national Common Core State Standards in the curriculum and new uses for technology in the classroom.
Summer training is voluntary, but several hundred teachers chose to attend programs on the campus, said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway.
"We've had high participation this summer," Domine said.
The teachers' work this summer coincides with the district's five goals.
One of the goals is to reinvent teacher evaluations based on state standards. The state directs districts to develop a plan and base 50 percent of teacher evaluations on students' growth.
Domine said the district will use state standards such as the value-added measure on the Ohio Department of Education's state report card. But, she said, the value-added measure, which measures the amount of growth students achieve during an academic year, evaluates only the growth of about 27 percent of the district's teaching faculty.
"We want to look at other measures," she said.
She said the district is working with the Plain Local Education Association to design new standards that will measure student growth. The new evaluation process could be presented to the school board as early as July 2013.
"We need to determine if students are growing in every classroom," Domine said.
She said teacher evaluations are based on performance evaluations and observation by principals. Those two criteria will make up the other 50 percent of each teacher's evaluation.
The district's other four goals for this school year are:
* To engage the community and students to improve the school's culture.
* To improve communications so community members feel informed and engaged.
* To improve student achievement, using the national common core standards and national and international benchmarks.
* To focus on global and international studies, including use of the International Baccalaureate program and the teaching of more world languages.
The national Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by Ohio, were designed to "provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that young people need for success in college and careers," according to the initiative's website.
The initiative was started by parents, teachers and administrators who are members of the Council of Chief State School Officers, according to the website. The standards apply to English language arts and mathematics.
Domine said she learned last year from her student advisory council that global studies are lacking in the district.
The 18 students on the council told Domine the district teaches classes that promote high achievement and provide ways for students to learn in a self-directed manner. The district also has good ethics and stimulates students' intellectual curiosity, all of which are part of the district's mission "to ensure the development of high-achieving, ethical, self-directed and intellectually curious citizens of the world," they said.
But, Domine said, the students rated the district the lowest on encouraging them to be 'citizens of the world.'
She said the students encouraged her to look into International Baccalaureate programs, provide more foreign language instruction and provide more interaction with people from other countries, even if it is through digital learning.
Domine said the district has added Mandarin Chinese classes at the high and middle schools this year and is working to partner with a school in Harbin, China, on exchange programs for teachers and students.
The district also sponsored its first summer class this past summer, STEM Expeditions: Geology, Wildlife Tracking and Digital Photography, which was open to students and community members and included a trip to Oregon.
The teachers are involved by developing new programs that encourage global learning. The faculty is reading Tony Wagner's latest book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.
In the book, Domine said, Wagner describes how collaboration and interdisciplinary problem-solving exercises motivate students to develop complex thinking skills.
"Tony's book has an impact on several of our goals, if not all of them," she said.
She said the students will be involved by participating in focus groups and providing information that can help the district improve the student culture and its education.