By Kim Siebert MacPhail
Beginning his presentation to the School Committee of this year’s Lane School Advisory Council improvement plan on May 21, Principal Rob Ackerman said, “What we’ve tried to do—in light of all the things that teachers are being asked to do with mandates coming downs from federal and state governments—is that we really tried to make the [the improvement plan] as simple as possible. But that’s not necessarily an easy thing to do at the school level.”
With that, Ackerman described the four goals his Advisory Council has identified for action during the upcoming school year.
Goal #1: Improve School Safety
A: Implement a new process for student dismissal in the afternoon.
“The Lane School afternoon pick-up has never felt good,” said Ackerman. “It’s been safe, but it’s never felt good. In light of the district looking at school safety, it gave us a good opportunity to look at our entire school and how we do things.”
Ackerman said that the goal was to develop a better plan for how to get students safely from school building to cars. “The set up at Lane School was never designed for this many cars, this many SUVs; we’ve found a way to get by, but it’s never felt good.”
Ackerman said also that he will pilot some changes before the end of this year so that he’ll have a chance over the summer to reflect before full implementation in the fall. Notices about the issue will be sent home soon. “I think once parents see it’s for the safety of the kids, they’ll be OK with it,” he said.
B: Create coherent social-emotional curriculum for K-5.
Improved articulation of the overall curriculum is already occurring between Davis and Lane schools. Guidance personnel will work over the summer on the behavioral piece of the curriculum so that [desired] grade-level behavioral and social skill outcomes are identified at the beginning of school in the fall.
Ackerman added that students learn about behavioral expectations at the classroom level and that the guidelines for the social contract are posted in most of the classrooms.
C: Review current behavior plan’s effectiveness.
Goal #2: Develop a coherent higher order thinking curriculum.
A: Collaboratively unpack and understand the English Language Arts and Math standards.
B: Continue “Understanding by Design” professional development.
“Understanding by Design” [UbD] promotes the benefits of looking at educational outcomes in order to design curriculum units, performance assessments and classroom instruction. Ackerman will offer an online course in UbD for Davis and Lane teachers over the summer.
C: Continue developing common assessments.
D: Professional development in “Making Thinking Visible.”
Part of Harvard’s Project Zero, “Making Thinking Visible” is an internationally recognized program that uses open-ended questions and thinking patterns to deepen understanding. “What are the types of instruction that get kids thinking on a higher level?” Ackerman said is the question that will be considered, in order to clarify what “Making Thinking Visible” will provide.
E: Develop pacing patterns.
Goal #3: Improve teacher skills and understanding for integrating technology.
A: Work with new technology teacher to develop staff training schedule.
B: Survey staff for needs assessment.
C: Support teachers for iPad pilot.
The creation of electronic portfolios is one of the goals of using technology in the schools. “The days of a manila envelope with a bunch of sheets thrown in has become antiquated,” Ackerman said.
Goal #4: Develop shared ownership of “high risk” students.
A: IEP (Individual Education Plan) training for staff.
Referring to students by the program they’re in rather than by their homeroom is an example of how shared ownership of academically struggling students needs to be addressed.
B: Develop and share ways to differentiate instruction.
Ackerman acknowledged that differentiated instruction is difficult to do but emphasized that starting simply can lead to progress and that teachers need to have the opportunity to share strategies and best practices.
C: Schedule collaborative time for classroom teacher and specialists.
D: Share examples of productive collaboration.
Ackerman stressed that while the improvement plan is pared down to four goals, there are other things the school is working on. “This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other things we’re working on, because we’re always working on many different things. From a simple perspective, these are the four things [Goals] we’d like to accomplish.”
The members of the Lane School Advisory Council this year are:
- Rob Ackerman, Principal
- Keith Kinney, Assistant Principal
- Gretchen Dick, Teacher
- Jane Del Gobo, Teacher
- Vixen Peare, Teacher
- Susanne Friel, Parent
- Lyn Kapilian, Parent
- Kim Lovy, Parent
- Kerry Rackey, Parent
- Julie McCay Turner, Community Representative