In order to allow their teachers more collaboration time, Deer Creek School District put “Late Start Wednesdays” in place in the fall of 2012.
The “Late Start” program involved school beginning 70 minutes later and school transportation running 70 minutes later on Wednesday of each week through early April.
The purpose of the weekly “Late Start” was to provide focused time for teachers and administrators to collaborate as they worked to provide more meaningful opportunities of teaching and learning. Some examples of the work teachers and administrators took part in included curriculum alignment development, teacher and student assessments, professional development and student data reviews.
More and more is asked from teachers and administrators but adequate time to provide what is asked has not been factored into the school day, said Deer Creek Board of Education member Danny Barnes during a board meeting.
Even with the reduction of class time per week, the Deer Creek students still exceeded the state-mandated minimum for instructional time, administrators said.
Gina Beeson teaches Senior English and pre-AP English II at Deer Creek High School. She said the “Late Start” afforded the teachers time to do real work as a collaborative team.
“It was prescriptive so we had to accomplish specific things on certain days,” Beeson said. “More than anything the collaboration time opened lines of communication in our department. It gave us a time to dialogue. We definitely recognized the need to do vertical alignment in little pockets of time. Although we could work with freshmen occasionally, we definitely worked with sophomores and juniors.”
The time spent by the teachers was two-fold, Beeson said.
“Either it was faculty-wide where we worked with the Art and Science of teaching for the new teacher evaluation, which I found to be tremendously helpful, or we worked with our department. When working with the department it was more with the Common Core Concepts to help us in the discipline of writing.”
Beeson said the district plans on “Late Start Wednesdays” during the 2013-14 school year, but the teachers have not heard what format will be used.
“Teachers were asked for their input and the general consensus was it would be helpful if the teachers had more time to work together for curriculum alignment and to move into that next stage of assessment,” Beeson said.
Both Beeson and Deer Creek High School English I teacher Deon Liebl came from a district where collaboration was done before and after school, on the weekends and in the summer.
Liebl said, “With the collaboration time during the school day there are no distractions while meeting at a set time each week.”
She said during that time everyone’s strengths are shared as teachers share lessons and the plethora of ideas they have among themselves.
“We sift through the information and discuss what lessons were the most important and the best,” Liebl said. “Time was spent within the departments with writing skills and which ones were the most valid.”
Liebl said while part of the time was spent sharing and improving lesson plans, part of the time was spent looking at teacher evaluation tools.
The teacher evaluation system changed this year statewide and Deer Creek administration made a concentrated effort to make sure teachers were informed of the Common Core Standards, Liebl said.
“End of Instruction testing is a component of our meetings but not the only reason for the collaborative meetings,” Liebl said.
On the elementary level, DeAnna Tate is a fourth-grade teacher at Deer Creek Elementary School. She said she loved the time spent with the other teachers on vertical collaboration.
“We were able to meet with first-, second- and third-grade teachers and see what we were working on in the classrooms,” Tate said. “In one session we worked on practice writing, and we worked on all using the same academic vocabulary. Words like hook, first and second sentences and paragraphs, and multiple paragraphs. It was nice to sit down and all use the same academic vocabulary.”
Tate said the teachers worked on enrichment or how to reteach a specific objective and how they challenge their students.
Tate said the teachers at her school also looked at Common Core Curriculum.
“We always had an agenda so we could come prepared with materials,” Tate said. “I know we will continue this next year because we saw it worked. Consistent and specific collaboration were the keys. With these two things we got a lot accomplished during our time together.”
Tiffany Patrick, a Rose Union Reading coach, said communication needs to happen among the teachers and “Late Start” allowed that to happen.
“Since I work with all grade levels, kindergarten through 4th grade, I see students from most all of the classrooms,” Patrick said. “I get to use the time to collaborate with the teachers during that hour’s time and give feedback on how students are doing. We always worked in a team. Those conversations need to happen and ‘Late Start’ made it possible for us to have meaningful, focused discussions.”
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