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State of the District: Thinking Strategies/NYWP
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Implementation of Key Initiatives

  • Students will meet or exceed rigorous academic standards in all areas of student achievement with an emphasis in math, science, language arts, and social studies
  • Students will demonstrate mastery of the standards through multiple measures, knowledge and critical thinking across the disciplines
  • We believe it is essential for students to develop higher-level critical thinking, problem solving, and reasoning skills

With a focus on academic standards, most currently the Common Core Standards, the Lafayette School District has researched, implemented, and continued to deepen work focused on the thinking strategies/writing as put forth by Ellin Keene in her research text, Mosaic of Thought and Lucy Caulkinsin her research piece, The Art of Writing.

  • In-depth thinking strategy training and follow-up coaching for teachers at each grade level, K-8, has taken place over the past five years. This training has included grade level training sessions, extensive professional reading and modeling of strategy implementation, whole group training sessions during professional development days as well as demonstration lessons with extensive pre-brief/debrief sessions. Thinking strategies and New York Writing Project/writing strategies, aligned to standards, form the foundation for reading/reading comprehension/literacy instruction in grades K-8.
  • In addition, all teachers have received extensive training in the differentiation of instruction. Differentiation strategies are used in all classrooms to support the targeted needs of each student.
  • To expand and deepen instruction in writing and to build critical connections between writing and thinking strategy work, teachers, K-8, have also participated in New York Writing Project (NYWP) training and have had opportunities to observe implementation in classrooms in the San Ramon Valley School District. Parallel training and strategy work has been provided in the area of NYWP implementation. A six day New York Writing Project training is planned for middle school Core and English and history teachers in February and April 2012.
  • Strategy Study sessions (akin to Professional Learning Communities) at each grade level (one to two per year) continue to focus on successes and challenges with the implementation of critical thinking/reading/writing strategies. These learning communities promote intensive, structured opportunities to share strategies, engage in collaborative discussions, and observe peers in classrooms.
  • An internal, full-time literacy/thinking strategies coach provides support and training for teachers at all sites. This includes, but is not limited to, in-depth planning focused on strategy implementation, grade level collaborative dialogue about strategy work and next steps, demonstration lessons with extensive feedback, and professional reading.
  • There is a continual focus in most classrooms on thinking strategy/NYWP/writing implementation which includes implementation of the readers/writers workshop model.
  • To better assess the results of the critical thinking/strategy work taking place in classrooms, a Tuning Protocol is beginning to be used as a structured, step-by-step model for small groups of teachers to engage in collaborative dialogue and the in-depth analysis of student work samples related to the thinking strategy work taking place in classrooms.
  • A district-wide on-line site called the NING also provides teachers with access to video clips and information so that they can view colleagues implementing effective reading/writing/critical thinking strategies.
  • Approximately fifty teachers have attended in-depth, five day thinking strategy trainings with Ellin Keene and numerous researchers well known in the field in Denver, Colorado over the past five years. Researchers including Ellin Keene, Chris Tovani, Stephanie Harvey, Debbie Miller have also provided training in our district and/or have provided training for teachers in nearby locations.
  • To promote the thinking strategy work across the curriculum, our district also hosted a three day, intensive Public Education Business Coalition (PEBC) with trainers from Denver Colorado for all science teachers, K-8, in the district.
  • Thinking strategy science notebooks are beginning to be used at some K-5 sites to promote deeper thinking and questioning of science content.
  • Parent Education nights have provided information about the strategy work taking place in classrooms.  

How do we measure success?

  • Teacher feedback and anecdotal information collected after all strategy study sessions, professional development workshops, and coaching sessions
  • Teachers meet regularly in grade level/cross grade level teams at their sites and district-wide to engage in collaborative conversations about strengths and challenges with strategy work and their corresponding impact on student achievement
  • Observational data collected from classroom walkthroughs at each site
  • Information collected and shared from Strategy Study Sessions
  • Structured, collaborative dialogue sessions including fishbowl sessions, tuning protocol sessions, and grade level team meetings
  • Continue to analyze data from CSTs and Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) to assess growth, particularly as it applies to a students’ ability to comprehend text
  • Because we strive to find tangible, viable evidence to measure the success of strategy instruction in classrooms, we are currently engaged in a research project designed to assess students’ use of the thinking strategies through the annotation of text and written response. This assessment will serve as a tool for analyzing how strategy instruction translates into the ability to process ideas in writing and will provide an instructional tool for teachers as they provide thinking strategy instruction.
  • Research conducted and shared by teachers (e.g. Kate Besocke’s research paper)
  • Common Core Standards call for much more critical thinking to be applied to daily instruction; we are hopeful that the resulting assessments will provide more relevant data in this area

What are the challenges?

  • Focusing teaching on strategy work/workshop is a shift in thinking and planning. Collaboration, reflection, and risk-taking are some of the pieces at the heart of this work. Implementation alongside Houghton Mifflin can also present challenges. Implementation can be hard, time consuming, but incredibly rewarding. Deepening and expanding teacher practice related to this work is a continual challenge.
  • Moving reluctant teachers forward
  • Finding ways to assess this work that move beyond the collection of observational, anecdotal data

What are the next steps?

  • Provide additional focused, concrete professional development for each grade level that moves beyond the study of individual strategies to lesson design and the implementation of each piece of the workshop model.
  • Train additional literacy coaches to support teachers at each site.
  • Support teachers at Stanley in the implementation of NYWP strategies following the six day training in February and April.
  • Continue to work closely with our district literacy coach to gain understanding and provide more targeted support for the work taking place in classrooms.
  • Provide strategy study sessions for administrators to deepen their understanding of this work and so that they can better support teachers at their site.
  • Provide on-going collaboration time for collegial dialogue and sharing of strategy work. This work demands this type of collaborative time.
  • Continue to work to find ways to assess the implementation of this work. Is there statistical data that can be collected to better determine the effectiveness of this work? What does it look like?
  • Continue to study and implement the Common Core Standards.
  • With the implementation of the Common Core, non-fiction writing and navigating non-fiction text will need to become more of a focus
  • Assess the results of the research project currently being conducted (see ‘How do we Measure Success’ above)
  • Continue to connect with Ellin Keene, Cris Tovani, and other researchers in this field to discuss our current effort and gain ideas for next steps. (We are currently planning to have Ellin Keene come to our district in the fall of 2012.)