Friday, September 26, 2014

Quote to live by...

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going  

~Beverly Sills

Make no mistake -- learning and teaching is hard work with NO shortcuts.  Both learning and teaching take persistence and grit, but most of all being trustworthy and trusting.  

Our Teacher Leadership Team is working hard to tap into the power of trust within our district by creating and facilitating job-embedded and collaborative learning.  This type of learning requires that our system share openly our responsibilities,  ideas, challenges, give and receive feedback, hold one another accountable and most importantly, take risks and be willing to be vulnerable.  This vulnerability makes it possible for our system to grow.  

At Benton Community we meet every Tuesday morning to collaborate and learn from one another.  We share what is happening in our classrooms (data) and work together to make our student learning experience robust.  We openly share our ideas and challenges, give each other feedback, and seek solutions #alltogether.  

We explore each other's thinking in order to build collaborative structures.  These structures include norms, protocols and providing opportunities for our educators to demonstrate and observe and build trust with one another. 

The Benton TLT norms include:  

  1. Be punctual and use time wisely.
  2. Follow an agenda.
  3. Be present, stay focused and in the moment!
  4. Listen and respect other’s ideas, but lead with ONE VOICE!
  5. Continue to be a learner.  Push yourself to a growth mind set.
  6. What is said in the room, stays in the room.  Confidentiality.
  7. Stay positive and be a solution finder.
  8. Food is a must - share responsibility!
  9. Remember what it is like to be a teacher in the classroom!

Collaboration at Benton Community

Collaboration -- what does that word mean to you?  To us -- it's a powerful word that can not solve each and every problem in our schools today, yet collaboration is one way we are bringing to the forefront what each of us know as educators and to use that information to improve teaching and learning at Benton Community School District.

Roland Barth challenges educators, "I wonder how many children's educational experiences would be different if we educators disclosed what we know to each other"  (Barth, 2001, p.60).  At Benton Community our CL/DT process is committed to developing our collective capacity.  We do this by developing our own and our colleagues' expertise so, that every student in our system achieves and benefits from our sharing and working with one another.

According to Learning Forward's definition of professional development, effecting professional learning "is conducted among educators at the school and facilitated by well-prepared school leaders"  (  Our teacher leaders model, facilitate, advocate for, and support ongoing professional development within our system -- but the real key to change within our system is when we see ALL our staff doing the same.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Week of Sept. 15

Week in review:

This week has been full of learning more regarding FAST at the elementary level and ultimately beginning the testing of our elementary students.  The MS/HS continued the work of building the knowledge base of the the process of CFA's and collaborative teams.  

Also, during our board meeting administrators shared the "hard work and benefits of our district work".  Our Benton Community District staff really rocks and our focus is on improving our students experiences.  Below are a few examples of progress made this week:

  • Staff members discussing student engagement and creating more rigorous classrooms experiences utilizing the IPI tool.
  • We completed the first week of Benchmark implementation across the district and it was exciting to see so many classrooms focusing on main idea and details.
  • QR codes were being used for students to determine their own learning path.
  • "Magic" a.k.a. Tyler Maschino set up a email account for our based on a suggestion from our staff to have one point of contact for BCTLT.  
  • CSIP and APR were approved by our District Board of Education.  
  • The Benton Community Board of Education approved the timeline for the consideration of organizational restructuring for the 2015-16 school year.  Below is the timeline approved by the Board.  Continue to check the Benton Community website will be a location used for additional documents regarding restructuring.    
    • Benton Community School District
      Board of Education 2014-15
      Timeline for District Organizational Restructuring

      June 25, 2014                         Work Session to Present Budgetary and Enrollment Information to the Board

      July 2014                                 Benton Connection Article to District patrons/parents summarizing the Work Session and options for consideration for 2015-16

      August 2014                           District-wide Staff message as a follow-up to communication in the Spring of 2014

      September 17, 2014              Board approves timeline during Regular Board meeting

      Sept. 17 – Oct. 14                  Additional information made available to district stakeholders that the matter is under consideration

      October 1, 2014                     Official Enrollment Date for 2014-15 – Report to the Board at the October 15th regular board meeting

      October 8, 2014                     District Advisory Committee to Discuss Restructuring Plan

      October 15, 2014                   Board Discussion at Regular Meeting on proposed plans for 2015-16 and set date(s) for Public Hearing:
      o   October 30, 2014       7:00 p.m.         MS/HS Auditorium
      o   November 12, 2014   7:00 p.m.         MS/HS Auditorium

      October 30, 2014                   Public Hearing on Proposed Decision regarding 2015-16 School District Restructuring

      November 12, 2014               Public Hearing on Proposed Decision regarding 2015-16 School District Restructuring

      November 17, 2014               Board Work Session at 6:00 p.m. to Discuss Restructuring Recommendation

      November 17, 2014               Final Decision by Board regarding 2015-16 School District Restructuring

      December 2014 – May 2015 Planning and implementation of District Restructuring for 2015-16 school year

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Collaborative Learning / Data Team (CL/DT) Cycle

CL-DT Learning Cycle.jpg

The Benton Community Teacher Leadership Team (BCTLT) has come up with this visual to guide our progress to meeting our learning goals with the Collaborative Learning/Data Teams (CL/DT) Cycle.  
  • Priority Standards / Learning Targets (PS/LT) - These are decided upon by grade level teams and/or departmental teams.  They outline the most important focus ares for the Common Core State Standards on which the grade/class will focus.
  • Common Formative Assessments (CFAs) - These are the assessments and scoring guides created and agreed upon by grade levels or department teams to gauge if a student meets proficiency in a standard, is progressing toward meeting a standard, or if a student's progress is an area of concern.
  • Data Teams Process - The data teams process is formed after CFAs are given to students.  Groups are formed and decided upon by the level of proficiency a student had on a specific assessment.
  • Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) -These groups are put together to help enrich learning for students who are already at a learning target and provide intervention to help all students reach a specific target. This additional support or enrichment is provided in addition to the stable core curriculum provided in the classroom to all students and also in addition to any services given (TAG, Title.  Resource, Special Education, etc.)

Meet your Teacher Leaders from the #BCTLT

Laurie Donald - Professional Development/Curriculum Leader - Starting her eighteenth year at Benton Community, Laurie has her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a K-12 endorsement in Spanish.  She started teaching as a part time elementary Spanish instructor and part time at the MS/HS.  After moving to a full time position at the MS/HS she received her MA in Teaching English to Students of Other Languages. Laurie is excited to share her experience in Standards Based Grading and technology with her colleagues at all levels.   @Ladycatscoach

Andrea Townsley - Professional Development/Curriculum Leader - Andrea began her teaching journey at Benton Community in 2006 where she taught fourth grade at the Keystone Center.  As a member of the District Leadership Team, she became interested in aligning curriculum and instruction across the district through work with the Iowa Core.  Andrea earned her MA in Differentiated Instruction in 2012 through Graceland University.  She is looking forward to impacting students by sharing and learning instructional practices with the talented staff at Benton Community.  @TownsleyAJ

Lois Deerberg - Instructional Coach - After teaching Sophomore English and Theatre Arts at Benton Community for over 25 years, Lois is excited to see the positive changes happening at our district.  She received her MA in Communication Studies from UNI in 2005 and also taught a concurrent enrollment class with Kirkwood called Fundamental of Oral Communication.  When she joined the district leadership team at the inception of the Iowa Core Curriculum, Lois realized it was time to take the challenge to develop her learning and leadership skills.  She is looking forward to working with teachers to see our students achieve at higher levels.  @LoisDeerberg

Mark Kenny - Instructional Coach -  Mark has fulfilled several teaching  and coaching roles at Benton Community since he was hired in the fall of 1999.  He first worked as a fifth grade teacher at the Norway Center, then moved to sixth grade, and for the past 10 years has worked as a middle school science instructor.  Mark originally graduated with a BA in Elementary Education, eventually earned his middle school endorsement, and obtained his MA in K-12 Curriculum & Instruction in 2009.  Mark is excited to work collaboratively with the Benton Community Teacher Leadership Team (BCTLT), and with the staff to enhance the learning opportunities for all students. @mkenny181  

Cynda Mehlert - Instructional Coach - Cynda taught fifth grade at the Norway Center before becoming an instructional coach here at Benton.  She  came to us from Waterloo, where she  taught in a fully inclusive special education setting with a co-teaching model.  Trained through the UNI Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy, she worked with an Instructional Coach as a model intervention teacher.  Cynda will graduate with her MA in Differentiated Instruction in October. She is excited to enhance the student learning experience here at Benton by supporting teachers in the classroom.    @MehlertC

Alex Olson - Alex is starting his eighth year at Benton Community. During the 2007-2008 school year, Alex taught sixth grade reading, and starting in 2009, he taught fourth grade at the Norway Center.  He completed his MA in education leadership in 2013 from Drake University.  Alex is eager to utilize his newly acquired knowledge to impact teaching and learning at Benton Community.  @alexolson54

Jo Prusha - Director of Curriculum and Instructional Services:  - After graduating from  BC, Jo went to UNI (Go Panthers), married her high school sweetheart, became a mother of three, worked in the private and public sector in a variety of positions and then had the opportunity to come back to BC to work and plant her family roots.   She’s an avid learner who has been blessed with working and living with people who challenge her thinking and encourage her quest for knowledge.  Jo asks that you please let the team know how we can serve you in your journey as an educator at BC.   @JoPrusha

Benton Community 2014-2015 Action Plan

The Benton Community School District has an Action Plan for how we will deliver our Professional Development (PD).  We have the System Process of how we will deliver the PD.  This is also seen as the vehicle we will use to carry out our PD.  We also have the Products, what we want to be able to show from our PD time together.  This is made up of our goals and our outcomes for professional development for this year and the near future.  

System Processes (How)
Collaborative Learning/Data Teams (CL/DT) - Support meaningful and reflective data collaboration, including development of norms and assignment of roles and responsibilities.  Teams will create and analyze common formative assessments for data driven instruction, study and implement research-based instructional strategies through the use of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS).
Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) - Continue to implement PBIS initiatives to align district wide culture and expectations.

Products (What):
Priority Standards & Learning Targets (PS/LT) - Identify and refine of Priority Standards and Learning Targets (“I Can” Statements) within Standards Based Grading based on Iowa Core to increase student achievement as measured by classroom, district and state assessments.  
Common Formative Assessments (CFAs) - Creation of common formative assessments (to drive instruction) based on Priority Standards and Learning Targets and essential questions through reflection and implementation of team norms, S.M.A.R.T. goal(s), and reflection upon the Four Critical Questions.

Teacher Leaders at Benton Community

Welcome to the #BCTLT blog.  Our goal is to provide one space to share the work from our buildings and classrooms and to also share resources quickly.

The #BCTLT wants to thank each and every one of you for all the work you have done in the first few weeks of school. It has been our pleasure to be part of the learning in our district classrooms. As always, if you have any questions/comments for us -- please contact us.

Highlights shared included:  
    • Positive feedback from staff survey regarding the receptiveness of allowing TL into classroom
    • 309 interactions between TL and classroom instructors during the week of 8/25 - 8/29
    • Reviewed our District Action Plan
    • Reviewed Role Definitions of “Teachers, Model Teachers, Instructional Coaches and Curriculum/Professional Development Leaders”
    • Shared the deepening of our work with our CL/DT cycle