Impacts 235 students
Moving teachers toward participation within a Professional Learning Community can be difficult for any principal, particularly in a small rural school where, historically, teachers have been isolated in making individual classroom decisions. The principal at Magee High School realized that improving student performance on English II and U.S. History subject area tests, which are part of accountability standards for public schools in Mississippi, depends on teachers sharing their expertise with each other. He collaborated with the Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute to create a Professional Learning Community within the English/Language Arts and social studies departments within his school.
To kick off the second year of the partnership, the principal arranged a special luncheon meeting for the faculty. First Baptist Church of Magee hosted the meeting, and the area National Guard prepared and served a luau menu to celebrate the opening of a new year of joint study. Leaders within the National Guard and First Baptist Church also were asked to serve as motivational speakers throughout the second year of the initiative.
Teachers and partners participated in a number of activities, such as a book study for teachers and classroom demonstrations and debriefings about reading and writing instruction. Coaching and observation activities were developed to enhance learning for students and teachers, and community leaders were invited to get involved and lend their support. In addition, teachers were trained for the implementation of Common Core State Standards, which will yield a new assessment that will be administered nationwide, and they also helped students create advanced research projects and writing assignments.
As a result of the program, 520 students each year for three years have been taught directly by experts in reading and writing, and 10 teachers have received direct instruction and coaching from experts. The book study was repeated with science and math teachers, and enabled deeper discussions of student reading assignments. Teachers noticed a marked improvement in the quality of written reports as well as increased parental and community involvement in school activities. Partnership programs also increased students' knowledge about the local job market and the importance of graduating.