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Student learning linked to quality instruction

November 21, 2012
Inside Education — Susan Pecinovsky , Times-Republican

It's been five years since the Marshalltown Community School District received a Comprehensive School Improvement Site Visit from the Iowa Department of Education. On Jan. 15-17, 2013, they'll visit once again to learn about our strengths and areas for improvement. What's changed since their last visit? How has the district progressed based on the recommendations? Actually, there's been a lot of change.

The district has a five-year Strategic Action Plan identifying district goals and priorities. The School Improvement Advisory Committee has been reformed with representation from the community, businesses, parents, educators and students. This committee meets regularly, making annual recommendations for improvement goals that inform the Strategic Action Plan. Student results or achievement data is used to evaluate the effectiveness of programs that support the identified goals and priorities.

The quality of teaching and student learning is linked to the quality of instruction. Teachers have been working with the Iowa Core Curriculum to create common units for instruction and assessment. With more team planning opportunities in the instructional day, teachers collaboratively develop units, ensuring all students receive the same content, knowledge and skills regardless of their classroom or building. We've established five proven practices to support classroom teaching and learning: Response to Intervention (RTI), Positive Behaviors and Intervention Supports (PBIS), Common Unit Design, Sheltered Instructional Practices and the Language Literacy Framework. To become highly skilled in implementing these practices, teachers engage in professional learning opportunities, embedding new learning in the design, development and delivery of the common units.

Services supporting student learning have expanded to meet students' diverse needs. Extended Learning Program teachers developed eligibility criteria for program participation and closely monitor student performance, ensuring a rigorous, engaging learning experience. We've established criteria and procedures to identify and support at-risk students with additional learning opportunities throughout the calendar year. Each building benefits from the support of counselors, Learning Supports Specialists and access to staff members skilled in languages supporting schools in communication and out-reach efforts to all families. Students are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities, and as a result, participation in the activities more accurately reflects the student population.

All elementary buildings benefit from the support of preschool programming and the literacy partnership with the University of Northern Iowa Jacobsen Center. While all high school students are required to take a minimum four years of English, four years of mathematics and three years of science to graduate high school, additional course offerings include Advanced Placement course work, college-credit course work, and Career Academies. In 2013-2014 Project Lead The Way will be implemented at MHS, supporting STEM education. Presently, PLTW is available at the middle school.

The list goes on and on! We've accomplished a great deal! However, it's important to note there's more for us to do if we want to be the school district of choice! We look forward to the visit from the Iowa Department of Education and sharing our story with them.


Dr. Susan Pecinovsky is associate superintendent for student achievement for the Marshalltown Community School District.



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