Search
Tuesday, December 10, 2019

News

News

Educators Complete Leading for Better Instruction Program
Tammy Moreau and Kathy Gunn
/ Categories: Press Releases

Educators Complete Leading for Better Instruction Program

Intensive training institute designed to better prepare leaders

Ten Central Louisiana public school administrators have concluded a vigorous, three-year training program designed to improve their leadership skills, enhance classroom instruction and ultimately impact student achievement.

The educators were the first group to complete Leading for Better Instruction, an intensive training aimed primarily at principals and taught by the University of Washington’s Center for Educational Leadership, administered by The Orchard Foundation and funded by The Rapides Foundation. The program participants are fully prepared for leadership positions in their school districts, and their school faculties and students have become stronger in the process. 

“Like all of our programs, Leading for Better Instruction is geared around instruction because the key to student learning is quality instruction,” said Marjorie Taylor, Executive Director of The Orchard Foundation. Leading for Better Instruction is a three-year program reserved for the top principals in Central Louisiana. Superintendents select the participants, who are the “self-motivated shining stars” destined for leadership positions. “These are the leaders of tomorrow,” Taylor said.

Thirty-five principals began the program in the 2012-13 school year. The first two years of study focused on effective instruction, with educators meeting for summer institutes and then receiving private coaching and mentoring throughout the school year from Cathy Thompson, Project Director at the Seattle-based Center for Educational Leadership. Thompson worked with the educators individually and in small groups, with many requesting additional guidance on evaluation and feedback as the state’s new Compass evaluation system was being implemented.

Becky Durand

Becky Durand

Pollock Elementary School Principal Becky Durand appreciated the in-depth training on evaluation and teacher observations. “The year we started this three-year program was the year Compass was implemented. The information Cathy (Thompson) gave us about observing and giving feedback was what kept my head above water and is what I feel made me more prepared in front of my teachers. We stuck with it because we knew in the end it was going to help us.”

After completing their second full year in the program, administrators were given the option of entering the more-intense third year, which consisted of a yearlong research project that tackled a potential problem of practice in their individual schools and then concluded with formal presentations in The Rapides Foundation Building before their peers and supervisors.

The 10 administrators who completed all three years of the program were:
• Misty Alexander, Oberlin Elementary, Allen Parish.
• Brandy Brunson, Fellowship Elementary, LaSalle Parish.
• Shana Delrie, South Grant Elementary, Grant Parish.
• Rebecca Durand, Pollock Elementary, Grant Parish.
• Brenda Green, Reeves High School, Allen Parish.
• Laurie Johnson, Lessie Moore Elementary, Rapides Parish.
• Leigh Lansdale, Pickering Elementary, Vernon Parish.
• Dee Martin, Paradise Elementary, Rapides Parish.
• Rebecca Reeder, Elementary Supervisor, Grant Parish School District.
• Sonia Rasmussen, Plainview High, Rapides Parish.

“We had 10 people who were deeply invested in improving instruction in their schools,” Thompson said. “These 10 identified a problem of practice in their school, and we gave them a structure. I worked closely with them, so it was something they could tackle in a year.” 
Leading for Better Instruction participants give presentations about their problem of practice.


The projects tackled a variety of topics, including assessments and observations, changing school belief systems and cultures, addressing high transition rates, embedding data-driven instruction into the everyday school culture, and improving intellectual engagement.

“There was much more accountability because you knew that you had a project and you had to get up in front of those people and present that project. We really learned how to put our plan into action,” said Durand, whose project focused on assessment.

Fellowship Elementary School Principal Brandy Brunson was a brand new principal when she entered the program. Her project focused on intellectual engagement in math, which could be applied to all grade levels of her small, Pre-K through 8 school in LaSalle Parish.
Brandy Brunson

Brandy Brunson

 “We can give students something to do, but if it’s not meaningful we are wasting our time. It’s not just 1 plus 1 equals 2. It’s how did you get there? We are asking our kids to dig down and give us the real meaning. They have that real deep understanding,” she said. “Once you get into these workshops and spend three years with the same principals, you develop relationships and sometimes it’s nice to know the problems I have are not just happening in my school. It’s happening in other schools. We grew 12.4 school performance score points last year and I attribute a lot of that to the training I had.”

Leading for Better Instruction is one of the professional development and leadership institutes administered by The Orchard Foundation and funded through The Rapides Foundation’s Education Initiative. The University of Washington’s Center for Educational Leadership also teaches Aspiring Leaders, an institute for Central Louisiana educators who have goals of becoming principals. In addition, Central Louisiana educators are offered Kagan leadership training from Kagan’s Cooperative Learning Strategies and Kagan Structures.

In addition to these institutes, The Rapides Foundation provides the nine Central Louisiana public school districts with grants they use for coaching and mentoring of their teachers, and leadership development for their administrators.

“Improving student performance through enhanced professional development is the core of The Rapides Foundation’s Education Initiative, which seeks to increase the level of educational attainment and achievement in Central Louisiana as the primary path to improved economic, social and health status,” said Joe Rosier, President and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. “Research tells us that educational attainment and achievement go hand in hand with living longer and healthier lives.”

Ongoing professional development is the heart of student achievement, said Wilma Hamilton Delp, retired Superintendent of Sarasota County (Florida) Public Schools and a consultant for The Rapides Foundation’s Education Initiative. “As we look at the research about what improves student achievement, one factor stands out above all others – building the professional capacity of educators who work most closely with students,” she said. “Today’s leadership requires a constant focus on instruction, collaboration and coaching. Done well, these skills will permeate the entire organization and eventually change its overall culture – focusing everyone on the improved performance and educational attainment of students.”

Cathy Thompson

Cathy Thompson

The 10 administrators who recently concluded Leading for Better Instruction said their work is not complete. Their schools continue to implement the projects that were set forth in the 2014-15 school year, and the principals continue to network with each other to share ideas and successes. Two more cohorts for Leading for Better Instruction have since begun the three-year program.

The principals all saw improvements in test scores, which they attribute to their leadership training and other professional development opportunities from The Rapides Foundation. Thompson praised the 10 educators for their commitment, dedication to their research projects and impressive end-of-program presentations.  “I can’t tell you how proud I am and how impressed I am with the work they did and for staying the course. Even though they were nervous when they did their presentations, they did it, and they did it well. I know they are all committed to making a difference. I can’t say enough about them.”

PARTICIPANT SPOTLIGHTS

Oberlin Elementary School Principal Misty Alexander’s project focused on using formative assessments to drive daily instruction. “We want to make sure the teachers as well as the students know on any given day what is the focus for the learning,” she said. “It has helped us to be more focused in everything we do from professional development to our weekly team meetings to developing our lesson plans and our assessment, but it has also benefited in the impact it’s made on our students. We are seeing increases in standardized test scores. When I started here (five years ago) we were a C school. The last two years a B school, and our goal is to be an A school. We still have some work to do but we are on the right track for that.” 


Fellowship Elementary School Principal Brandy Brunson was a brand new principal when she entered the program. Her project focused on intellectual engagement in math, which could be applied to all grade levels of her small, Pre-K through 8 school in LaSalle Parish. “We can give students something to do, but if it’s not meaningful we are wasting our time. It’s not just 1 plus 1 equals 2. It’s how did you get there? We are asking our kids to dig down and give us the real meaning. They have that real deep understanding,” she said. “Once you get into these workshops and spend three years with the same principals, you develop relationships and sometimes it’s nice to know the problems I have are not just happening in my school. It’s happening in other schools. We grew 12.4 school performance score points last year and I attribute a lot of that to the training I had.” 


South Grant Elementary School Principal Shana Delrie said, “The program reminded me that the teacher is the most significant factor in improving teaching and learning in the classroom. So all of our leadership work was designed around improving teaching and learning – and not necessarily about us being ‘building managers.’ It kept me grounded, and it also allowed for us to have a cohort of peers to be able to network. Being able to grow professionally with the consultants we have been provided through the Foundation, it would have been hard to get that professional leadership development through any other means.”


Pollock Elementary School Principal Becky Durand appreciated the in-depth training on evaluation and teacher observations. “The year we started this three-year program was the year Compass was implemented. The information Cathy (Thompson) gave us about observing and giving feedback was what kept my head above water and is what I feel made me more prepared in front of my teachers. We stuck with it because we knew in the end it was going to help us.”


Reeves High School Principal Brenda Green, whose project addressed the need to embed data-driven instruction into the school’s everyday culture, said Leading for Better Instruction “held me accountable and focused throughout the year. Having access to Cathy Thompson was incredibly helpful. Conversations with her and several of the other participants broadened my outlook and provided constant encouragement throughout the year.”


Lessie Moore Elementary School Principal Laurie Johnson’s project was creating a culture of high expectations. “Through the use of staff and student surveys and collaborative staff meetings, we were able to determine three areas of focus we felt would have the greatest impact on our school culture. Those areas were student motivation, school celebrations, and parental involvement. This school year we have implemented those plans and are already seeing positive results,” she said. “Participating in the Leading for Better Instruction program for the past three years has definitely had a positive impact on me professionally. I have received extensive training on feedback conversations, which I feel has helped me become a stronger instructional leader for my teachers. I have also learned how to narrow my focus as a leader and develop a specific plan to address areas of need.”


Pickering Elementary School Principal Leigh Lansdale developed a school site induction and mentoring program to support beginning teachers by providing immediate, sustained, differentiated support that is instructionally focused, procedurally focused and data driven. “This support will focus on student success with the aim of all Pickering students receiving a high quality and equitable education through teacher understanding and efficiency. The program will accelerate beginning teacher effectiveness to increase student achievement,” Lansdale said. “Participating in the Leading for Better Instruction program the past three years has prepared me to be a well-rounded leader, with emphasis on focused instructional leadership to improve teaching and learning goals for all.”


Paradise Elementary School Principal Dee Martin said, “With so many recent changes in educational standards and assessment, our improvement efforts at Paradise Elementary School had become focused on trying to stay one step ahead. In an effort to more directly affect our teachers' professional practice, we aimed to determine what our teachers perceived as our Problem of Practice. By identifying "Levels and Purpose of Questioning" as an area of needed support, our teachers created indicators of highly effective questioning practice. Through various activities, Paradise Elementary teachers improved questioning techniques which ultimately improved the value of student engagement in all grades."


Grant Parish School District Elementary Supervisor Rebecca Reeder collaborated with program participants Shana Delrie and Becky Durand on their Problems of Practice, which both focused on assessments. She saw improvements at both schools, as teachers are better able to meet the needs of their students. “As a supervisor I felt like my role was to support the two principals in any way I could. I watched them develop the project in their schools; now when I go in those two schools I see a lot more formative assessment. I see teachers taking anecdotal notes, so they know where each student is at in the learning process. It has created better instruction based on what the student need is and what level the student is on. It enabled the teachers to become better at formative assessments every day for their students. It guides their instruction better.”


Plainview High School Principal Sonia Rasmussen’s project, “Expectations and How They are Tied to Instruction Which Impacts Our Culture” was originally based on her thought that teachers and staff at the small, pre-K through 12 school were happy with the status quo. However, “I learned that my teachers do believe our students can achieve at high levels, but were simply not as equipped as teachers as they could be to get students where they needed to be academically. I also realized that out of 25 teachers on staff, half of them only had 0-6 years of experience. Therefore, our focus continues on professional development for teachers. I want my teachers to have as many tools and strategies possible for reaching students at all levels. I’m not sure I accomplished what I set out to do, but I know I did shift the thinking for many teachers, students, and parents. We had a phenomenal year of growth. We had amazing End of Course exam scores, overall growth on ACT, tremendous strides in questioning techniques, and wonderful accomplishments in Literary Rally, FBLA, and athletics.”

Previous Article Rapides Foundation encourages you to "Have a Healthy Holiday"
Next Article 2014 Annual Report Available
Print
3966

Name:
Email:
Subject:
Message:
x

Archive

News Search

Terms Of UsePrivacy StatementCopyright 2019 by The Rapides Foundation