Andrea Townsend, principal •
North Dayton School of Discovery • Dayton, Ohio
North Dayton School of Discovery
I started my first year as principal in 2010-2011 of North Dayton School of Discovery (NDSD) in Dayton, Ohio. This turn-around school had one year to make drastic changes or the doors would close. Multiple challenges were facing us. The demographics had remained steady with a high-needs population that faced several challenges. Staff and leadership turnover had been high. As a former principal of one of the national PLC model schools, I knew that we had no choice but to make drastic changes and implement a professional learning community movement. North Dayton’s staff would move the school forward collaboratively with the common goal of student success.
Last school year, with new administration, NDSD has continued its dedication to PLCs and expects to continue increased student achievement. We have a long way to go, but PLCs have set this school up to be in the position of continuous improvement if we continue to make the gains that we have over the past two years. PLCs guide our purpose of student success.
A focus of NDSD's professional learning community has been ongoing through the study of Marzano’s Classroom Instructional Strategies that Work. The staff was introduced to the strategies and the effectiveness of each strategy. In order to encourage teachers to excel, we assigned strategies that they would not normally think of using. Additionally, we are working on building a common instructional language and common instructional practices to close the learning gap for teachers. Similar expectations for learning, teaching, and student work are set through common planning times, and backwards mapping of our common curriculum. Teachers have ongoing training on rubric based scoring scales and ongoing common formative assessments. Authentic feedback is given to students based on the rubrics and final student products. Finally, student data that is collected is charted and graphed to monitor trends within each classroom in all content areas. Teachers and administration reflect on the data and develop teaching strategies, flexible intervention groups, areas for growth and professional development, or areas of focus for a PLC.
Teachers are able to function as a cohesive team with autonomy. A common planning time and ½-day releases to unit plan have increased the collegiality and professionalism within the building. No longer do teachers feel that they are working in isolation, but now have conversations together that involve all staff in all students' learning.
We have shown steady growth in most areas since implementing our PLC. We increased our performance index scores on the Ohio state test by 5.5% and moved from Academic Watch to Continuous Improvement. Additionally, we increased in 27 out of the 28 indicators under value added which represents the progress the school made since the prior year. Our PLC success has removed our school from the closure cycle. This shows that implementing school change through PLCs can create positive change within a short period of time.