Posted on April 27, 2010, by Bill Ferriter
By Bill Ferriter, teacher and PLC associate
In preparation for our upcoming conversation with Rick and Becky DuFour on the steps that schools can take to develop effective systems of intervention that reach beyond the classroom, I just finished reading their newest book, Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap. Hereâ€™s my review
Iâ€™ll never forget the day that I interviewed to work at Salem Middle School almost six years ago. â€śWeâ€™re planning on creating a professional learning community,â€ť then principal Matt Wight said to me, â€śand weâ€™re going to use Professional Learning Communities at Workâ„˘ as our guide.â€ť
Wanting the job at Salem very, very badly, I stopped by the Barnes and Noble on the way home to pick up what has turned out to be one of Rick DuFourâ€™s most popular titles. I figured reading and reviewing it over the weekend would be a good way to impress the new bossman.
My principal was impressed, and it wasnâ€™t long before I fell in love with DuFourâ€™s vision for schools. Throughout Professional Learning Communities at Workâ„˘, DuFour argues that the key to improving education rests in the hearts and minds of classroom teachers working collectively to study their practice.
Thatâ€™s an easy argument to embrace for a teacher-leader type like me who is proud of what I know and can do!
But Iâ€™ve got to say that Iâ€™ve spent parts of the past six years incredibly frustrated because even though our school has worked hard to polish our collaborative practices, weâ€™ve struggled to craft the kinds of schoolwide systems of intervention that DuFour briefly mentioned as the key to success in Professional Learning Communities at Workâ„˘.
Interventionâ€”for struggling learners and high achieversâ€”has primarily remained the job of the classroom teacher in our school, and thatâ€™s gotten progressively harder because our classrooms seem to get more diverse every year.Â Differentiation alone just isnâ€™t enough to meet the needs of everyone.
I suspect that our struggles are not unique, though.Â After all, until recently, there havenâ€™t been many practical examplesâ€”in DuFourâ€™s early writings or in schools and districtsâ€”of systems of intervention that principals and district-level leaders could use as models.
Which is why Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap is such a valuable contribution to the literature surrounding the professional learning community movement.
Written by Rick and Becky DuFourâ€”in partnership with their longtime colleagues and friends Bob Eaker and Gayle Karhanekâ€”Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap is designed to give every school an â€śintervention role model.â€ť
Providing tangible proof that systems for intervention are possible regardless of a buildingâ€™s size or demographics, each chapter explores an individual school and/or district that has risen to the challenge of meeting the needs of every student.
Readers get a chance to look at the work done by nine progressive buildings, including:
Detailing the specific steps that each school and/or district took when designing their systemsÂ of intervention, Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap is the kind of book that school leaders can sit down and learn from immediately.
Iâ€™ve ALREADY photocopied several sections and slipped them under the doors of the principals and teacher leaders in my buildingâ€”an easy thing to do when intervention strategies are carefully described, implementation plans are outlined, and evidence of impact is included for schools that look a lot like ours!
Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap is the kind of title that youâ€™ll find yourself highlighting and annotating your way through, imagining how each intervention mentioned might be tailored to your specific school and student population.
And take it from me:Â By the time that youâ€™re done, youâ€™ll have a renewed confidence in your own ability to design and implement a system of intervention that reaches well beyond the classroom.
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