ST1.9: STEM teachers and leaders participate in a continuous program of STEM-specific professional learning.
Self Assessment Score: 3
Our strength for this indicator is that our school, as well as Sumter School District, does an amazing job offering STEAM professional development to most of our staff. The opportunities for teachers to stay current and expand their knowledge is quite plentiful and considering things for next year are already being discussed and in the works, this will continue. Our weakness in this Indicator is that not quite ALL teachers receive monthly PLC trainings with our district level support. Due to scheduling, Related Arts teachers do not currently receive the same training during the school days (twice a month) as regular education teachers. However, they do receive the same professional development opportunities on Wednesdays. In preparation for next year, we hope to revisit our schedules in order to prevent this from happening.
Every teacher is required to visit at least two other classrooms during the school year, observing between 20-30 minutes each visit. One visit should take place in the Fall and the other visit in the Spring. They are also asked to leave the teacher with whom they observed a positive note pointing out something they noticed during the lesson. This year we have asked them to make their comments focused on how the Engineering Design Process or the 5 C’s are being implemented within the lesson. We believe that our greatest resources are our teachers. We also believe that teachers need to experience daily life from a completely different perspective even if it is only for a short time. We encourage our teachers to visit a grade in which they never thought they would teach. This has resulted in collaboration across grade levels and partnerships of classrooms across grade levels. They meet with our administrator twice a year and discuss this experience and the implications it has towards their teaching. As a result of these visits, last year one of our third grade classes paired up with a first grade class for “Buddy Reading”. This year a first and second grade class have already teamed up to be Pen Pals and read together while working toward conducting a research project at the end of the year. A kindergarten and third grade class are continuing to buddy read.
Our teachers are encouraged to also visit outside our school. Twenty of our teachers will get to visit The Center for Inquiry in Columbia. We used examples of lesson plans and videos from this school to help us in our summer unit planning. This school is about 45 minutes away and will provide our teachers with other examples of inquiry teaching. There will be four groups of five teachers, school counselors, and administrators who will attend and come back and share their experiences with our faculty. After the first group of teachers visited, one of them began implementing an idea she saw at the school to decrease transition time. In the first week of implementation, they saved 22 minutes.
PLCs and Book Study
We have a variety of Professional Learning Community (PLC) opportunities for all of our staff at ADE and a schedule is provided to everyone at the beginning of the year. The first Wednesday of the month, we have grade level planning. The second Wednesday of the month, we meet as a faculty for a book study and currently we are reading Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston. Not only is the book a valuable tool, but the takeaways from colleagues are very beneficial. Recently during a district STEAM Advisory meeting, the book Inquiry Illuminated was suggested and we have already made the decision to use that book next year as our school’s book study. The third Wednesday of the month, we have professional development. The topics covered have been STEAM, Writing Workshop, Reading Workshop, etc. The last Wednesday of the month the teachers meet with their grade levels or committees; whichever is needed at that time. Once a month, we have a district level technology coach meet with each grade level during their planning to instruct and guide us in how to incorporate new technology into our classes. Her personalized professional development models technology integration into the classroom. Our teachers also meet once a month with our district support STEAM specialist. She shares updates, lessons, and technology information. Teachers have the opportunity to share lesson plans and ideas with her to assist in the integration of STEAM across their curriculum. She also loves to visit classes and co-teach with teachers in assisting them with STEAM integration. These professional development opportunities offered right here at our own school help our teachers stay current with new practices and have helped expand our proficiency in the use of technology.
Sumter School District STEAM Cohort
The Sumter School District STEAM Cohort was started by the Director of Science when several schools became interested in STEM/STEAM. Word spread quickly and interest grew so the Cohort expanded from three schools to the now current eleven schools involved, including Alice Drive Elementary. The Cohort is voluntary and each school is at a different stage in the STEM/STEAM process, but we all share the same goal of moving forward in the STEM/STEAM college and career readiness journey. As a part of the cohort Project Lead the Way (PLTW) was incorporated into our middle schools (Gateway) and elementary schools (Launch). PLTW is a rigorous curriculum aligned to grade levels and our state standards. An important aspect that was discussed in our meetings is the AdvancED STEM/STEAM accreditation structured process that requires a self-assessment and deliberate actions to moving forward in this journey. We discussed the standard and indicators to help our schools focus on these areas to make sure our programs are well balanced and thorough. This cohort has been helpful. By attending meetings we are able to support one another’s journey by bouncing ideas off each other, and it has been amazing to hear what is going on in other schools. Some of the ideas we even bring back and implement here in our own school. The Cohort meets a few times a year and the two leaders always provide current information, share resources, allow for discussion, and much time to share and reflect.
Conferences are a great way for our faculty to grow professionally, hear about the latest research, learn new things, develop new professional relationships, and bring it all back to our building to share. Last year we had numerous faculty members attend conferences around the state of South Carolina and come back to present their findings during faculty meetings. In October, the Title I conference (SCATA) was held in Myrtle Beach which our Principal attended. A fourth grade Science teacher attended a mini Saturday session at Roper Mountain Science Center. The session she attended was about incorporating Science and Engineering Practices into the fourth grade Science and Social Studies standards. In November, our media specialist and our STEAM Lab teacher attended the ED Tech conference in Greenville and learned so many things about technology and STEAM that they eagerly brought back to us. We always send two teachers to the SCCTM (Math) conference in Greenville in November. In January, our lower school guidance counselor attended the SC Palmetto State school counselor association conference in Myrtle Beach. Also, one of our fourth grade teachers attended a Guided Math conference in Columbia during the month of January. In February, two teachers attended the SCIRA (Reading) conference in Hilton Head. The Council for Exceptional Children held a conference in Myrtle Beach in March and we had three special needs teachers attend. Our Principal, Literacy Coach, and Curriculum Coach attended the Inquiry Matters conference in Irmo and were amazed to see children present as well as the adults. Several presenters were from the School of Inquiry in Columbia and we were so impressed, we chose to send numerous groups of our faculty to see them in action this school year. In June, an Assistant Principal and the Curriculum Coach attended the SCASA (School Administrators) conference in Myrtle Beach for several days. Of course the conferences mentioned above were all for the 2018-2019 school year, but we plan on following a similar plan for this school year as well. We allocate money in general funds and our Title I budget to pay for conferences because we believe there is always something new to learn in our ever changing education world and we want what is best for students.
Teacher’s STEAM Self-Assessments
The Sumter School District STEAM support specialist created a STEAM self-assessment survey that was sent out last year when we began the STEAM journey. Our teachers completed the survey and we rated ourselves a 2.27 as a school. After analyzing the data to see what was necessary for improvement, we had numerous professional development meetings, trainings, workshops, etc. relating to STEAM integration on a school level as well as bringing in district level leaders. Not only did we listen to presentations, we took part in hands on learning and activities. ADE took the STEAM self-assessment survey again in March and much growth took place throughout the year. We rated ourselves as a 2.82. While we were preparing our artifacts for the Cognia STEM Certification visit took the self-assessment again and rated ourselves as 3.18.