From Wendy: Our Academic Priorities
Dear LCSD Community:
Now that the school year is well underway, students and teachers are both settling in and our academic work for the year is gaining clarity and momentum. A few weeks ago, we hosted a group from the Gates Family Foundation, a partner who has made a significant investment in our classrooms, on a visit to Lake County Intermediate School to see how it’s working for our kids. GFF has made significant financial contributions over the past few years to support our work with Expeditionary Learning and other efforts to enhance learning. As we toured the school, I was struck by how different, in many ways, our classrooms feel from just a few years ago.
The first thing we noticed was students grappling with complex texts and writing, a reflection of our clear focus on literacy. In one fourth-grade classroom, students were enjoying the chance to “Drop Everything and Read,” which we call “DEAR.” In the hallway, we saw high-level scientific research and writing about bison. Our visitors commented, in fact, that they couldn’t believe that fourth-graders had created the work and were surprised by the high degree of craftsmanship evident. In other classrooms, we saw students owning and directing their own learning.
In one math class, students organized themselves into groups based on how confident they were about answering a set of questions on the board—from “hot” to “cool.” The teacher then used this to plan her work with different groups of students. In third grade, we saw students choosing their own pre-tests for math content, depending on which concepts they felt they needed to practice. Last year, much of our work focused on establishing positive climate and culture in our schools.
Though our work on culture is ongoing, many parents and staff have mentioned that our schools already “feel different.” This positive and supportive environment has laid the groundwork for the work ahead: continuing to improve academic achievement for our students and our schools. This year, we will be adding even more focus to the use of student-achievement results to drive instruction, track progress, challenge advanced students, and close learning gaps for those students who need it.
We hope will join us later this month at Parent-Teacher Conferences (October 21-22) to learn more about our academic work and such initiatives as the use of complex texts. We understand that academic preparation is our most important promise to the community, and we are eager to share our progress and that of our students.