On Monday, August 7, Dr. Jason Peel, Director of Secondary Education, informed Milford School District Board of Education that the district had been awarded a grant in the amount of $30,000 for professional development services in partnership with the University of Delaware. The partnership will allow teachers to work with University specialists in their content area.
“For example, an English specialist will be working with the English Department 6 through 12,” Shawn Snyder, Principal of Milford High School, explained. “These specialists will demonstrate the research proven strategies and offer coaching and support to our teachers. The most exciting part of the model is that it is teacher and student driven, not delivered. Teachers can work with the specialist on improving outcomes with their current students in their current classes. In addition, teachers from the middle school and high school levels will have the opportunity to collaborate with one another during the professional development sessions.”
Mr. Snyder said that this type of training benefits teachers as they can understand what their strengths and weaknesses are from development coaches that listen and customize training. Not only will teachers participate in half-day trainings, the University of Delaware development coaches will also make return coaching visits to individual teachers. This enables teachers to get helpful feedback from specialists in their content area, according to Mr. Snyder. Milford School District will also collect data from students and teachers to make sure the training is effective and that student outcomes are improving.
At the school board meeting, Dr. Kevin Dickerson, Superintendent, explained that one of the reasons Milford received the grant was due to student growth in the district. There were significant growths in the areas of Math and English Language Acquisition. The district’s SAT proficiency score is slightly above the state average and SAT math scores improved by eight percent this year. Mr. Snyder said that they are happy to see the growth and they understand they need to continue “pushing the needle” with students. The goal is 100 percent and the district has continually grown to reach that goal.
“The administrative team gathered data from the last five years to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the school,” Mr. Snyder said. “MCA, MHS and District Administration worked collaboratively to write a plan that had specific and measurable outcomes. We also had teachers visit neighboring school districts who had worked with University of Delaware to observe their processes. We gathered feedback from them before writing a final plan. The most important thing for us is that our kids and teachers benefit. We believe that we have the best students in Delaware and we want to make sure we are providing them the best instruction and resources possible.”
Dr. Bridget Amory, Director of Elementary Education, said that the elementary schools in Milford had the opportunity to work with the grant during the 2016-17 school year. “Our elementary principles worked collaboratively to provide extensive support in the area of mathematics across all of our elementary schools,” Dr. Amory said. “As a result, our students and teachers had positive outcomes with academic gains in our Smarter Math scores this past year. We look forward to seeing the work completed at the elementary level expand into our secondary programs.”
The grant requires that data be collected as part of the grant-funding process. This data will be obtained with classroom walkthroughs which are short visits to the classroom. These types of reviews are designed to give more on-going feedback to teachers rather than traditional on-time visit for an entire class period. Mr. Snyder says that the district will focus on student engagement through discourse, curriculum alignment and rigorous questioning as well as student work.
“Teaching can make it difficult for teachers to collect their own data on questioning, student discussion, etc.,” Mr. Snyder said. “We want to collect this to provide the best feedback for our teachers about instruction and student learning to ensure that professional development is meeting their needs.”
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