Monday, September 19, 2011

Southern Heights Staff Works Hard, Plays Hard

Just a few of the talented, hard working Southern Heights staff

Some of you might know that before my current position, I was "Chief Accountability Officer". Of course, a lot of people asked me what that is. Mostly, it's about helping staff use data, but occasionally it meant delivering difficult results to staff who are already putting in long hours and giving their heart and soul to their students. Two years ago, I had a data presentation of this sort at Southern Heights. Today, I want to shout their success from the rooftop.

Southern Heights is one of the few schools in the state that made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year after not making it they year before. Their overall school percent proficient on the MSP improved in every subject.
  • Reading: 51% (2010) to 67% (2011)
  • Writing: 44% (2010) to 60% (2011)
  • Math: 38% (2010) to 64% (2011)
  • Science: 10% (2010) to 23% (2011)

Their improvement wasn't just on the MSP. Southern Heights has had tremendous improvement on the MAP test, a computer adaptive national test, and the Math Benchmark Assessments, a practice assessment from OSPI that gives teachers detailed feedback.

And the improvement isn't luck. I've had the fortune to work closely with Principal Deborah Holcomb and a few teachers and I can attest that they have been working hard and working smart. Southern Heights staff monitor the progress of their students closely through regular short assessments. Teachers plan together to coordinate lessons and the schedule is set up to meet the needs of students.

Staff collaborate on the academic subject plans during PCT

Friday, I dropped in on a Professional Collaboration Time (PCT) where staff met to finalize the school improvement plan for each subject. Once upon a time, that might have been done mostly by the principal or a few lead teachers, but Friday the entire staff was gathered around tables discussing the intracies of improving in each subject. It was a great example of collaboration among staff.

Jennifer Matthews and Alyssa Dahl serving Italian sodas

I must mention that the esprit de corps seemed very high during my time there. For a few minutes before PCT started, the staff gathered in the staff room and served each other Italian sodas. The mood was light and congenial. Only the fact that a staff member was leaving for a new job (for a well known national education organization) kept the occasion from being entirely upbeat.

Staff celebrate a departing staff member

When the work is this hard, I sometimes worry about teacher burnout. Seeing Southern Heights staff celebrate together made me feel confident that their success will be long lasting.

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