The lessons learned on late-start Wednesdays are perhaps the most powerful of all in the Waynesville schools. On those days when students arrive late, Waynesville teachers arrive early to meet in their Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) – collaborative teams ready to discuss and implement the best learning practices.
Behind these winning teams are the coaches – three full-time instructional coaches who help facilitate and increase educator effectiveness.
By all measures, the PLC program is a success and the district has the hardware to prove it: the Waynesville R-VI School District received the 2013 Award of Excellence for Promising Practice in Professional Learning.
"The award shows that over a three-year period Waynesville teachers have clearly demonstrated they can apply effective teaching strategies and successfully educate 6,000 students," says Dr. Judene Blackburn, superintendent of Waynesville schools.
WR6 students are diverse, mobile and cover the entire economic spectrum (see charts). Instructional coaches, teachers and district staff embrace our unique population and work together to find solutions to keep students learning, advancing and scoring above state averages.
"Our teachers are encouraged to work collaboratively and utilize a variety of educational tools and research-based strategies, including assessment for learning, differentiated instruction and high-yield instructional strategies from Robert Marzano's work," Blackburn says.
While the terms and processes sound complex, four questions drive the strategies during PLC meetings on Wednesdays:
1) What do students
need to know and
be able to do?
2) How will we know
they have learned it?
3) What will we do
when they haven't
4) What will we do
when they already
Coaches and fellow educators offer academies and workshops designed to better understand and implement the research-based strategies. Individual teachers also request that coaches to come to their classrooms and co-teach, model or observe specific strategies.
Teachers, administrators and instructional coaches go on learning walks to evaluate the instructional climate. Over the past three years, more than 4,000 classrooms (each teacher, multiple times) have been visited to determine what strategies are being implemented and what additional professional development is needed in each building.
"Our teachers are eager to implement the strategies and to help our students learn," Blackburn says. "And while being the only school in the state to receive the award is important, teachers empowering children to learn is the greatest reward of all."
The full-time instructional coaches are Scott Turner, Lisa Supancic and LeAnne Mowery-Halbrook. In addition, media specialists and technology integration specialists in each building support the teachers with implementing high-tech strategies. To further enhance programs, six I-STEM-21 coaches have been added through a three-year Department of Defense Education Activity grant to support integration of STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – and 21st Century skills into the curriculum.