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SURN Past Initiatives

Capstone English

SURN Leadership for Effective Teaching

NCLB 2009-2011 SCHEV Grant

SURN Leadership for Effective Teaching (SURN LET) focuses on generating principal, assistant principal, and teacher dialogue on pedagogy, adolescent literacy strategies, mathematics, and classroom-based data. Thirty-two principals and assistant principals in 16 targeted middle schools, including six from high-poverty school divisions, will receive training in collecting and discussing data related to observed teacher classroom practices. By collecting data on classroom performance and sharing those data with teachers, administrators not only provide a rich opportunity for teacher reflection, but also create a forum for collaborative dialogue focused on improving the quality of teaching performance through professional growth. The conceptual framework illustrates the relationship connecting leadership and learning and the components addressed in this proposal that occur as part of the leadership capacity building process. Resulting dialogues and workshops conducted with approximately 300 teachers will promote teacher reflection and enhance teacher effectiveness, which in turn will increase student achievement. Sustained professional development includes workshops, coaching support, and asynchronous virtual discussions. An intensive workshop offered in fall 2010 will be subsidized with grant funds to enable administrators from other SURN schools to receive instructional leader professional development.

SURN Leadership for Effective Teaching 2.0 (SURN LET2.0) enhances the power of formative feedback to teachers through distributive leadership as both teacher leaders (39) and administrators (36) will engage in dialogue with teachers (estimated 500) about the data and pedagogy using classroom-based observation data. SURN LET2.0 provides professional development and onsite building-level support to continue work in nine selected schools that was begun in 2009 with administrators. The proposed project expands upon the 2009-2010 project in two ways (1) the use of classroom teacher leaders and (2) the four high schools into which the middle schools feed focusing on the transition year (9th grade). SURN LET2.0 will also include a pilot of the use of tablet laptop computers for making observations and the inclusion of flip video cameras to record discussions for the participants' reflection. Changes in administrator, teacher leader, and teacher practices will be measured using surveys and observations. The grant emphasizes work done at the ground level where the action is in order to ensure transfer and impact.

Capstone English Academy

Funded by the Virginia Department of Education, 2011-2012

The Capstone English Academy is funded by the Virginia Department of Education as a part of the College and Career Readiness Initiative. The funding provides for a Capstone English Senior Seminar to be piloted in two schools and for 50 Commonwealth teachers to participate in an Academy to be held two days in August with the follow up professionall development during the 2011-2012 school year. Fifty teachers from seven regions in Virginia (34 school divisions and one private school) were selected to participate.

The project is being led by Dr. Jan Rozzelle of the College of William and Mary and Dr. Gay Ivey of James Madison University. Dr.  Anne Charity Hudley, Dr. Jennifer Hindman, Sara Brandt, Katie Ford, and Denise Fehrenbach serve on the lead project planning team.

Visible Teaching, Assessment, Learning and Leading

NCLB 2011-2012 SCHEV Grant

SURN VTALL proposes to use a tiered approach to professional development to disseminate the high impact strategies and tools that SURN has identified to build leadership capacity and teacher effectiveness in 104 middle and high schools in the SURN partnership.

The project will be organized around a framework for high-yield student engagement developed by Dr. Jan Rozzelle and Dr. Valerie Gregory (Figure 1). For many years, SURN has used an instructional audit to measure pre- and post- use of research-based best practices. Observers over the years have reported that the student-engagement data was a concern as students would often be on-task, but the work was not appropriate, challenging, or engaging. A shift was made at SURN to discuss and examine high-yield student engagement that results in increased levels of learning and student achievement. SURN VTALL will address what research has shown as critical practices of effective teachers in the areas of teaching, learning, and assessment. The inclusion of the leadership component engages teacher leaders and their administrators in classroom observations, to collect data on teaching and learning, and then facilitate a dialogue with teachers on professional practices.  The goals of SURN VTALL are to:

  • Build teacher leadership through collaborative observations that increase frequency of specific feedback to teachers on professional practice and student engagement
  • Increase use of high-yield teaching, assessing, and learning strategies (explicit instruction) across content areas
  • Promote student engagement and performance by integrating College and Career Readiness Initiative skills across core content areas and engaging students in authentic, real-world, content-focused research, reading, writing, and communicating"  (Superintendents Memo, January 21, 2011).

Description of Project Activities

The activities in which schools engage during the academic year vary by the schools’ specific needs and desired level of involvement. SURN proposes using a three-tiered option for schools in order to increase the projected impact of the project and increase the level of project ownership by schools. Table 3 illustrates the three levels as well as outlines the expected level of school contribution that ranges from substitute cost coverage to provisions for the Teacher-in-Residence (Lead VTALL Coach) position. In SURN there are 104 middle and high schools operating in the current academic year that will be invited to participate in one of the three tiers. During the academic year, all selected teachers would receive four days of professional development related to teaching, assessment, learning, and leading. Schools participating at the top two tiers would receive additional professional development for six teacher leaders and/or administrators to develop leadership capacity to promote reflection and support change through the provision of formative feedback. Schools at the second tier would also receive three on-site school visits during the year. Schools at the top tier would have multiple visits a month by a teacher-in-residence who would provide on-site consultations, classroom-based demonstrations, coaching, and feedback.

  •  The Basic Network tier will serve as a conduit to the schools to train a teacher leader who will be expected to share the lessons learned with colleagues at a department, grade level, or even a whole school mini-professional development following each of the four VTALL professional development days. Schools know that SURN offers high-quality professional development. As one principal said, “The professional development was the best [he] had experienced in 15 years.”  The Basic Network addresses a need identified by SURN superintendents to make dissemination efforts more intentional and sustained as opposed to cumulative “end of project” events.
  • The Targeted Partnership will be open first to school systems identified by SCHEV as high-needs school divisions, with priority given to schools in those divisions that have worked with SURN on previous grants and demonstrated a commitment to project participation. A second level of priority will be schools from divisions that have previous experience on SURN grants that have not been identified by SCHEV. Participants in other SURN grants have consistently identified the school-based support as being a critical element to the transfer of knowledge.
  • The Collaborative Partnership is open to all schools with priority given to those in SCHEV-identified high-needs school divisions. This tier is an opportunity to provide embedded, sustained on-the-ground support for up to four schools that are struggling and need intensive support. At this level, the school system must commit funds towards the Teacher-in-Residence position as well as agree to actively participate in the grant’s activities.