SIDNEY — Where has the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP) taken the students enrolled in the Sidney City Schools District? That question was addressed Wednesday night when the Board of Education met at the board office.
“A year and a half ago, we started the OIP,” said Brooke Gessler, Sidney City Schools director of curriculum. “It’s been a learning process and we’re still learning.”
Since entering the OIP program, she said, the district has re-educated itself on the best way to educate the children in the district. This has come in the form of District Leadership Teams (DLT), Building Leadership Teams (BLT) and Teacher Based Teams (TBT). New strategies have been explored to find the best way to teach the students so all are learning what they need to know to be successful.
“At the present, we are using structure to support the changes we seek to make,” said Gessler. “We need to clarify who we are and why we are here.
“In the future, we will need to clarify who we are and why we are here as a collective body and district.”
Gessler said there are two basic questions that have to be answered: What are we about at Sidney City Schools” and What do we believe about teaching and learning?
“The past year we have started to establish a unified vision to answer these two questions,” said Gessler. “We have been influenced by resources and education made possible by our involvement in OIP.”
Gessler shared with the board video of speaker Todd Rose who spoke about “The Myth of Average.” Rose shared that years ago the Air Force was having problems with statistics of their pilots flying jet planes. They performed a study with 4,000 pilots and took 10 dimension readings from each pilot to discover how many pilots fit the “average” ranking.
The Air Force learned, said Rose, that there is no “average” pilot and each person has a “jagged-size profile.” So the average cockpit found in a jet plane wouldn’t fit any of their pilots. So the Air Force banned the word “average” and made the airplane manufacturers come up with a way that the cockpit would fit every pilot that flew a plane. Thus was born the adjustable seat for a pilot, which then increased the talent pool for the Air Force.
Rose likened this discovery to each student enrolled in school. Each student has a jagged-learning profile and learns a different way. Each student must be nurtured so their individual potential can be achieved.
“Are we preparing students for an ever-changing global society?” asked Gessler. That, she said, is the goal for the district.
“Over the past year, we have been enlightened by history and a pedagogy that help to explain why we are doing what we are doing in education, in our district,” she said.
Shifts in education are underway in the district to help students obtain success.
“The structure and framework will support collaboration needed to change and have courageous conversations about change,” said Gessler of the OIP program.
The most important thing, she said, is for all stakeholders to take a vested interest in the success of all students and challenge them to reach their fullest potential.
“Conversations in DLT, BLTs and TBTs lead to discussion of our beliefs,” said Gessler. “At the center is success of all students.”
In the context of the teaching system, “it can be diffiult to keep teaching and learning as the focus,” she said. “There are multiple factors of influence. However, committing to quality learning for every student, every day will serve to keep that focus where it belongs. And with OIP, that’s were it is.”
Successful schools, she said, keep teaching and learning as their focus. She explained about the 90-90-90 schools and findings of Karin Chenoweth on successful schools.
“We are starting with the common characteristic of collaboration,” said Gessler. “It weaves throughout all these tenets.”
The 90-90-90 Schools is a case study which studied the academic successes of schools with three characteristics:
• More than 90 percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch;
• More than 90 percent of the students are from ethnic minorities; and,
• More than 90 percent of the students met or achieved high academic standards, according to independently conducted tests of academic achievement.
The study included four years of test data with students from a variety of school settings, from elementary through high school. Data from more than 130,000 students in 228 buildings was used in the study. What the researchers found was that classroom strategies and student achievement led to the students’s academic successes.
The 90-90-90 schools had a focus on academic achievement; clear curriculum choices; frequent assessment for student progress and multiple opportunities for improvement; emphasis on nonfiction writing; and collaboration among teaching staff to score student work and plan for improvements in instruction.
“Collaboration is a constant in OIP,” said Gessler. “It is at every level in DLT, BLT and TBT. Our non-negotiables are a direct reflection of this collaboration. Our beliefs are shared. And the structure of OIP provides for shared experiences.”
The non-negotiables, said Gessler, include stakeholders are responsible for creating and maintaining safe and secure environments for all students; instruction for all students is shared by all stakeholders through co-teaching in multiple models; all staff will receive and implement ongoing professional development; and common planning will be provided during the work day for all stakeholders on student learning.
“The next big step,” said Gessler, “is to stay consistent. We have put the plan into action and we continue to monitor it. We will tweak it as needed.
“This is a group effort for the students’ success in the classroom,” she said.
New teachers, said Gessler, are receiving the needed information to continue the process which has been started.
One student in the audience, who was attending the meeting as a requirement for government class, asked what happens if the plan doesn’t work.
“This plan is a living, breathing thing,” said Gessler. “If we’re struggling with a piece of it, then we’ll do a diagnostic piece on it and make tweaks. We have to rely on the staff to know what works and what doesn’t.”
Teachers, she said, are in communication throughout the district. A new “Google classroom” will allow teachers to share information and knowledge without physically meeting.
“The elementary teachers met this summer to discuss collaboration,” said Gessler.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.