At BPS101, we invest our energy into three core strategies to ensure all students receive a high-quality education, take ownership of their learning, and are prepared for what’s next. In short, it’s making sure all students are “Always Learning, Always Growing.”
Our three core strategies were shaped and continue to be shaped by BPS101 teachers, administrators, Board of Education members, and parents. Staff members are committed to them because not only did they help shape them, but they have also proven that they work and know that they are the drivers of our future success.
However, it’s not enough to say we’re “Always learning, Always growing.” We have to say “how” we are doing that. The “how” is our three core strategies:
- Aligned Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment System
If we’re not all headed in the same direction and if we don’t have a common understanding of where we’d like to take our students, it’s impossible to get there. This is where our first core strategy comes in. With an aligned curriculum, instruction, and assessment system, BPS101 teachers at each grade level and subject area have clarity about what students need to learn and what it means when students have mastered a concept, lesson, unit, or school year. This clarity comes from staff working in collaborative teams to write standards-based curriculum and developing instructional frameworks for delivery in the classrooms through research-based instructional strategies. This ensures, for instance, that all of our first-grade teachers have the same standard, and they all understand the skills, knowledge, and disposition students need to to “get” that standard. For example, one of our first-grade standards is for students to be able to “retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate an understanding of the central message or lesson.” By the end of the school year, all first-grade students should be able to do so. Through formative and summative assessments, staff then monitors student progress and the effectiveness of the standards-based curriculum. The end goal of this important strategy is a guaranteed and viable curriculum where every student is provided an equal opportunity to learn the shared core curriculum and is given the appropriate time and tools to do so.
- Quality Staff and Collaboration
The biggest factor in student success is a quality teacher who has confidence in his or her ability to produce a desired result—otherwise known as efficacy. At BPS101, all teachers meet Illinois state licensure requirements and demonstrate mastery of the content area in which they teach. In fact, 69% of our teaching staff have a master’s degree or higher and ___ percent of our teaching staff have more than 5 years of teaching experience. We believe the best way for our teachers to impact students and their learning is for the teaching staff to be assembled in their schools in collaborative teams within a Professional Learning Community (PLC) framework. The teams are empowered to collaboratively unpack standards, create and administer common assessments, reflect on assessment outcomes and teaching strategies, and develop systems of student support. The collaborative team structure is the primary strategy that BPS101 utilizes for continuous improvement of our teaching staff. BPS101 also supports teacher development through the use of instructional coaches and instructional technologists who provide job-embedded support and learning for individual teachers and teacher teams. Additionally, BPS101 has district-level collaborative teams comprised of multiple stakeholders who work together to make systemic decisions on curriculum, assessment, instruction, learning environment, professional learning, and resource allocation. Simply stated, staff collaboration is a lifestyle in BPS101.
- Personalized Learning
The concept of personalized learning puts students at the center of teaching and learning and actively engages them in the process. So, instead of expecting students to fit the mold or adapt to structures that may not be successful for them, BPS101 has committed to personalizing learning to meet the needs of all students and encourage students to take ownership of their own success. In Batavia, we define personalized learning as, “students and teachers working together to tailor learning to strengths, needs, and interests—including opportunities for student voice and choice in what, how, when, and where they learn—to provide flexibility and supports to empower students in their pursuit of excellence.” Through this process, students make learning visible by engaging in goal setting, reflection, progress monitoring, and a feedback loop to make educated decisions about their own learning paths. Experiences are personalized by adjusting the pace, path, environment, and time of learning, so students receive what they need when and how they need it. In order to achieve a personalized learning environment for students, BPS101 staff members are using different instructional models such as blended learning. Important note: Clarity is key with this strategy as well. Students can’t design their own experiences if teachers aren’t clear on the standards-based curriculum. Clarity really does start with the standards.
At the end of the day, student learning is our ultimate goal. To get there, we know we have to continue employing these three core strategies and get better at them every day.