JO Combs Unified School District in Arizona has been a member of the Modern Teacher National Network since June of 2017. Gayle Blanchard, Superintendent, was anticipating launching the #Forward Instructional Model at the close of the school year. Throughout the year, building staff and stakeholders had participated in visioning exercises and the Digital Convergence Steering Committee was excited to unveil their new Instructional Model, and the brand, #Forward, that would be used to refer to this work in the future. A portion of this message included the invitation for teachers to participate in professional learning cohorts that would be supported by #Forward coaches.
The end of an academic school year is busy. Teachers and principals are closing out their classrooms and buildings, preparing for a summer of painting and cleaning schedules, moving forward with capital improvement projects, and often updating the technology infrastructure within the district. At the district level, professional learning and new teacher inductions are being planned for the year ahead. It’s a difficult time of the year to hire substitutes as many scramble to use up remaining days of vacation. This year, school districts in several states ran up against the Red for Ed teacher movement aimed at demanding more funding for public education. Across the country schools were faced with how to handle teacher walkouts with as little impact to students as possible. In Arizona, at JO Combs School District, a member of the Modern Teacher National Network, and many other Arizona school districts, so many teachers walked out the districts had to shut down. Not just for one day, or two days, but six days. In the end, students had enough hours to legally complete the school year without extending the calendar into June. Teachers, on the other hand, were required to work a specific set of days and many districts were left with a quandary of how to positively handle six days of professional learning that would engage teachers who would otherwise already be at the end of their contract year.
The steering committee revised their professional learning plan to include a school-wide introduction the professional learning modules in anticipation of launching teacher cohorts in the fall. This introduction would provide teachers a glimpse into the Modern Teacher Professional Learning Modules through the District PL Goals page. Platform management allows a district to display Modern Teacher Professional Learning Modules, District PL Goals and the modules associated with each goal, or all of the above. This allows districts the ability to match module accessibility to the appropriate entry point for teacher professional learning based on district needs.
After creating professional learning goals aligned with the #Forward Instructional Model, JO Combs assigned 3 Modern Teacher modules to Goal #1. During the scope of the six days, teachers would be required to complete the literacy section of the three modules. Modules were introduced by principals at the school level by utilizing the district vision deck with adaptations related to the module topic. Time was provided for teachers to individually work through the literacy portions of the module, coupled with active and engaging group dialogue. Teachers and district staff closed the school year with positivity, excitement and understanding of the vision of #Forward. The launch, untraditional as it was, has promoted inquiry into the work of #Forward and an increase in requests for participation in Professional Learning cohorts to be launched later this fall. Dashboard statistics provide a glimpse of teacher progress through the #Forward PL Goals.