Case Study of Professional Development for Educators Suite: PD 360 – South Garland High School, TX

FOCUS

When Charles Rose entered SGHS as a new principal, he came to a school with a high-risk population, low test scores, disciplinary problems, and an elevated teacher turnover rate. It was not an easy place to teach and each year 50-60 teachers wanted out.

However, Principal Rose had a vision and a plan. With a background as a football coach, he was known as a persistent man with outstanding leadership skills and he had a strong desire to make a difference at SGHS. He made use of professional development (PD) to give teachers common goals as the first step to create his vision of a family atmosphere where administrators, teachers, and students support each other and pull together.

SOLUTION

When Garland ISD found and implemented PD 360 in its schools, Principal Rose recognized that the resource was right for his plan and he ran with it. He saw that students did not come into the school with the educational tools they needed for learning, and the teachers required new skills to engage students and become more cognizant of their needs. When students are engaged and their individual needs are being met, trust is built and relationships develop.

“I experienced a good example of the changes happening in our school during a classroom walk-through. The teacher was from the old school of learning; the desks were in straight rows and the students were listening as the teacher lectured.”

“The next time I visited this same classroom, the teacher had been learning Differentiated Instruction through PD 360 and it was a very different scene. Desks were arranged in groups and students were involved in discussions in their groups. Students were able to show where they were and where they were going with the subject matter.” – Charles Rose, Principal, South Garland High School, TX

ABOUT PD 360

PD 360 is an on-demand library of professional teacher development resources that leverages technology to make professional learning more effective, convenient, and sustainable. With over 200 hours of research-based video content, plus tools for follow-up, tracking, reflection, and group training, PD 360 is the most comprehensive solution to your professional teacher development needs.

More than 600,000 educators across North America already use PD 360 to access individualized support on the most relevant topics, like differentiation, minority student achievement, English language learners, classroom instruction that works, leadership, assessment, and many more. PD 360’s content is divided into hundreds of indexed and searchable segments that make it easy for teachers, administrators, aspiring leaders, coaches, mentors, paraprofessionals, and professional learning communities to find the answers they need. New content is continually added to keep you up-to-date. See a demonstration at pd360.com.

DRIVING USAGE AND IMPLEMENTATION

Every department in SGHS met and developed its own PD 360 plan based on its needs. The school is using PD 360 to create a “transparent” and continuous professional development in many different ways.

“SGHS is proud to have used PD 360 more than anyone in the district. It is a great tool that allows me to go out and be an expert in helping teachers feel confident to meet the needs of students in the classroom.” – Charles Rose, Principal, South Garland High School, TX

• Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s)
PD 360 supports SGHS Professional Learning Communities. After watching a video segment alone or as a group, teachers discuss how to apply the practices in their classrooms. Principal Rose or one of the vice-principals often sits in with the PLC’s to discuss their successes with them. The accompanying Facilitator Guides provide group activities, discussion questions, lesson plans, and graphic organizers.

• Teachers Who Struggle
SGHS instructional leaders help struggling teachers by suggesting specific PD 360 segments that show what best practices look like in needed areas. Each teacher’s usage as well as their answers to Reflection and Follow-up Questions is tracked to follow their growth.

• Walk-Throughs
When Principal Rose does classroom walk-throughs, he emails specific PD 360 segment links to individual teachers that are relevant to particular instructional needs. Teachers are then able to watch real classroom examples showing how to implement the practices.

• Group Training
Groups in SGHS are stepping up to use PD 360, excited to have collaborative viewing readily available. They use PD 360 videos to show in small groups, large groups, and faculty meetings to illustrate instructional strategies and then discuss in groups to learn from each other.

BENEFITS

With PD 360, SGHS is experiencing many benefits through its teacher professional development.

• Teacher Retention
As teachers learn best practices and implement them in the classroom, they become more confident with their skills, enjoy teaching, and want to be there. The school that was losing 50-60 teachers per year is now losing approximately 12.

“No other district (Garland ISD) puts as much emphasis on teacher retention. A teacher is the most important part of a classroom.” – Senator Florence Shapiro, Texas State Senate

• Vast Library of Content / Relevant Topics
Over 1,400 video segments with classroom examples of best practices are available to SGHS teachers on PD 360. Innovative content is continually being added to the indexed and easily searchable video segments giving SGHS the most current and comprehensive PD library available.

• Accessibility
Because PD 360 is an online and on-demand solution, teachers in the system can access it anytime and anywhere they have the Internet. They can log on at home as well as at work, which encourages teachers to take charge of their learning on their own time schedule. Educators have unlimited access to PD 360 and can view segments and programs as many times as they wish and as often as they need. Teacher professional development is now flexible to individual schedules rather than being limited to the school calendar.

• Cost Effective
PD 360 has been cost-effective for Garland ISD and consequently SGHS has benefited from a wide variety of topics and well-known experts in education. The expenditure is much less than traditional PD and can be purchased with a variety of funding sources available to districts and schools, including Title I, II, III, IV, V, VII, state funds, foundation funds, federal and state grant monies, math funds, reading funds, technology funds, etc.

• Consistency
PD 360 usage encourages consistency in common language and practice. The Focus Objectives support a more efficient, focused commonality with all educators in the district and an ongoing collective vision.

• Individual Needs
Professional development should meet the diversity of teacher needs and not be a one-time, one-size-fits-all event, but rather an evolving process of reflection and growth that is sustained in communities of practice, and focused on job-embedded responsibilities. As questions and situations arise in classrooms, teachers can easily find answers in PD 360 to improve teaching and give support when needed instead of waiting for workshops.

• Individual Accountability
With PD 360, teachers are responsible for their own professional growth and administrators can ensure that it happens consistently with PD 360’s integrated tracking, reporting, and follow-up. This strengthens teacher commitment that translates into positive changes in the classroom.

• Easy Search Features
With hundreds of fully indexed and searchable learning segments, teachers and administrators can easily find the answers they require. PD 360 has everything SGHS teachers need to immediately improve their teaching and implement best practices.

• Tracking Features
SGHS teachers follow their own growth curve by using the tracking tools and reflection questions at the end of each segment while administrators use PD 360’s integrated tracking, reporting, and follow-up to ensure that teacher professional development happens consistently.

Tracking Features are also used to document teacher instructional accountability, necessary for their District Awards for Teacher Excellence (DATE) Grant.

• Follow-up and Reflection
After watching a video, teachers at SGHS answer reflection questions designed to stimulate thinking about classroom application. A week later, they automatically receive a follow-up email prompting them to describe their implementation progress and success. Administrators can track a teacher’s growth and PD activity.

CONCLUSION

Assessment scores are rising and so is teacher retention. Attitudes are positive. SGHS is a winning team with Principal Rose as coach and cheerleader for teachers and students. The high school has become a family network that supports and cares about each other as administrators, teachers, and students work together for a common goal with PD 360 as an important part of this school’s transformation.

“As a football coach, I ran plays with the team daily. If one player erred, did not get it, I would do it again. We would do it until everyone got it. It was not enough for most of the players to get it right. The goal was perfect plays.

“It is the same in the classrooms. If most of the kids get it, it is not enough, and the teacher should work with the group until they all get it. If one student errs, do it again. The goal is perfect assessment.” – Charles Rose, Principal, South Garland High School, TX

ABOUT SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT NETWORK

The School Improvement Network is the leading provider of teacher education and teacher training, specializing in on-demand, research-based professional development anytime, anywhere. As the home of The Video Journal of Education, PD 360, and the Learning 360 Framework, School Improvement Network’s education training resources focus on the most relevant topics, such as classroom management. The resources also feature top experts such as Michael Fullan and Douglas Reeves, and show how to put theory into practice. With its focus on long-term improvement, sustainability, and greater internal capacity, the School Improvement Network helps its clients close achievement gaps, meet high standards and increase student learning for both elementary education and secondary education. To learn more about School Improvement Network’s dynamic resources, visit http://www.schoolimprovement.com.

Protecting Our Schools on a Budget: Are SRO’s the Only Answer?

If you are the Chief, a patrolman, detective, a school resource officer, or a parent there is a good chance you have found yourself in conversations with friends, colleagues, or citizens about school violence in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Whether these conversations take place in the squad room, a City Council meeting, or over dinner, it becomes obvious that there is no clear answer to the prevention of school violence. The depravity of the Sandy Hook shooting has shed a very public spot light on the dark reality of how vulnerable our youngest citizens can be at school.

School violence is unfortunately part of our American history dating back to the 18th Century. The Pontiac’s Rebellion school massacre of 1764 was regrettably our first introduction to this type of violence. On July 26th, 1764, four American Indian attackers shot and killed over eight school children along with their schoolmaster outside of what is now Greencastle, Pennsylvania. As our history progressed, school shootings did as well. Many believe the increased incidents of school shootings are a product of modern times. However, it has been deemed newsworthy as early as 1874.

After a Los Angeles high school student was shot and killed, the September 11th, 1874 edition of the Los Angeles Herald declared “This boy lost his life through the too common habit among boys of carrying deadly weapons. We do not know that this habit can be broken up. We do not know that school teachers have the right, or would exercise it if they had, of searching the pockets of their pupils, but it seems almost a necessity that some such rule be enforced… Nearly every school-boy carries a pistol, and the power of these pistols range from the harmless six-bit auction concern to the deadly Colt’s six-shooter.”

Colorado has the unfortunate distinction of being home to two of the worst school shootings in history. Columbine (1999) and Platte Canyon (2006) have not only changed the landscape of how law enforcement responds to such incidents, but they have been permanently imprinted into the national consciousness of school violence. With the infamy of these incidents, it is easy to forget that Colorado school shootings can be traced back almost 4 decades prior. On October 17th, 1961, a Morey Junior High student in Denver was shot and killed by a fellow student. Unfortunately, as time has marched on, school shootings in the United States have only increased. Any one even casually paying attention already knows that it’s not a matter of if it will happen, but when. For those of us in law enforcement, we must honestly ask ourselves not if it will happen, but will it happen on our watch in our jurisdiction.

As the tragedy of Sandy Hook was broadcast into the nations’ family rooms on December 14th, 2012, there has been a renewed outcry for increased protection of our school children to shield them from such evil. Before the crime scene was even cleared, the politicians and special interest groups were climbing over each other grabbing headlines to assign blame and offer irrational ‘solutions’ that fit their political views above that of our own children’s safety. On one side of the political aisle are politicians who would have the public believe gun bans, whistles, and call boxes are the only solutions. Politicians on the other side of the aisle want the public to believe armed teachers are the best answer. Members of academia have advocated scraping the Constitution and have told their students to vomit or urinate on potential attackers. Not to be outdone by the stories they cover, even journalists were jumping into the political absurdity by defending ‘Gun Free Zones’ and advocating for the development of bunker-like environments for schools while publicizing businesses who are pushing Kevlar backpacks to alleviate parents’ fears. The ‘good idea fairy’ has unfortunately been making the rounds.

As local and national politicians continue to play the blame game and fail to offer relevant, common sense approaches, communities are naturally turning to their local Police Departments and Sheriffs Offices for reassurance that their children are protected in their schools. On the national level and the local level, the only proposal that seems to have a wide base of support from all political sides is having an increased police presence in our schools.

A December 18th, 2012 (post Sandy Hook) national Gallop poll showed a whopping 87 percent of adults feel ‘Increasing the police presence at schools’ would be either a “very effective” or “somewhat effective” approach to “preventing mass shootings”. A closer examination of the poll results indicated the consensus crosses political affiliation showing 55 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of Democrats, and 53 percent of Independents feel “Increasing the police presence in schools” would be “very effective” in “preventing mass shootings”. Other proposed solutions included the banning of assault and semi-automatic firearms, arming teachers, and increased government spending on mental health yet none of these enjoyed a consensus and each showed considerable political bias towards one party or another.

The concept of Police Officers in our schools is not a new one. The National School Resource Officer Association credits Flint, Michigan with the first deployment of a School Resource Officer in 1959. Over the years, the popularity and successes of the SRO program have grown and made it widely accepted among the general public as well as the Law Enforcement community. A 2006 study by Hickman and Reeves published in Western Criminology Review showed nationally “SRO programs were operational in an estimated 43 percent of local police departments and 47 percent of sheriff’s departments.” Given the current political scrum over various ‘answers’ to school shootings, the SRO program has been under a microscope and has still managed to be widely adopted and come out of the debate relatively clean from partisan politics.

The public has clearly decided that they overwhelming favor an increased police presence in our schools; however, does that necessarily mean that the expansion of SROs into every school is the best solution for school safety? Law Enforcement agencies know that it is not as easy as waving a magic wand to create not only hundreds of new SROs to be placed in every school, but the millions of dollars of funding it will take to hire, train, equip and retain these SROs. Politicians on both the local and federal level like to talk about additional funding for these programs, but there is little hope, with or without additional grant dollars, of increasing the SRO ranks without considering the massive amount of money that would be needed to fund such an expansion.

Presently there are no bills in front of the Colorado Legislature requesting funding specifically for SROs despite public support from numerous legislators. Colorado State Senator Steven King (R-Grand Junction) recently submitted the “School Resource Officer Programs in Public Schools” bill, SB13-138. A close examination of the bill reveals that it does not request any funding for anything. Rather than adding School Resource Officers to our schools, it only adds an SRO to the School Safety Resource Center’s Advisory Board and requires them to hire a full-time grant writer to help school districts apply for grants to be used for unspecified school safety uses.

If a legislator wanted to author a bill that would fund a SRO in every Colorado school, what would it look like? The most recent data from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment listed the average Colorado Police Officer salary at $59,791. According to the Colorado Department of Education there are 1,780 public schools, which if an SRO was placed in each of them, would cost a staggering annual total of $106,427,980. This astronomical amount does not include the $23,796,818 it would cost to provide the same protection to the 398 Colorado private schools would also benefit from an increased police presence. While placing an SRO in every school would significantly address the public’s plea of escalated police presence in educational institutions it is clearly not economically feasible.

Even if the money were available to fund such a project, it is still unlikely that an effective expansion of SROs would be possible. The SRO position is a unique and specialized assignment requiring a unique and special individual to fill it competently. Not every Police Officer can or even wants to be a SRO just as not every Police Officer can or wants to join K9 Units, SWAT Units, Motor Divisions or any other highly specialized unit. Even if an expansion of SROs to every school in Colorado were completely funded, there simply are not enough officers with the special skills that an SRO assignment would require.

During a January 13th, 2013 Wyoming Tribune Eagle interview when asked about expanding the Cheyenne Police Departments SRO program to elementary schools, former Avon (CO) Police Chief Brian Kozak (Currently Cheyenne, WY Police Chief) correctly noted “An added complication is that there wouldn’t be much traditional police work that an officer could do in an elementary school”. Even if criminal activity occurred amongst the students, beyond an armed response, there is little an SRO can do that a school administrator could not given the fact Colorado Revised Statute 18-1-801-Insufficient Age clearly states “No child under ten years of age shall be found guilty of any offense.” While an assigned SRO would still be able to quickly respond to violence, their daily police oriented work load would be minimal. “I believe that it is just as important to assign SROs to elementary schools, however their role would be vastly different than those in middle and high schools. The elementary school SRO would be more of an informal counselor and teacher. Of course they would take reports of child neglect and abuse and other crimes where children are the victims” says Sergeant Damon Vaz of the Aurora Police Department, who supervises their SRO Program. Acting as counselors and role models for youth is certainly important, however the elementary school SRO would find themselves very far removed from actual police work, and in the context of school safety, acting as little more than highly trained deterrents of external criminal activity. This begs the question, is this the best way to spend our limited resources? Likely, the answer is no.

If law enforcement agencies have decided to answer the public demand for increased police presence in the schools, but we have determined that the wisdom and funding needed to put an SRO in every school is unsustainable, what are we to do? How can we increase the time an officer spends on a school campus without affecting the budget or taking regular officers away from their regular duties during school visits?
Enter the substation. Thousands of agencies nationwide already employ substations. Despite their widespread use, the function of a substation varies widely from agency to agency. Some larger substations include detention cells, intox machines, interview rooms, and AFIS terminals. Others are slightly larger than a broom closet with a few computers to write reports. The locations of substations are as varied as their functions being placed anywhere from shopping malls to convenience stores.

Line level officers across the nation spend a considerable part of their day writing reports and filling out paperwork. Currently this takes place at either the police station, a substation, or in their patrol vehicles. From my experience working with numerous law enforcement agencies in Colorado, at least 30% to 40% of an Officer’s shift is spent completing reports, warrants, warrantless affidavits, citations, accident diagrams and returning phone calls and emails. Often times after a high call load day, an Officer may spend his/her entire shift completing paperwork.

That time could be better much better spent if it was completed at a substation on school grounds. A limited focus substation placed on school campuses that do not already have a dedicated SRO would maximize police presence in schools with little to no additional budget consequences. The amount of time Officers would be spending at the school substation would be the same amount of time they would already spend at a non-school substation, the Police Department, or parked in a quiet parking lot. That time would have the additional effect of placing a visible deterrent with parked police vehicles outside the school and it would drastically improve the chances that a Police Officer is on campus if an attack where to take place.

The school substation would have a limited but useful focus on paperwork and the clerical duties of police officers rather than suspect processing or equipment storage historically used in more traditional substations. This focus would keep potential costs low, as they would only require a small amount of space and a few computers, and it would reassure school districts that the police are not introducing criminal suspects or dangerous items to the school environment.

School districts are no less immune to limited budgets than Law Enforcement agencies. With many Colorado school districts already financially strapped, asking them to help fund a vast expansion of the SRO program to every school would likely be given the cold shoulder. However, a law enforcement agency willing to provide hours of officer presence for only the cost of a desk or two in the school office would undoubtedly get a much warmer response.

Budget sensitive law enforcement agencies will find that the school substations’ need for only limited equipment ensures low costs. The already low costs may be further reduced by relocating existing substations currently requiring commercial rent payments. Many departments could find additional savings by utilizing existing MDT’s for report writing thereby only needing a quiet place for the officer to sit down. I am confident the addition of a good coffee maker could entice officers to utilize these areas but in my experience officers need little motivation to make good use of a properly equipped substation. Over my law enforcement career it was clear the rank and file viewed substations as a sanctuary from excessive supervision endured at headquarters and preferred to complete their paperwork at the substation if given the opportunity.

The public mandate to prevent future Sandy Hook, Columbine, and Platte Canyon tragedies is loud and clear. Law enforcement agencies also have to meet the limited budgets provided by their county commissioners and city councils. Every agency, every school district, and every community has different needs, circumstances and fiscal environments. The school substation is not the magic wand solution for every agency and should not be used as a replacement for qualified School Resource Officers if funding is available. It should, however, be explored further as a viable option in light of current financial realities and the unlikelihood of them changing in the foreseeable future. School substations not only have little to no budgetary expenditures, but they squarely address what the public, with bipartisan support, has overwhelmingly expressed would be the most effective preventative measure. Before the ‘good idea fairy’ makes a visit to your agency, please consider the idea of school substations in your jurisdiction.

7 Steps to Succeed in Law School

The first thing you must realize about law school is that, in order to succeed, you must focus on the end game. This means focusing on the exam and, more long term, focusing on how to get a good job after graduation. Any work performed that is not targeted towards these goals is a waste.

Step (1): Find out which classes give credit for class participation and which do not. Oddly enough, some professors will tell you on day one that your class participation will not affect your grade and then they complain when no one in the class participates. If the professor does not count class participation, there is no need to waste your weekends reading the assigned materials and being prepared for class each day. Even if the professor calls on you, it may be embarrassing not knowing the answer, but it really doesn’t matter because not knowing the answer will not affect your grade in any way. In those classes, your grade is solely based on the exam, so that is all you should concentrate on. Others will waste time at the end of the semester trying to catch up on reading and trying to be prepared for each day’s class. Instead, use that time more wisely to take practice tests and outline your notes so you can begin focusing on the end game immediately.

If your professor provides weight to classroom participation, make the effort to participate. In most large classes, the effort requires a simple raise of hand to ask a question or answer a question no more than once per day. No need to be a superstar here.

Just make sure that you participate often enough for the professor to know your name. In most large lectures, most people are too afraid to participate, so take advantage. Often times, it could lead to a bump or even major bump in your grade (B- can become B+, B+ can become and A-).

Since you spend so much time studying and preparing, you may as well use any break you can get. Also helpful is to attend the professor’s office hours a few times during the semester with a few questions about the course. Most students rarely show up for the hours and the professors have to be there, so take advantage of your ability to boost your grade with a little bit of effort. You are likely to add to your grade more significantly with class participation than cramming extra time studying or revising your outline a million times.

Step (2): Get a copy of the professor’s past exams. They are usually available in the library or, occasionally, the professor will provide them to you himself. See exactly what kinds of questions are asked on his exams. Are they essays, fill-ins, multiple choice, or none of the above? Knowing exactly what kinds of questions the professor will ask helps your study preparation. For example, if the exam is essay only, there is no need to memorize the minutia of every little case. You will only need to focus on the broad concepts and the seminal cases.

Step (3): Learn how to write essay answers using the IRAC method. Go to the school’s free writing center or hire a tutor. Practice writing exam questions using the professor’s old exams. Sometimes, you can even convince a professor to look at one of your sample answers in his office hours to gain an extra edge and hear exactly what the professor is looking for.

Step (4): Determine how you would like to study. Some students swear by learning in study groups; others favor learning by themselves. There is no one way better than another. Use whatever you did in high school and college and do not deviate now. If it worked then to get you into law school, it will work for you now. As an aside, if you use study groups and do not understand some issues, go to the professor during office hours and ask. Do not rely on guess answers provided by fellow students who are learning the material for the first time, as you are.

Step (5): Start preparing your outlines for each class 6 weeks before the final.
Make sure your final outline is no more than 35 pages in length. Law school exams generally test the main concepts, so any level of detail beyond 35 pages likely will not be useful for the exam and thus be a waste of your time.
Do NOT try to cram information a week before the exam. Many concepts build upon each other, so cramming (unlike in high school or college) is extremely difficult.

Step (6): Try to join Law Review/Journal and/or Moot Court. Do not join law campus activities/organizations like student senate, etc. Unlike in high school, employers do not care about extra curricular activities. All employers care about are GPA, law school rank, law review/journal, and moot court experience. You have a limited amount of time, do not waste time on activities that will not help you. Do not lose focus on the end game.

Step (7): Attend study sessions held by the professor’s assistant. Usually, the professor has an assistance who will hold a tutorial once a week on the class. The student usually has taken and excelled at the professor’s class. Use him as a resource to gain inside knowledge on the professor’s exam and grading scale.