Weekly Feature



2018-08-09 / Education

Maryvale schools engage in Professional Learning Communities

by JULIE HALM
Interim editor

Members of the Maryvale School District are learning all about teamwork — the teachers, that is.

Sharon Kramer spoke to the Board of Education during a meeting held Monday evening regarding the Professional Learning Communities model, which she has been helping to implement in the district since last year.

Kramer is a consultant with a lengthy background in education who travels to various districts teaching what she referred to as “a way to harness the power in every school district.”

According to Kramer, the model focuses on continuous learning on the part of educators and data-driven adjustments to help teachers intervene in the most efficient ways to drive student success.

When asked by a member of the board what kind of data is considered to shape the education model, Kramer said that while grades are a difficult benchmark to measure consistently, the focus falls more on failure and graduation rates, unit tests and benchmark assessments.

She also noted that short-cycle tests “are the linchpin” because the model focuses heavily on timely intervention to prevent students from falling behind. Such short assessments allow teachers to see where students are struggling before a unit is complete and a student should be moving on to a new topic.

According to Kramer, the model focuses on continuous improvement for staff and is more than just a short-term way of thinking, but a way of life.

While students might see changes in how teachers address difficulties in the classroom, the staff is put into teams.

“Nobody can do it alone,” said Kramer. “We build a collaborative culture.”

Kramer will be working in the district for eight days on this visit, helping to foster those collaborative bonds.

The culture at Maryvale seems to have benefited Jacob Bell, who was awarded his diploma during Monday night’s meeting.

Bell missed the district’s ceremony in June because he was attending a national aviation technology competition held in Arlington, Virginia.

High School Principal Thomas Stack lauded Bell for his contributions to the district.

“He’s not only a fantastic student, but a contributor to our athletics and one of the most polite students in the senior class and in the whole district,” said Stack.

Bell will be attending Bowling Green State University in Ohio in the fall.

During Monday evening’s meeting, the Board of Education also approved the tax rate for the 2018-19 school year at $18.44 per $1,000 of assessed value.

That number increased by 2.2 percent from last year, when the rate was approximately $18.03 per $1,000 assessed value.

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