School open house is today

Parents will learn about Professional Learning Communities

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Change is happening at Hayden schools, but so far, much of it has been behind the scenes.

Teachers have been attending conferences and meetings to learn about Professional Learning Communities, an education philosophy that encourages teachers to work together to understand students' needs.

Staff and administration are confident the results will be better test scores and higher student achievement.

Parents will have the opportunity to learn more about PLC during the Hayden High School and Middle School open house from 6 to 7:30 p.m. today.

Principal Troy Zabel and middle school dean of students Gina Zabel will give short informative presentations about the new approach to education at 6:15 and 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

Staff at all three schools began integrating the key aspect of PLC -- collaboration -- into their education structures during the last school year.

Through the PLC system, teachers regularly meet to assess individual students to understand which students are absorbing information and which students are not.

Staff then work together to devise intervention strategies and achievement goals or "essential learning outcomes" for students who need more help as well as for those who need more of a challenge.

The four-day student school week planned between Thanksgiving and spring break will give teachers more time to work toward PLC goals.

Staffs' efforts come against the background of disappointing CSAP and ACT scores. The scores were not shocking because staff knew the schools were lacking in certain areas, Troy Zabel said.

"I think we have major, major work to do," he said. "I think PLC is definitely the answer."

PLC structures have intervention levels meant to keep students from falling through the cracks. The first intervention is to notify parents of students who are having problems in the classroom.

If there is no improvement, students may stay after school for extra help. If they decline and they still don't improve, they must attend mandatory study hall.

The next levels are mandatory tutoring and extra work on the Fridays that other students have off, Troy Zabel said.

There are other strategies depending on the problem. Students having difficulty in math, for example, will attend a math lab in addition to regular math class. Two teachers in the lab will provide students with more focused help until they improve.

Teachers have spent a lot of time in meetings the last several weeks discussing schools' missions and how they can hold themselves accountable for goals, Troy Zabel said.

"All the right chemistry is here," he said. "We just have to get the right structure in place to make it happen."

However, parents understanding and support still will be crucial to improving student achievement.

"It's going to take a co-op of home and school to really make a difference," Troy Zabel said.

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