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Systems of Success: District School Boards Facilitating Teachers’ Professional Learning July 5, 2007. Recognition of Importance of Districts in Supporting School Improvement and Student Achievement.

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systems of success district school boards facilitating teachers professional learning july 5 2007
Systems of Success:District School Boards Facilitating Teachers’ Professional LearningJuly 5, 2007
recognition of importance of districts in supporting school improvement and student achievement
Recognition of Importance of Districts in Supporting School Improvement and Student Achievement
  • Togneri and Anderson (2003: 49) – important role of districts in moving “beyond islands of excellent schools to systems of success”.
  • What do “systems of success” involve in practice in Ontario?



  • Leadership for learning
  • Vision and shared focus on student achievement as the priority
  • Moral purpose informing strategies and practices
  • Overarching strategy
  • Resources prioritized
  • Effective organization
  • Monitoring, review, feedback and accountability


  • Capacity building and professional learning
  • Curriculum development instruction and interventions to support learning for all students
  • Use of data and development of assessment literacy
  • Positive and purposeful partnerships
  • Communication



the sites of excellence project
The Sites of Excellence Project


  • To identify classrooms where practical and meaningful classroom strategies were contributing to student success and improved achievement in literacy and numeracy
  • To identify schools where leadership and capacity building activities were directly supporting improved student performance in literacy and numeracy
common successful practices
Common Successful Practices

Most frequently identified practices for both literacy and numeracy:

  • Staff collaboration and teamwork
  • Professional learning communities
  • Professional development
  • Use of data to inform instruction
  • Use of flexible groupings of students within classrooms
  • Connections between priorities in school improvement plans

and classroom practices

  • Supporting parental involvement
successful practices literacy and numeracy
Successful Practices: Literacy and Numeracy

Further successful practices identified for literacy


  • Implementing balanced literacy programs
  • Using literacy blocks effectively

Further successful practices identified for numeracy specifically:

  • Utilizing resources to support mathematics teaching and learning, especially manipulatives
  • Implementing mathematics programs
  • Integrating mathematics across the curriculum

Most frequently cited factors to ensure sustainability:

  • Leadership of the principal
  • On-going capacity building through professional development
  • Acquisition of necessary resources for literacy and numeracy
  • Staff commitment and collaboration
  • Use of data and assessment to guide instruction
  • On-going board support
  • School improvement planning
  • Focused staff meetings
  • On-going involvement and support of parents
building capacity local board initiatives 2005 2006
Building Capacity: Local Board Initiatives (2005-2006)

Key Focus 2:

Ensure equity of outcome to close achievement gaps

Key Focus 1:

Utilize smaller class size to increase instructional effectiveness

Higher Levels of Achievement for Ontario Students

(75% of Ontario students achieve or surpass the provincial standard)

Key Focus 3:

Improve reading and comprehension skills for students in the junior grades

Key Focus 4:

Provide instructional leadership development at all levels of the system

indicators of effective professional learning initiatives coburn 2003
Indicators of Effective Professional Learning Initiatives(Coburn 2003)
  • Depth
  • Sustainability
  • Spread
  • Ownership
research on characteristics of effective professional learning
Research on Characteristics of Effective Professional Learning
  • Focuses on deepening teachers’ content knowledge and how students learn
  • Encourages coherence in teachers’ professional development experience
  • Provides activities for active learning over an extended period of time (Desimone, L. et al, 2005)
models of professional learning
Models of Professional Learning
  • Expert-led training sessions
  • Coaching
  • Professional learning communities and networks
the ontario research
The Ontario Research
  • Case study of ten purposive projects
  • Final board reports from all 90 projects
  • Collaborative coding processes of final board reports using themes that emerged from the ten purposive cases
    • Scope of initiative: level/frequency/intensity
    • Project focus
    • Capacity building process
  • Data collected was analyzed using frequencies, cross tabs, and ANOVA
the ontario research findings
The Ontario Research: Findings
  • Local Initiatives that contributed to student achievement showed the following characteristics:
  • learning experiences
    • included explicit learning activities in the classrooms of participating schools
    • took place at board level workshops as well as in classrooms
    • combined expert-led training with PLCs and coaching activity
    • progressed from one session to another (intensity)
    • were flexible and modified according to ongoing participant feedback
    • used research-based strategies and data was used to review and monitor ongoing effectiveness and student achievement.
professional learning teacher implications
Professional Learning: Teacher Implications
  • Are teachers getting opportunities to work with other teachers from across the board?
  • Are teachers getting opportunities to both ‘see’ new pedagogic and curricular initiatives as well as ‘use’ these techniques within their own classrooms in explicit ways?
  • Does this work both take and give direction to board level improvement activities? Is the professional learning activity reciprocal and formative?
  • How closely do board–based sessions and classroom-based activities directly relate to each other and inform each other in ongoing ways?
professional learning school implications
Professional Learning: School Implications
  • In what ways do school leaders create opportunities for teachers to do this work within their classrooms?
  • Are school leaders embedding this type of work within their school improvement plans not as an additional item listed but as the core way that the school and teachers move forward and make decisions?
professional learning board implications
Professional Learning: Board Implications
  • Does the board have a school support team that can design and deliver a series of board-level sessions which build or progress from one session to the next and use school-based activities as a key tool in this progression?
  • How well does the board both facilitate integration of board-based sessions and work in classrooms and individual school needs?
what conditions support coaching
What Conditions Support Coaching?

“Successful coaching depends not only on the knowledge and skill of individual coaches, but also on a number of district- and school-level factors that can enhance or thwart the coaches’ efforts. The work of coaching is highly localized and the principal plays a key role in the program, but its ultimate success at the school level depends on the district. Therefore, it is the district that needs to shape the coaches’ role, focus the coaches’ work around the district’s instructional goals, and articulate the connection between that work and schools’ overall reform strategy”

(Neufeld and Roper, 2003, p.15)

Literacy Coaching:How School Districts Can Support a Long-Term Strategy in a Short-Term World(K. Walsh Symonds, 2003)
  • Prioritize and Align Funding
  • Develop a Clear Job Description
  • Communicate Why
  • Structure Coordination with Principals
  • Focus on Literacy Coaching in the Strategic Plan
  • Provide Professional Development for Coaches on Research-Based Strategies
  • Structure Collaboration Time During the School Day
  • Keep Coaches Closely Connected to the Classroom
  • Continually Assess and Communicate Effectiveness
conditions essential for successful coaching neufeld roper 2003
Conditions Essential for Successful Coaching Neufeld & Roper, 2003

For coaching to be effective, district leaders need to:

  • Provide clear, explicit, and continuing support for the coaching program.
  • Understand the reforms in which schools are engaged and possess the knowledge and skill with which to support schools in implementing them.
  • Ensure that the coaches have well-specified roles and make coaches’ roles and responsibilities clear to all of the district’s educators.
  • Provide principals with professional development that enables them to create a school culture in which coaching is both routine and safe.
  • Ensure that the process of selecting coaches at the district and school levels is rigorous and fair and results in the hiring of coaches who will be credible to the teachers and principals with whom they work.
questions for districts initiating coaching models
Questions for Districts Initiating Coaching Models
  • What are our professional development goals and what do we want to accomplish with our overall professional development program?
  • What would we gain from having coaching as part of our repertoire of teacher/principal learning opportunities?
  • What could coaches do to help us achieve our instructional goals?
  • Are there other approaches to achieving our goal, and might they be more appropriate for us?
  • What else, in addition to coaching, would we have to support to help us reach our instructional goals?

Neufeld & Roper, 2003

what challenges does coaching present at the system level neufeld roper 2003
What Challenges Does Coaching Present at the System Level? Neufeld & Roper, 2003

Allocating Coaches

  • How many days should a coach be in school?;
  • With whom should the coaches work?
  • Should coaches be assigned to schools in which they recently taught?
  • Should some coaches retain part-time teaching assignments?

Finding Time to Do the Work

  • Scheduling conflicts?
  • How to organize coaching to keep up with demand?
  • How do schools find time for small-group coach-provided professional development?
what challenges does coaching present at the system level neufeld roper 20031
What Challenges Does Coaching Present at the System Level? Neufeld & Roper, 2003

Changing Teachers’ Practices

  • “This too will pass….”
  • Resistors
  • Weak principal leadership

Measuring the Quality and Impact of Coaches’ Work

  • Criteria for evaluation of coaches work?
  • Formative and summative approaches
the impact of coaching
The Impact of Coaching

“In order to undertake effectively the considerable effort required to implement a coaching program, a district must commit itself to the theory that improved teaching will lead to improved student learning. But having made that commitment, a district must remember that coaching is not a gimmick; it is not something to be added onto a district’s repertoire of professional development offerings. It must be integral to a larger instructional improvement plan that targets and aligns professional development resources toward the district’s goals” (Neufeld & Roper, 2003, p.26)

the coaching conversation model coachworks international
The Coaching Conversation ModelCoachWorks International

Coaching Through the Gap

Step 1:



Step 2: Step 3: Step 4:

Discover Plan the Remove

Possibilities Action Barriers

Step 5:


& Next


Where they


Where they

Want to be.

coaching conversations establishing focus
Coaching Conversations:Establishing Focus

Examples of questions:

  • What would you like to get from this conversation?
  • What is your priority?
  • What is the best use of our time in this conversation?
  • What do you need to focus on?
coaching conversations discovering possibilities
Coaching Conversations:Discovering Possibilities

Examples of questions:

  • What outcomes do you want?
  • What is the best thing that could happen?
  • If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you do?
  • What have you observed that has worked for others?
  • That’s one option… what’s another?
coaching conversations planning the action
Coaching Conversations:Planning the Action

Examples of questions:

  • Of all the options, what’s the most compelling?
  • What do you need to do first?
  • Who or what do you need to include to succeed?
  • How will these actions contribute to achieving your goal?
coaching conversations removing barriers
Coaching Conversations:Removing Barriers

Examples of questions:

  • What might prevent you from succeeding?
  • What resources do you need?
  • What’s missing?
  • What are the roadblocks you expect or know about?
coaching conversations review and recap
Coaching Conversations:Review and Recap

Examples of questions:

  • Tell me what you are going to do and by when?
  • What are you taking away from this conversation?