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 A New Way to Organize Instruction

4/2/2019 9:00 AM

​At first, teachers at two RPS 205 middle schools thought Plan-Do-Study-Act was just another initiative. Then it became clear PDSA was the structure to tie it all together — to make goals easier, not harder.

Terese Marinelli, a special education teacher at West Middle School, remembers that PDSA wasn't fully embraced initially. Now, it is woven through West's Professional Learning Communities and classroom instruction. "There's no double work," Mrs. Marinelli said.

Rather than a here-today, gone-tomorrow program, "PDSA is an organization of our instruction," West Principal Maurice Davis said. "It's an approach to teaching and learning." 

PDSA is one of the common threads in grade-level growth in the district. Many teachers have either gone to the Menomonee School District in Wisconsin to observe the method in the classroom or have been trained by their peers. 

Grade-level teams at West and Lincoln middle schools are using PDSA and seeing good results.

New PDSA strategies have helped Lincoln achieve growth in the four content areas tested for middle school on the Measures of Academic Progress. All grade-level teams had positive conditional growth index scores from fall to winter. Conditional growth measures student growth relative to expected growth for students at their achievement level across the nation.

Lincoln Principal Jim Parker has a special shoutout for his sixth grade math team. The percentage of students who met projection from the fall-to-winter MAP last year was 48 percent; this year, it was 58 percent. 

Teachers Cara Hodgdon and Jean Perkins said student engagement was key to improvement. Students have binders including "I Can" checklists of goals, assessments and reassessments, and graphs of their scores. "We're not telling them what to put down. They have to come up with those strategies that do and don't work," Mrs. Hodgdon said. Students reflect not only on their own learning but on the quality of classroom instruction. 

Mrs. Perkins said students know the teachers believe in them, but they must own their learning, continually work and not give up. "We don't let them off easy," she said.

Principal Davis points to evidence the Plan-Do-Study-Act approach is working: On the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, West had the second-highest percentage of traditional middle school students in the district meeting or exceeding standards in English-Language Arts. West's most recent scores on the Language Usage test on MAP were higher this year than last year.

Terese Marinelli teaches sixth grade special education English and is a push-in (or in-classroom) teacher in social studies and reading. She said teachers have shifted instruction to a more data-driven approach and let students lead the way. Even students performing at the lowest levels have set goals and selected what strategies work for them, she said.

When teachers changed their focus from grades to proficiency, the students changed right with them, Mrs. Marinelli said. Instead of focusing on how many answers they got wrong, "they want to fix it and get better. Our classrooms are looking different this year."

Cara Hodgdon teaches in a math classroom at Lincoln Middle School.
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