Orange elementary school children aren’t the only ones who are constantly learning – their teachers are too. Called professional development or professional learning, Orange teachers are regularly looking at new ways to approach student development.
At a recent Professional Development Evaluation Committee (PDEC) meeting, teachers from each school met to provide feedback on proposed plans for the year including an Election Day session. In addition to mapping out plans to re-evaluate LEAP criteria, teachers discussed student goal options, which they feel are now somewhat limited.
“Rather than providing one goal option with two indicators, members expressed interest in providing staff with choices,” explained Curriculum Director Evelyn Russo. New goal choices include social and emotional learning, student engagement, engaging families cultural responsiveness and academic achievement. PDEC members ask that teachers prioritize a goal for their choice for reporting on TVAL, a digital evaluation platform.
“Even though we’re only prioritizing one goal, as a district, we do guarantee that we’re engaging in social and emotional learning and academics are addressed through the curriculum and the scientific research-based intervention process regardless of a chosen TVAL goal,” Russo says.
Board of Education Member Charles Flynn said he was encouraged with the new focus. “I think that the social/emotional piece is a really important thing for the kids at this particular time. I also appreciate the re-evaluating of LEAP criteria. It’s a valuable program, but I think it is heavy on standardized testing in its criteria, so I hope some imagination will be explored there,” he says. Originally called the Talented and Gifted Program, an abundant factor in placement in LEAP is the COGAT tests.
“So if you don’t get a certain score, you’re eliminated from consideration despite other significant talents and abilities – I welcome discussion to broaden the horizons, because there are a variety of ways to show talent,” Flynn said.
Russo said that the criteria should align with the type of program that you develop or have in place and the committee will be looking more closely at that alignment. Overall, Russo explained that RULER (recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating) emotions is the district’s approach to social and emotional learning.
“The committee thinks that we should continue the goals that we started pre-COVID, so there are two tools that we will continue to learn about: the meta-moment, which is stopping and recognizing your best self before acting, and the blueprint, which is a way of handling conflict and achieving resolution,” she says.
The PDEC has also agreed to replace the current reading assessment tool with a new edition that gauges oral reading fluency. “That one minute measure that is equivalent to looking at the results of a brain scan. We learn so much from that in a minute – they read a passage and we look at how they recognize the words,” Russo says.
“We look at who has generalized the six patterns of the English language. All words are made up of those basic six patterns and then combinations of those patterns,” she explains. “In oral reading fluency, you can see who can recognize those multi-syllabic words. We look at the results to target our instruction and if we need to dig deeper and diagnose further.”
The new program is one of the few that include a dyslexia screener and unlike the STAR assessment, each teacher can hear and assess how every child reads the same passage and comprehends it in comparison to peers.
“We’re really proud of our staff and how they engage in this work,” Russo said.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent