It’s hard to believe, but our focused three-day conversation with Rick and Becky DuFour—authors of Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap—is quickly coming to an end!

This conversation has been unique to me because it was driven by a small handful of really bright minds.  While there weren’t dozens of participants, those who came engaged deeply:  asking and answering questions, challenging thinking and allowing themselves to be challenged.

The end result is a conversation that will challenge your thinking, too!  Take a few minutes exploring the summaries from the first and second days of our conversation and then poke through our thread online.

You might also be interested in the comments that I found most interesting today:

On Slide 2, David C asks a really interesting question about essential outcomes when he writes, “Paring down the curriculum can be a bit tricky, though.  When we talk about 8-10 outcomes, how specific do we want an outcome to be?

For example, a math teacher can determine an outcome to be “students can identify and apply linear relationships between two variables,” but this outcome can involve multiple skills.  We can also break things down to the specific skills, but then 8-10 outcomes may be too narrow of a focus.”

For my learning team, focusing on the smallest measurable skill has become a driving force.  Our objectives—which are developed at the state level—are often incredibly broad and they require fluency with several independent skills in order to demonstrate mastery.

As a group, we’ve gone through the process of breaking these broader objectives down into discrete skill sets and have designed a series of lessons for each objective that incorporates practice with the skills that we’ve identified.

By breaking everything into discrete skills, we’ve made reporting and tracking mastery far more targeted and specific—which makes intervening for students easier.

Does this make any sense?  Our “essential outcomes” are broad objectives that we break down into independent skill sets that are targeted in our instructional planning and reporting.

On Slide 3, Matt Townsley asks a question that I’d love to see people answer—both here in the comment section of this blog and in our Voicethread conversation.

He writes: “Does anyone have a great story they could share about addressing common content while teaching in a much different way than a colleague, but still producing parallel student learning?”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could collect a bunch of tangible examples of the kinds of “parallel student learning” that Matt is asking about?  We’d finally be able to dispel the myth that PLCs are about standardizing practice!

On Slide 5, Bill Ivey—a great friend who teaches in a small boarding school in Massachusetts—spends time explaining how his faculty works diligently to tap into the knowledge of everyone when targeting the needs of individual students.

He mentions how coaches, guidance counselors, academic teachers, school principals and house parents are involved in designing solutions for struggling students.

What I’m wondering is how common are these practices in traditional schools?  Are your buildings doing a good job eliciting information from all of the important adults in the lives of your struggling students?

How have you created time for this kind of cross communication?  What are the barriers to seeing more faculty-wide collaboration around individual students.

On the final slide of the conversation, Matt Townsley raises another interesting question when he asks:  “What is the role of non-core academic teachers in collaborative teams…specifically those without as much  “core content?” I’m thinking of the vocal music teacher or the industrial tech teacher.”

Great question, huh?  And one that comes up often in conversations about professional learning communities.  Schools often have trouble figuring out how best to integrate non-core professionals into the collaborative work of their schools.

I’d like to put an interesting twist on Matt’s question:  What role can non-core teachers play in a school’s system of interventions?

I mean, so much of our attention is on whether or not students are mastering the core academic skills that are required—both for success in any subject and for success on standardized measures of student performance—that the work students do in elective classes is completely overlooked.

What’s strange about that is many of our struggling students are more successful in their elective classes than they are at any time during their school day!
How can (are?) schools taking advantage of this reality?

How are they taking advantage of the elective teachers in their building to reach students who aren’t being successful in their core academic classrooms?

Interesting stuff, huh?  And questions that any school working to create a system of interventions are going to have to wrestle with at some point or another!

Now, our conversation is officially over, but I’ll leave it open for commenting until the end of the day tomorrow.  That way, you can sneak in to leave any final thoughts that you want to share.  Rick and Becky will be stopping by once more as well, so if you’ve got specific questions for them, get ‘em up quick!

Also, Solution Tree will be leaving the link to a digital copy of Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap open until the end of the day tomorrow…so if you haven’t gotten your copy yet, be sure to click here.

Just remember that some readers have been having trouble getting their copy to download.  While the link is definitely live and working, you definitely have to register for a free account and you may have to click the link more than once to get the PDF file to load.

Hope this all makes sense to you—and thank you for being a part of my professional growth.  I love listening to and learning from y’all.

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