The Archdiocese of Hartford determined that in order to meet the diversity of students’ learning needs and learning styles, teachers needed to understand
students’ academic strengths and deficiencies. This aided in their ability to design instructional practices to maximize students’ growth potential. Annually, the variety of assessments – standardized and teacher developed – yield rich data about individual students as well as classroom and school-wide achievement. Teachers need to be able to break data down into meaningful pieces of information that can be used to guide instruction. The Catholic Schools Office, principals and teachers work together to create a culture of professional learning (1) in the schools of the Archdiocese of Hartford that endures
The goal is to effectively use student performance data to improve instructional decisions in the classroom. Teachers should be able to draw upon multiple sources of data about student learning and understand how best to use this information to improve instruction.
In order to create a common direction for improving instructional practice, the Assistant Superintendent for Academics worked with all of the principals to create
professional learning (2) communities (PLCs) for the schools beginning during the 2007-2008 academic year. Using research about the effectiveness of professional
learning communities, principals from schools in close geographic proximity, were organized into PLCs and were provided professional development activities that
developed a focus on using data to improve classroom instruction in their schools.
The principals met in their groups a minimum of three times per year. The PLCs were focused on analyzing the available standardized test data for language arts and mathematics used to assess student progress. They studied how the data were presently being used and how data could be used more effectively in conjunction with school goals and classroom instructional goals. (3)
All of the schools use standardized tests that provide item-by-item analysis of the particular skill assessed. The teachers are able to see where individual students struggle or excel in each skill and adjust instruction accordingly. Classroom results are able to be compared with national data as well as with other Archdiocesan schools.
Professional development was provided for the principals so they would be able to interpret data and be able to work with their faculty as they were organized into PLCs at the school level. The individual principal’s professional learning goals for the year are to include goals for the PLCs.
School-level PLCs were created for grade-spans and each PLC met once a week to develop a curriculum template to map out what skills would be emphasized across the curriculum. Once a month, at a full faculty meeting, a flow chart was produced to diagram the skills taught in each classroom. Then additional areas to focus on were determined for the next month and PLCs worked to integrate then into the content areas across the curriculum.
Over the years, the archdiocese has invested significant resources to create professional development opportunities for principals and teachers so they might develop techniques to personalize learning and utilize digital platforms and software to improve classroom instruction and cross-curricular learning.
Growing Together: Best Practices for Catholic Schools
The future of Catholic schools is dependent upon the sharing of best practices and resources across the nation. NCEA is committed to sharing best practices in the field with all members. The following series of best practices serve to complement the NCEA resource library by acting as an index of topics to introduce topic area, create networks and share resources. Each best practice includes a topic area, an arch/diocese or school serving as a model and their process in meeting a need in Catholic education. The addition of best practices will be ongoing as new best practices are identified and shared by arch/dioceses.