Tools for Student Success - CEL's 5 Dimensions of Teaching and Learning

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Written by Donna Boughner, Principal at Grayling High School and Region 2 Representative on the MASSP Board of Directors

Our school system is very fortunate to be recognized throughout the state of Michigan as a district that is "beating the odds." We believe in a collaborative learning environment to do what is best for all students. We have invested time and money into quality professional development specific to understanding poverty, improving grading practices for learning, and expanding our toolbox of instructional best practices.

Crawford AuSable School District (CASD) has benefited from visiting many schools to beg, borrow and steal ideas as part of our commitment to continuous improvement. In return, we have hosted Senators, Congressmen, State Board of Education members, and numerous districts from across our state that are interested in learning about what we are doing to increase student achievement. At some point during each visit we are asked, "What is the key to your students' success?"

Our answer is simple: people. If you are in education you know this is a people business. There isn't one key idea that guarantees success for our students. Culture, climate, curriculum, communication, evaluation and accountability are all contributing factors – people factors. We believe a successful school district comes from being collaborative and consistent. Having the school board, administration, staff and students at every level striving for the same goals has been essential to CASD's success.

To meet our goals, we invest in our people. We ensure that expectations are clear and that time and support are provided to staff, in order to develop their skills and meet the needs of our students.

The past three years, we have focused our learning around the Center for Educational Leadership's (CEL) 5 Dimensions of Teaching and Learning instructional framework and 5D+™ Rubric for Instructional Growth and Teacher Evaluation. The 5D™ instructional framework has provided a common vision and shared language around teaching and learning. The 5D+ rubric has provided us actionable next steps for growing our practice and impacting student learning. Ongoing cycles of inquiry with formative feedback has ensured we have a rigorous, fair and transparent evaluation system.

The professional development we received from MASSP on this subject has been outstanding. Providing all teachers and administrators with quality PD specific to CEL's teacher evaluation system is one way we've developed understanding and gained commitment to the evaluation system from all stakeholders. In addition, we have worked many hours in PLC's learning, assessing, and expanding our knowledge and skills related to these research-based best practices and supporting each other as educators.

This investment in people around CEL's teacher evaluation system has contributed to our progress in changing the odds for student success. A testament to the powerful learning opportunities afforded staff from this journey is reflected in the following statements from my colleagues.

"This is my 30th year of teaching social studies. There is no doubt in my mind that I am at the very top of my craft as a teacher right now. I have shown significant growth over the past few years due to the 5 Dimensions of Teaching and Learning. The 5D+ Teacher Evaluation is not a "gotcha" or "check box" evaluation tool. 5D+ is an evaluation piece that is based on educational research and it promotes growth as a teacher. I am excited to teach every day and the tools that I am given through this system have enabled me to be an effective teacher in the classroom" – Rich Moffit, Teacher and Coach

"After receiving the training from Colin, I have a better understanding of providing quality feedback for my staff during observations. It has provided our district with a common language and road map to make sure we are doing our job well. Both our teachers and myself have been trained in this process, which has helped us be very consistent. The 5D indicators are very easy to understand and connect on every aspect to be a quality teacher." – Jeff Branch, Grayling Middle School Principal

"CEL's Teacher Evaluation System has taken much of the fear out of evaluations and put much more of the emphasis on getting better. When teachers have input on their own goals, they feel ownership and gain trust in their administrator that they are now coming into the classroom to help them in the areas they have chosen to improve. This creates a "we're in this together" mentality as opposed to a "gotcha" environment. The rubric is written in a sequential and easy to understand manner. This gives teachers clear targets of research proven strategies to implement when trying to advance from one performance level to the next. As our teachers continuously work to get better by using these research proven strategies, student achievement has continuously improved." – Tim Sanchez, Grayling High School Assistant Principal

"Colin's presentation style is focused, articulated, and carefully structured. He possesses a command of oratory that enraptures his audience in the dimensions of masterful teaching because he is willing to teach his audience through his own candid personal anecdotes. His delivery is at once relaxed and perfectly paced. He speaks in a direct manner that demonstrates he understands every point in the 5D training model. I would implicitly trust Colin to evaluate any teacher, and I would also trust him to teach any administrator to evaluate their teachers." – Chris Lackenbucher, Veteran Teacher

"5D+ focuses on professional growth. That perspective has allowed me to build trusting relationships with my staff. We work together to improve their practice, which in turn directly impacts student achievement. The 5D guiding questions have facilitated deeper and more meaningful professional conversation not only between teachers and myself, but actually within our teaching teams." – Gina Brunskill, Grayling Elementary School

We all know evaluations can cause anxiety and defensiveness. However, we have found that using the more evidence-based and strength-driven processes learned in CEL's framework training that teachers and administrators are more engaged as learners. By focusing on what teachers can do and collaboratively determining actionable next steps within specific areas of focus improvement is embraced, rather than feared.

As a high school principal, I know an evaluation tool is not "the answer" on how to be successful in education. However, through our work to implement CEL's teacher evaluation system with fidelity, we have further invested in our people, which is the answer. CEL's instructional framework, rubric and training has helped me to have courageous conversations with staff, and gain powerful insight into each teacher's thinking and methodologies. It has promoted a collaborative environment in which colleagues are willing to observe each other and honestly share their thoughts and ideas. In short, this work has had a profound impact on our district's culture, professional practice, and student achievement.