School Plan Focuses on Student Engagement

by Katherine Sperduto ’19

What is the ideal way for teachers to engage students and get them thinking on their own? Sherwood thinks it has the answer: students should be frequently in small groups and held accountable to help each other succeed with the material they are learning.

The School Improvement Plan (SIP) is an annual plan created each summer by Sherwood’s Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) that sets specific goals for the school. To achieve these objectives for literacy and mathematics, teachers are expected in implement certain teaching practices into their daily instruction. The three strategies that the Sherwood administration decided on was cooperative learning, probing questions, and higher-order questioning.

To choose these teaching practices, “the ILT collects school-wide data from all stakeholders along with District measures, it is analyzed during the school year and over the summer to determine and identify what students at Sherwood are struggling with the most. We conduct a comprehensive root-cause analysis of all the data points,” said Staff Development teacher Catina Wist. “We don’t just make stuff up out of thin air. The county has a Resource for Equitable Classroom Practices that contains 27 high-impact teaching strategies that have been researched and proven. Out of the 27, the highest 2 to 3 impact strategies were chosen to be a focus of our instruction to benefit Sherwood students the most.”

Teachers are expected to support these strategies within their lessons plan. All teachers are expected to continuously learn and alter their practices; however, their lessons should revolve around the three strategies.

Teachers are advised to use their professional judgment when it comes to which strategy to utilize the most with a class. “I think that a majority of the teachers here at Sherwood are professionals and utilize the tools they have been given. Each discipline is different, which means that learning looks different,” said English teacher Samantha Ager.

“My teaching methods are centered around student inquiry, so it would be really hard to pick just one method that I think would be most effective,” said science teacher Laura Dinerman. “It is important to use a variety of methods, reduce student stress while urging them to take academic risks, and to share information effectively in the classroom community.”

To ensure that these practices are effectively applied in the classroom, informal observations are conducted by administrators and department leads in which the observer completes a form. If it’s determined a teacher is struggling with a specific practice, that teacher will receive feedback that same day.

“I want my students to be successful in everything that they do. They are our future leaders and we need them to be educated, critical thinkers so that our civilization an prosper,” said Ager.