Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dispatch From Down Under -- "Let's give it a red hot go"

That line was uttered to me today by principal Charles Branciforte during my visit to Keilor Views Primary School. It sums up his team's willingness to try out new educational ideas in small teacher groups via a research-based inquiry cycle. Many times the ideas work, and 6 to 12 months later, they are scaled up to eventually encompass the entire school if applicable. Sometimes, the ideas do not produce the desired impact on student learning, and are shelved. But it is that spirit and passion to change practice for the best interests of students that drives this innovative school.

The school utilizes the Visible Learning work of Professor John Hattie in all classrooms; indeed, Keilor is featured as a case study in Visible Learning into Action:International Case Studies of Impact.Teachers are committed to its implementation because they have seen the results. How do they know? Because Assistant Principal Rita Szrenko supports teachers in mining their data through a regular formative assessment process that includes regular conferring with students about their learning and student goal-setting.

Instructional coaches also support individual teachers to confirm the reliability of the data.

I accompanied Charles and Rita on one of their typical learning walks through the school.From classroom to classroom, the ages of students varied, but the non-negotiables did not: clear learning targets, success criteria, and at least 1,000 books available in each room:

By the way, that learning target and success criteria were in a classroom of 4-5 year olds.

Like any meaningful improvement, the success of Keilor students did not happen overnight. Indeed, it has taken commitment to a multiple year journey and an unending drive to continually improve. Along the way, some staff have opted out and either retired or moved to other schools. Charles and Rita have set very high expectations for teachers, and in turn, for students. Rita has been instrumental in supporting teacher teams in their collaborative planning of lessons, in a template that reminded me of our district's consensus mapping. Charles has been incredibly creative in finding funds to support teacher learning and collaborative time. Both are committed to creating a professional culture and atmosphere in which great teaching and learning occurs.

It's always a joy to enter a classroom of kids engaged in learning. What I saw today blew me away. Kids will rise or fall to meet expectations, and in this school, kids are soaring! And not just some kids, but all kids.

As I close this out, I need to thank not only Charles and Rita for their time, but the staff of Corwin Australia, especially Bishri Basheer and Brad Rosairo, for making this visit possible.

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