Using Surveys to Identify Professional Development Needs
The Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School District embraces the state’s efforts to provide equity and excellence for all students. As our district introduced the Raise Awareness phase for the Next Generation Learning Standards Implementation Roadmap, we offered various professional learning opportunities, partnered with Madison-Oneida BOCES, and provided teachers with a variety of resources. Surveys assisted us in identifying strengths and areas of growth concerning our effectiveness in communicating this phase. The surveys revealed the effectiveness of our communication efforts and teacher professional learning opportunity preferences. These results guide our district planning for specific professional development in order to provide equity and excellence for all students while moving forward with the Capacity Building phase.
The Vernon-Verona-Sherrill School District is located in Central New York. The rural district enrolls over 1,900 students in PreK -12. The 130 square mile school district includes the towns and villages of Vernon and Verona, the small city of Sherrill, portions of the cities of Oneida and Rome, and the towns of Kirkland, Westmoreland, and Vienna.
The district consists of five buildings. There are three PreK-6 elementary schools, a 7-8 middle school, and a 9-12 high school. The district's student population is 54% male and 46% female. The racial/ethnic composition of the district is 96% White, 2% Multiracial, .1% Hispanic or Latino, .3% American Indian or Alaska Native, .3% Asian or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and .4% Black or African American. Of the student population, .4 % are English language learners, 44% are economically disadvantaged and 12% are students with disabilities.
The VVS School District has a tradition of student success. Highlights include a 93% graduation rate, a variety of secondary course offerings that include 10 Honors classes, eight AP classes, and over 25 Dual Credit Courses through Mohawk Valley Community College, as well as numerous extra-curricular and athletic activities spanning all grade levels. The district has 44.6% of their students matriculating into 4-year colleges and 30.7% of students matriculating into 2-year colleges.
Phase I: Raise Awareness Experiences
Professional Development and Resources:
Throughout this phase, our district focused on the communication of expectations regarding the implementation roadmap and various components of the Next Generation Learning Standards. Digital communication of the roadmap occurred throughout the phase, which led to formal conversations pertaining to this topic. Participation in local, regional, and statewide professional development opportunities was encouraged.
During the first phase, we provided district professional development. Our local workshops consisted of an overview of the Next Generation Learning Standards. Workshops entailed an introduction and opportunities for teachers to collaborate based on the Next Generation Learning Standards. The District created the VVS Introduction to NYSED Next Generation Learning Standards Handbook to assist with this process. The guidebook is comprised of synthesized information provided by NYSED. A summary of NYSED’s Advanced Literacy Briefs (2017) was created to assist with curriculum development and planning (Advanced Literacy Instruction Reference Guide).
Madison-Oneida BOCES Partnership:
Our district collaborated with staff and curriculum development specialists from Madison-Oneida BOCES (MOBOCES) to present at four of our Teacher Leader monthly meetings. Each of these meetings centered on a topic from the Next Generation ELA or Math Standards; one of the primary foci stemmed from the Advanced Literacy Briefs. These meetings culminated in a shared half-day Superintendent’s Conference Day with the same specialists from MOBOCES. All teachers attended a workshop relating to Advanced Literacy Briefs conversations. Workshop choices included social studies/history, science, art content areas, and an overview of the Next Generation Learning Standards.
Professional learning opportunities were identified using two short surveys at the end of the sessions during the Superintendent’s Conference Days in March. The results of these findings sparked specific conversations related to Phase II: Capacity Building and professional learning planning for the summer of 2019 and the 2019-2020 school year. Based on these conversations, the district conducted a Phase II informational baseline survey in May 2019.
Creating a Baseline for Phase II: Capacity Building
The Phase II informational baseline survey was designed to identify which areas participants felt needed more focus relating to Phase I: Raise Awareness. For this, our district used an interactive survey platform. The interactive survey platform included all administrators, faculty, and staff as participants and allowed participants to provide feedback, view, and respond to other participant feedback using a one (low) to five (high) rating scale. The participants were given one week to respond to and interact with other participants. All participants took the same survey. We addressed issues pertaining to the Next Generation Learning Standards awareness phase along with a social and emotional learning reflection question. Additional feedback from the social and emotional learning question will guide and shape our curriculum development initiatives throughout Phase II and Phase III.
Results of the Baseline Phase II Survey:
With the survey, participants had a choice to: view questions only; respond to one or all questions; or view, respond, and comment upon others’ responses. Data from the responses, including which topics the participants viewed, the number of responses provided, and how often the participants rated other participants' responses, were organized into themes allowing us to focus resources on district priorities.
Professional learning opportunities by the district and the need for curriculum development time were the top two topics from the first question of the baseline survey. With the second question, participants seemed to communicate feelings of being overwhelmed and expressed the need for more professional development time. The third topic highlighted the importance of social and emotional learning, and how these practices should easily be incorporated into teaching and learning practices.
According to the data received from the baseline survey, the most popular interactions from the three topics given pertained to the Phase II: Capacity Building question. This feedback demonstrated the need for our district to provide a more tailored approach when planning for professional learning opportunities that is unique to various grade levels and departments.
The data from participants demonstrates more commonalities in terms of agreement with responses than disagreements. For example, referring to the first question, there were 38 participants and 30 responses. Within this exchange, there were only 10 comments that indicated disagreements with other participants’ responses. For the second question, eight out of 49 responses from 71 participants varied in agreement. However, the third topic did not show any disagreement among the 25 thoughts from 27 participants.
Interestingly, there were more participants only viewing the questions and feedback for the first and second topics in comparison with participant interaction regarding the third topic. In fact, 93% of participants interacted with the question in the third topic. It seemed apparent that the teachers and administrators were eager to continue with curriculum development based on the Next Generation Learning Standards. The results also demonstrated that most of the faculty and staff recognized that the social and emotional learning practices are an important aspect of the teaching and learning process.
Our district highlighted common themes and differences derived from participants’ responses to assist with the successful planning for the Capacity Building phase. A PreK-12 curriculum alignment process was created using the detailed feedback from all three surveys administered during the transition from Phase I: Raise Awareness to Phase II: Capacity Building.
Future surveys will include demographics to assist with specific data representing various perspectives. More participation with responses will also be encouraged. Providing opportunities for all district personnel to have a voice when working through the Capacity Building phase is paramount for the faculty and staff to feel successful and empowered. Encouraging input and choice relating to future experiences with the Next Generation Learning Standards during the Capacity Building phase will promote teacher and learning experiences that are more communicative, collaborative, and interactive; thus, continuing to build upon a strong foundation focused on equity and excellence.
For more information, please contact:
Martha Group, Superintendent of Schools, Vernon-Verona-Sherrill CSD, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura Rouse, Curriculum Specialist, Vernon-Verona-Sherrill CSD, at email@example.com