The most recent education performance ratings revealed Wyoming schools are improving, but 40 percent of schools are still not meeting or exceeding expectations. So what does it take to make sure all students in Wyoming are learning?
Craig Dougherty is the Superintendent for Sheridan County School District #2. For the last six years his district has received the highest scores in reading, math and science on statewide assessments. He attributed his students’ success to an educational model the district has been using for the last 10 years called the Professional Learning Community framework. And this October, Dougherty is launching a statewide initiative called the Principal Academy -- giving education leaders across the state a chance to learn from Sheridan #2.
Dougherty said the method requires teachers to share best practices and to work together on a daily basis to make sure all students are learning. “We keep the focus on student learning. And so we basically say: ‘listen you’ve got to build a culture where every child in school is embraced as a learner.”
Dougherty said that means, “teachers and administrators and parents -- everybody in that building that impacts children,” is asking themselves four key questions every day.
“What do you want the kids to learn? How are you going to measure that? What are you going to do about it with those kids that don’t get it?” And Dougherty explained: “By don’t get it, I mean they have to do something that week about it.” And the fourth question is: “What are you going to do with the kids that need enrichment? [The kids] that already got it.”
But Dougherty said building a flexible and responsive community where administrators, teachers, staff and parents are actively engaged in a diversity of student needs is hard work, but it yields results. That’s why his district has offered to help.
This fall, Natrona District #1, Washakie District #1 and Park District #6 will be the first to enroll in the Principal Academy. Over the course of a year, leadership from Sheridan #2 will visit the participating districts to give an intensive introduction to the Professional Learning Community model and help development a local framework and offer ongoing mentoring.