Professional development time will help 'make better teachers'

The Carson City School District plans to use some of the upcoming school year's professional development time to show teachers teaching strategies that staff will later observe them on in the 2005-06 school year.

Teach 4 Success, formerly known as Data in a Day, occurs in the district in January and February each year.

Staff trained in the Teach 4 Success protocol, like literacy teachers Deirdre Pederson and Joyce Cavanaugh, both of whom presented information Tuesday night to the school board, observe teachers and mark them on their use of certain teaching strategies.

Teachers are observed in more than 30 areas, but one of the components of most concern to the district's Teach 4 Success team is key vocabulary, the teachers said.

"Key vocabulary are those words that are most crucial to having the content understood," Pederson said.

Results from the 2004-05 Teach 4 Success observations showed that of the 212 teachers observed in the district, only 72, or 34 percent, were observed using key vocabulary.

Trustee John McKenna asked why teachers were failing to use key vocabulary, and Pederson explained that of the four facets of key vocabulary - students seeing, saying, reading then writing the vocabulary - one was primarily lacking.

"What we were seeing is that (students) weren't necessarily writing it at the time of observation," Pederson said.

Teach 4 Success is also used in the Lyon, Churchill, Mineral and Douglas school districts. All five counties adopted the protocol at the same time in hopes of ensuring teachers were using the best strategies to reach students. Teach 4 Success results were similar in other counties.

"Key vocabulary was an area of need regionally," Pederson said.

Teach 4 Success is based on research by Robert Marzano, author of the 2003 book "What Works in Schools."

"What (his research) shows is that the key element that can affect student learning is the teacher," said Carole Harris, director of the district's professional development center and this year's educator of the year.

Because so many teachers just don't know what key vocabulary is or how it can be used in the classroom, the Teach 4 Success staff created a training program that has already been used with some staff and will be used with others this fall during professional development.

The Teach 4 Success information made at least one school board trustee confident of the new professional development plan that the board approved at the last meeting.

"The public was here asking the last time, 'What are you going to be doing during this professional development time?'" said trustee Norm Scoggin. "We're going to be making better teachers."

n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at or 881-1219.


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