Janssen gets input, ideas for reshaping Pinellas schools
If you want to know what big changes may be in store for Pinellas schools, check out these two lengthy reports here and here. Community schools? Residencies for new teachers? More time for teacher collaboration?
Those ideas and dozens of others were compiled after Pinellas Superintendent Julie Janssen invited more than 300 people total to two separate workshops at the Collaborative Labs at St. Petersburg College. The first, held Feb. 4, included principals and district-level administrators. The second, held Monday, included teachers, parents, assistant principals and members of community groups. (You can see the complete list of the latter here.)
The participants were told to dream big, then come up with their best ideas for each of the four pillars central to the federal Race to the Top grant program: improving teacher quality, turning around struggling schools, beefing up standards and curriculum and building better student data systems. Then they whittled the ideas down to the five or six best in each category.
Even if Florida doesn't win a Race to the Top grant, Pinellas will still have to make big changes - to things like performance pay and teacher evaluations - because the state's differentiated accountability system demands it. The workshops were an attempt to get the best ideas from a broad range of people, Janssen said, and hopefully to begin getting buy-in for what's coming down soon. She said she hopes to have one more workshop to pick the ideas that are "the most doable."
"You can design something up here, and then we roll it out and say, 'Here it is,' " Janssen told The Gradebook. But "if you really want sustainable change, you have to build it from the bottom up."
Here's a sampling of ideas from the first workshop:
* Invite SPC and USF-St. Petersburg to open a feeder pattern of K-12 laboratory schools that serve struggling communities and prepare teachers and administrators.
* Create opportunities for principals to operate outside the collective bargaining agreement and more flexibility with district policy.
* Continued employment should be contingent upon teacher appraisal aligned with professional development determined by teacher's student learning gains.
And here's a sampling from the second:
* Develop a transition period for graduates into the classroom during their first year of teaching. Require first year teachers residency to teach for a 1/2 year paired with an experienced teacher.
* Open community buildings (libraries, churches & rec centers) for partnerships to provide free tutoring in reading and math.
* A new view of parent education and professional development that turns schools into "full-service" educational communities that draw parents and students there for multiple supports/interventions - parent training, social services, child care.