Bill Roberts has an early dismissal every Friday at 1 p.m. to give the teachers and staff dedicated time every week to further their growth and performance as educators. They work with their colleagues to collect, analyze and interpret data; identify students’ needs and strengths; and determine instructional strategies to improve student learning.
We frequently receive questions about our early dismissal and what our Administration, Staff and Teachers do during Friday afternoons. With all of the reforms occurring in the educational system, the shared time allows the staff time for collaborative team learning, joint planning and an opportunity for collective inquiry so that we may provide the greatest educational journey for each and every student. We still meet our instructional contact time with students that is required and set by the state.
There are several enrichment opportunities for students on Fridays that start at dismissal as well as various athletic teams or school clubs.
Supporting the continuing education of our teachers in their learning has great success rate in enhancing the classroom education at Bill Roberts and retaining great teachers.
Over the years, the staff has taken on literacy and math best practices, cognitive thinking strategies (deeper, critical thinking) for all content areas, increasing a cohesive and comprehensive school-wide writing practice, and the study of the Harvard Zero Project through Making Thinking Visible.
We have also increased the effectiveness of working as teams in focusing on closing the achievement gaps, pulling and analyzing data to inform and guide instruction, and planning in both grade level and vertical (ECE-8) teams in content areas. Most of these high level learning opportunities would not be able to take place if it weren’t for early release every Friday.
The first Friday of the month is our partner/professional development from PEBC (Public Education Business Coalition), who presents the thinking routines and the implementation tools for thinking strategies to our entire staff. A recent update from a second grade teacher:
“We spent time with Michelle Jones from PEBC last Friday synthesizing our learning about inquiry. How does incorporating inquiry based learning enhance our students’ opportunities to experience deep thinking, learning, and understanding? How does inquiry based learning connect to our systematic instructional practices at Bill Roberts?
As a staff we recognize the advantages to using an inquiry model, but many of us are still grappling with how to refine our practice. In mixed grade level and content groups we had a text based discussion around “Growing Better Inquiry Groups” and a section from ‘Comprehension & Collaboration Inquiry Circles in Action’ by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels. This section discussed how we assess and evaluate the student’s inquiry process and end results.
Then, the rest of our time was spent in our own inquiry groups. Groups are in the third and fourth stages of inquiry, coalescing and going public. We’re preparing to share our learning with the staff next Friday. Learning more about inquiry has impacted how we approach a lot of our curriculum and classroom decisions, and there is still a lot to continue to ponder.”
The second Friday is dedicated to professional development around the Common Core Standards. The following Friday is analyzing student data to determine best instructional plans for our students. The last Friday is professional development around writing, which supports our goals on the school’s UIP (Unified Improvement Plan).