The School District of Lancaster, PA is committed to do whatever it takes to raise student achievement in their district. In order to meet this goal the teachers of Lancaster have been working with the Education Trust Foundation to analyze the rigor of assignments and student work. They have been using the Standards in Practice (SIP) process developed by Ruth Mitchell, to guide their work. Each of Lancaster's 18 schools (K-12) has a SIP Committee that meets regularly, and the results of these meetings are utilized when planning instruction.
The SIP model involves the following steps:
Each member of the committee:
- Completes a specified assignment or task
- Analyzes the demands of the assignment or task
- Identifies the standards that apply to this assignment
- Generates a rough scoring guide from the standards and the assignment
- Scores the student work using this guide
- Asks the questions: Will this work meet the standards? If not, what are we going to do about it?
- Then uses these results to plan action at the classroom, school, district, state levels, to ensure that all students meet the standards
To aid in their success with setting the standard, the Lancaster district has applied Exemplars to their SIP process. Patricia Jones, an Instructional Facilitator at Lafayette Elementary, SDOL, states in regard to Exemplars, "The examples of student work that show generalizations have been invaluable to push our thinking!
Math Exemplars are chosen to support conceptual understanding of skills introduced in Everyday Math lessons. Discussions center not only on student needs and achievement - What does this student work tell us about learning in this classroom? What do students know and what are they able to do? Was the assignment well designed? Was it rigorous enough to help students achieve standards? - but give teachers the opportunity to reflect on their own professional practice - How do student results reflect my instruction? Do I need to be more explicit in presenting concepts? What misconceptions are present? What are my next steps?
The district of Lancaster has been utilizing Exemplars for the past five years to provide them with resources in math and science problem solving, and Melanie O'Rourke, a primary level teacher at Lafayette Elementary, SDOL, states that, "these tasks have been instrumental in our SIP sessions." Ms. Jones states that in the classroom, "Exemplars have enabled teachers to give students opportunities to apply math concepts in problem-solving situations. They provide situations to encourage dialogue among students in the classroom." Therefore, Exemplars became a helpful and measurable tool to assist their district in meeting the standard.
Ms. O'Rourke states, "Although the (SIP) process is at times painful, it is also rewarding to see the growth that occurs for both students and teachers. Keeping an eye on this goal has allowed us to work through and view the process as a process, forming trust among colleagues and resulting in the confidence and strength it takes to look closely at ourselves.