Hale Junior High
2015-2016 Model

Giving Teachers the Time and Space to Work Together

The theory of action at Hale Junior High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is that if we provide teachers with the time and space to develop themselves professionally as individuals and a community, they will be more effective in the classroom. The Hale schedule includes one full day of professional development weekly for the majority of teachers, with a daily PD period for the remaining faculty. Hale administrators were able to make this change without sacrificing class size or increasing costs. The schedule redesign that happened at Hale was part of a larger district partnership with TimeWise Schools as part of an Innovative Professional Development (iPD) grant funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Student Population Free reduced lunch
(%)
ELL
(%)
Special Ed.
(%)
Staff / Student ratio
654 91 20 28 1/15

School Contact Info

Hale Junior HIgh School
2177 S 67th E Ave
Tulsa, OK 74129
Grades: 7-8
(918) 746-9260
Principal: Jody Parsons

Challenge

Students at Hale come to school with many needs. Their skills are lower than peers in neighboring schools, most are learning English as a new language, and many are economically disadvantaged. Providing the support and individualization required to meet the needs of students at Hale was taking its toll on teachers. Teachers routinely found themselves working very long hours, sometimes at the expense of their own families, relationships, and well-being.

Solutions

Hale was designated a school in need of improvement by the State of Oklahoma and provided with scheduling and instructional support and a new principal. Hale administrators worked with School by Design™ in the winter of 2015 to redesign the school master schedule and implemented those changes in the fall of 2015. All teachers now have significant amounts of professional development time built into their regular schedule. Most teachers have a full day every week to step back and improve their effectiveness in the classroom, collaborate, plan, and engage students' family members. Others have a daily professional development period. The additional time has given teachers time to improve instruction and support students while also increasing morale by restoring the possibility of a greater work/life balance.

Results

This is the first year of the Hale redesign. Although it is still early, Hale teachers and school leaders are reporting encouraging results. Student and faculty attendance have increased. Thanks to the more frequent family connections, teachers are noticing improved student behavior in the classrooms. Everyone sees an increase in student engagement and, overall, a more positive culture in the classrooms.

Key Policy Considerations

State Policies

When Hale was designated as a school in need of improvement, the staff was offered instructional support by the State of Oklahoma. That support has taken the form of monthly visits by an instructional coach to help Hale staff with how they might use project-based learning within the school curriculum.

District Policies

The schedule redesign that happened at Hale was part of a larger district partnership with TimeWise Schools, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Innovative Professional Development (iPD) grant. The district worked with school administrators to make sure that schedule changes were in compliance with the teachers union contract.

Key Strategies

  • Students are in school full time, taught by teachers on staff.
  • Most teachers have a full day each week to collaborate, plan, develop individually, and connect with student families. Others have daily PD period. All teachers have prep daily.
  • Daily class observations are made by school administrators.
  • The school experiments with various instructional strategies such as blended learning and project-based learning.
  • The schedule operates like a block schedule with single-period teacher prep, and longer run times support hands-on learning.

Curriculum and Instruction

Hale teachers' core focus is on how to differentiate instruction for the variety of learning needs of their students. That work is built into weekly professional learning communities (PLCs) with teachers of the same subject that are made possible by the master schedule change.

Hale’s curriculum is based on state and local standards for 7th- and 8th-grade students. Each student takes four core academic subjects (English, math, social studies, and science) in addition to physical education, a leadership class, and electives. The curriculum includes state-adopted textbooks and a variety of instructional approaches. Leadership class includes character development, relationship building, and study skills.

Support for ELL and SPED students is predominantly offered in core classes through an inclusion model of instruction. Eighth-grade ELL students who are in need of extra support are provided with targeted textbooks from the district.

Technology Plan

Hale staff is experimenting with using technology to help empower students to take ownership of their learning. In one case, students use iPads to query district databases for information rather than using textbooks.

Course Taking

Each student takes four core academic subjects, with double periods in ELA and/or math and physical education. One day per week, students start the day with their leadership classes as usual and then take elective classes for the remainder of the day. Electives occur every fifth school day and are delivered in half-day and full-day sessions.

Assessment

Hale assessment strategy includes the following:

  • Scholastic Reading and Math Inventory (SRI, SMI) three times per year
  • Formative assessments every six weeks.
  • Review of Common Core exit tickets weekly in PLCs

Organization

Staff members are organized into core teams. Each team includes two English, two math, one social studies, one science, and two on-team elective PLUS teachers.  The team is collectively responsible for six groups of students. Students are grouped into cohorts of 25-30, and each cohort travels together to all courses. Additionally, this design is meant to support stronger relationships among students.

ELA and math teachers teach in a double-period block, and they see three groups of students daily.  Hale administrators chose this structure because it doubles time in these subjects and allows teachers to be responsible for fewer students each day.  Science and social studies teachers teach in single periods and see all six groups of students daily.

Each team has two additional PLUS teachers who teach electives by taking over for a different department each day of the week. Hale is an arts school, and students take a variety of electives, using this PLUS methodology.

Schedule Basics

Hale has a seven-period day, and most teachers teach six periods four days per week and have a full day of PD one day a week.  Students take electives when teachers are in prep or weekly PD.

For example, when language arts teachers are in their PD day, students take an elective in place of their language arts class for that day. When math teachers are in PD, students take their elective in place of math. Courses meet four days per week, and the period length was extended to offset much of the impact of this schedule on total time per course.

 

 
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Key Schedule Strategies:

  • It's designed to maintain the feel of a block schedule while carving out substantial weekly time for planning and collaboration.
  • Students travel with the same group of students from class to class, within a team of teachers who all share the same students.
  • All teachers have significant amounts of PD time built into their schedules. Most have one day per week, some have one period per day. All teachers have daily prep.

 

Professional Development

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

Weekly PLCs lasting 30-60 minutes are a key part of the common planning and development day that teachers of the same subject share. Each PLC focuses on specific student work that relates to a specific standard. Conversation focuses around how students are doing and what teachers can do differently to teach more effectively and to differentiate instruction. Given that Hale uses an inclusion model for SPED and ELL, differentiation strategies for these groups are also discussed in this context.

District- and State-Supplied PD

Once a month, teachers come together with other middle school teachers teaching the same subject. The district provides ongoing professional development to these teachers as a group so all can be headed in the same direction. Special attention is provided to aligning this PD with district goals for the subject area and for a pedagogical focus.

Once per month, an instructional coach funded by the state provides instruction in project-based learning practices.

School-Level PD

During their weekly PD day, teachers work with their grade-level team to improve instruction, with activities such as planning a new unit or analyzing student data. Alternatively, teachers may visit other schools to observe their instructional approach.

Student Community

Teachers are able to spend more time with fewer students. Teacher teams share a group of students, allowing them to better support each student. Students travel with the same group throughout the day, which allows for stronger ties and relationships. This approach has led to a more cohesive, caring student community. Additionally, the added family connections that are now possible contribute to better student behavior.

Teachers are experimenting with the use of positive interaction strategies and coordinating the use of incentives across teams.

Professional Community

The saying that staff members have developed to articulate their current focus is "One Team, One Dream". Whereas before, teachers worked in isolation, there has been a strong shift toward collaboration; and the additional time that teachers have supports that shift. Also, the additional time has fostered informal mentoring relationships between more and less experienced teachers.

Teachers at Hale report feeling more respected as professionals. They are trusted to schedule and utilize nearly 20% of their work time to support students and improve the quality of instruction. They engage more collaboratively with one another, have much more contact with families, and have the time to do the work they are being asked to do. In addition to improving the professional culture within the school, this shift has resulted in teachers experiencing a better work-life balance. They report less stress at work and more time at home to pursue other interests and be with their families.

Family Engagement

Family engagement is critical at Hale. Teachers routinely use some of their time away from the classroom to call parents and have family meetings at school. And teachers have more flexibility in the time slots that they can offer parents for conferences. Parents are much more aware of what is happening at school, thanks to this new time with teachers.