Literacy Coaching with Atlanta Public Schools

Using teacher consultants contracted through the organization Improving Student Achievement (ISA), KMWP contracted three retired teachers and/or faculty to provide literacy coaching in Booker T. Washington High School, South Atlanta High School, and Therrell High School. This work will produce an estimated $17,000 in sales and workshop funds for KMWP and helps us establish relationships with Atlanta Public Schools, a school system that has previously proved to be difficult with forging partnerships. Because ISA wanted a science coach, we have reached out to Mike Dias, a colleague in Science Education at KSU, and he is working with us to support this work. This also led us to begin conversations with a new faculty member in Science Education who comes from the Tampa Bay Writing Project. We feel that science has typically represented a weak area for our site and look forward to finding ways to work with our colleagues and include them in the work of our site.

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Professional Development Partnership with Campbell High School

Using funds from National Writing Project’s Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) 3 grant and building off of our new partnership with Area 2 of Cobb County School District, we partnered with Campbell High School to deliver 30 hours of professional development. Dr. Denise Magee, the new principal at Campbell High School, is working toward a literacy plan for the school. Initially, KMWP agreed to a partnership in supporting and developing this literacy plan; Rob, Jennifer, and Michelle Goodsite met with her several times and proposed and collaboratively developed a model that will assess the school’s literacy needs and develop leaders in literacy implementation and support across the curriculum. In the fall, Rob and Jennifer led all of Campbell’s teachers in small-group discussions of how they define literacy in their content areas, the challenges they are facing, and their goals for meeting the challenges. These meetings occurred during teachers’ common planning time and data was collected through an anonymous survey teachers completed at the end. Using information from those surveys, we met with Denise again, and she identified teacher leaders in each content area to serve as literacy coaches/leaders in the school. KMWP is working with those teachers during full-day workshops on several Saturdays during Spring 2013 to set school-wide goals; to identify strategies they might share with others and implement; to foster ongoing discussions about how application in the classroom is going; and to develop school-wide rubrics to create consistency in expectations across the school.

2013 Advanced Leadership Institute

Using funds from National Writing Project’s Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) 1 grant, we designed and began our Advanced Leadership Institute. Rob Montgomery leads the ALI as well. While the ALI selected fellows through an application process, fellows applied based on invitation from Jennifer and Rob. The twenty ALI fellows began meeting in December, and will meet one night a month through May and then for an intensive week during June. Each fellow is developing a leadership project and implementing it in his/her school. The fellows are also leading and planning KMWP’s first Literacy Conference, which will use no-cost extension funds carried forward from the 2011-2012 funding cycle. The conference, held on March 23, will have keynote speaker and KMWP teacher consultant, Berndatte Lambert, and breakout sessions in the morning and afternoon. We have not only promoted it to local schools but across the state Writing Project network as well. ALI fellows developed proposals based on their institute work, and we extended a call for proposals to a wider audience. ALI fellows have developed a rubric for reviewing and rating presentation proposals and will review those in February. Participants will pay a registration fee, which will include a box lunch, and KSU is providing facilities for the conference.

As the fellows develop and implement their projects, they will not only present them at the conference, but they will write about them as well. Our goal is to submit a proposal for an edited book on teacher leadership and have fellows submit their chapters for inclusion in the book. KMWP has a history of publishing in the past, and this is a tradition that Rob and Jennifer seek to revive at our site. We also feel that teacher leaders find venues through which to share their work with other professionals, and the conference and soon-to-be-proposed book offer such a venue.

Cobb County Area 2 2012 Mini-Institute

Given that the nature of NWP funding has changed, KMWP has found ways to sustain our model while drawing from community and campus resources to support that work. In addition to holding the traditional Invitational Summer Institute during 2012, Area 2, a high-needs zone of Cobb County School District, used Title I funds to pay teacher consultants from KMWP to develop and deliver a mini-Summer Institute during the first week of August. Rob Montgomery and Jennifer Dail organized the planning and implementation of the work. The cohort had ten fellows ranging from elementary to high school grades and across content areas selected from the same application process implemented for the ISI. The mini-Institute implemented the same strategies used in the ISI, just modified for the abbreviated time frame. The work of the mini-Institute centered on implementing literacy strategies using models from Jeff Anderson’s Mechanically Inclined within a framework of Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP). Michelle Devereaux, a faculty member at the university who specializes in CRP and language diversity, spent a day with us in the mini-institute laying the groundwork for our conceptual framing. The remaining days of the week, teacher consultants focused on writing strategies and pedagogical discussions unique to their classroom contexts.

The unique facet of this mini-institute is the three follow-up sessions during the academic year. These are designed to offer continuing support and conversations for the fellows and are facilitated by teacher consultants from previous ISIs. Because of the success Area 2 experienced with this model, we are currently working with them to offer a mini-institute to a second cohort of fellows during June 2013.

2012 Invitational Summer Institute

The 2012 ISI was directed by Rob Montgomery, who serves as the director of Institutes, and Kitty Drew, a teacher at The Walker School who served as teacher co-director. The ISI combines core values of both NWP and local customs developed at our site to build community. We begin our day with breakfast, which inadvertently evolves into an unstated competition where fellows supply elaborate spreads of home-baked goods, and it becomes an opportunity for our international fellows visiting from Costa Rica and Ecuador to share a taste of their culture. During breakfast, fellows sign up to present a morning report on the previous day’s events since it helps everyone settle back into the reflective spirit of the Writing Project Work.

Responses to teacher demonstrations are another core value of our site, and over the years, the ISI staff has experimented with a number of methods for having fellows respond to the demonstrations. Carrying forward a successful method of response from the 2011 ISI, fellows in the 2012 ISI hand-wrote thank you notes to each other. The teaching team felt a handwritten note would be more personal and more appreciated by recipients. While the team gave participants guidelines for the notes (include some comments on what was done well, what could be further developed, and what you will use in the future), we found that writing the notes by hand led to more thoughtful composition.

The ISI also implemented a variety of reading and writing strategies, structures, and genres. The teaching team selected a set of common articles for large-group discussion. These articles covered basic topics such as writing as a process (Murray), individual freewriting (Elbow), and the current debate surrounding education reform initiatives (Ravitch, Ohanian, etc.). The fellows of the ISI also spent time writing in the genre of memoir. Since Dawn Kirby joined the KMWP community, memoir writing has become a mainstay of our ISI. This year Dawn joined us for a week of memoir work, spending two hours with the fellows each day, and Dan Kirby also joined us for one two-hour session. The fellows also participated in writing groups twice a week. The groups were created by the teaching team and were determined by grade level and subject area so that each group would have a range of experiences and voices present. During writing groups the fellows would provide copies of a work in progress to the other group members for the purpose of receiving constructive feedback and suggestions for revision. This follows the NWP principle that teachers of writing are writers themselves, and participation in these groups not only gave ISI fellows the chance to participate in the writing process, it also allowed them to see how they might use such groups in their own classrooms.

The ISI continued implementing KMWP’s focus on technology integration with a group wiki, the NWP e-anthology, and support for fellows exploring their own tech tools. Fellows were also allowed flexibility in the format for Teacher Demonstrations. Individuals could present within a 60-minute time frame or collaborative groups could present during a 90-minute time frame. Finally, the ISI continued its tradition of including KSU faculty and local teachers. Darren Crovitz (KSU) presented on visual rhetoric; Scott Smoot (The Walker School) presented on playwriting; and Justin Franco (Barber Middle School) presented on innovative uses for PowerPoint as a writing tool.