Fort Dodge Community School District faculty and administrators have spent the past year undergoing Balanced Leadership training.
The focus of the professional development is connecting vision with action across district schools, Rob Hughes, FDCSD assistant superintendent, said.
The initiative began last year, with a group of 10 traveling to Storm Lake.
"We received some training, which was really related to different characteristics related to our responsibilities from an administrative standpoint, to bring about school improvement. The nucleus of that was to bring the administrative team together to build common understandings and common expectations to better serve our kids," Hughes said.
As part of the district's efforts to emphasize student-centered learning, administrators began doing instructional rounds.
"The administrators, about once a month, will go out to a school building and we will go through classroom observations, and then develop questions which we pose back to the building leadership teams," Hughes said. "And then those staff members, along with the administration, work on trying to better define or articulate the practices they're carrying out with students, so to increase the effectiveness of their teaching style."
He added, "Student-centered classrooms is our key. The more we can serve the learning needs of our students, the higher our students will achieve."
In addition to teacher leadership, a greater focus has also been placed on "visible learning."
"It's a school improvement process," Hughes said. "There is a lot of research on what instructional strategies are most effective in assisting kids to make as much growth as possible. And so we had a group go out for some professional development and they will be bringing back more this year, supporting those processes that really help all the general classroom teachers have more tools in their toolbox, and have some more instructional strategies that will be as effective as possible."
To better improve instruction, student assessments are also being scrutinized.
"We've been fairly focused on making some alterations to our assessments so that we have a better idea of where kids are coming in at, and through the process, what instructional strategies can we give those kids to have them excel as much as possible?" Hughes said. "And then we later look at that next assessment to find what growths we made, and how we can alter our curriculum or instruction to better meet the needs of kids."
Hughes has enjoyed watching these practices fall into place.
"It's magnificent to see the leadership team, which includes the superintendent, curriculum director, along with all the principals, come together and have some real meaningful conversation on focusing in on those instructional strategies that are going to best serve our kids," he said. "It has definitely brought us a focus."
He added, "We want to make sure we're doing everything we can for every individual child we serve."