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Rebecca Ledger

For October’s Teacher Spotlight we choose a teacher, and a district, with a proven routine for getting the students’ school year off to a great start!

Rebecca Ledger’s preparations for the first day of school started last June when she and her second grade team members met with the first grade teachers from across RSU 4. Together, they discussed what the outgoing first grade students had mastered and what they had not yet mastered. They identified the increased level of intensity needed for skills that had been achieved, and what gaps in learning needed to be filled in.  As a team, the teachers took that information, along with alignment information from two sets of curriculum standards, and ran with it! Before long, Ledger and her team had tailored their student-centric, Core Curriculum for 2012-2013 to their incoming group of second graders. Each instructor left for summer “vacation” with the full knowledge of what they would be teaching the next year and why.

Ledger’s Grade Two Professional Learning Group (PLG) gathered again in August to review their 2012-2013 Core Curriculum and isolate their learning targets for the first month of school. All six of RSU 4’s second grade teachers designed and shared the same expectations and targets. “That our Core is consistent is the best part,” Ledger says. Something as simple as having all of the second grade teachers share the same curriculum information with parents at the open house: “This is what you can expect your kids to learn in second grade this year across the districts,” Ledger says. Individual teachers then have complete freedom to teach the specified content and skills based on the individual learning styles of their students, a wide variety of resources, and their own teaching styles.

The positive results RSU 4’s PLGs have on student learning are undeniable.  Assistant Superintendent Cathy McCue explains, “Research tells us that when students understand what the learning target is in their own words, they excel.  Not only do all of the teachers know what it is that they want students to learn and how they will assess the learning, so do the students!”

Her new students are still adjusting to their classroom, when Ledger starts to creatively teach her students to tell time: her PLG’s first learning target. She makes certain that her students retain what they learned last year and provides intervention in the form of extra review for the four students who have forgotten the skill. Soon, all her students are telling time to the half- and quarter-hour. Having met the common expectation, Ledger is then free to challenge her new students to extend their knowledge by telling time in minutes, and by applying their skills to various scenarios, such as figuring out how long they had slept the previous night.

So what’s next after “telling time”? There are many options, but Ledger’s PLG helps her “stay on track.” The team comes together regarding a predetermined topic, for one-hour before school, every Wednesday.  Since the teachers are in two separate buildings, they resourcefully opt to eliminate drive time and connect online using Skype. During every meeting the teachers share resources and ideas for teaching the designated topic(s) from RSU 4’s 2012-2013 Core Curriculum, and collectively determine a developmentally appropriate assessment. During a recent meeting, Ledger observes that students had a difficult time “…drawing hands on a clock to indicate a quarter-hour.” Although her students could tell time by reading the hands of the clock, they lack the fine motor skills to draw them precisely.  That kind of insight is then incorporated as the PLG strives to assemble valid common assessments for informal and formal progress monitoring.

According to McCue, “Feedback from teachers has been that the time in PLG spent on learning targets and assessment data has been the most valuable professional learning that they do.”

We are proud to spotlight the efforts being made by Rebecca Ledger, her PLG, and the leadership team of RSU 4 for building the necessary structure to establish and nurture a student-centric curriculum.

Contributed by Jean Keegan

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