Teacher training days all about focus | VailDaily.com

Teacher training days all about focus

by Christine Ina Casillas

The kids will get out of school early Wednesday – so their teachers can go to class.

This is the first day of a series of teacher training sessions planned this school year.

“Training needs to be on-going and focused vs. being a one-shot deal,” said Gary Rito, director of secondary education for the Eagle County School District. “By having a monthly half-day training schedule, teachers can put what they have learned to practice and come back and debrief with colleagues and instructors.”

The focus of the training days – which marks the second fall the district started the program – will be improving math skills and individualizing instruction for the secondary schools, say Eagle County School District officials.

“Specifically, we will be working with teachers to improve how they in turn work with children to develop stronger number sense, which is the basis of all math and computation skills,” said Carolyn Neff, director of elementary education.

The elementary schools are focusing on math instruction because of the data the district received from the Colorado Student Assessment Program and the Northwest Evaluation Association exams, Neff said. The scores from both tests indicate that math is a problem area at the elementary school level.

As part of the math training, the teachers will receive instruction on differentiation, she said, which is “the practice of individualizing standards-based curriculum for specific student needs.”

Differentiated instruction is a priority districtwide, Rito said.

“Differentiated instruction is the first area of focus, and it is important because every teacher – no matter what they are doing or who they are teaching – has a minimum of eight different groups for instruction,” Rito said.

An average classroom will include advanced, grade-level and below grade-level students, he said. The same class will include second-language students, visual learners, auditory learners and special education students.

“Because of this diversity,” he said, “we have to learn to take standard lessons and differentiate them so we can meet the needs of all these different learners.”

But the middle and high school teachers also will focus on other topics, including articulation between the middle and high school and “alignment between districtwide planning and school-level planning,” he said.

Secondary teachers will be the fall subject at the middle and high school “articulation” area, working together on one of the training days to make sure there is continuity in the district program, he said.

The third topic, the districtwide plan, was developed to guide curriculum and instruction, he said.

“During some of the half-day training sessions, middle- and high-school teams will work to make sure that their individual school action plan supports the district initiative,” he said.

Because it’s only the second year conducting the training program, he said, the district needs to be more focused on a theme for the entire year.

“Our training (last year) needed to have more depth and breadth for specific topics,” he said. “We also learned that each session needs a specific agenda. We’ve incorporated those changes in this year’s schedule, and we believe we have an ambitious and beneficial training program prepared this year.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.

Teacher training days

Eagle County School District’s first half-day teacher training for the

2003-04 term is planned Wednesday.

Improving math instruction for elementary schools and individualizing

instruction for secondary schools will be the central focus of this year’s

half-day teacher training schedule. Half-days for students are planned

Wednesdays Sept. 10, Oct. 8, Nov. 12, Feb. 11, March 10 and April 14.

On these Wednesdays, elementary students will be released at

12:20 p.m., and secondary students will be released at 11:30 a.m.

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