Hickman High School to be recognized for instruction style
COLUMBIA – The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will recognize 19 schools for being “Exemplary Professional Communities” Monday.
The agency will recognize nine schools for the first time, and 10 others including Columbia’s Hickman High School for maintaining that standard. Hickman was originally honored in 2016.
“We’re honored and excited,” Hickman principal Tony Gragnani said.
Professional Learning Communities boil down to two things: collaboration and data.
“It entails our teachers working in collaborative groups to develop instruction for their students,” Gragnani said. “When you talk about professional learning communities, there is the whole process of collaborating just to get together and willingness to talk.”
Despite the heavy collaboration, Gragnani said it does not mean lessons are taught the same way in every classroom.
“What it does mean, is that they are teaching common standards,” Gragnani said.
The other aspect of Professional Learning Communities is data. Under the Professional Learning Community model, educators need to have a way to gauge how students are doing more often than state-wide tests that are administered every year.
“We hope to see in a Professional Learning Community school, assessments going on regularly enough so teachers can decide who got the material, who needs some help catching back up, and who is way ahead,” Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Quality Schools Chris Neal said. “I think they will look at other types of things like behavioral data, they may well look at safety data, they may look at teacher satisfaction data. So more broadly than just the student, all those contributing things that make a healthy school for students."
Neal said often times the ways in which schools handle and react to the data are what set them apart.
“Schools exist to add value to students' lives,” Neal said. “The very most important part is studying how your students are doing, reacting with adjustments and improvements for their sake.”
Since Hickman implemented the model, Gragnani said it has been successful in improving student achievement.
“We’ve really seen teachers knocking down the walls of their classrooms and collaborating with other teachers and sharing great instructional strategies,” Gragnani said. “We’ve seen more engagement from our students, increased results in reading and mathematics, and more creative lessons as teachers share their expertise and work with one another.”
While Hickman is the only CPS school to have been recognized, the method is used at other CPS schools. The district sets aside certain days every year so teachers at different schools can collaborate.
“CPS does a great job of providing PD days where departments can cross-collaborate so teachers at Battle, Rock Bridge, Douglas and Hickman can all work together that are all teaching Algebra 1, or all teaching Physics or teaching any of those high school courses,” Gragnani said.
Given the positive impact it has had on Hickman, Gragnani said the method will likely be used in classrooms for years to come.
“It’s one of the pillars of Hickman High School, one of the pillars of Columbia Public Schools. It is something I believe in deeply,” Gragnani said. “I think that in education it is better for us to collaborate and share our expertise, so that way we can develop robust lessons that meet the needs of all of our learners.”