BetterLesson’s partnership with Groton School District hit the presses in yesterday’s edition in the Cortland Standard. Since the story ran in print, we’re posting it in its entirety on our blog.

Groton Teachers Get Coached on How to Improve

By CATHERINE WILDE

Senior Reporter

cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

GROTON – Groton Central School District is expanding a teacher-training program to help teachers tailor their instruction methods toward a more personalized experience for each student.

Eighteen teachers went through the program last year, district Superintendent Margo Martin said; 37 more will go through it this year and it will continue through 2018-19.

BetterLesson of Massachusetts has helped the teachers at both the elementary and high school levels see marked improvement, district officials said.

Picture this: Instead of a teacher standing in front of a class of 20 students, delivering a lesson for all, those students are broken into four groups of five kids each, according to ability.

They each go over a certain lesson plan, but the teacher tailors the lesson toward each group, setting higher benchmarks for the more advanced students and giving extra pointers for the students who need help.

This is the kind of environment Groton is trying to foster in its classrooms with its centers based learning, Martin said.

“It’s a way to differentiate instruction and get instruction to kids,” Martin said. “How can we provide this information to kids at the level they’re at in that moment?”

The professional development has helped teachers learn how to do this, she said.

Martin said student benchmark assessments showed the coaching helped improve outcomes in English Language Arts and mathematics last year, so the district decided to continue the training for a three-year term. Groton Elementary School Principal Kent Maslin said he is “super pumped” about the new approach.

“We’ve seen new teachers who can get their kids to achieve on a level equal to or above people who have a decade of teaching or more,” he said. “It allows… the teacher to say in a private way what do I want to work on and what do I need to refine my craft, and the person helps them do exactly that.”

A state school improvement grant pays the $40,000 cost. Martin hopes to secure other funding sources should that grant not be continued next year. The training is all part of the district’s plan to get off the state list of focus schools or schools in need of improvement, which Groton Elementary School was put on in 2015.

BetterLesson provides one day of in-house training at the beginning of the term, and then hosts bi-weekly virtual meetings throughout the year, said BetterLesson Partner Success Manager Nicki Nardella. Teachers set the goals.

The program’s first year in Groton focused on helping new teachers navigate problems with classroom management, for example.

Martin said the teachers benefitted from having the ability to talk to an outside professional every two weeks.

“There isn’t that fear that if I acknowledge I don’t know how to do this, are they going to say ‘I’m not a good teacher’” she said. “It takes that piece out of it.” Over the coming school year coaches will focus on how teachers can provide individualized instruction, Martin said.

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