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Professional Learning Current Reality and GAPSS Review
John W. Phillips, III
PL & Technology Innovation (ITEC 7460)
Kennesaw State University
Ed.S. Instructional Technology, Spring 2015

GAPSS Review

Part A – Profession Learning Current Reality

New Holland Knowledge Academy located in Gainesville, GA has done an
incredible job of improving student academic success over the past seven years. Since
being one of the lowest scoring schools at the time, New Holland has risen to the highest
scoring school in Gainesville City on the CCPRI report. In order to keep such a high
score, New Holland has isolated two goals to list in its school improvement plan. Our
CCRPI score has shown us that our African American males are the only subgroup that
did not meet the Language Arts goals set forth by the state as well as all fifth grade
students on the writing test. Because of this, the New Holland School Improvement Plan
lists targeting African American males for language arts and all fifth grade students for
writing skills.
Mrs. Pam Wood, principal of New Holland, stated: “Technology is a window
through which students gain knowledge. Technology doesn’t make students smarter, but
the access to technology makes students more knowledgeable and provides life
experiences that may not otherwise be available to our students” (P. Wood, personal
communication, February, 2015). Mrs. Wood elaborated by listing ways that teachers can
expose students to geographic phenomena, virtual field trips, and wildlife that our
students, who are limited geographically and monetarily, may never be able to see
firsthand. It is because of this vision for our students that Mrs. Wood made it her first
priority as principal to put a Promethean Board in every classroom of the school. Since
then, teachers have been able to show videos, interact with students, and manipulate
artifacts in ways that were unavailable before.

GAPSS Review


Committed to improving writing scores, Mrs. Wood has purchased and issued 3
iPad carts and a laptop cart in order to provide students with hands on access to
technology so that they can practice their writing and researching skills. These devices
are used to improve student engagement, improve student familiarity with QWERTY
keyboards and keyboarding skills as well as establish a foundation for an integrated Web
2.0 learning experience. Technology is continually growing and evolving at New Holland
Knowledge Academy. The use of these technologies will help improve test scores, boost
student engagement and motivation and increase classroom attendance.
Needs Assessment
At the beginning of every year, the administration of NHES provides a survey for
teachers to list the needs of their own professional development. Based on the survey
results, the administration chooses book studies and other professional learning
opportunities for the faculty that year. Mrs. Wood also chooses more specific professional
learning opportunities based on the self-reflection process that is a part of the TKES. Mrs.
Wood conducts multiple conferences with teachers to discuss their needs and how she can
help meet the needs of the teachers throughout the year. Because New Holland has such a
diverse population with a variety of needs, Mrs. Wood is continually opening doors for
teachers to attend new trainings off campus to bring back knowledge to share with the
Professional Learning
The Literacy Coach provides the majority of the on site professional development
at NHES. Mrs. Wood stated that, “the book series that the faculty are led through by [the
Literacy Coach] alongside with the weekly PLC groups account for the majority of the

GAPSS Review


professional training that happens here at New Holland.” This year, Rigorous Reading by
Nancy Frey is the book series that the teachers are using to learn how to enhance the
reading abilities of our students. The Learning Coach takes teachers through this book
chapter by chapter as well as uses the weekly PLC to disseminate data from the
classrooms. The PLC group made up of each grade level, the LC, the Principal, and the
Data Specialist uses the classroom data to form flexible groups that work to bridge
content gaps that are found from the assessment data.
Teachers are also encouraged to continually be on the lookout for outside training
that can improve instructional practice and classroom performance. Good pedagogy is a
continual theme at NHES. Mrs. Wood uses examples of good pedagogy and best
practices throughout whole group faculty meets to encourage teachers to examine their
own classrooms and find ways to improve their own craft. With the help of the PLC
group and master mentor teachers, the faculty at NHES are continually growing and
evolving into better teachers to meet the challenges presented daily in the classroom.
Professional development through technology is continually available through an
onsite Instructional Technology Specialist, a full-time Technology Professional, and a
Blended Learning Coach on the district level. The Blended Learning Coach comes to
each school once a month to provide ideas on new technologies and apps to use in the
classroom to improve classroom engagement and management. All of the professional
development provided through the Blended Learning Coach are available online as well
as scheduling opportunities for him to come to your classroom to help you implement

GAPSS Review


Alignment to School Improvement Plan
“The school improvement plan is a collaborative effort between faculty and
administration in order to better serve our students and our community” (P. Wood,
personal communication, February, 2015). The school improvement plan is a way to the
vision for the upcoming school year and make improvements to our school through a
common goal. During the 2014-2015 school year, the school improvement plan aims to
raise the ELA scores of our African American males as well as raise the writing scores of
our fifth grade class. The SIP has guided the administration to invest in technology and
time to train our students to use technology to write authentic works and use the
technology to share ideas through blogs (P. Wood, personal communication, February,
Funding and Incentives
Funding is provided in part by Title 1 moneys as well as State and Federal
funding (P. Wood, personal communication, February, 2015). At New Holland, teachers
are encouraged to attend any conferences and learning opportunities that they believe will
benefit the classroom or the faculty. Mrs. Wood is always accepting of opportunities for
teachers to hone their craft and bring back new ideas for the school. Because of a very
self-motivated staff, incentives have not been implemented to keep faculty interested in
learning. At NHES, there are always new teachers continuing their education with higher
degrees and professional learning (P. Wood, personal communication, February, 2015).
However due to recent changes in the state laws, PLUs will be necessary in the future for
teachers to renew their teaching certificates.

GAPSS Review


Student diversity is one of NHES’s greatest assets and challenges. As a Title 1
school, our student population is primarily free and deduced lunch. New Holland is also
proud to have students from all over the globe, stretching as wide as Mexico, Kenya, and
the Congo. With such diversity, come new challenges in the classroom. Teachers meet
continually to address the evolving needs of students based on these challenges.
Technology has made tracking the data and communicating with these students much
easier and effective. Because all students, regardless of nationality, show interest in
technology, it is easy to use technology to engage students and meet their needs while
keeping their interest peeked. With such a large number of ELL students, iPad carts are
always available to use in order to help with phonics skills and other language barrier
Teachers are given many structured times to meet in order to collaborate and share
ideas. Team meetings, grade-level meetings, and PLCs are structured so that teachers can
talk about the needs of their students as well as collaborate on content and pedagogy. In
content meetings, teachers collaborate on the progression of the year and map out what
should be taught and when. These teachers also talk about the best strategies to employ
when teaching certain content. During grade-level meetings, teachers can discuss
behavior problems, scheduling and other whole grade level issues. These times give
teachers who don’t always interact opportunities to share ideas and reach out the their
colleagues. Finally, PLC meetings allow teachers to meet with the faculty to discuss the
data and the needs of the faculty. Knight (2007) tells us that ideas spread faster when a

GAPSS Review


community of people share them. This is clearly demonstrated through the use of PLCs at
NHES. Teachers come together to share ideas and follow up with each other on earlier
Meeting the needs of a diverse student population with a high percentage of ELL
students and many students with special needs has created a need for teachers to meet
more frequently with the Speech Pathologist, ELL Director, and Special Needs Lead
Teacher. The administration has recently changed the master schedule to allot for time
each week for grade levels to meet with these professionals to discuss the needs of the
students and to stay on top of each student so that none fall through the cracks. These
times have proven to be very successful. During these times, RTI interventions,
classroom data, and flexible grouping are discussed in depth (P. Wood, personal
communication, February, 2015).
The TKES and the subsequent formal observations, walkthroughs, and interviews
serve as the primary method of evaluation for the faculty and the effectiveness of the
professional learning held throughout the year. The results of these observations serve as
a starting point for the administration to begin thinking about the needs of the faculty in
the upcoming year. Because the observations and walkthroughs take place constantly
throughout the year, these can serve as formative assessments in which the administration
can later meet with faculty to discuss their needs and what professional learning should
be implemented to correct any needs improvement areas in the classroom. Through this
process, teachers are encouraged to take notes and make comments on their observation
rubrics in order to communicate effectively with the administration. Teachers also receive

GAPSS Review


a TEM score that helps provide feedback as a summative score for the year. This score
shows how students have improved, grown, and takes into account the walkthroughs and
evaluations from the administration. When assessing the data as a group and
communicating the needs of the students, we are able to create a safe and engaging
learning environment that focuses on the individual needs of each student (P. Wood,
personal communication, February, 2015).

GAPSS Review


Knight, J. (2007). Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving
Instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
New Holland Knowledge Academy: School Improvement Plan 2014-2015. (2014).
Gainesville, GA: Gainesville City Schools.