The BMCCHS faculty and staff are in the business of learning to do things better and better for our students. We believe that our students deserve a program of study that is fully coordinated from the beginning of school through graduation, and is current enough to meet their needs as they enter a rapidly changing world. Never before has it been more important that schools - which have remained relatively unchanged for decades- make improvements to meet the demands of life in a technological age. It is estimated, for example, that today's graduates will make at least six career changes in their adult lives because of the rapid changes in the work place. Our graduates must be confident, lifelong learners able to do more than memorize bits of information; they must be thinkers, problem solvers, citizens who can apply the knowledge.
Improving teaching methods and fully coordinating our instructional program requires that the full faculty be brought together on a regular and consistent basis for study and planning In the past, teachers and administrators have tried to coordinate our program of study and make instructional changes during after school meetings, and over the summer without the participation of the entire faculty. This "shot gun" of "hit and miss" approach to school-wide improvements, while it has resulted in some benefits for students, can never be completely effective. Real results require a commitment of time and participation by the whole faculty. Like many businesses today, we see a need to dedicate part of each week to planning and improving - a quality team approach to making this business of education ever more effective through continuous improvement. A plan for coordinating the educational programs and improving teaching methods has been created for our school. The students will be dismissed each Friday at 1:30 pm and will allow our teachers to meet for over one and a half hours. Sometimes the faculty will meet as an entire staff but more often as grade level or department teams. Their work will be fully coordinated and planned. Parents and student members will be invited to observe and share in this work. Because the work we will be doing is so important, a strict set of guidelines and ground rules will govern how this Common Planning time may be used to maintain the integrity of the project. The effectiveness of our work will be measured by the research measurements of effective school indicators along with surveys of faculty, parents, and students for accountability of this time use.
Each Friday afternoon, students will end their academic school day at 1:30 p.m. Students that must remain on campus will have a study hall, tutorial or research period supervised by support staff and teacher aides. All BMCCHS classes will meet on an alternating block schedule each Friday in order to use better utilize the college labs for science instruction. The school day has been extended for our students to exceed both state and regional accreditation requirements. While we are concerned about the amount of instructional time students receive each week, we are also concerned about the quality of learning while in the classrooms.
While many students will benefit from the extra time each Friday afternoon to study and complete research, to schedule doctor’s appointments, participate in enrichment activities, take advantage of peer tutoring, and read, we realize that this program may be an inconvenience to some because of transportation or supervision concerns. If you have suggestions or concerns, please contact the school administration for more information.
As a profession, teachers are not skilled in publicly examining either their own work or that of their student's. Indeed, the culture of schools offers few opportunities and fewer incentives for professional collaboration. Professional collaboration through the Critical Friends Group (CFG'S) is the product of simple idea: providing deliberate time and structure to promote adult professional growth that is directly linked to student learning.
A CFG consists of eight to twelve teachers and administrators who agree to work together regularly to define and produce improved learning achievement. As a group, the members establish and publicly state student learning goals, help each other think about better teaching practices, look closely at curriculum and student work, and identify school culture issues that affect student achievement.
Each CFG chooses a coach who helps the group build the sense of trust that must exist if they are to work together in direct, honest, and productive way. The coach also helps the members learn and master techniques that sharpen individual reflection, promote creativity, and encourage candid, usable peer feedback. Coaches (who are selected by their CFG, either from the school staff or from the ranks of trusted outsiders) attend a summer institute and may choose to participate in follow-up sessions at which they learn and develop the skills and processes needed to guide the group's work. Coaches facilitate the regular CFG meetings and offer training and guidance in developing the member's ability to work collaboratively.
CFG members commit themselves to at least on two-hour meeting each month, during the school day. They also agree to observe each other at least monthly and to provide feedback on one another's practice. Often a CFG's first task is to tackle the traditional obstacles blocking genuine collaboration in schools. The group must figure out how to breach those barriers of history and habit or run the risk of becoming merely a pleasant but unproductive gab session.
School change is complicated and challenging, especially for the educator who works with students every day. CFG's support teachers and principals who are pursuing significant change, and it does so in new, exciting, and productive ways. Creating "learning communities" is a simple idea, but that doesn't mean they are easy to create or to manage. They require significant commitment on the part of teachers, coaches, and administrators. Thoughtful critique of teaching and learning may provoke important changes in teaching and leadership, but it is difficult to ask hard questions, open classrooms to scrutiny, and examine, with colleagues, the nuances of one's own practice. It takes time to learn these unfamiliar skills of "straight talk".The support for establishing CFG's at BMCCHS includes the Annenberg Institute of School Reform, Coalition of Essential Schools, and National School Reform Faculty. For more information about the CFG's, please visit the website for the Coalition of Essential Schools.