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Teacher collaboration helping improve PSSA scores

Southmoreland Curriculum Coordinator Timothy Scott said over the past several years, the district has become a model in raising PSSA scores dramatically through the incorporation of team collaboration between teachers.

"Southmoreland Middle School has made tremendous strides in narrowing the achievement gap as measured by the PSSA," Scott said. "In the years 2002 to 2009, the eighth-grade math scores (percent proficient and advanced) have increased from 39 percent to 86 percent and in reading from 55 to 88 percent."

Middle school seventh graders, at 92 percent proficient, scored the highest in Westmoreland County and 16th in the state.

In 2008 the Southmoreland Elementary School was under a warning but after implementing the team collaboration between teachers in each grade, the scores increased dramatically.

"In math from 2008 to 2009, the PSSA scores for grade three improved from 87 to 94 percent, for grade four from 80 to 92 percent and for grade five from 57 to 81 percent," Scott said.

The same improvement was seen on reading scores where third grade improved from 77 to 86 percent, 57 to 76 percent and 50 to 66 percent.

The three big ideas from the DuFour Community Model are focusing on learning, creating a collaborative culture and focusing on results.

"Teachers across the district work systematically and collaboratively to identify essential learnings, develop and administer common assessments, analyze results, establish specific targets and identify and implement improvement strategies," Scott said.

In order to make the program work, the district needed to create a common time for teachers within each grade to come together during the school day to meet and discuss how and what they are teaching and what things their students might be doing well in or having trouble with.

High School Principal Wes Nicholson said that for the first time this year the high school is working toward implementing the professional learning community model.

The school is already offering tutoring during school hours. Team meetings and collaborations between teachers have begun.

One of the challenges with this model is scheduling time for all of the teachers in the same grade to meet without interrupting student schedules.

Another challenge is getting all of the teachers to be on board with the idea — especially those teachers who like to teach their own thing at their own pace.

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