You may be surprised to learn that summer is also a busy time in the Bethel Park School District. Even though staff and students are on a well-deserved summer recess, work still continues in the District to ensure a seamless transition from one school year to another.
Summer also provides us with a larger block of uninterrupted time to meet, reflect, brainstorm, evaluate and discuss. As an Administrative Team, we were able to look back on the school year that concluded in early June, and plan for where we are going in the year ahead.
Two years ago, we embraced “All Learners Grow” as our vision for the year, with our focus on creating a least restrictive environment and improving student performance. We focused on common assessments, improving interventions, and improving student performance through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) initiatives.
Last school year, we built upon the “All Learners Grow” theme with “Our Instruction is GREAT (Guided by standards, Rigorous, Engaging, Assessment to guide instruction, Tailored through flexible grouping), and our focus was to continue to improve upon our efforts to provide a least restrictive environment through access to grade level appropriate content and standards--with a focus on the PA Core Standards—as well as focused instruction and assessment. We embraced both the Universal Design for Learning and Growth Mindset concepts, with an emphasis on 21st Century Teaching strategies to create what we call a “4C-able Future” that provides our students with the ability to utilize critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity to enhance their learning.
This year we continue to expand our vision with the theme, “Innovative Mindsets.” Our focus this year is four-fold: to provide Universal Design for Learning opportunities and learning supports for all students; to incorporate Reflective Teaching Practices; continue to teach 21st Century Learning Skills to all students; and to provide a Safe and Supportive School Environment.
We are modeling the “Innovator’s Mindset,” which according to educator and author George Couros, is “the belief that abilities, intelligence and talents are developed, leading to the creation of better ideas.” Mr. Couros explains that those with an Innovator’s Mindset have the following eight characteristics: they are empathetic, problem finders, risk-takers, networked, observant, creators, resilient and reflective. Those are traits we want our staff to model and impart to our students.
Universal Design for Learning is an educational framework based on research in the learning sciences, to guide the development of flexible learning environments that will accommodate individual learning styles. The goal of UDL is to not only help students master knowledge, concepts and skills, but also to help them master learning, as they develop into expert learners.
Reflective Teaching Practices are personal tools that teachers can use to observe and evaluate their own teaching. It can be a private process as well as a collaborative one, to help our staff to develop the skills to review their own effectiveness, rather than just doing the things they have always done.
The goal for our Safe and Supportive School Environment is to provide the resources and role models to promote active student engagement in a safe and positive learning environment.
Our Principals and Administrative Staff met in June to discuss our vision for the 2018-2019 school year, reflecting on how the vision has grown from 2016-2017 to now, and to plan for how the vision will look in their schools.
We believe it is vital that every student is excited about learning and is able to demonstrate what he or she has learned. It is our intention to provide our students with the tools and strategies they need to be successful.
As you can see, we have set the bar high for 2018-2019 and we believe our team of teachers and principals will embrace these goals and visions to challenge our students to develop the types of 21st century learning skills that will well prepare them for their futures.
We look forward to welcoming our staff back on August 16 and our students back to school on Tuesday, August 21.
On behalf of everyone in the Bethel Park School District, I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer as we anxiously prepare for the beginning of another great year of learning.
It continues to be an honor to serve you and your children.
This message appeared in the August 2018 issue of The Bethel Park Chronicles.