Liberty County teachers are under pressure this year to quickly learn and implement a number of state mandates, including the Common Core standards and local initiatives meant to improve student achievement.
In a work session last month, the Liberty County Board of Education heard an updated on teachers’ professional learning and the progress they have made to incorporate the initiatives into their classrooms.
Board member Becky Carter said she was concerned that expecting teachers to put these initiatives into practice all at once is too much. She said she would prefer to see them phased in.
“I am greatly concerned about the increased amount of stress that our teachers are currently experiencing,” Carter said in an email. “I have received numerous calls regarding our teachers’ workload. I consider it my duty as a board member to voice these concerns.”
During last month’s meeting, Carter asked fellow board members and administrators what could be done to ease the stress. She also asked which mandates were the state’s and which are local.
Carter added she was encouraged by Liberty County Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee’s assurance that teachers would be able to “breathe easier by spring.”
“They just need to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Carter said.
The new state standards and system-wide initiatives are tied to the district’s primary goal, which is improving student performance and ensuring students are college- and career-ready, administrators said.
Liberty County teachers are using the Teacher Keys Effectiveness System and a modified implementation for the Leader Keys Effectiveness System for principals. TKES and LKES are new systems for educator evaluation and professional growth, according to the Georgia Department of Education website. These systems are part of the Race to the Top Initiative and are designed for building teacher effectiveness, according to doe.k12.ga.us.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led process to develop common standards in English language arts and mathematics for grades K-12, according to the state department of education.
Other new initiatives include mutual expectations for classroom instruction, at-risk students monitoring log and protocol, a lesson-delivery format and the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program, said Dr. Debbie Rodriguez, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.
Mutual expectations for classroom Instruction are best practices for classroom instruction developed by LCSS teachers from elementary, middle and high schools, Rodriguez said. The at-risk students monitoring log and protocol initiative tracks underperforming students “with appropriate interventions to improve student learning and performance,” she explained. The lesson delivery format should help teachers produce more effective lessons, administrators said.
PBIS is a behavior intervention framework that modifies behavior with positive reinforcements and is designed to create a more positive learning environment, according to Rodriguez.
“Educators in a school develop a consistent set of behavior expectations and rules,” she said. “The goal is to help staff members change the stimulus and reinforcement in the environment to help students learn to be responsible and respectful.”
Rodriguez said each school has a PBIS team. These teams determine proper student conduct for the hallway, classroom, cafeteria and other areas.
“These expectations are modeled and posted throughout the school,” she said. “When a student does not demonstrate a desired behavior, then the school educators view it as an opportunity for re-teaching.”
“As you can see, there is no increased workload,” Lee said in an email. “These are just best practices to simplify the work of teachers and standardize practices across the district. All are in keeping with our efforts to ensure achievement for all students.”