Middle Start School Study: Building Professional Learning Communities
Growing evidence indicates that student achievement improves in schools that are collaborative, thoughtful, and committed to continual improvement. In such schools, reflection on teaching and learning is an ongoing and regular aspect of school life.
What is a Middle Start School Study?
The Middle Start School Study fosters a school’s self-reflection about teaching and learning and helps build, deepen, and sustain professional learning communities dedicated to the academic success of ALL students. Schools participating in the Middle Start School Study invite local educators to come and conduct an on-site reflective study.
Logistics of the on-site reflective study
- The Middle Start School Study is conducted by a trained team of six to eight teachers and administrators from several different schools.
- Each school benefits greatly by serving as the subject of a school study. Additionally, by sending a representative to other review teams, schools expand their perspective by observing the practice of others.
- The Middle Start School Study focuses on a school’s own questions about its goals and the strategies for meeting these goals.
- The School Study report provides evidence of where a school is meeting its goals and highlights areas where growth is needed.
Principles of the School Study
- Provide objective insight and raise insightful questions about a school’s work.
- Develop a culture of inquiry and reflection.
- Make practice public.
- Encourage reflective dialogue and collaboration.
- Focus on teaching and learning goals.
- Use an evidence-based approach to study teacher practice and student work.
- Build on areas of strength.
How Does the School Study Work?
The School Study program is designed to help schools use evidence to inform and improve instruction. A Middle Start coach guides every step of the School Study process.
Establish Focus and Reflection Questions
Faculty and staff identify essential questions to guide the observation; they define what students should know and be able to do, what evidence indicates learning, and what benchmarks designate progress.
Portfolio of Evidence
Schools develop a portfolio of evidence in which they describe how well they believe they are addressing their improvement goals.
Onsite School Study
The review team shadows students, observes classes, studies the school portfolio, and interviews members of the school community.
The study team prepares a written report with questions for reflection.
The Middle Start Coach discusses the report with the school. The staff uses this information to prioritize areas for continued improvement.
ABCI: Achievement by Continual Improvement
“If we allow some students to fail, some will. The only way to ensure that all students succeed, therefore, is to remove failure as an option.”
— Corbett & Wilson, ‘No Choice but Success.’ Educational Leadership, March 2005