Monroe Township School District expands teacher training

Monroe Township School District’s Challenge

In addition to providing differentiated instruction to its 5,500 students,
Monroe Township School District (MTSD), located in Middlesex County, NJ,
also believes in delivering differentiated professional development to more
than 500 teachers. However, attending to the individual needs of so many
educators proves time-consuming for professional development coordinators
and results in limited offerings.

“You can only do so much training yourself,” said Lewis Stonaker, one of the
suburban district’s staff development coordinators. In order to expand his
training model, Mr. Stonaker needed a program that was flexible enough to
accommodate the distinctive needs and characteristics of their professional
learning communities.

Monroe Township’s Solution

In 2005, MTSD’s former Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and
Instruction, Dr. Christopher Tienken, saw a Teachscape presentation at a New
Jersey school boards convention and was struck by the flexibility offered by its
blend of online, face-to-face, and classroom-based professional learning.
In addition, Teachscape’s Programs of Study covered many of the same topics
targeted by the district’s staff development department such as High Yield
Strategies based on Dr. Robert J. Marzano’s Classroom Instruction That Works.

In 2005, MTSD partnered with Teachscape. Lewis Stonaker and Stephanie Goldberg, the district’s other staff development
coordinator, test-drove the online course materials before presenting them to the staff. MTSD has now fully implemented
Teachscape’s High Yield Strategies program via year-long courses, as well as a book study group that uses the materials in
a chapter format for mini-courses.

The cohort of teachers participating in a year-long Program of Study may be district-wide or restricted to a specific school
building. The professional learning community meets formally for three full days and two half days. They also meet on
their own outside of that time. These year-long courses are based on district goals for professional development.
In addition to year-long courses, quarterly mini-courses are offered that are geared toward teachers’ supplementary
interests. During each course, participants review a different part of Teachscape’s classroom instruction materials. The
district set up these mini-courses, because the staff development coordinators realized that some teachers were interested
in focusing on three or four chapters rather than all nine. “We are often adding more Teachscape subscriptions due to the
popularity of the courses,” said Mr. Stonaker.

Two years after implementing the Programs of Study, MTSD acquired
Teachscape’s Classroom Walkthrough system which helps school leaders
assess whether teachers are applying appropriate instructional strategies in the
classroom. During administrative meetings, school leaders collectively analyze
specific components of the walkthrough data and then develop action plans.
The walkthrough information is used to share building-level data at faculty
meetings and to provide guidance to year-one teachers at their monthly reviews.

Overall Program Benefits
• The blend of online and classroom-based professional learning is flexible
enough to fit with Monroe’s differentiated professional development model
• The easy customization of the online resources means that teachers
can watch practice models that are best suited to them and the grade
level they teach
• The blended approach of online and classroom instruction accommodates
one of the major tenets put forth by adult learning theorist Malcolm Knowles,
that “adults learn better when they can share and discuss perspectives”
• Motivated teachers can take the initiative in moving their instruction to
the next level by using the online resources as independent learning
• Instead of relying on principals’ observations and anecdotal evidence to
analyze instructional strengths and weaknesses, schools can collect “hard
data” on the application of teaching strategies with Teachscape’s Classroom Walkthrough system

Program Results

Monroe’s professional development program gained national recognition in
an article published in the spring 2007 issue of the National Staff Development
Council’s Journal of Staff Development. The article was later reprinted in the council’s book, Finding Time for
Professional Learning (2008), a compilation of time-related best practices.

Formerly the district relied on observations and anecdotal information to tell them about classroom instruction. With
Teachscape’s High Yield Strategies and Classroom Walkthrough, the district now has hard frequency data on all strategies
being implemented and what is working to raise student achievement.

The program’s approach of blending courses with discussions has led to a new teacher exchange program in which
participants visit colleagues’ classrooms throughout the district in order to observe teaching practices. Participants can
visit classrooms outside of their grade level or regularly taught topic, so professional learning opportunities are expanded.
This district-wide knowledge sharing has resulted in a culture of continuous learning and improvement that benefits both
teachers and the students they serve.