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PCSD staff presents at innovation symposium

Poughkeepsie City School District administrators Janet Bisti, director of elementary education; Patrice Woods, director of teaching and learning; and Jennie Henne, fifth grade teacher at Krieger Elementary School, were invited by Curriculum Associates to facilitate a professional learning session at the i-Ready Success and Innovation Leadership Symposium in Lake George March 6.  

The session was based on a course Bisti and Woods had taught through the PCSD Teacher Resource Center, framed around the book “Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom,” by Carol Ann Tomlinson.

Teachers participated in five sessions in which they learned strategies to differentiate in the classroom using the i-Ready curriculum and teacher toolbox.

After applying the strategies to her classroom, Henne found her students made significant progress on the i-Ready diagnostic and performance assessments.

“The teacher toolbox helps me to determine which assignments I can give to my students based upon their ability level,” Henne said. “I can utilize the differentiated activities to best meet the needs of the students in my class. I then utilized the results from the activities to determine which students need additional support.”

At the symposium, Woods and Bisti shared a brief synopsis of the book and the key strategy provided to teachers on how to use the teacher toolbox and prerequisite report to differentiate for students’ needs, particularly in math. Participants received an in-depth description of the essential differentiation elements – content, process and product – and were shown how PCSD teachers use the tools in i-Ready to meet students where they are. Participants then engaged in a workshop in which they were invited to apply the strategies taught to a particular lesson.

Bisti added: “We are all about experiential practice. When folk participate in a new strategy, they not only are able to apply the skill immediately, but also are able to put themselves in the position of the learner and be better prepared to address challenges and misconceptions.”

The session concluded with a collaborative discussion on ways to support teachers and administrators in their districts. Henne was able to provide participants with teacher input on ways she has incorporated these strategies into her classroom and how students have improved as a result. 

Curriculum Associates and participants found the session to be extremely informative and helpful, stating the major benefits as “educating teachers about what differentiation actually is and the misconceptions,” and “being more intentional about small group instruction,” with many participants showing excitement about hosting their own book study.

PCSD presenters were also invited to present at the Association of Mathematics Teachers of New York State conference in Albany this fall.

The course, “Leading and Managing in a Differentiated Classroom,” is currently being taught by Woods and Kate McGuinness, district elementary instructional coach. More courses will be available soon.