Education Matters: Teacher training in Del Mar: In search of balance

Marsha Sutton
Marsha Sutton

By Marsha Sutton

As a final follow-up to the recent series on professional development in the Del Mar Union School District, DMUSD superintendent Holly McClurg explained why some teachers are out of their classrooms for training more than others.

All DMUSD teachers spend two to five days a year, for three years, in Cognitively Guided Instruction staff development, she said, to prepare for Common Core State Standards which are being introduced this fall.

In addition, some teachers across all grades, those in their third year of CGI training, are also Common Core lead curriculum teachers.

Shelley Petersen, DMUSD’s assistant superintendent for instructional services, said the lead curriculum teachers have several functions: understand the new standards, determine when certain standards should be taught during the three trimesters of the school year, identify available resources that support the standards, and create student assessments.

Petersen said these lead curriculum teachers, 21 for English/language arts and 21 for mathematics, represent an average of three per grade level (kindergarten through sixth).

She said one lead curriculum teacher, a sixth-grade teacher from Del Mar Hills School, is also involved in collaborative work with the San Dieguito Union High School District, writing curriculum to smooth the transition between sixth and seventh grades.

In addition, she said there are three other sixth-grade teachers (from three other Del Mar schools) also working with San Dieguito and other feeder elementary districts but who are not Common Core lead teachers.

“The purpose of this collaborative work is … to ensure students are well-prepared to transition from elementary to middle school,” Petersen said in an email.

Because the San Dieguito articulation team involves a few sixth-grade teachers, these teachers will have more absences from their classrooms.

Articulation from sixth to seventh grade needs to be seamless, McClurg said, “so you can see the necessity to have some cross-over.”

The articulation team, she said, was formed “specifically in response to the needs of our sixth-graders in mathematics. It’s something we’ve definitely heard from our community – our teachers and parents and principals – as a need.

“We obviously want to and need to be a part of that. We have been working very closely with San Dieguito on getting that to happen. So it will be very beneficial.”

But that means two days of CGI training, three days of lead teacher work, and then an additional three days this spring working with San Dieguito, for that teacher, McClurg said. Other teachers might be absent for CGI training and for San Dieguito articulation work, while still other teachers will only be absent for CGI training.

McClurg said the district tries to schedule some of this work in the summer – and after school, on weekends and in the evenings. But much depends upon teacher availability and voluntary participation since after-hours work cannot be compulsory, even when pay is offered.

The district’s lead curriculum teachers do meet after school on occasion, but because there are so many (21 in each group), finding a time when they can all meet is challenging, McClurg said.

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