César Chávez Elementary School will welcome about 600 students in kindergarten through fifth-grade when it opens this fall. The school will feature learning labs where educators can learn new teaching methods and improve their current skills.
“The labs will enable us to have master teachers model best practices and district initiatives,” said Karen Spiegel, mentor program coordinator.
Teacher quality is the number one factor influencing student achievement and it makes a difference in reaching our vision: All students graduate and are prepared for a successful life. That’s why Salem-Keizer made teacher quality and professional development initiatives part of our strategic plan. The sixth goal on our strategic plan states, “Plan, design, and implement a resident teaching training program and learning lab in collaboration with our university partners.”
Salem-Keizer is working closely with Corban, Western Oregon, and Willamette universities.
“We want to improve practice for all teachers and pre-service teachers,” said Spiegel. “Student teachers will be able to create a strong link between research and actual classroom practice.”
Chávez is part of the 2008 construction bond, a $242.1 million bond measure approved by voters to repair existing schools and to relieve overcrowding in our district. The design of the new school includes eight demonstration classrooms with small observation rooms built between two classrooms.
From inside a learning lab, educators can observe instruction in two different classrooms. The observation rooms are insulated for sound, and feature one-way windows to allow teachers to observe without disrupting the learning environment. New instructional techniques can be modeled in the demonstration classrooms while instructional coaches, administrators, and university students discuss what they see.
“The use of these labs will provide real-time professional development for our teachers without disrupting students,” said Spiegel. “Students in our district will benefit by having more adults focusing on achievement gains and best practices.”
Teachers and students in the demonstration classrooms will know when they are being observed and for what purpose. The district is currently in the process of selecting teachers for the demonstration classrooms. The opportunity to learn in the labs will be offered through internal professional development channels and through the district’s partnerships with area colleges.
Using learning labs is one way we are following the strategic plan to improve teacher quality, and ultimately student achievement. Our strategic plan tells us where to focus our efforts throughout the year. It is updated annually by cabinet using input from staff.
The district vision statement, All students graduate and are prepared for a successful life, was developed in 2010 from staff input on the strengths and values of Salem-Keizer Public Schools. The input was reviewed by district leadership and refined into the statement that is unique to our district.
See the vision happening in your school or department? Email Karma Krause with a story idea.
More information about the learning labs is available through Human Resources at 503-399-3061.