Not only are all our teachers very dedicated and capable professionals, they are all highly qualified in accordance with the No Child Left Behind legislation. Our teacher attendance rates are extremely high. In 2009-2010, our attendance rate was 98.5%.
Our school started becoming a Professional Learning Community several years ago when the fourth, fifth and sixth grade teachers decided to teach their combined students according to their areas of certification. This change in assignments naturally required collaboration on their part to make this work. At that time, collaboration time was not built into the schedule. So, they were forced to meet either before or after school or during lunch to try and collaborate. These three teachers have worked very well together and have challenged one another to implement the differentiated instructional methods that they learned about in our professional development sessions and meet the multiple intelligence needs of our students with a focus on raising student achievement. Their studentsí test scores are the ones that we are using for this yearís Good Schools application with The Skillman Foundation. Their enthusiasm for and support of one another are inspiring. This year, they specifically requested that collaboration time be built into the schedule for them and luckily, we were able to find a way to accommodate them. We also built collaboration time into the schedule for all our teachers from kindergarten through eighth grade. And, we are making our collaborations specifically focused on student achievement, differentiated instruction and meeting the multiple intelligence needs of our students.
We are encouraging teachers to become leaders by sharing their best practices with one another during their collaboration times. We are also asking them to begin sharing language arts best practices with the entire staff this year at faculty meetings. The Archdiocese and The Skillman Foundation program of documenting best practices this year in all the city schools will further develop our teachers as leaders, especially at the meetings where they will meet and collaborate with teachers from other Detroit city Catholic schools.
In June prior to the beginning of the new school year, teachers are asked to decide what goals they would like to pursue for the upcoming school year and submit them in writing to the principal. The principal and teacher discuss ways to accomplish and measure the goals and a copy is placed in the teacherís file for periodic review. At the end of the year, the goals are examined by the principal and teacher together to see if they were accomplished. Because teachers are encouraged to take reasonable risks at Gesu, failure to reach a goal is not necessarily considered a negative outcome. Sometimes lessons learned can be just as important. On the other hand, reaching goals is cause for celebration and congratulations. If a goal is not reached, the principal and teacher discuss possible reasons why it was not accomplished and what could have been done differently that might have given the teacher a better result.
Teachers are informally observed and assessed by the administration during a classroom walk-through. The Archdiocese of Detroit provides formal assessment forms for principals to use and teachers are given a copy of the form so they can see the criteria of a more formal observation. With our focus at Gesu turning from what teachers are teaching to what students are actually learning, the teacher observation process at Gesu is beginning to likewise make that distinction.
This year we have one new teacher. We have provided her with three mentors by scheduling three collaboration times per week for her. One of her collaboration times is with the other junior high teacher. Since she teaches math and science, we also built collaboration time with the middle school math teacher and the middle school science teacher into the schedule. She will also meet with the principal to monitor how she is doing and address any of her concerns or needs.
See section 5. Challenging Curriculum and Instruction for discussion on the various professional development opportunities for our teachers. In addition to those opportunities, our teachers, administrators and office personnel were also trained in the proper handling of potential blood-borne pathogens. Teachers have also been trained in CPR and First Aid training beginning in November 2006. Our lunch personnel attend health and safety certification classes on a regular basis in order to maintain their licenses and our janitors have participated in various safety classes on proper maintenance procedures. Evaluation of those professional development classes have been by individual written surveys that are passed out by the class presenter and by informal discussions in our building between teachers and/or administrator and sometimes at our monthly faculty meetings.
The small size of our school with only one teacher per grade affords students the opportunity to develop trusting relationships with their teachers and the administration. As a result, most students feel comfortable talking to them about their progress, difficulties, dreams and futures. As a staff, we emphasize Christian values and academic excellence with an eye to the future (high school and college).