What does it mean to be a community of "lifelong learners"? It means that faculty at Mark Day School engage in personal and community-wide professional development every year. It means that our faculty evaluation process is directly tied to professional development and continually improving teaching practices. It means that, as a school, we spend time and resources each year to evaluate aspects of our academic program to ensure that we are keeping up with current research and best practices. This is in addition to the accreditation process that we are required to go through every seven years as a member of the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS). It is also something that I have only experienced at Mark Day School, and it is evidence of our commitment to lifelong learning.
The most recent curricular reviews have focused on the arts, world languages, and assessment practices. Currently, we have chosen to turn our attention to reading instruction in kindergarten through third grade. Strong literacy skills are the foundation for all academic instruction. Therefore, delivering reading instruction that supports and challenges all students is vital to academic development in all subjects. A small team of Lower School faculty spent last year examining our program and writing a self-study. We then shared this report with several outside experts for review. This team will also spend two days on campus this month observing classes and meeting with teachers. Using the information gathered during their visit and reading of the self-study, the visiting team will provide us with a comprehensive review of our reading curriculum. They will include commendations, recommendations, and specific feedback regarding the strengths and areas for growth that they identify.
The overall goal of this review is to better understand how we are supporting our students across the five components of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading fluency, and comprehension. By focusing on our curriculum and teaching practices, we hope to become better at identifying students who may be struggling in one or more of these areas in order to support them in a consistent and seamless way. We will also be looking at how we can continue to challenge students who are ready to progress more quickly. We anticipate learning that our current program has many strengths, and we are excited to learn where we may have room to grow as we work to support all of our students.
As is our practice, we will share what we learn from this review, including any curricular changes that may result. You can anticipate more information to come out later this spring or early next fall, once we have received the report back and have had time to review and reflect upon it.
Here are the members of the visiting team:
Ana currently works for Bay Area Teacher Training Institute (BATTI) as Special Projects Manager and instructor of the Developmental Literacy course. She holds an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, and has worked in education for nearly a decade and a half. Ana taught a range of grades around the Bay Area and has consulted in independent schools, guiding them through curriculum rollouts and strategic plans. Ana has taught and supervised new teachers, providing strategic and individual feedback around many topics, including classroom management, lesson planning, differentiation, and assessment.
Marguerite S Conrad
Marty is currently a Professor at San Francisco State University, in the Graduate College of Education. Her areas of specialty are Literacy Theories and Practice K-12. She has had a long career in education, and has a wealth of teaching and consulting experience. She has worked with schools and districts to strengthen literacy practices for students.