Through a year long strategic planning process involving students, staff and the community, a new vision and beliefs were developed for the South Portland Schools. This vision which was adopted by the Board of Education in June 2013 serves as the basis for the District Comprehensive Education Plan. The mission of the district, “Enriching Lives through Quality Learning for All” is grounded in the following beliefs:
- We ensure that all learners meet or exceed rigorous content standards while developing the skills and habits of mind necessary for future success.
- Our methods of instruction inspire and challenge learners to grow and prepare themselves for a lifetime of educational, career and personal fulfillment.
- Every staff member demonstrates a commitment to creating a fulfilling school experience for all learners.
- The schools and community share a responsibility for creating and maintaining a rich and expansive environment for student learning.
To support our work toward the beliefs highlighted above, we continue to reflect on our mission and goals each year. The mission of the South Portland School Department continues to be “Enriching lives through quality learning for all.” To enact this mission, our goal continues to be Improving Student Achievement. Serving as a cornerstone for our work toward Improving Student Achievement are the principles of Relationships, Relevance and Rigor.
Relationships – Strong learning relationships are essential to improving student achievement. We believe students are more likely to make a personal commitment to engage in their own learning when they know that teachers, parents and other students care about them. It is our aim to create a learning environment that supports the core values of respect, compassion, responsibility, honesty, fairness and courage. With a firm grounding in relationships, relevance and rigor can develop naturally.
Relevance – Relevance refers to learning in which students apply core knowledge, concepts, or skills to real-world situations. Relevant learning is interdisciplinary and contextual and realized through authentic problems, tasks, simulations, service learning, connecting concepts to current issues and teaching others. With a strong foundation in relationships and relevance, students are ready for rigorous learning.
Rigor – Academic rigor occurs when students demonstrate a thorough in-depth mastery of challenging tasks through reflective thought, analysis, problem solving, evaluation, or creativity. In identifying rigor it is important to remember it is the quality of the thinking involved in the task, not the quantity.
We have identified four strategies for achieving our goals.
Teaching – We will continue to focus on identifying and developing “Best Instructional Practices” with all staff. By expanding an understanding and the implementation of “hands-on,” “minds-on” lessons and units we will provide students an opportunity to apply their learning to real world situations. The Project Based Learning model promoted by The Buck Institute for Education (@biepbl) will be utilized by trained staff to help students learn key academic content and practice 21st Century Skills through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge.
Learning – Staff will ensure all curricula are aligned with the Common Core State Standards and Parameters of Essential Instruction (Learning Results). Curriculum Maps and Backwards Design Planning documents will be compiled for all areas. Teachers will also engage in discussing student work associated with our common assessments as a vehicle for informing instruction. Phase I of Proficiency Based Reporting at the Middle Schools and the High School will begin this year with the Sixth Grade teachers reporting proficiency in content as well as Habits of Work.
Schools – We will continue to focus on the development of Responsive Classroom strategies throughout the elementary schools and Restorative Justice practices in the Middle Schools and High School. The teacher professional growth and evaluation system will be aligned to connect student achievement to teacher growth.
Community – A focus of our work is to expand opportunities for meaningful connections between students and community members through internships, mentoring, and community integration both inside and outside of the walls of the schools. We will provide consistent on-going communication with the community to highlight school activities.
This new vision also brings a commitment to increase communication regarding the numerous activities occurring in our eight schools that move us toward this new vision. With the introduction of 1700 ipads to South Portland Schools, Andy Wallace, @AndrewTWallace has finally brought me kicking and screaming into the world of social media. I will be sharing regular highlights of school district activities through this blog and through my new twitter account @SuzanneTGodin. Please join me in celebrating South Portland Schools.