A strong sense of collaboration that allows material to be presented to students at the same stage enhances learning.
The additional time allowed for Ankeny teachers to meet with their peers is paying off, a group of Northeast Elementary School educators told the school board Monday.
Professional learning communities have been evolving in the district over the past few years, especially since the Wednesday late starts were added in August 2009.
Teachers whose areas overlap - such as all the educators in the same grade level at an elementary school, or those who teach the same subject - meet twice a week to coordinate lesson plans and review data on students' progress.
Northeast Principal Al Neppl and the four fifth-grade teachers at Monday's meeting said that time for collaboration is key to helping students. For example, one of the teachers noted that all the fifth-graders at Northeast are meeting or exceeding their reading goals.
Lori Arrowsmith, who has been with the district for 16 years, said teacher interaction has changed for the better since she came to Ankeny schools.
Back then, she said, educators only had time to discuss the kids who needed help the most. A teacher "went to school, went to your room, did your thing and left at the end of the day."
Teachers also weren't on the same page when it came to lessons, she said. But they are now.
"My concept of what a team and collaboration is has dramatically changed," Arrowsmith said. "There's a clear map laid out for every subject and what those goals are."
Jeff Bakke said the teachers now have more standards to base their lessons on and to use when collecting data.
Their discussions focus on students performing at every level, he said, not just kids who are struggling. Each group also meets with building principals and literacy leaders, Bakke said, not just their teaching peers.
Megan Murphy said the collaboration has helped teachers in her group create PowerPoint presentations for each lesson, so all fifth-grade students at Northeast are introduced to the same concepts at the same time.
The increased interaction among teachers benefits all students, said Aleisha Nove.
"We are no longer on our own, keeping our great ideas to ourselves," Nove said.
Board members thanked the educators for sharing a snapshot of how the teacher groups are progressing.
"It's great to hear first-hand from our teachers what they're doing with that time," board President Leslie Petersen said.
Board member Trent Murphy said it is important for parents and community members to know the benefits of additional meeting times for teachers. Board member Pat Cahill said it also was interesting to hear "how we've progressed and moved forward."