All Aboard!

This blog post was written by Kathy Sturges. Kathy is a FIP Specialist for the Southwest Region, a part of a regional support system available to help your LEA advance the use of formative instructional practices. 


Port Clinton Middle School Charts a Course for Success

In the sea of school improvement, some ships have anchored in a protective harbor waiting for the storms of accountability to pass. Others have gone adrift, acting without a purpose or vision of excellence. Still others have gone aground, resting on the seafloor of negativity. The captain of the Port Clinton Middle School, Principal Carrie Sanchez, and her Co-Captain, Assistant Principal Troy Diels are navigating these occasional rocky waters with consistent, purposeful, supportive and on-going leadership. In the past four years, the school has increased its performance index score nearly 10 points, from 92.1 in 2011 to 101.7 in 2014 with these two leaders at the helm. In 2013, the Ohio Department of Education named the Port Clinton Middle School a “High Progress School of Honor.”

How did this ship survive these rocky waters? Persistence, a clear vision, consistent structures, a focus on the whole child and a mantra of “No Excuses” were modeled by transformative leaders. Effective communication is the ballast for this ship’s steadiness. It is frequent, consistent, purposeful, supportive, ongoing and non-contradictory. The master schedule was modified to rotate core classes, giving every student an opportunity to learn at their most opportune time of day. Teachers have flexibility to modify the daily schedule when needed, they have a daily intervention period where all teachers put all hands on deck in the name of student learning. Students are ability grouped to allow for greater degrees of individual differentiation.

Teacher teams, called “fleets”, meet daily and provide purposeful, sacred planning time for members. Training was provided on how to engage in effective team meetings. Administrators attend fleet meetings. Trust is extended to fleets to sail on their own when the time is right. If one fleet luffs its sails, the captain and first mate help pull in the sails to right the ship, followed by courageous conversations about how to “stay the course.”

Each fleet has a leader who facilitates the weekly meetings, encouraging collaboration among and between fleets by providing valuable insights and perspectives. In addition to fleet meetings, other building meetings occur to communicate consistent messages to all. Content meetings occur once per month to allow teachers to “talk shop.” Elective teachers are assigned to content meetings in order to communicate their perspectives about student learning. Rather than submitting lesson plans, the captains of this ship collect evidence of student learning monthly through “Fleet Overviews.”

The Port Clinton Middle School is definitely charting a course for success! If you’re sailing by Port Clinton, a stop at this port is well worth it!