Bringing FIP to a Rural Community: Crestwood Local Schools

This article was written by Michelle Gerbrick. She began her career as a fifth grade educator and was later promoted to District Science Specialist for Appoquinimink Schools. A relocation brought her back home to Ohio where she served as an Educational Technology Integrationist for Aurora City Schools and is now serving as Principal of Crestwood Intermediate. You can follow Michelle on Twitter here.  

Crestwood Local Schools is a district that encompasses over 75 square miles, most of which is rural. The district has three townships consisting of Mantua, Hiram and Shalersville and two villages of Mantua and Hiram. My particular school, Crestwood Intermediate, houses students in grades 3-5. This is my second year here as principal, and I’m learning and growing each and every day as a new administrator.

Currently our teachers use flex time so teacher teams can meet once a week from 7:45AM to 8:30AM.  Since I don't believe this is an optimal amount of time, I hope to increase the allotted time for these meetings in the future to allow for more collaboration and professional dialogue. Our leadership team at CIS consists of one grade level representative from 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. These leaders-- Tammy Gardner, Carie Englehart and Sara Isler— not only lead the teacher-team meetings but also facilitate our FIP trainings. They play a critical role in our growth as a school.

Crestwood Intermediate is part of the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP), which means our teams follow the “Five Step Process” during our team meetings. In addition to our weekly team meetings, we have four full professional development days embedded in our school calendar. Many of our teachers also attend in-house and after-school professional development trainings.

Beginning Our FIP Journey at CIS:

Our superintendent, Dave Toth, wants our focus to be on Google and FIP over the next two years, and thus far, the response has been very positive. Our plan is to work through the first two Foundations of FIP modules this year with the remaining modules becoming our priority next year. We all know that high-quality professional development for teachers is more effective when rolled out slowly and methodically, so this is the approach we are taking. Our teachers at each grade level spent time in their computer labs during professional development days to take Introduction to FIP and Clear Learning Targets and to work together on the concepts after completion. Time was also provided for professional dialogue and teams began to deconstruct the standards at a deeper level.  We held off on our “Google Classroom and Third Party Apps” training. Our teachers wanted to focus on FIP and postpone the Google training for our last professional development day allowing them time to develop their “Google Classrooms” further during the summer months.

Reflecting on Our FIP Journey at CIS:

After this last professional development day, I met with my leadership team to hear their thought process and obtain their feedback. Teachers said “we need more time to deconstruct the standards.” They found the FIP professional development experience to be very beneficial and said it led to powerful conversations and many "A-ha" moments. This was great to hear, but the dilemma became where to find more time so they could continue their work.  It made sense to work during our morning team meetings, but how would we complete the “Five Step Process” and have time for this in the small amount of allotted time.  I turned to Pat Martell, our FIP Specialist, and Martin Linder, our State Support Team specialist. After working with my leadership team and talking with these two individuals, we decided to pivot in our journey.

Pivoting in Our FIP Journey at CIS:

OUR NEW PLAN OF ACTION: Our teacher teams will still focus on the “Five Step Process” and have time to deconstruct standards with FIP during their weekly teacher team meetings.

Steps 1-4 in the “Five Step Process” will take 2-3 teacher team meetings to complete. Team meetings must start on time and teachers need to be prepared and focused to complete this task. After step 4, teams will collect data over a six-week period. It is our goal to have one quality form per quarter, allowing us time for other professional work.

During this six week period of data collection, this is when the teams will watch the Clear Learning Targets in ELA and Clear Learning Targets in Math modules. Each module is approximately one hour. From there, teams will meet to begin deconstructing the standards at a deeper level in ELA and Math with fourth marking period being the area of focus. It is our goal that these clear learning targets will be used during fourth marking period and that the language will be the same in all classrooms.

Once data is collected during the six week period, teams will complete step 5 in the “Five Step Process” and submit to the state for feedback.

FIP and the Google Journey at CIS:

In my experience as a student and a professional, a blended learning environment offers the best of both worlds. Teachers are now able to continue their own professional development wherever and whenever they choose to do so. As an administrator, I can do the same. Through the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES), I’ve shared videos from the FIP Video Library with my team as a resource in their areas needing refinement. I also share these resources via my social media feeds.

Teachers are already transferring their knowledge learned through FIP to their classrooms. I am amazed at their growth and the changes I see when doing my walkthroughs. Eventually, our teachers will also be able to transfer their knowledge of FIP and use these tools to expand on their blended learning environments using Google Classrooms.

Our journey here at CIS has only begun and I cannot wait to see where we are a year from now. As a new administrator I’ve learned one thing in particular: I must work with my leadership team to articulate the vision and goals and then get out of their way. Why? Because I work with a staff that will make things happen! And I could not be more proud.