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Training Session Offers Linden Educators Fresh Look At Top Teaching Techniques


Teachers and administrators from throughout Linden Public Schools gathered for professional development sessions on Jan. 12th with visiting education consultant Stefani Hite.

Hite, a former teacher and administrator, discussed studies by Australian researcher John Hattie, who seeks to quantify what classroom strategies work best to increase student performance.

“His philosophy is, ‘Know they impact,’ ” Hite told a group of administrators gathered at the district’s Professional Development Resource Center. “It’s fine that we show up in school every day and we work with kids, but in the end, we’ve got to know that what we’re doing is actually impacting the students in the way that we want it to.”

Hite met with the administrators in the morning, then with teachers who are members of the district’s Instructional Leadership Teams in the afternoon at School No. 1. The ILTs consist of about 100 teachers who receive professional development on data analysis and instructional strategies and pass the information on to the rest of the staff.

Reina Irizarry-Clark, an instructional coach for Linden, said Hite’s goal was to take Hattie’s research and show teachers how it translates into classroom technique, and to show administrators how to support teachers in implementing those strategies.

One key strategy she discussed was offering students specific feedback on how to improve their performance.

“So instead of saying, ‘Oh, good job,’ we tell the child what they need to work on,” Irizarry-Clark said. “It is about giving them specific guidance on the things they can do to increase their performance in the classroom.

“It’s one of those things that teachers have always done, but what the research suggests is that certain influences, such as feedback, have a higher impact on student achievement than others. We are learning what those influences are and how they translate into the classroom. It’s not like we need to reinvent the wheel.”

During the morning session, Hite asked administrators to gather in small groups to rank what effect different classroom approaches would have on student learning.

The New Jersey Education Association, which has designated Linden as a model district in its Priority Schools Initiative. In exchange for Linden’s acting as a model to help other school districts boost their performance, the NJEA pays for additional professional development sessions for Linden’s educators.

Photo caption: Education consultant Stefani Hite, center, discussing with Linden administrators from left, Antoinette Modrak, coordinator of special projects; William Mastriano, principal of School No. 6; Suzanne Olivero, vice principal of School No. 4; Anthony Cataline, principal of School No. 4; and Sandra Coglianese, principal of School No. 10.