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District Develops Teaching Strategies
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Oakdale videographer John Sheetz films Sierra View fifth grader teacher Stacy Graham as she leads a lesson for her students, which will be used as a training video for teachers as part of the school districts new instructional strategies model known as IS4. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader


As part of his vision to keep the Oakdale Joint Unified School District moving forward and continuously improving, Superintendent Marc Malone wanted teachers to identify instructional norms and create a cohesive strategy to improve student learning.

He created three councils shortly after he stepped into his role as head of the district, including the Superintendent’s Education Council. Made up of approximately 25 teacher leaders, including a few principals and district administrators, as well as Malone and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Barbara Shook, the Superintendent’s Education Council identified those norms and developed a program called IS4. It’s a set of strategies for teachers to incorporate into their classroom instruction. IS4 stands for Instructional Strategies Supporting Student Success.

OJUSD Director of Categorical Programs Kristi Rapinchuk reported that IS4 is based on brain research. The information-processing model involves how to move and store information to long-term memory, and then also how to recall the information. IS4 includes effective repetition that the students are engaged in and then connecting the new information to a larger concept. Both help the students retain and then retrieve the information, she said.

To help disseminate the IS4 concepts to teaching staff, the district is capturing teacher demonstrations of lesson plans that cover the bases of the IS4 program on video. John Sheetz of Sail Away Pictures filmed seven teachers recently over the course of three days to create a video archive of lessons to be used for teacher training. The videos show the teacher’s instruction, which demonstrates the IS4 concepts, as well as the students’ reactions. More video lessons are planned.

All staff district wide will be trained in the instructional strategies through videos, Power Points, professional readings, and the like by the end of the first semester next year, Rapinchuk said, with training continuing through the whole school year. Lesson studies will have teachers either watching the videos or sitting in on another classroom.

“It’s a really powerful way to reflect on your own teaching,” she said.

The trainings are just for Oakdale teachers who would view the videos through a secure website. The video project is paid for through state and federal categorical funds that are designated for staff development.

In developing IS4, Rapinchuk said the council looked at proven teaching models, education reform models, researched articles, and viewed online video instruction.

She added that the strategies are geared to create a classroom culture where students are listening to the teacher, can demonstrate they’re listening, and also listen to what their peers are saying.

“I think it’s going to bring a continuity to the students,” said teacher Stacy Graham. “From grade school to high school, they’re going to see similar teaching strategies that will help them put what they’re learning into long-term memory.”

Along with information retention, Rapinchuk added that there are fewer behavioral management issues because the students have less time to misbehave and the teachers see the students’ enjoyment in participating at such a level.

Oakdale teachers are already teaching content well, Rapinchuk said, but the question being asked was why the students weren’t retaining the information. This program offers a framework for what teachers need to do in order to have kids engage in every part of the lesson, which leads to a retention of information.

She pointed out that this is not scripted learning and it doesn’t take away a teacher’s style or creativity. The instructional norms or strategies are concepts that the teachers need to make their own.

Graham teaches fifth grade at Sierra View Elementary School, serves on the Superintendent’s Education Council, and is also the President of the Oakdale Teachers Association. She said that the strategies in IS4 are already being used by teachers but believes the IS4 program polishes them. She noted that after teaching lessons over and over, sometimes it’s possible to go on “auto pilot” but that the IS4 strategies remind teachers to slow down a little.

Graham said that she sees a difference in the way she delivers a lesson since incorporating IS4. She noted that she had been concerned about math scores in her class, but knew that she was teaching what was supposed to be covered. Now, she uses the strategies in IS4 as an assessment of all her students’ understanding.

“They ‘get it’ before they go home to practice it (homework),” Graham said.

She added that she spends a little more time teaching a lesson with IS4 but she spends less time in remediation. In other words, she invests a little more time up front but saves time in the long run.

“It’s our superintendent’s intention that this is the material, instructional strategies, that teachers will be using in classrooms everyday, K through 12,” Rapinchuk said.

She reported that some teachers had started incorporating some of the IS4 principles near the end of the last school year. She added that one teacher had said that it’s shocking how the concept behind it helps students remember and to understand new information better.

To measure the effects of the IS4 program, the district will look at STAR results, benchmark testing, as well as feedback about instructional strategies that the school principals observe.

There is a five-year implementation plan for IS4; this is the development year. Next year will be the first year of full implementation of the program. The Superintendent’s Education Council is developing a plan to ensure how all teachers will receive the IS4 training next year.