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Certificate program offered to teachers

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

Maintaining a high quality of excellence among teachers in the Tahoe-Truckee Unified District is the focus of two programs in the works.

A Reading and Literacy Development Certificate Program will help equip teachers with the most recent techniques for teaching students literacy; and a teachers’ Peer Assistance and Review program proposed by the Tahoe-Truckee Education Association would give teachers who are struggling in any area needed support and guidance.

As educators around the world have recognized, there is no greater achievement a student’s educational career than the mastery of reading and writing. To have the greatest impact on children’s learning, the state has mandated improvements in the teaching in these areas and literacy development.

A nationally acclaimed and cutting edge certificate program in reading and literacy development developed by Dr. Richard McCallum in the Education Department of University of California, Berkeley Extension, will be offered to TTUSD teachers beginning this summer.

According to TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma, research has shown that McCallum’s techniques in literacy tutoring have shown incredible results – in some cases children with poor reading skills were able to improve their reading ability by three grade levels with only 20 hours of instruction.

McCallum and other UC Berkeley staff who teach in the master’s program in the education department will begin teaching TTUSD teachers this summer if enough teachers sign up for the coursework.

The program will be offered to district teachers at one-third of the normal cost; approximately $800. It is a year and a half program, and up to 30 TTUSD teachers can sign up for the 16 units, Gemma said. During the six units offered in the summer, teachers will work one on one with students in summer school who struggle with their reading.

“Those 30 students stand a chance that they will improve their reading by three grade levels,” Gemma said.

The program will first address the “how and why” of teaching by having the teachers work directly with low achieving students in summer school while they are participating in the program’s coursework. Teachers will receive instruction via the coursework and will be expected to apply that knowledge in their work with students. All of the program work is performance based.

Gemma said the program will be open to the first 30 TTUSD teachers interested. If there aren’t 30 teachers interested, the program will then be open to substitute teachers and charter school teachers.

“What is huge about this is we are a rural area and we have a lot of urban issues with regard to education,” Gemma said. “This is a great opportunity. To have a school district this size with 30 teachers with their reading certification is unheard of.”

The program is not only geared for primary education teachers, but for middle and high school teachers as well, in all subject areas.

Glenshire Elementary School fifth grade teacher Reina Markheim was excited when she first heard about the program. She said she is definitely interested in participating.

“To me it sounds like an incredible opportunity,” she said. “The reading program is going to open up doors for people who may want to do something different.”(The reduced price) makes it feasible. I hope teachers find out about this and realize it’s something they want to do.”

The coursework would be intensive during the summer of 2000 and 2001, and would require teachers to continue their studies during the 2000-01 school year on alternating Friday evenings and Saturdays. Markheim said that is a big commitment for teachers.

“I hope there is a turnout,” she said. “I hope this can fly.”

McCallum will present the program to interested teachers in a meeting the district has scheduled for May 19, in the district office from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Gemma said the district is in the process of explaining the program to site administrators and teachers to assess the interest throughout the district.

Peer Assistance

The TTEA has completed a draft proposal for a Peer Assistance and Review Program that is in line with state guidelines and would be funded by the state to promote teacher peer support.

The draft of the proposal was up for review by the negotiating team last week. Members of the negotiating team are expected to approve the proposal at a May 28 meeting. School sites will then vote on the program, and the TTUSD Board of Trustees will be the last to ratify.

If the program is approved, teachers would select certified classroom peers to serve on a panel, which would select consulting teachers to be assigned to another teacher that is in need of some kind of assistance.

For example, if a teacher was having a hard time with designing lesson plans, a consulting teacher would be assigned to work with that teacher and give support. Money from the state would pay the consulting teacher for their assistance as well as for a substitute teacher if the consulting teacher was required to leave his or her classroom.

“Hopefully the money can be a first step in paying teachers for something they already do, because there is a lot of congeniality in this district,” said Markheim, former TTEA president. “Here are some really excellent teachers who want to be better. It allows for peer assistance … and for us to be better at our jobs.”

Teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations at their school sites in any area would have the opportunity to go to the review panel for assistance.

If teachers receive a second unsatisfactory evaluation, then they would be required to work with a consulting teacher under the program.

The support will be available to first year teachers as a first priority to help them adjust to their new jobs. Other priorities will be given to teachers who may have health or family problems, as well as teachers struggling in a particular area.

“The goal of it is not meant to be punitive, but as something to help teachers,” said Paul Smith, a biology teacher at Tahoe-Truckee High School who has committed to working on the program through the summer. “It’s helping teachers who are at a hard spot in the road, who need support. I think its going to be very beneficial.”

Smith added it will be hard for teachers to admit their faults, but it’s important to remember that everyone has faults.

“It doesn’t mean they are doing bad teaching,” Smith said.

He said he expected the program to be approved by the TTEA negotiating team.

The TTUSD board must approve the program by June 30 in order for the district to get funding from the state.

Board meetings

TTUSD board meeting dates for the next two months have been changed.

Upcoming meetings are scheduled as follows:

– May 18 – Special board meeting to discuss block scheduling at North Tahoe High School. Meeting begins at the high school at 6 p.m.

– June 1 board meeting – canceled

– June 8 – Special joint board meeting with the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District. Begins at 6:30 p.m. at the district office in Truckee.

-June 29 – Special board meeting. Begins at 6:30 p.m. at the district office in Truckee.

For information on meeting dates, times or agendas, call 582-7600.


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