The Power of Vertical Teams - Steve Barkley

The Power of Vertical Teams

For the past three years, I have been working with the staff and administrators at Twin Lakes Elementary in Hillsborough County, FL forming teaching professional learning communities that team K-2 and 3-4 teachers in groups of 7-8. These PLC’s have a three year focus on students as they move through the grades staying in classrooms of teachers on that team.

This year I will be working with at least 5 additional schools looking to create various forms of vertical PLC’s. One of the schools in Hillsborough County, FL asked the staff from Twin Lakes to share their experiences. What follows are the key points they shared.

A big thank you to the Twin Lakes team!

Professional Learning Community Overview
May 13, 2008
Twin Lakes Elementary

Katherine Biggens- 4th grade teacher
Arlene Haack Music -Specialist/Facilitator
Maggie Leverett- Counselor/Facilitator
Vanessa Malzone- Kindergarten Teacher

Big Picture-What is a PLC? (represents a shift in thinking)
*PLC’s are something you are, not something you do.
*PLC’s focus on results
*We focus on student behaviors which result in student achievement and identify what teacher behaviors are needed to make that happen.
*We focus on learning rather than teaching as we collaborate.
*We begin with the end in mind.

What are the benefits of vertical teaming vs. horizontal/grade level teaming for students and teachers?
*Development of quality lesson plans; work smarter rather than harder
*Knowing students better via more valuable discussion
*Data informed discussions; predicting how students would do then comparing to what they actually did
*You are a part of a team that has a knowledge base of grade level expectations but that also contribute to a team across grade levels
*You have an opportunity to collaborate with teachers across grade levels where you can plan such things as Buddy Reading, peer tutoring,
*During vertical teaming, there is a group of teachers across grade level that can assist with Student Teacher Assistance Team (STAT) interventions
*Student discussion is communicated by current and previous teachers

How did our PLC’s impact the school?
*Increased school grade
*Personal growth-stretching
*Increased communication/collaboration
*Interventions shared among house members/regrouping of students
*Tied to Continuous Improvement Model (CIM)
*Celebrations of learning
*Decrease in behavioral problems
*Matching teaching and learning styles
*PLC’s complete next school year student placement task

Why do we need common planning time?
*There needs to be a time dedicated to facilitate the PLC process. This time needs to be protected and consistent on a weekly basis. It also needs to be during school time and not a voluntary meeting. Without the common planning time we cannot have the discussion and results for student improvement.

How do Specialists impact this process? Specialists work the schedule so common planning time can occur for houses. Specialists have changed their ‘team talk’ into more students centered discussion finding their commonality was ‘children’. Specialists and houses share information about children in order to improve student behaviors and achievement.

Challenges?
*Time and Scheduling
*Money to get a mentor (Steve Barkley)
*Resource people buy-in necessary for success
*Communication between Houses
*Meetings/Training/Administrative Support
*Grade levels still need to meet as a team
*Faculty decisions of benefits vs. challenges
*Teachers do not want to go back to the old way

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2 Responses to “ The Power of Vertical Teams ”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Hello,
    I will like some input in regarding vertical teams and special area teachers. I have read the information regarding to Twin Lakes, though there is a very small sentence regarding special area teachers. I would like the input on the organization, participation, how special area Houses can work in order to be part of the bigger picture of our school.

  2. Debi West Says:

    Hi! I am the visual art department chair at a large high school with a team of 4 teachers. We have 2 middle schools and 8 elementary schools that feed into our school (they are in the midst of building a new hs since we are now too large). I am planning a VP meeting with all of the elementary and ms art teachers to make sure that we are all teaching the same objectives and remain on the same page. Our meeting is this Thursday. I am really excited about it, but I am already getting some “grips” from some elementary teachers. Any thoughts, ideas on how to run the meeting so that it doesn’t become a “grip” session. This is about making sure our students are learning what they need to know by the time they get to our HS classes! Thanks for your research!

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