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Early College gets peer review

By Sarah Campbell
scampbell@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — A group of 20 teachers and administrators from six early colleges in the region spent the day sitting in on classes and providing feedback at Rowan County Early College on Tuesday.
“Everything here is very innovative; they are very focused on student-driven learning,” said Katie Owens, a math teacher from Challenger Early College in Hickory.
Owens said the early college is much different from the traditional high school in that the teachers aren’t just the “sage on the stage.”
“It’s very investigative, especially in math. Students work together in groups and analyze patterns,” she said. “The teachers act as facilitators of learning versus imparting the information.”
The group met with teachers at the start of school Tuesday to get an idea about their lesson plans for the day and what kinds of feedback they were seeking.
“One of the things that I’ve been wondering is, are kids getting the big idea?” Linda Sufficool, a world history teacher at Rowan Early College, said.
After the group observed the classes, they met in a conference room to provide their feedback.
But it wasn’t a critique. The group went around and offered assessments that began with “‘I noticed’ or ‘I wondered.’ ”
Sufficool said she was pleased with the constructive approach.
“I think the main thing I will take away is that I’ve still got to continue to work to develop kids’ ability to think a little deeper,” she said.
Owens said she didn’t have any recommendations for the teachers. In fact, she plans to use some of their strategies in her own classroom.
“I learned a lot, so I don’t have any suggestions for them other than to keep up the good work because they are doing wonderful, marvelous things,” she said.
Owens said she likes the idea of students breaking into groups, researching and then sharing the information they learn with their classmates.
“The students really buy into it,” she said. “They really enjoy being able to work together, discuss things together and solve problems together.”
Maria Schell, a history teacher at the Visual and Performing Arts Center in Statesville, said she was amazed at the level of student engagement in the classroom.
“The kids were really excited about the lesson. They were really enjoying what they were doing,” she said.
Julie Stolze, an English teacher at Rowan Early College, said she’s going to use the feedback provided by the group to strengthen her lessons.
“It’s really nice having people who know the business come here,” she said.
Early colleges typically go through a peer review every two years.
“We’re looking at methodology, and in a very friendly way, we’re asking good questions,” said Heather Benfield, principal of Challenger Early College. “We’re trying to move their thinking forward so that student achievement can grow. It’s really focused on student learning.”
Benfield said she was impressed with what she saw Tuesday.
“(Rowan) County has an amazing school here that is doing a lot for students, for families, for work-force development and for economic development. It’s really serving this county,” she said.
Cindy Misenheimer, principal of Rowan Early College, said the peer review is valuable for a number of reasons.
“I think one of the things we get is validation for what we’re doing well and what we need to reflect on and change,” she said. “We know we have good teachers here, and it’s really good to hear somebody else say that.”
Misenheimer said the teachers involved will definitely take the feedback they got Tuesday and apply it to their classrooms.
“Our lessons are going to be a little bit stronger because of this,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Twitter: twitter.com/posteducation
Facebook: facebook.com/Sarah.

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