Education's innovative program helps Cameron Middle achieve academic success

By Janel Shoun on 12/9/2011

   
   

The Tennessee Value Added Assessment System (TVAAS) scores released Friday provide strong evidence that Cameron Middle School students have made significant improvements in math and reading after just one year of personalized, on-site professional development for Cameron teachers provided by Lipscomb University.

Go to the Tennessee Department of Education’s website (http://www.tn.gov/education/reportcard/index.shtmlto) to see 2011 AYP scores for Cameron Middle School. The scores show significant improvement over the previous year in math and reading for grades 5-7.

As part of the Cameron Transformation Partnership -- a five-year plan to eliminate achievement gaps at Cameron Middle School, a challenged, diverse school in downtown Nashville -- Lipscomb was contracted by the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to develop a model, on-site professional development program to meet the specific improvement needs of each teacher during Cameron’s transition to a charter school.

“The Lipscomb University-Cameron Middle School Professional Development Partnership has impacted student learning significantly here at Cameron,” said Cameron Middle School Principal Chris Hames. “On the TCAP (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program), our students showed improvement in all but two subgroups. Our TVAAS scores were more than three NCE Gains above state average, and our students’ TVAAS achievement hit its highest level in the past four years.

“This kind of academic progress happens not only because Lipscomb offers individualized, expert professional development, but because our teachers have dedicated themselves to impacting student learning,” Hames said. “What is remarkable about this teaching staff is that they knew there would be additional professional development requirements each week, yet they chose to stay and accept the challenge, knowing that they would be supported with embedded, personalized professional development.”

“So excellent professional development combined with committed teachers has paid off in terms of student learning here at Cameron.”

The Lipscomb College of Education created a year-long program that provided Cameron teachers with 1,141 hours of professional development and individualized training, far more than other MNPS teachers normally receive in a typical school year.

The model program at Cameron included:

  • A Lipscomb professional development liaison who works daily, on-site at Cameron;
  • Weekly sessions with doctorate-level Lipscomb professors in areas such as classroom management, family engagement, reading and math strategies and effective use of technology;
  • Customized training sessions based on the personal improvement goals identified by each teacher; and
  • Content including best practices and the latest research findings in brain function, learning and effective teaching.

At the end of the school year, 92% of Cameron teachers met their personal improvement goals. The three teachers who did not meet all their goals, also logged the fewest hours at the weekly professional development trainings.

The College of Education deans have been invited to present this new model of professional development at an academic conference this spring and to give a webinar based on their experience at Cameron to Tennessee educators in October.

“There has been a lot of discussion recently about getting the best people into classrooms to produce successful education reform. While teacher recruitment and selection is highly important, this program shows that consistent, targeted professional development for the committed, eager teachers we already have in the schools can make vast improvements,” said Candice McQueen, dean of the Lipscomb College of Education.

Lipscomb will continue the professional development model at Cameron for two more years. In the 2011-12 school year, Lipscomb will provide a total of 1,976 hours of professional development for the Cameron teachers, provide an opportunity to have a Lipscomb faculty member as a mentor for grade level teams and focus on improving planning, classroom engagement practices and instruction with ELL students in the classroom.

In May 2010, the Metro Nashville Board of Education voted unanimously to enlist LEAD Public Schools in the transition of Cameron Middle School to a charter school and contracted with Lipscomb to reduce achievement gaps at the public school through professional development. Located just south of downtown Nashville, Cameron has struggled to meet federal No Child Left Behind benchmarks and was placed in a new “achievement school district” by the state.

Cameron received Race to the Top funds from the U.S. Department of Education to support the school’s management transition and help implement new, creative approaches to education.  Cameron is among the first schools in the nation to be converted to a charter school in partnership with a public school system and university. As a result, its renewed academic success could serve as a benchmark for school improvement transformations across the country.