Round Lake Area Schools (Illinois)

January 31, 2020

We are pleased to highlight the work of Round Lake Area Schools and its Director of Professional Learning and Support, Elizabeth Dampf, through this interview.

What has your work with the Framework for Teaching achieved overall? 
Our use of the Framework has helped us to develop a consistent vision across the district among all staff members about teaching practice. We share an understanding of the difference between proficiency and excellence.
How has implementing the Framework and working with The Danielson Group changed professional learning and teaching?
We have learned how to facilitate conversations to support the craft of teaching. We have paired the Framework with curriculum and instructional improvements across disciplines. We have moved from only conducting compliance-based observations to concentrating on instructional gaps and strengths.

How has it affected students?
We see higher student engagement with students taking more ownership of their learning. We see students monitoring their own behavior.
Is there a particular area that you have looked at more closely as a community through the lens of the Framework? With what results?
We chose “power standards” in collaboration with the staff including our bargaining unit. These four standards helped us focus on our values and to strengthen instruction, our learning culture, student engagement, and professionalism. Through a combination of initiatives, we have seen standards-based grading become student-centered, learning become more immersive and inquiry-based, and ongoing movement in a positive direction. We see learning as a process for students and teachers, realizing goals over time by being productive, expanding and transferring knowledge and skill.

What insights have you gained about ongoing learning at all levels of teaching experience? 
It is important to bring together leaders from across the district, from department chairs to district level coordinators and to have the group calibrate together. This cross-sharing has changed the culture of professional learning system wide for the better. No one is working in a silo.

To what extent did conversations facilitated by The Danielson Group allow your teacher leaders to make the Framework relevant to their work?
They learned what is and isn’t quality evidence of teaching and student learning. They learned to clearly articulate the differences between levels of performance. And they gained tools to guide conversations that are sometimes sensitive between a coach and a teacher.

What do teachers say about using the Framework?
Teachers see its connectedness – the language gives us a bridge between leadership roles and instruction and district programs. They also know that state rules govern the evaluation of teaching. The Framework has helped alleviate anxiety about what’s looked for in observations.
Is there an interaction or comment you witnessed or a personal discovery that stands out in your work with the Framework?
In general, I have seen teachers take a more active role in observation conferences, presenting evidence and asking questions.
What are your future plans for using the Framework and its Common Themes?
We will continue to tighten how we see and talk about teaching through shared walkthroughs with a Danielson Group Advisor and on our own. This will include discipline-specific analysis of teaching videos. And we will also continue to make connections to other areas like social-emotional wellness and restorative justice.
What advice would you give to a school/ district/ university who is introducing the Framework as a common language and reflective tool?
It’s important to be prepared to answer teachers’ questions about processes and training. It is helpful to bring about a common understanding in the first year and to create an environment that allows teachers to go deeper in subsequent years and to try new instructional strategies. Having patience is key. We remain focused on the question: How can we continuously improve instruction and student achievement while honoring what teachers are doing already?