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Clayton endorses instructional partners at retreat

Dr. Brian Clayton believes the placement of instructional partners is a movement that will change education in Alabama. He shared his experience at the annual retreat for the Alabama Best Practices Center.

Dr. Brian Clayton, principal at James Clemens High School

Clayton, principal at James Clemens High School, coordinated instructional partners while he was Liberty Middle School principal. He plans for James Clemens also to use the concept.

“An instructional partner used to be a reading coach in elementary and an instructional coach in secondary schools,” Clayton said. The partner uses student data and teacher data to determine needed growth in teachers’ instructional practices.

Clayton emphasized that a “partner” is one person, but “they partner with teachers for learning and growth.”

Principals endorse the idea to have an individual in-house whose sole responsibility is instruction and teachers’ growth and development. A teacher has someone to work with daily that’s not evaluative in nature.

When a teacher improves, a student always benefits. “If you improve the learning of the teacher, then you improve the learning of the students,” Clayton said.

Liberty’s instructional partners improved the school’s climate, he said. “We had a true learning culture among the teachers. Teachers became leaders and led each other in their growth.”

At the Alabama Best Practices Center, director Cathy Gassenheimer and author Jackie Walsh have been the project’s brainchildren. “They developed a statewide network of instructional partners of 13 schools that has grown to 33 schools this year, including James Clemens,” Clayton said.

Instructional partners meet monthly and converse daily on a “ning,” a form of social media.

Peer coaching has crossed all disciplines. One teacher visits another classroom to observe for a specific purpose. “Both people grow. The person who is observing learns just as much or more as the person observed,” Clayton said.

The retreat was held at the Children’s Harbor Conference Center at Lake Martin. “It’s a wonderful establishment that holds camps for very ill children and their families,” Clayton said.

Other Madison schools with instructional partners are Discovery Middle School, Bob Jones High School, along with Columbia, Mill Creek, Rainbow and West Madison elementary schools.

For more information, visit aplusala.org.

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