A Culture of Growth at Bonny Eagle Middle School, Part I

Originally published in CenterEd in May, 2014.

Buxton, Maine, takes good care of its young learners. Class sizes are small, its student-to-teacher ratio is only about 12 to 1, and each year the district spends far more than the national average on each public school student. With a low unemployment rate and a relatively affluent populace, this Portland suburb is a great place to raise a family—and to educate children.

The Maine Department of Education has approved the required elements of both the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model and Marzano School Leader Evaluation Model for use in Maine public schools. Bonny Eagle Middle School, the largest middle school in the state, serving about 900 Buxton-area students in grades six through eight, has adopted the model.

Learning with Their Peers

Initially, the school took part in a small pilot of iObservation, Learning Sciences International’s observation software. Bonny Eagle administrators gave the faculty login information and basically just wanted teachers to get used to using the tool as they studied Dr. Robert J. Marzano’s The Art and Science of Teaching.

This year, the entire district got involved. Educators were introduced to the growth plan, something that wasn’t included in the initial pilot. We were fortunate enough to speak with the school’s principal, Mick Roy, and assistant principals, Stacey Schatzabel and Benjamin Harris, about Bonny Eagle’s experiences with the plan.

“We really had to work through how that worked, what it looked like, and what we were instructing teachers to do, in terms of goal-setting after doing a self-assessment, so they could really hone in on the areas they’d like to improve on,” says Roy. “Those elements that they felt talked to them, so they would have an interest and passion in pursuing it.” Essentially, the goal was to help teachers develop action steps so that they could start “not only learning on their own, but learning with their peers.”

Exciting, Fun, and a Very Safe Environment

The three administrators have been at Bonny Eagle for just a few years, but they’ve seen significant changes in a short period of time. For example, when they arrived, the school wasn’t using any framework that was comprehensively tied to evaluation. Now that the school has implemented the Marzano model, however, Roy, Schatzabel, and Harris have noticed many improvements, including better communication within the school.

“It’s been exciting; it’s been fun,” says Roy, explaining that the model makes it easier for principals to collect and organize information and facilitate productive conversations on an ongoing basis. “The conversations are around very specific elements. As opposed to what you might call something—I might call it something very different. We now have that common vocabulary.”

Along with improved communication, Schatzabel notes that iObservation helps teachers collaborate more effectively. “At the beginning of the year, we looked at which teachers set up their goals and set up a conference with a discussion group with about eight or nine students working on learning targets and eight or nine teachers working on celebrating success.”

Schatzabel goes on to say, “We hooked them up together to a discussion group, within the tool, and they’ve been able to support each other, give each other ideas, and share information in a very safe environment, focusing on the instructional strategies.”

Next week, we will continue to explore Bonny Eagle’s journey with iObservation and Domain 1 elements.

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