THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax High School Departments Welcome Morning Collaboration

High School teachers at BFA Fairfax are working to adapt their curriculum and instruction to meet the changes in teaching and learning associated with proficiency. A structure that helps to provide time for this work is our morning Collaborative Teacher Time. Teachers throughout BFA meet every morning from 7:30-8:10 to work together on a variety of initiatives relevant to their work at school. Two mornings a week, high school teachers meet with their department colleagues to work on the shift to proficiency.

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All of the departments have used the time to develop learning scales for each proficiency and indicator for which students will be assessed. They have worked to update their course descriptions and the program of studies to include the content indicators and transferable skills. Part of this work required each team to ensure that students have sufficient access to each indicator over the course of their high school journey.

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As a brief aside, BFA’s proficiency-based graduation requirements are framed in terms of Proficiencies, Indicators, and Targets. Proficiencies are the broad content topics like Reading, Algebra, or Civics, Government, and Society. Indicators are the next layer in the framework. They are specific skills and knowledge that make up each proficiency. Examples are Solving Equations within the Algebra proficiency, Identifying Key ideas in a Text in the Reading Proficiency or Describing how Government Actions Directly Impact Citizens within the Civics, Government and Society proficiency.  The Target level is where students work every day in class. They might be learning to solve a system of linear equations, analyzing characters in a book, or evaluating a public policy in their math, English or Social Studies class. The students’ work and evidence on the targets help teachers to understand and evaluate progress toward an indicator. The collection of indicators determines a student’s overall Proficiency; the collection of Proficiencies determines their readiness to graduate and move onto college, career, or the workforce.

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So you can see there’s a lot of work to be done. In recent weeks, the science teachers have been working on their new course sequence that provides students with science content and methods. The English teachers regularly look at student work to make decisions regarding the effectiveness of their learning scales as well as the student’s demonstration of the content. Math teachers use the time to create common assessments and then analyze the outcomes. It is not unlikely to walk into a debate about a current issue when the social studies department meets. They also develop common assessments, look at student work, and create new learning opportunities for their students.

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Although it is only a small amount of time each day, the teachers use it consistently and effectively to continue to make progress toward proficiency. Obviously, they work throughout their day, at weekly faculty meetings, and at home to develop and improve proficiency-based teaching and learning at BFA. It’s a journey that begins with the Class of 2020 but will continue to evolve for many years.

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