A tenet of Byram Hills is our commitment to continuous improvement, and thus, lifelong learning. Peter Senge defines a learning organization as a dynamical system that is in a state of continuous adaptation and improvement where "people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together" (1990). To this end, Byram Hills encourages a structured and methodical approach to innovation through research-based, collaborative inquiry to continually improve the learning environment for our students.
The information below highlights ways in which we engage in professional learning throughout the District to continually improve our practice.
Teacher and Administrator Evaluation
The process for teacher evaluation is overseen by a committee of teachers and administrators who regularly review and revise the evaluation system. While many aspects of the evaluation requirements are mandated by the NYS Education Department, we strive to create structures and systems that allow for the ongoing exchange of ideas between administrators and teachers. The following documents provide you with detailed information on the District's teacher and administrator evaluation system.
Investigators of Practice
Investigators of Practice is an option for professional learning and growth, overseen by the District's Evaluation Committee, to train participants in a structured approach to collaborative inquiry, or classroom action research. "The truly successful teachers are those who constantly and systematically reflect on their actions and the consequences of those actions. This constant reflection results in the acquisition of new knowledge as it pertains to the teaching and learning process" (Mertler, 2009, p. 21).
Participants select a focus for inquiry based on their current professional needs. They survey the field of literature to provide background knowledge for their inquiry project. With the support of their colleagues and a trained facilitator, the teachers and administrators collect data, analyze and reflect upon the data, take action, and continue the process of data analysis and reflection. You can read more details about our first year endeavor in the article, Teachers as Investigators of Practice.
The Investigators of Practice webpage provides the summaries of our action research projects. We hope you will find insights that stimulate your interest in becoming an investigator of your practice as well!
Partners of Practice
In an effort to support the District's vision for continuous improvement and collaboration, the Evaluation Committee created a learning opportunity, called Partners of Practice, to train teachers in a classroom visitation model. Groups of teachers and administrators visit classrooms at the request of a teacher to collect data on an "area of inquiry" chosen by the teacher. The group is not "evaluating" the teaching; instead, the group simply provides the teacher with information they collected in the area of inquiry and engage in a discussion to assist the teacher in thinking deeply about his or her practice.
You can watch this video overview from two teacher facilitators of Partners of Practice.
“Creating a culture of inquiry rather than continuing to work in a culture of isolation represents a significant change within schools. Systems successful in improving student learning are characterized by articulated norms and values, a focus on student learning, reflective dialogue, collaborative practice and the deprivatization of teaching.” -- Garmston, 2007
Professional Development Plan
The District's professional development plan, developed by a committee of teachers and administrators, is designed to offer many opportunities for learning that are aligned with District goals and initiatives. The mission and vision, structures for learning, and overview of department and building goals can be viewed in the this Professional Development Plan.
The District's Learning Communities was created in 1997 to support collaboration on the integration of technology in the classroom. Today, our Learning Communities continue to study, learn, and implement the ever growing new technologies into classroom practice. Additionally, we seek ways to create a student-centered classroom environment that empowers students while supporting the 21st Century skills of: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and community.
More information can be found on the Learning Communities page.
The Byram Hills Learning Lab was created in collaboration between the District and the Teachers Association to create ongoing professional learning opportunities for faculty. We offer rich courses in a variety of topics and formats to support District initiatives and continuous improvement.
See the Learning Lab webpage for course information.