“Too often, schools and school districts pursue a patchwork of programs that don’t get results. At Cicero School District 99, we’re working hand-in-hand with West40’s Professional Learning Team to avoid that. Through our partnership, we’ve developed a targeted approach that aligns the strategic plan, district plan, school plans, and teacher and student actions. Everyone is getting on the same page.
Cicero is such a large district. We have 16 schools that serve kids from Pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade, with over 11,000 total students in our district. So it’s critical to have that alignment on what we’re trying to accomplish. As we prepare for a new school year, we’re partnering with West40 and asking ourselves, how do we get better and turn ‘good’ into ‘great’? How do we help educators and students succeed at a high level?
To work towards that, each school pairs administrators and teachers on school leadership teams, doing ‘focused learning walks.’ Focused learning walks involve teams of teachers and administrators that visit classrooms, looking for how curriculum is being implemented and taught. We’re observing how math is being taught, seeing what questions students ask each other, finding out if teachers are asking probing questions rather than providing answers. It’s all about observing student actions and teacher actions.
West40 is in the room for those walks, and they’ve been at the table with us for so many different meetings. We often joke with Suzy Dees, West40’s Director of Professional Learning, that she should start wearing a Cicero jacket because she’s been so ingrained with us. We’ve built relationships with her and the team. They’ve become an extension of us. They’ve also taken learnings from other schools that they’ve worked with and given that wisdom to us.
Things would be radically different without our strategic partnership with West40. Our partnership benefits everyone: administration, teachers, students and the community. West40 has helped us identify our strengths, too. They have really helped our organization understand what each group brings to the table.
Suzy and her team have also helped us expand other professional development opportunities for our staff members. Working with them has given us access to resources such as research, new training and so much more. At Cicero, we often say that the road to improvement is paved by people, processes, and tools, and as an organization, West40 has helped our district get the most out of all three.
With the guidance provided by West40, our district is moving in a positive direction. They are a great organization made up of even better people. Their work has been amazing.”