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Research & Rationale

Success in a Large District: One Administrator, One Teacher, One Student at a Time!

Dr. Jacqueline Minor and Jersey City Public Schools

To cite this article: Minor, J. Success in a Large District: One Administrator, One Teacher, One Student at a Time! San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine, Fall 2006. www.KaganOnline.com

Under the leadership of Mrs. Priscilla H. Petrosky, Associate Superintendent of Special Education, Kagan Professional Development began to provide district-wide training for Jersey City Public Schools, a comprehensive community public school district in Jersey City, New Jersey. Jersey City Board of EducationTraining began with Kagan's Cooperative Learning institutes. The institutes were a huge success and hundreds of teachers and administrators have received training since the beginning of the collaboration.

In 2005, Mrs. Petrosky expanded that vision. She knew that some schools needed more. A new project dubbed the Cooperative Learning Schools, was launched in cooperation with Kagan, Jersey City Public Schools administrators, special education instructional coaches, and Project B.E.A.C.O.N. teachers. Project B.E.A.C.O.N. is Jersey City Public Schools Department of Special Education's program designed to provide field-based professional development. Kagan's approach to cooperative learning is an integral part of Project B.E.A.C.O.N.'s founding principles. Jersey City Public Schools and Dr. Jacqueline Minor, Kagan Professional Development's Director of Curriculum and Instruction conducted a planning session.

Required Elements
As a prerequisite to be included in the professional development, required elements were developed. To ensure commitment to the training, and to maximize its effectiveness, 85% of the staff had to agree and commit to the required elements:

  1. 100% of staff trained in basic Cooperative Learning: 4 days. This includes all building administration.
  2. Administrators trained in Creating the Cooperative School: 2 day training. Administrator use of structures in faculty meetings.
  3. Structure of the Month (SAM) Club: Teachers practice and learn structures that will be monitored throughout the month.
  4. Kagan Coaching
  • Peer (monthly)
  • Instructional Coaches (monthly)
  • Building Administration (monthly)
  • National Trainer (two times a year)
  • Plan for training new staff.
  • Curriculum Link: making connection to current curriculum
  • Team planning.
  • Four schools were selected to receive ongoing training as a staff in addition to Kagan Coaching by a National Kagan trainer. Every building also had a special education instructional coach and Project B.E.A.C.O.N. teachers that supported the implementation of cooperative learning.

    Training Summary and Evaluation
    The Cooperative Learning Schools initiative is currently in progress. Feedback indicates that the initiative is having an overwhelmingly positive effect. The following is Jersey City Public Schools' summary and evaluation progress.

    "The students . . . love Cooperative Learning ."

    PS#3 – Frank R. Conwell School
    Trained: 56 Teachers, 2 Administrators
    Teachers have overwhelmingly volunteered to become a Cooperative Learning Model school. During the workshops, they embraced the structures and learned many strategies to utilize with the different learning styles of children in our classrooms. The teachers have integrated the cooperative learning structures into their daily lesson plans. The students reported that they love Cooperative Learning. They get to move around, communicate, interact, review and brainstorm with one another. All students were given a fair and equal amount of time to respond in class. All were involved, from the slower to the advanced learner. Behavior problems decreased while positive interaction increased. The benefits of a cooperative learning classroom are evident since every child has an opportunity to achieve success. With the entire school practicing the Structure A Month and by receiving Kagan Coaching from the Cooperative Learning Coach and the Inclusion Specialist there is a model in place to insure success and reinforcement in authentic learning situations from the pre-school to the 5th grade. The staff and students are looking forward to the additional training in order to grow and continue to benefit from new Cooperative Learning structures.

    PS#15M – Whitney M. Young, Jr. School
    Trained: 43 Teachers, 2 Administrators
    The Cooperative Learning School experience has increased student engagement while reducing undesirable behavior. Teachers have indicated that the cooperative learning training has assisted with classroom management, alternative assessment methods, and strategies to reach all children. Teachers and student enjoy the cooperative learning structure. It has increased student achievement and improved student social skills.

    PS #20
    Trained: 53 Teachers, 2 Administrators
    PS #20 is committed to incorporating Cooperative Learning Structures into our instruction on a daily basis. This is evident in our planning and can be witnessed by traveling through the building. The results that have taken place since we have instituted our focus on cooperative learning are remarkable. Our students are visibly more engaged in lessons and there is a higher level of thinking required of all children. Students are becoming well versed in the language associated with the cooperative learning structures. They often ask to repeat favorite structures. In terms of social development, we sense a higher level of cooperation and acceptance amongst the students in our building. This is evident in a reduced number and severity of discipline issues. Furthermore, the overall social climate of the building has been enhanced. Another area in which there was growth is academics. Through the structures, all students, regardless of their academic ability, are able to participate successfully in lessons. Since there is more emphasis on higher level thinking skills, and since the structures require students to communicate and explain their thinking, there is higher level thinking occurring. Students are practicing analyzing, evaluating and synthesizing. As a staff, we are supportive of Kagan's Cooperative Learning, and we believe in the power of cooperative learning.

    PS#41 – Fred W. Martin School
    Trained: 96 Teachers, 3 Administrators
    Cooperative Learning has empowered and unified teachers in meeting the social, emotional, intellectual and physical needs of all students. Monthly S.A.M. Club structures provided insight into how the cooperative learning activities should be delivered to students and how the students are receiving the delivery of instruction. Staff training provided teachers a chance to share their insights with each other and to implement guidelines successfully with students. Having Kagan Structures implemented throughout our building gave everyone a global perspective of how the school is doing, how teachers are doing independently within the classroom and more importantly how the students are responding to the structures emotionally, socially, physically and academically. Kagan Structures have unified and strengthened teachers in utilizing intelligences and learning styles of children. Teachers enjoyed receiving the training, the support and the anticipated follow through in the future.

    Further Study
    Jersey City is in the beginning of implementing cooperative learning. The district and Kagan are committed to the continued support and implementation of this project. Further study and data gathering is in progress as we strive to meet the needs of students in Jersey City.

    For more information regarding the Jersey City Project, contact Dr. Jacqueline Minor, Kagan Professional Development, Director of Curriculum and Instruction.