Level Up

Poplar Bluff introduces digital badging program
Posted on 08/14/2018

The R-I district instructional coaches are making a concerted effort to provide framework to the collaborative culture that has been encouraged at Poplar Bluff Schools to ensure best practices are being shared by faculty at all levels. 

“We’re so siloed, even by subject, when in reality, we’re just trying to provide the best instruction for students to be successful,” said Keri Jameson, who is based in Junior High.

New to be introduced to faculty during the 2018/19 school year is the teacher ambassador program – school building liaisons to the facilitators, and a digital badging platform – validated indicators of accomplishment that can be earned in the learning environment. Beginning in the fall, instructors will have the opportunity to ‘Level Up’ and pursue professional development on their own schedules. 

“It’s all about teacher choice,” stated Stephanie Kuper, Jameson’s counterpart at Senior High. “The ambassadors are able to identify what is most relevant and needed in buildings, develop badges, then go back and tie them into Missouri teacher standards.” 

A total of 16 certified staff members have been selected to represent each school, and an ambassador per grade level at the larger facilities. The educators have been charged with creating 10 grade-level specific badges apiece by the first Collaboration Day of the school year.

To gain a badge, curriculum will be developed as a guide, and then an artifact will have to be submitted to prove proficiency of a given task. The employees in the district with the most badges will be displayed on a leaderboard at www.levelup.pbmules.com, and prizes will be awarded to inspire a competitive spirit throughout the campus community. District officials have been exploring school systems with successful badging programs including Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Hancock Place. 

When the instructional coaches were hired in 2017/18, the plan was for the educators to focus on their buildings the first school year and then to expand their positions district-wide, according to Patty Robertson, assistant superintendent of curriculum. The badges will help identify experts in classroom resources and tools for purposes of networking.

“It allows us to focus on learning about an application more deeply,” Robertson explained. “It’s the process by which teachers will go about learning, and practicing is what will truly increase integration in the classroom.” 

Collaboration opportunities established by the predecessors of Jameson and Kuper include PB Connect, an annual district-wide education camp during the school year as well as the iThink Summer Academy, a regional workshop open to area schools in early August. Through the academy, Central Methodist University agreed to offer a graduate credit at a heavily discounted rate for degree-seeking teachers looking to advance on the pay scale. 

The school district first adopted the Professional Learning Community model during the 2010/11 school year, instituting Collaboration Days the following year. Last summer R-I reinvested in PLC training, a tried and tested process of student data review that leads to increased academic achievement, according to education leaders.

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Cutline: Ambassadors meet with instructional coaches last month in preparation of iThink. (Back row, left to right) Juliana Schalk, Stephanie Kuper, Katelyn Campa, Charlene Mills, Jody Cochran, Stephen Patty, Keri Jameson and Kathryn Clark; (front row, from left) Hilary Taylor, Carey Wilkerson, Shelly Ridens, Amanda Summers, Stephanie Lovette and Michele Caswell. Not pictured are Amber Foster, Michelle Carmode, Stephanie Hillis and Gretchen Pendley.

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