Each Dayton Public School will close for one previously unannounced day in October or November for mandatory staff training, as the district attempts to improve the quality of teaching in its schools.
A message Friday morning from Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli to school staff mentioned the threat of state takeover next fall if the district’s report card doesn’t improve.
“Great teaching, every day, is the only way we will be able to change the results. It is within our power and control to do that!” Lolli wrote. “Beginning in October, schools will be closed for one day in groups of 2 or 3, to focus on teaching strategies and expectations for DPS classrooms.”
Lolli said letters are being mailed to all DPS families in the coming week, explaining the process.
The closures will start Oct. 8 with Kemp, Charity Earley and Edison schools. The other closure days will be Oct. 9, 15, 18, 29, 30 and 31, plus Nov. 1, 2 and 7.
A detailed review of the school district, delivered this week by the Ohio Department of Education, was critical of teaching quality, based on classroom observations.
The report includes seven different areas where the state review team graded Dayton teachers between 0 and 1 on a 0-5 scale, including aligning lessons to state standards, using a variety of strategies to reach students, use of technology and more. DPS has struggled to retain teachers, sometimes hiring more than 200 new teachers per year in a roughly 1,000-teacher staff.
“The ODE report was not complimentary as to the state of classroom teaching in Dayton,” teachers union President David Romick said. “This added series of instructional (training) is an attempt to address that.”
Romick said he would characterize the new training as an expansion of work that was done over the past year. Asked whether one day of training would make a significant difference, Romick said it was better than not adding the training, saying ODE would expect DPS to take steps to address its findings.
Lolli said this step is the start of a five-part plan to improve student academic achievement, with incentives for performance and more training to follow, although not full-day sessions.
Lolli said she was not surprised by the state’s critical evaluation of DPS teaching. She said the district has been working to improve “instructional design,” but it’s not a simple or quick process, saying DPS is in the second year of a three-year rollout.
“We didn’t have an instructional framework when I arrived,” said Lolli, who is starting her third year in DPS. “We’re trying to get caught up. We don’t want to have our staff lack the quality instructional practices they need and want. They don’t want to be behind their peers in other schools. But you have to have high-quality professional development and time to implement it if you’re really going to make a difference.”
Romick, who has supported Lolli’s efforts to transform the curriculum department in the past year, and was involved in planning the training, said he was taking Lolli’s message “as motivational.”
“We looked at it as a kind of think-outside-the-box way to get some additional (training) in, to address ODE’s concerns,” Romick said.
Lolli’s emails asked staff not to call in sick or schedule doctor appointments on their school’s planned training day, and told principals not to approve personal leave or vacation on those days.
Her letter to teachers called them “the hope of the district and the students,” calling for everyone to pull together and change DPS’ report card grade from an “F” to a “C.”
“I think we can make some impact with this,” Lolli said later Friday. “Will it solve the problems tomorrow? No. But we’re on our way. That’s what we have to keep focusing on. I truly believe that (better) instruction and focus will make a huge, huge impact in this district.”