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Diane Kerr

Diane Kerr is the FCPS ESOL coordinator and the project manager for the Best Practices for Teaching and Learning initiative. She taught high school and adult English classes in Bahrain and received her Master's degree in Teaching and a K-12 ESOL endorsement from Sacred Heart University in Connecticut where her teaching career began. She is an adjunct professor at George Mason University where she teaches the course, “Working with English Language Learners.” In 2010, Diane expects to graduate from UVA with an Ed.S. and Endorsement in preK-12 Administration and Supervision.

Best Practices for Teaching and Learning

FCPS Focus for 2009-2010: Common language, common definitions

by Hope Katz Gibbs and Peter Noonan

Creating a set of clear and consistent best practices for student learning has long been a priority for Fairfax County Public Schools. Last fall, the Instructional Services team accomplished that goal by identifying a set of research-based Best Practices for Teaching and Learning that have been proven to increase student achievement and help every FCPS child reach their academic potential.

“We knew that each best practice would need to be applicable from PreK to 12th grade,” explains Diane Kerr, the Fairfax County Public School ESOL coordinator who helped spearhead the initiative.

“We also wanted to concretely define the concepts and terms, so that every teacher, principal, staff member and administrator throughout the entire county has a common understanding.”

More than a dozen FCPS leaders worked on the project, including principals, specialists from the four core curricular areas, the Special Education and ESOL offices, directors of Cluster V and Cluster I, and representatives from the Department of Professional Learning and Accountability.

The group looked at an array of external research and initiatives that FCPS had focused on for the last two years, as well as training initiatives provided by teachers.

The initial outline was reviewed by 992 teachers and 145 FCPS principals, who were asked to evaluate the impact of each best practice on student achievement. The synthesis of the information became the FCPS Best Practices framework.

Kerr says the team knew that concepts such as “building relationships” and “cooperative learning,” had to be defined in the same way by everyone. They were also determined to provide easily accessible training materials that would deepen the understanding of core best practices.

“Every educator I know and work with agrees that the goal is to close the achievement gap for students, and that means meeting the needs of all of our kids. This is just another way to help us do that.”

Kerr says she is happy to report that everyone who has used the FCPS Best Practices for Teaching and Learning online framework has been enthusiastic about it.

“The reality of working in education today is that to be effective, we need to have a common vocabulary. Now, when we talk about teacher collaboration, as well as other practices, there is no confusion about what it means or looks like.”

Kerr is determined to have the document be the core of the FCPS teaching culture. “Our thousands of teachers can now go online to learn, build, and sustain common language and beliefs around the definitions of best practices.”

Next: Creating a Student-Centered Learning Environment

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inside is an online publication published by the Fairfax County Public Schools Instructional Services Department. Its mission is to share thoughts and ideas about curriculum and assessment that are fundamental to the good work FCPS principals and teachers are doing with students.

Questions and comments are welcome and should be directed to Peter Noonan: peter.noonan@fcps.edu / 703-208-7841.