McWhirter Professional Development Laboratory School
Learning, Teaching and Leading Together
In 2001, University of Houston-Clear Lake and the Clear Creek Independent School District (CCISD) formed a partnership to create and maintain a professional development laboratory school (PDLS) in the district. McWhirter Professional Development Laboratory School in Webster, Texas opened at the beginning of the 2002 - 2003 school year. The mission of the PDLS is to provide exemplary professional development based upon sound educational research and practice throughout the school community which results in improved student achievement.
Role of the College of Education
The College of Education acts on behalf of the University in the partnership. UHCL faculty members provide instructional leadership, conduct research, and engage in professional development. Each semester, several SOE courses are taught at the PDLS in a designated UHCL classroom. In addition, Intern I and Intern II students are placed at McWhirter PDLS each semester.
Differentiated Leadership Model
Several initiatives have been established at McWhirter PDLS as a result of the partnership. One of these initiatives is a differentiated leadership model. The Steering Committee was formed at the beginning of the partnership to design the vision, mission and goals of the PDLS. The Steering Committee was very involved in the initial design and implementation of the PDLS.
Then a Leadership Team was created. This team includes administrators as well as people who fill a number of positions that were designed specifically for the PDLS. These positions are the district Instructional Supervisor, the university Instructional Supervisor, Lead Teachers in mathematics, science, literacy, bilingual education and for the two way immersion program, and Instructional Coaches for each grade level. Using a collaborative model, the Leadership Team focuses on making decisions that will best meet the needs of the student body.
Professional Development Embedded during the School Day
Another partnership initiative relates to professional development. Rather than utilizing a one shot, consultant-based approach to professional development, a model that allows teachers and staff to engage in professional development during the day was developed. Based on needs assessments, different groups of teachers meet with a Lead Teacher at 2:30 while their students are being instructed by another staff member. This model allows for ongoing professional development based on actual identified needs.
Two Way Immersion
The Estrellas Two Way Immersion (TWI ) program is the third partnership initiative. The first two kindergarten classes began in the 2004-2005 school year with the addition of two more classes each school year. Each class consists of 50% English speakers and 50% Spanish speakers. The goals of the Estrellas program are for students to develop grade level bilingualism and bilteracy, as well as to develop biculturalism and to achieve at a high academic level.