Implementing the Developmental Designs Approach School-wide

DD Approach = Fewer disciplinary incidents. Happier people. Higher Achievement.
For Middle Level

St. Louis Park Middle School (SLPMS), in a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a vibrant middle school of about 1,000 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. This is their second year with sixth graders, after a district reorganization. Les Bork has been the principal at SLPMS for much of his career. Mia Waldera, the Professional Development Coordinator, is in her tenth year at SLPMS and has played a large role in maintaining the presence of the Developmental Designs (DD) approach at the school.

Here Les and Mia share their experiences with the approach.

Principal Les Bork

What are the major benefits of having the Developmental Designs approach in your school?
1. Fewer disciplinary incidents, in service of achievement
2. Happier people, both students and staff, in service of achievement
3. Higher achievement in reading, writing, and math

What effects of the Developmental Designs approach do you notice in the classrooms?
Many of the teachers have "moxie"-- great rapport -- with the students. They also understand their content areas very well. I am careful to hire teachers who are highly knowledgeable in their fields, and who are likeable. Right now, only four staff members are not trained in DD. I don't hire anyone who won't commit to a week of DD training in the summer before the school year begins. I watch the student discipline incident numbers as an indicator of which teachers need more support, and I expect them to get more DD training if needed.

I strive for a growth mindset within myself, and promote the same in our teachers, to encourage continual openness to learning. DD is an approach teachers can rely on.

What have been some of the challenges of implementing the Developmental Designs approach at SLPMS?
Maintaining a reflective practice that expands and continues beyond the summer training, that keeps the work alive throughout the school year, is the biggest challenge. We work with a consultant from Origins during the school year, who offers coaching and tracks progress with teachers. I also recommend that elementary schools in our district use the Responsive Classroom approach to build familiar language and expectations. This helps prepare for a successful and smooth middle school experience, supported by DD.

Professional Development Coordinator Mia Waldera

What was the school culture like before teachers began their Developmental Designs training?
We had some powerful things in place to develop strong climate, student community, and achievement.

We did home visits with all students at the start of the year; we looped with students from grade 7 to 8; and we had students and teachers organized into teams. Those practices have eroded over time, mostly due to budget cuts. Without those structures in place, our school could easily have deteriorated, but it didn't. We moved into implementation of the Developmental Designs approach in hopes of recapturing and maintaining a positive school climate and strong community.

What were the first changes you perceived among teachers?
The first change that I perceived was a move to simple, clear conversations between adults and between adults and students, which led to better relationships. The DD practice of the Circle of Power and Respect advisory meeting gave everyone permission and time to relax and enjoy being together.

What were the first changes you perceived among students?
I saw a positive response to being with each other and with staff, and a friendlier climate all around. In hallways, in classrooms, before and after school, people enjoy being with each other, and we all notice many positive interactions.

What have been the sustained benefits to your school of the presence of the Developmental Designs approach?
We've seen fewer disciplinary incidents; consistent classroom management practices; more reflection and collaboration among teachers; a consistent approach to lessons; and an increase in explicit learning objectives. Because discipline problems are down, students are in class more to receive rigorous instruction, which we expect will raise our achievement levels and help close the achievement gap. We saw a 42% decline in disciplinary incidents in grades 7 and 8 between the 2007- 2008 and 2009-2010 school years, which is when we began the implementation of DD practices.

What Developmental Designs consulting services have been the most helpful for your school?
The two most helpful services have been the week-long DD1 and DD2 trainings, and the consultant/coach to work one-to-one with staff and to provide in-house training.

What changes have you made in response to student data or consulting?
We reflect regularly and deeply on the data we receive about student social and academic performance. We've changed our professional development plan to include more in-house Developmental Designs training, with a focus on student engagement and formative assessment practices. We also changed how we allocate money for training, keeping DD in the forefront. And the content of our homeroom time has changed, to include lessons using the Activity Plus advisory format (allows for extended activity time) to consistently reinforce all-school practices and goals.

Jessica Crawford was a research assistant for Origins. She has returned to classroom teaching.  

Published August, 2012




Related Topics: 
School-wide Implementation