• The Webster Groves School District community is committed to
    academic and personal success for every student.

    To fulfill this mission, the specific aims of implementing principles and practices of Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) are to:

    • Meet the learning needs of ALL students by developing faculty expertise.
    • Provide on-going professional development in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) to all current and future district faculty through a capacity building model.

    Realizing that a Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) focus is an investment in developing high quality, effectual teachers, and understanding that the task of fostering effectively differentiated classrooms is an exacting and complex endeavor, the Webster Groves School District is committed to pursuing and sustaining this effort. The following enduring understandings provide a focus:

    • Leading district level implementation of Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) requires vision, persistence, and creativity.
    • Developing expertise in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) takes time, resources, and long-range planning.
    • Alignment among district level policies, procedures, leaders, and initiatives is critical for successful implementation of Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) for lasting change.
    • Sustained progress with the implementation of Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) needs cultivating and nurturing.


    Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) represents a fundamentally important philosophy of instruction and systemic delivery of effective, high-quality teaching practices that reach all learners.   It puts forward an important conversation that re-examines teaching methodologies for the purpose of improving academic performance for all students by increasing the ability of classroom teachers to purposefully deliver instruction for the naturally occurring diversity of skills and characteristics of students in their class.   As an idea and an innovation, Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) attempts to improve student achievement by paying careful attention to students' unique characteristics.   The distinctive nature of each student - cognitive, cultural, social and emotional characteristics - explains differences.   Knowledge of these differences including such things as students' prior knowledge, learning profiles, and readiness, justifies modifying curriculum components, instruction approaches, and classroom environments to connect students with their learning.  

    The importance of Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) is that:

    • It attempts to increase student achievement in response to the District's critical issue:   Closing the achievement gaps and enhancing learning for all.
    • It is proactive.
    • It focuses on high-quality teaching and best practices.
    • It promotes collaboration and articulation between educators to design powerful learning opportunities for students.
    • It respects and responds to student differences.


    Along with defining Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) is the importance of identifying and describing various support systems that ultimately define the success of implementing principles and practices of Responsive Teaching (Differentiation).   These factors serve to foresee the impact and longevity of the initiative.

    Factors to Incorporate with the Implementation of  RESPONSIVE TEACHING (DIFFERENTIATION) 

    District Level Considerations:

    Building/Classroom Level Considerations:

    Responsive Teaching (Differentiation)Definition

    • Collaboratively developed definition (see Support Documents, Figure 1) that provides concise and clear explanation of the concept, purpose, and procedures.

    Strategic Planning

    • A commitment to a sustained, supported focus that strategically identifies relevant subject areas, procedures and likely student differences will guide this effort.
    • A collaborative development of an annual, three and five year plan that describes goals for the Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) initiative; the actions needed to reach the goal, the timeline, and the people responsible each actions; the evidence that will be used to measure the success of the initiative; and the guiding questions that will be used to evaluate the progress.

    Professional Development

    • Determine/develop a capacity-building professional development model.
    • Identify trainers, peer coaches and curriculum coordinators with sufficient experience and expertise to guide and lead the initiative.
    • Provide all curriculum coordinators with the opportunity to develop expertise in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) in their content area.
    • Develop a training plan to support and differentiate teachers', coordinators' and administrators' professional development in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation).

    Teacher Evaluation

    • Set professional standards; observation protocols/criteria or best practices summaries that measure teachers' current and future expertise and proficiency with Responsive Teaching (Differentiation).

    Respectful Tasks (High-Quality Curriculum)

    • Learning experiences matched to the needs of the student. Tasks that are respectful of the learner honor the differences among students' readiness levels (appropriately rigorous), areas of interest (engage the learner), and learning profile (attends to learner processing).

    Flexible Grouping

    • The combination of whole group, small group, and independent work.  Learners' readiness, interests, and learning profiles serve as the basis for groups.  Student groups remain flexible because they are responsive to changes in students' readiness, interests, and learning profile.

    Ongoing Assessment and Adjustment

    • Using pre, ongoing, and post assessment data on learner readiness, areas of interest, and learning profile to make adjustments in curriculum and instruction.

    Sense of Community

    • Ever present classroom focus on community building through student involvement, respectful interactions, legitimizing student strengths, shared and positive interdependence experiences, and an awareness of common goals that honor naturally occurring differences.


    The WGSD is committed to understanding and implementing a Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) focus for teaching and learning.  A plan for capacity building professional development will support this commitment. 


    Capacity building will provide individuals (teacher leaders and principals) with access to information, knowledge, training, and support to enable them to implement Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) effectively through participation in the Teacher Leader Academy - Best Practices in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation. As capacity builds through this model, current and future staff will be impacted and affected. Capacity building in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) permeates all district initiatives and priority areas because it underpins the success of the whole. 


    A Teacher Leader Academy - Best Practices in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) will be developed.  The participants will include teacher representatives from each school who will work closely with the building principals, the district Curriculum & Instruction Department and the district Professional Development Committee (PDC) to plan implementation strategies, facilitate professional development with colleagues, and lead the charge in learning and implementing new strategies that supports Responsive Teaching (Differentiation). The team will participate in an intensive Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) and coaching training, beginning in the summer of year one (2008) to be completed the summer of the following year (2009). Full implementation at the building level will begin with the 09-10 school year.

    Characteristics of TEACHER LEADER ACADEMY Participant

    • Consistently performs at or above benchmarks in all categories of WGSD Performance-based Teacher Evaluation 
    • Is recognized and respected by school community
    • Takes initiative, is confident, and takes risks 
    • Is reflective, an active listener, and willingly accepts feedback regarding performance 
    • Is flexible, hard-working, and tolerant of ambiguity
    • Exhibits a desire to grow (stay current in best practices), take action toward positive and focused change in promoting academic and personal success for every student

    Benefits to the TEACHER LEADER ACADEMY Participant

    • Furthering learning in the most current theories and practices in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation)
    • Application of learning with guided on-going practice in the classroom
    • Active participation in a small professional learning community
    • Leadership opportunity by becoming a District teacher leader/coach
    • Salary credits/stipends options

     Benefits to the Schools/Principals

    • Furthering learning in the most current theories and practices in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation)
    • Building capacity to meet the unique needs of the school community (staff, students, and families)
    • Active participation in a small professional learning community
    • Establishing "in house" experts in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) to support implementation
    • Providing a common vocabulary and process for Responsive Teaching (Differentiation)
    • Providing teachers with the instructional tools needed to address the naturally occurring diversity in their classrooms
    • Ability to effectively evaluate and support the use of Responsive Teaching (Differentiation)
    • Fully developing the bottom two levels of the RtI Pyramid of Interventions
    • Closing achievement gaps and enhancing learning for all

    Building the District Teacher Leader Academy - Best Practices in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) *

    • Initial training/overview of Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) and Teacher Leader Academy - Best Practices in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) to district SAT and PDC
    • Presentations of the Teacher Academy opportunity by building principal and PDC representative at building staff meetings
    • District Informational Meeting
    • Notification of interest - Open application process
    • Determination ofTeacher Leader Academy - Best Practices in Responsive Teaching (Differentiation) participants
    • Notification to participants


    A commitment to meaningful evaluation exists throughout the growth process toward systemic change related to responsive teaching (differentiation).  Evaluation of the process and outcomes include examining the following:




    Stakeholders understand and share the vision about responsive teaching (differentiation)


    Evidence that a common vocabulary related to responsive teaching (differentiation) exists in the district


    Differentiated curriculum documents available and in use


    Mechanisms in place for teachers to acquire materials needed for responsive teaching (differentiation)


    Staff development plans for transfer into classrooms


    Meaningful collaboration exists between classroom teachers and specialists


    Administrative leaders actively support teachers in their growth toward responsive teaching (differentiation)


    Budget planning is adequate to support systemic change toward differentiation


    Feedback and evaluation system provides teachers with useful information about their work with responsive teaching (differentiation)





    Student achievement is improving as a result of our growth in responsive teaching (differentiation )


    Student-centered classrooms have increased


    Curriculum and instruction in responsive classrooms are at a higher level than in the past.


    Students are more engaged in classes that are responsive (differentiated)


    Positive effects on attendance and student behavior in responsive (differentiated) classrooms


    Higher students self-efficacy exists in responsive (differentiated) classrooms


    Student ownership and pride in responsive (differentiated) classrooms has increased


    A greater sense of community exists in responsive (differentiated) classrooms


    Teachers effectively use a broader range of instruction strategies and forms of assessment


    Teachers feel a greater satisfaction with their work than in the past


    Adapted from Tomlinson, C.A., & Allan, S. D. (2000). Leadership for differentiating schools and classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.