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Welcome UTLA Chapter Chairs! Thank you for visiting our website. As Chapter Chair, you are the lynchpin of UTLA’s ability to organize. ISCA is part of UTLA’s initiative to organize the professional development of teaching - and you can help. The goal is to place the art and science of teaching truly in the hands of teachers.

What is ISCA?
The Institute for Standards, Curricula and Assessments (ISCA) was founded in 1999 under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. ISCA has received subsequent grants from Washington Mutual, State Farm Insurance, the California Teachers Association, and other donors. The balance of its funding comes from contracts with schools. ISCA is part of the United Teachers Educational Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit affiliated with UTLA (For more information on our history, click here.) Hence, ISCA’s work is called UTLA Lesson Design Study.

What Does ISCA Do?
ISCA guides teachers through UTLA Lesson Design Study, an intensive teaching-as-research-and-development process that invests in the creativity, content knowledge and intellect of teachers. In lesson design study, teachers design lesson-sequences (units of instruction) and assessments that measure student learning from those lessons.

The lessons are taught (field-tested), and measured against the students’ success on the assessments. Based on the outcomes, the lessons and assessments are redesigned in detail and disseminated to colleagues at their schools.
UTLA Lesson Design Study derives a great deal from what is known as "Japanese Lesson Study," which the Japanese teachers simply call research, and includes back-mapping from standards. But UTLA Lesson Design Study goes beyond these elements. It is a unique and overwhelmingly positive experience for teachers. Here are some teacher responses.

  "It brings out the best in every teacher. It helped me reach a peak in my teaching. I felt that I had become an extraordinary teacher. It is the BEST professional development program that I have discovered. And I have been practicing it for the past 4 years. Every teacher needs to go through the process."
  – Charlene Brown, Chapter Chair
Foshay Learning Center
Mathematics & Social Studies
Gr. 6-8
  "When I participate in a process like this where all of the teachers are creative and dedicated, it makes me feel like we have the opportunity to improve our students’ education, our own education, and the educational system itself. When I first started teaching I was bombarded by negativity from burnt-out clock-watchers. Over time I have met many inspirational, positive teachers but never an assembly like this. I look at the trajectory of the career that ISCA is blazing and I see what I want more than anything: a life in education."
  – Travis Miller, Co Chapter-Chair
Manual Arts High School
  "Wow! This has been the most beneficial program for designing assessments and lessons that I’ve experienced. My best gain in the area was the concept of adding depth to a unit. My main collaborator is someone that I’ve never met. Ms. Brown’s contribution with her unit really allowed me to dig deeper into the unit. This has been a wonderful experience. Thank you."
  – Mark Taylor, Former Co-Chapter Chair
Social Studies Chair
Muir Middle School
  "It was real...I was asked to be intellectual and creative. The quality was superb. It respected my intelligence and ability to design lessons. There is more depth to my teaching. The students feel respected because this unit challenges them. And as a result, they are more attentive and serious about their work."
  –Jacqueline Ramirez, NBCT
English, HS
Foshay Learning Center
It is also important to say what UTLA lesson design study is not. It is not an instructional program. It is not what the LAUSD calls "lesson study" or "standards-based lesson design". If something sounds similar, but is not teacher-determined and teacher-developed, then it isn’t UTLA Lesson Design Study.

Why Does UTLA Support the Work of ISCA?
Teachers support Lesson Design Study because of the standard it embodies and the benefits it brings to schools. UTLA Lesson Design Study embodies:
The professional life of teaching that is implied by standards such as the California Standards for the Teaching Profession and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Good professional development:
Is keyed to participants’ teaching choices
Deepens content knowledge
Adapts pedagogy to what is being taught
Focuses on students as learners
Provides a profound understanding of standards-based teaching
Addresses the real complexity of teaching
Is designed by teachers

Benefits to Participating Schools are as Follows:
Benefits to Students and Teachers2
Helps student academic performance
(86% teacher agreement on survey)
Improves teaching
(98% agreement)
Improves lessons and assessments through collaboration
(98% agreement)
Increases knowledge of standards-based teaching
(93% agreement)
Administrators and teachers at one middle and high school noted that:
Student discipline problems decreased because the lessons and assessments were well-designed
Overwhelming majority of new teachers said they felt more confident and effective because they were better prepared
Capacity/team building
Teachers are willing to teach lesson design study to other teachers
(87% agreement)
Teachers feel supported by administrators when administrators support lesson design study
(87% agreement)
Lesson Design Study extends collaborative work done on regular professional development time: For example, the science department can brainstorm ideas for lessons on how to get students to successfully write scientific hypotheses and design experiments to verify them (no mean feat), then the teachers can attend Lesson Design Study to write units.
Online access to units and performance assessments: Every participating teacher becomes an ISCA network member, and each participating school can download the units, assessments and resource material developed by teachers from that school. Grade-levels, departments, grade-levels within departments, or small-learning communities can draw from this source to create sets of units tailored to their needs.
Networking between teachers from different schools
During seminars, when several schools work together
At ISCA-sponsored Parent/Community/Teacher Conferences

How to Bring Lesson Design Study to Your School
Determine whether at least 10 teachers are interested in participating
If your principal is interested, set up an appointment with your principal and key staff to meet with the ISCA Director or Associate Director (213-639-0802) to discuss the details of how lesson design study works, answer questions, and encourage participation.
Schedule training seminar dates

Funding Sources that Have Been Used or Considered by Participating Schools
Title I funds
State or federal funding or grants targeted for schools not meeting their API or NCLB growth targets
Year-round schools funds
Technology grants
Funds set aside for conference attendance
Private grants for professional development


Linda Baughn, Chapter Chair, Manual Arts High School
Travis Miller, Chapter Co-chair, Manual Arts High School
Charlene Brown, Chapter Chair, Foshay Learning Center
Juan Martinez, Chapter Chair, Gage Middle School
Ron Walcott, Chapter Co-chair, Muir Middle School
Susie Chow, Coordinator, The Support Network
Linda Guthrie, Secondary V.P., UTLA
Julie Washington, Elementary Vice President, UTLA

1UTLA has authorized ISCA to refer to its lesson design study as UTLA Lesson Design Study.
2From Teacher Surveys of Lesson Design Study, May 2006, Prof. Wellford Wilms, UCLA, a statistical analysis of a survey of teachers at Foshay Learning Center.


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