Results-Oriented Leadership [Elements of Our Approach to Educational Equity]

Results-Oriented Leadership [Elements of Our Approach to Educational Equity]

“We can’t close the achievement gap until we close the belief gap,” says Jamina Dingle, principal of Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School in Philadelphia. “Data analysis and planning won’t do much good as long as there are children and teachers who believe they can’t perform on par with the highest achieving schools.”

Principal Dingle believes that one key to elevating the performance of her school is communication of strong professional values and beliefs about social justice and schooling — one of the essential practices in the School Transformation Rubric. She does this in a number of ways: supporting her teachers while holding them accountable, reading about equity issues and applying lessons in her work, and using multiple modes of communication to connect with her staff.

Principal Dingle has high expectations of Bethune’s teachers, but she also provides the resources they need to do their job well. Dingle tells her staff, “we hold each other accountable, and we push each other to continuously improve, just like we challenge our students to constantly grow.” She is naturally good at equipping teachers to succeed and at building systems to help the school improve. With coaching from our School Innovation Partner, Megan Kizer, Principal Dingle is now focusing more attention on the relational aspects of the job. The following story demonstrates this.

Over the summer, Principal Dingle read Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, and she took its messages to heart. When she recently encountered a student at her school who was refusing to go to class, instead of reflexively suspending the student, Dingle took the time to sit and speak to her. The principal learned that the problem arose from something outside the student’s control and, after taking the time to listen to the student and understand her situation, sent her on to class, ready to learn. Ms. Dingle related this story to her staff via a short video clip posted on her blog. She concluded the story with this: “let’s try to react less and listen more.”

This is one example of how Jamina Dingle continually asks herself and her teachers to consider new approaches to instructional and behavioral issues. Doing that work together strengthens their belief in each other and their students.

Jamina Dingle, Principal
Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School

Student Agency [Elements of Our Approach to Educational Equity]

Student Agency [Elements of Our Approach to Educational Equity]

“Our role is to help students understand that they can be powerful, independent thinkers, no matter what grade they’re in or what reading or math level they’re on,” says Nneka Daniels, principal of Post-Franklin Elementary School of Battle Creek, Michigan. Post-Franklin serves about 330 students, one-third are African American, one-third Latino, and one-third white.

In 2015-16, Partners in School Innovation supported Post-Franklin’s efforts to bolster student agency. When students have agency, they approach their education with purpose and initiative. They are the kind of powerful, independent thinkers that Principal Daniels is talking about.

Many educators want to help students develop agency, but are unsure how to go about it. At Post-Franklin, we focused on teachers’ development of four academic mindsets in themselves and their students: self-efficacy, sense of belonging at school, growth mindset (“with effort my skills can grow”), and relevance (“what I’m learning has relevance to my life and values”). The teachers learned to use several protocols and tools that helped teachers know their students and select instructional materials that resonate with students and assign engaging work that fosters feelings of belonging.

Results from a pre/post survey of staff and students showed that Post-Franklin’s work on agency improved the school’s culture. For example, students in grades 4-6 showed a 93% increase in growth mindset. Teachers and leaders showed impressive gains also. The self-efficacy of educators increased by 22%, and their perception of their ability to support a relevance mindset in students increased by 73% over the school year.

When asked about the keys to fostering student agency, Ms. Daniels responded, “Teachers need to believe that all kids—including kids from tough circumstances—can become self-directed learners.”

To learn more about how Partners can support the transformation work in your school or district contact Tovi Scruggs for the West Coast, William Hill for the Midwest or Jaime Kidd for all other national areas.

Instruction for English Learners [Elements of Our Approach to Educational Equity]

Instruction for English Learners [Elements of Our Approach to Educational Equity]

Carmen Fernandez is the principal of Southwest Community Campus, a K-8 school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Ms. Fernandez is a strong advocate for her 871 students—of whom 94% are children of color and 62% are English learners. She works hard to ensure that her school’s dual-immersion program helps students become bilingual/biliterate in English and Spanish.

With support from Partners, Principal Fernandez and her staff implement strategies that research has shown to be effective for low-income children of color. These strategies are captured on Partners’ School Transformation Rubric. For example, the rubric calls on teachers to set language objectives that address English language development needs. At Southwest, every Southwest classroom has such language objectives and academic content objectives posted on the wall, which teachers refer to regularly.

As another example, the rubric includes an item on making academic content accessible to English learners using a repertoire of strategies, and Southwest teachers now do just that. Teachers routinely front-load lessons with key terms so that students can stay engaged as the lesson progresses. Teachers also post “sentence frames,” which provide students with a template or starting point for expressing themselves in a second language.

As a final example, teachers at Southwest provide opportunities for students to practice their oral language  skills, just as our rubric suggests. When students talk to each other in the classroom in pairs or small groups, they are asked to engage in “accountable talk,” which emphasizes students’ use of evidence from text to support their points of view.

The core instructional program and professional learning systems at Southwest align with our rubric in other ways. Consistent with the rubric’s emphasis on evidence-based programming, the school’s instruction “has been guided by data since the school began,” says Fernandez. In addition, Southwest uses grade-level professional learning communities to help teachers refine their skills and learn from each other. Fernandez notes that her School Innovation Partner “helped with structuring our grade-level professional learning communities so that all of them were successful.”

To learn more about how Partners can support the transformation work in your school or district contact Tovi Scruggs for the West Coast, William Hill for the Midwest or Jaime Kidd for all other national areas.

Results-Oriented Leadership [Elements of Our Approach to Educational Equity]

Results-Oriented Leadership [Elements of Our Approach to Educational Equity]

“We can’t close the achievement gap until we close the belief gap,” says Jamina Dingle, principal of Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School in Philadelphia. “Data analysis and planning won’t do much good as long as there are children and teachers who believe they can’t perform on par with the highest achieving schools.”

Principal Dingle believes that one key to elevating the performance of her school is communication of strong professional values and beliefs about social justice and schooling — one of the essential practices in the School Transformation Rubric. She does this in a number of ways: supporting her teachers while holding them accountable, reading about equity issues and applying lessons in her work, and using multiple modes of communication to connect with her staff.

Principal Dingle has high expectations of Bethune’s teachers, but she also provides the resources they need to do their job well. Dingle tells her staff, “we hold each other accountable, and we push each other to continuously improve, just like we challenge our students to constantly grow.” She is naturally good at equipping teachers to succeed and at building systems to help the school improve. With coaching from our School Innovation Partner, Megan Kizer, Principal Dingle is now focusing more attention on the relational aspects of the job. The following story demonstrates this.

Over the summer, Principal Dingle read Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, and she took its messages to heart. When she recently encountered a student at her school who was refusing to go to class, instead of reflexively suspending the student, Dingle took the time to sit and speak to her. The principal learned that the problem arose from something outside the student’s control and, after taking the time to listen to the student and understand her situation, sent her on to class, ready to learn. Ms. Dingle related this story to her staff via a short video clip posted on her blog. She concluded the story with this: “let’s try to react less and listen more.”

This is one example of how Jamina Dingle continually asks herself and her teachers to consider new approaches to instructional and behavioral issues. Doing that work together strengthens their belief in each other and their students.

To learn more about how Partners can support the transformation work in your school or district contact Tovi Scruggs for the West Coast, William Hill for the Midwest or Jaime Kidd for all other national areas.

California Needs Not Just More Teachers but More Master Teachers

California Needs Not Just More Teachers but More Master Teachers

California is trying to increase both the quantity of teachers and the quality of teaching. However, we should be wary about just expanding the pipeline of teachers. What we also need is a different kind of teacher.

Since the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the nation has broadened the expectations of whom our schools are expected to effectively serve. In the 1960s, the expansion included black students; in the 1970s, it was students in poverty and students with special needs; and in the 1980s and 1990s, it was English language learners. With the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, we codified the expectation that every child should perform on grade level by requiring proficiency rates of 100 percent by 2013-14 and mandating that student achievement data be reported for each student subgroup.

In the current decade, we have increased what we expect from teachers in another way – by adopting the Common Core State Standards, which go far beyond the learning expectations of the past and ask all students to regularly collaborate, persevere, evaluate, reflect and analyze. The Common Core requires all teachers to do what heretofore only our master teachers have accomplished: step back and let students construct their own meaning; craft learning environments where collaboration, investigation and discovery is a design principle of each lesson; provide choices and variation in pedagogical stances; and adapt to the needs of diverse learners.

All of this is to say that the competencies and instructional approaches that teachers need to be successful have become much more complex in recent decades. Most credentialing programs have not kept pace with those changes, and most school districts have not yet created the professional learning systems needed to shore up the training of new teachers, particularly for those serving poor students of color.

Widening the teacher-preparation pipeline is necessary but not sufficient. Our country and our state need systems that will produce masters of the teaching craft. Being a master teacher today includes:

  • Content expertise: Knowing one’s subject so well that one can anticipate and address the full range of students’ misconceptions and develop just-in-time learning opportunities to address them.
  • Cultural proficiency: Being culturally adept and responsive to the needs of diverse communities. We need teachers who check their privilege at the door, who ally across race and build students’ agency to transform their lives. We need teachers who prepare students to operate effectively in the world as it is while committing themselves to building the world we all want. Having teachers who can effectively teach cross-culturally is absolutely necessary.
  • Proficiency with technology: Using tech-based personalized learning platforms to unlock student agency, creating skilled, reflective and lifelong learners.
  • Project-based learning: Creating project-based learning experiences that gets students out of their seats, their classrooms and their schools to take risks and learn by doing.
  • Improvement science: Studying their own craft to eke out every ounce of power from every strategy, tactic and tool. Master teachers are transparent about their own learning and take collaboration seriously in order to professionalize their teaching.
  • Inclusiveness and respect: Disciplining students with justice at the center and not punishment; attending to the whole child; and holding asset-based mindsets about students, their families, their communities and their cultures.
  • Leadership: Supporting their colleagues’ growth while maintaining their own touch and credibility. Master teachers are as effective at supporting the learning of other adults as they are with the learning of students.
  • Facilitation of learning: Creating a stage for learning and getting out of students’ way – stressing right thinking, not right answers.

Figuring out how to produce many more teachers with the mindsets and skills described above is a significant design challenge, and California must address this complicated mixture of problem and promise. School districts must be innovative and rigorous with the $490 million that policymakers in Sacramento recently set aside to help them improve educator effectiveness. Simply producing more teachers with yesteryear’s preparation will not create the teachers we need for tomorrow’s classrooms. In partnership with universities, teacher training organizations, professional associations and other public agencies, California’s school districts can create systems that prepare a new kind of teacher.

Originally published in EdSource.

Derek Mitchell, Ph.D.

Derek S. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Chief Executive Officer

dmitchell@partnersinschools.org

415.824.6196 x 109

View My Profile on LInkedIn
Inspiration

Inspiration

William Hill, Regional Executive Director, Midwest for Partners in School Innovation provides an inspiring story about becoming an educator, published in the Spring issue of Leader Magazine, the official magazine of the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

For me, as with many of the best educators I have known, my profession is a calling. To facilitate learning and see the light bulb of understanding come on in students is a true joy and privilege. But what I truly relish is getting students to see something much broader—their limitless potential. I also enjoy supporting the learning of fellow educators, which I did for six years as a school and district administrator and which I now do as a leader in a nonprofit that supports district and school transformation. The drive to help people of all ages become the best version of themselves profoundly inspires me to remain on my learning edge and continuously improve my own practices.

I became an educator despite the fact that the schools I attended as a child in Baltimore, Maryland, were not always nurturing. After substance abuse broke up my parents’ marriage, I moved with my mother and brother to a nearby housing project. It was not a safe place; the vast majority of young men in our part of town were caught up in a cycle of violence, substance abuse, and prison. Boys from my neighborhood were greeted by teachers with mistrust, disdain, and low expectations. For example, when I scored well on the state’s test in fourth grade, my teacher said, “We need to re-test that one; kids from the projects don’t get scores like that.” Comments like that hurt, but I did not let them deter me from continuing to push myself academically.

One of the main forces propelling me to excel in school was my mother’s example. She had been a homemaker until her marriage ended, but once she was solely responsible for my brother and me, she took on two jobs outside the home to keep us housed, fed, and clothed—refusing to accept any form of public assistance. On top of that, she put herself through school and became a diagnostic medical sonographer. I could not help but be inspired by her.

I would go on to college and learn about the societal forces that prevent vulnerable children of color from realizing their potential. It’s a complex mixture of sociology, politics, economics, and psychology, but in my mind it boils down to systems and structures that promote and reinforce low expectations. Children desperately want us to believe in them. This is especially true of vulnerable children, who often are not getting positive reinforcement at home for a complex set of reasons. High expectations inspire children to achieve things they did not know they could.

The high expectations that my mother had for me helped drive me, and I have been successful in life despite being discounted by teachers as a young student. I am living, breathing proof that a person can overcome the challenges that stem from poverty if given the proper encouragement, supports, and opportunity.

Download the full article here.

Partners in School Innovation is Honored with a Partner in Educational Excellence Award by the Association of California School Administrators

Partners in School Innovation is Honored with a Partner in Educational Excellence Award by the Association of California School Administrators

On May 13, 2016 the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), the leading professional association for education leaders in the nation awarded Partners in School Innovation its Partners in Educational Excellence Award which recognizes exemplary school and community partnership programs.

“We are honored to be selected as ACSA’s 2016 recipient of the Partners in Educational Excellence Award,” said Derek Mitchell, Ph.D., CEO of Partners in School innovation. “This award is particularly exciting for us as we know ACSA as an organization deeply and consistently committed to social justice and the powerful role our schools can play in eliminating the achievement gap. We were selected for our ability to powerfully and deeply partner with schools serving high percentages of underserved students of color to effect sustained positive student achievement results. Over the years we have learned how to help districts invest in the professional growth of their teachers and leaders serving our most challenged communities and are proud to play one part in helping them achieve breakthrough results.”

Partners has been serving Santa Clara County for over ten years. During that time Partners has partnered intensively with Alum Rock Elementary Unified School District (AREUSD), Oak Grove School District (OGSD), and Franklin-McKinley School District (FMSD) and has had significant sustained, positive impact on student achievement and learning. Partners’ intensive partnership at Chavez Elementary and Fischer Middle School in Alum Rock, for example, yielded accelerated results for students (as compared to all ARUESD and all CA). Additionally, Chavez Elementary went from one of the lowest performing schools in the state (in the lowest 5%) to a successful school in just 3 years. They experienced a 177-point API growth and exited Program Improvement after working with Partners for two years. Early results in Franklin-McKinley and Oak Grove indicate similar trajectories.

Partners in School Innovation has been working with under-performing schools and districts since 1993 and our strategies have evolved over 20 years to fill a unique space in the education reform community. We are committed to working shoulder-to-shoulder with teachers and leaders to help students thrive as learners, regardless of background or ZIP code.

“The work with Partners has transformed the way we look at educational programing and the impact on the students we serve,” said Stella Kemp, Assistant Superintendent Education Services at Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose. “By surfacing issues of equity, we transform the adult practices across the district to leverage assets to meet the needs of students and verify impact in a systematic and deliberate manner that confirms our transformation efforts. Partners has supported our schools and our leaders to build the necessary cycle of inquiry to promote improvement in teaching and learning.”

“Partners has impacted our school tremendously through its thought partnership and ROCI cycle (Results-Oriented Cycle of Inquiry),” said Aurora Garcia, Principal at Franklin-McKinley Elementary School. “Through reflection we are beginning to fully internalize the process of inquiry and continuous improvement as a team, making adjustments in our lesson planning, our teaching, and in understanding how students learn.”

Partners is proud of our work and the continued impact of our intensive engagements across the country as we expand to help other under-performing schools and districts. Our management practices are distinguished by multi-year partnerships, the use of existing human capital in schools where we partner, and remaining curriculum and initiative agnostic.

Thank You, Partners in School Innovation, for Investing in My Professional Growth

Thank You, Partners in School Innovation, for Investing in My Professional Growth

I am a teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in San Francisco.

In my school, more than 80% of students qualify for free meals, and almost 70% are English learners. At schools like MLK, it’s easy to see the many systemic issues that impact the quality of a public school education—for example, inequitable access to funding, information, and resources; limited access to health services; and increasing segregation. Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing that can help fix such a broken system.

Maybe it feels that way because I’m still relatively new to the profession; this is just my second year of teaching. Like most educators, I earned my credential in one year and became a full-time classroom teacher in the following year. I have come to see that credentialing programs are not long enough to prepare people to lead their own classrooms, no matter how good their preparation programs are.

Along with more pre-service training for teachers, one thing I’ve always known would make a huge difference is either more professionals in every classroom or smaller classes because my current workload leaves me feeling stretched very thin. In between planning lessons, creating materials, teaching lessons, grading work, and interacting with families, I have very little free time to plan with other teachers and reflect on my work, and I’m exhausted. I used to feel that I was on my own at work and that people in San Francisco don’t know and don’t care about what’s going on in our public schools and the kids I work with every day.

For the past several months, I have felt less alone in my teaching because I have been receiving support from Partners in School Innovation. From day one, our School Innovation Partner, Amanda Bachelor, has been available to support my colleagues and me in all the big and small ways that we need help. For example, my fellow 7th grade English teacher and I had been very willing to plan together at the start of the year, but neither of us had the energy or leadership skills to make that happen so we were both basically making things up as we went along. Fortunately, Amanda came in and helped us form basic plans. Throughout the rest of the year, she supported us in creating and assessing student work, which helped us continually reflect upon and update our plans. The impact that her support has had on my teaching and my students has been tremendously positive.

Partners in School Innovation has also helped empower MLK’s staff members to lead efforts to fix the school. Partners has helped us develop a professional learning community at our school, specifically our instructional leadership team and Culture Club team. Teacher leaders on these teams are currently helping staff members build meaningful relationships with each other and facilitating authentic collaboration around curriculum and school culture, with a focus on equity.

No doubt I will continue to learn throughout my entire teaching career, but having support from Partners during my second year has helped accelerate my professional growth dramatically. Many of my fellow teachers at MLK are like me in being relatively new to teaching; they have also benefitted greatly from the extra support.

At the beginning of this year, I gave myself permission to end my teaching career in June. It was really heart-breaking to contemplate that because I love my students, co-workers, and school. But the work felt too hard; I wasn’t able to see successes happening in my own classroom or at the school in general. Amanda has provided another set of eyes in my classroom and has helped me see the progress that we are making. I feel like we’re on the right track to create equitable access to education for our kids. Thanks to her, and the rest of the amazing staff at MLK, I’ll be teaching at the school next year and for many more years to come.

Katie Carter, Teacher

Disrupting Patterns of Inequity

Disrupting Patterns of Inequity

After decades of public policy aimed at improving the overall achievement of students, the gap that separates students from different backgrounds remains wide, and these gaps in achievement begin at an early age. Nationwide, there is a 27 point gap between White and African-American students, and a 26 point gap between White and Latino students at the fourth grade. While the gap is closing—slowly but surely—it is closing all too slowly.

Partners in School Innovation actively seeks to disrupt patterns of inequity in education by developing systems and structures that work effectively to close persistent achievement gaps based on race, class, and culture. To do this work effectively, we develop our own cultural competence by seeking to understand of how race, culture, class, and gender impact how we understand and respond to the world around us. We seek to understand these factors so that we can work strategically to change them.

Race and Racism

For educators, one of the most difficult realities of the achievement gap is its connection to race. To many, the idea that race and racism might influence teaching and learning is so disturbing that they deny its influence. Because the gaps between racial groups look a lot like those between richer and poorer students, many hold firmly to the notion that poverty—not race—is at the root of the gap. However, when we take poverty into account, the gap shrinks but does not disappear. For example, the achievement gap also exists in wealthier suburbs where African American students still perform less well than white students.

Poverty

In addition to the increasing racial and linguistic diversity, more and more students in California public schools live in low-income families. The rate of children living in poverty has jumped by more than 10 percent since 1979. More than 60 percent of these children come from Latino families, a number which has doubled in the last 25 years. Almost half of California’s students receive subsidized lunches.

Of children in poverty in California, nearly three-fifths are immigrants. Growth in diversity—in race, language and income—is going to affect all sectors of our society, but public schools are being impacted most directly because of their early and intimate contact with children, making the already difficult challenge of closing the achievement gap even harder.

Socio-Cultural Factors

Cultural attitudes also play a part in the achievement gap. John Ogbu and Pedro Noguera, among others, have argued that cultural influences may explain some of the differences in achievement in the middle class between racial groups. For example, Asian students are more likely to believe that not doing well in school has negative consequences, whereas African-American and Latino students believe that the number of years they put in rather than what they learn at school is what matters. Such factors that may contribute to the achievement of some cultural groups, and we seek to understand these factors as we to work to close the achievement gap.

Ineffective Schools and Poor Teaching

What happens inside the schoolhouse—including the impact of racism described above—can make or break a student’s achievement. The research is very clear: good teachers matter in the achievement of students of color. Students who get effective teachers several years in a row will achieve at high levels no matter their background, while students who have just two ineffective teachers in a row will suffer greatly and perhaps never recover.

Unfortunately, disadvantaged students don’t often get effective teachers. In California schools with more than 90% students of color, 20% of the teachers are under-prepared, whereas schools with fewer than 30% students of color have only four percent of their teachers who are under-prepared. The disparity holds true across socioeconomic status as well. The number of under-prepared teachers in high-poverty schools is nearly three times that of more affluent schools.

So what can we do? One Approach: Student Engagement

National data on student achievement indicates that African-American and Latino students are on average one year behind their White counterparts by second or third grade, and three to four years behind by twelfth grade. A closer examination of achievement data clearly links students’ engagement level in school with academic performance.

When trying to improve student engagement, we must start out by thinking through a comprehensive strategy for addressing students’ cognitive, affective and behavioral needs. Without thinking through each of these domains, we may focus on strategies that only address one area. We encourage school leaders and teachers to use this toolto learn more about teacher practices than can support student engagement across all three domains of engagement, creating an environment that facilitates the transformative change we wish to see in our schools.

 

 

Partners Expands to Philadelphia

Partners Expands to Philadelphia

Partners in School Innovation expands its critical work in building educational capacity to Philadelphia through a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation.

The William Penn Foundation has awarded Partners $2,170,000 over the next 36 months to bring the organization’s proven school transformation approach to Philadelphia. The work funded will support improved educational and learning outcomes for children at elementary schools in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP).

“Following our successes in the Bay Area and Michigan, we are excited for this opportunity to bring the Partners district and school transformation approach to support proven leaders in Philadelphia,” said Derek Mitchell, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Partners. “We immediately saw the alignment of our work to the district’s broader Action Plan 3.0 and are looking forward to collaborating to develop sustainable transformation at all levels of the SDP system. We know this work is the best way to improve the life options of all students, and we’re especially excited about supporting leaders and teachers in the most challenged schools.”

Partners will work with the School Reform Commission and the School District of Philadelphia on the rigorous implementation of our School Transformation Approach to increase teacher and leader capacity and accelerate student achievement; create systems to inform the leadership practices, professional development, and core instructional programs across the district; and ensure district leaders and systems are prepared to sustain results.

“Partners in School Innovation is a great match for the particular schools in my network because they are all in need of a structural framework that can help solidify instructional systems,” said John Tupponce, Assistant Superintendent. “These systems need to be embedded and sustainable. The principals and teachers are truly interested and capable of transforming their schools and Partners was the piece that was missing. With the principal knowledge and the strategic structures and coaching of Partners in School Innovation, it’s a perfect match.”

“We are optimistic about the opportunities for improvement that can result from collaborating with a national organization with a track record of success working in urban districts,” said Elliot Weinbaum, Great Learning Program Director at the William Penn Foundation. “Our hope is that Partners, working alongside our teachers and administrators, will improve a host of educational outcomes, help turn three schools in high-poverty areas into high-performing schools, and that this work can serve as a model for school improvement that can be replicated elsewhere throughout the City.”

Partners will begin implementation of its program in the School District of Philadelphia in July 2015, conducting intensive work at three school sites to anchor the Results-Oriented Cycle of Inquiry (ROCI) process to improve teaching and learning in those schools and facilitate cross-school learning networks to foster collaboration and the spread of ideas across sites.