Each year in June our Fellows present the results of their year-long inquiry project. The work involves identifying an area that, if addressed, will dramatically improve student learning. Fellows and Allies gather data, study it together, provide diverse perspectives on each project and then reflect on the actions taken during the process. The action learning process draws on the strengths that already exist within the leaders and their schools.
It has been our mission since 2003 to invest in the outstanding school principals that currently serve in the public school system and to help them find and develop resources to help them do their jobs even more efficiently and effectively.
We now have over 300 Fellows who have implemented the work they completed during their Cahn Fellowship.
Here are highlights from our 2017 presentations:
The Riverdale Avenue Community School
98.7% Minority Students
96.5% Students in Poverty
The Riverdale Avenue Community School opened in 2012 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. We started with preK through 2nd grade, and grew each subsequent year to 5th grade. We were at the time considered a turn around school. We were the 3rd school to open in five years, and there was a strong history of internalized failure in our building.
I created both a vision and a visual for the work. Every single teacher is on a team that meets during their circular 6 prep period during the day. During the spring, teachers were able to rank the teams that they wanted to be on, and I did my best to accommodate that based on people’s strengths, schedules, etc.
We also restructured our school organization model in terms of the upper and lower school divide. We instituted upper and lower school coordinators to function as coaches, but also have some other defined roles as well.
Many times, distributive leadership is presented as a top down model. We really tried to get beyond this idea of using our distributive leadership model to just “do more work that the principal tells me to do,” and really focus on the mutual accountability that should exist here.
The Gordon Parks School for Inquisitive Minds, P.S./I.S. 270
- Pre-K TO 8 School Located in Rosedale, New York
- Random Selection/Lottery School
- Population – 700 students
- 97% Black/African American, 2 % Hispanic, 1% Asian or Hawaiian, 1% American Indian
- 48% Students qualify for free lunch
Where We Were in June: Problem of Practice
- UPON ANALYSIS OF THE LAST YEAR’S LEARNING ENVIRONMENT SURVEY, WE NOTICED THAT ONLY 75% OF TEACHERS TRUSTED ONE ANOTHER, HOWEVER, 90% BELIEVED THEY ENGAGED IN PEER COLLABORATION.
- WE FORMULATED VERTICAL TEAMS TO BUILD COHERENT STRUCTURES ACROSS ALL GRADE LEVELS AND CONTENT AREAS.
- OUR TWO-PRONGED GOAL IS TO FOSTER COLLABORATION WITH AN EMPHASIS ON STANDARDS BASED INSTRUCTION WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY BUILDING TRUST UTILIZING THE VERTICAL TEAM STRUCTURE
Our Theory of Action
- HOW CAN WE UTILIZE VERTICAL TEAMS TO INCORPORATE COHERENT STRUCTURES THAT WILL POSITIVELY IMPACT STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT?
- RELATIONAL TRUST
- FOCUS ON NON-NEGOTIABLES
- TRACKING STUDENT PROGRESS BASED ON STANDARDS
Our vertical team’s impact will be determined by how our school moves on the DOE’s School Performance Dashboard. Ultimately, we want to be placed in the quadrant demonstrative of high impact, as well as, high performance.
How our Journey Began
- We surveyed the staff to ascertain their understanding of the various teams in place this school year, i.e., grade level, teacher teams and vertical planning teams.
- Teachers provided feedback on trust at the November 8th Professional Development session.
- 80% of the staff is willing to work collaboratively with clearly established protocols to guide their learning.
We implemented our Action Plan between September and December 2016
Results: Our Data at a Glance – Our Trust Survey showed significant improvement in staff trust levels.
Ebinger Elementary School – Chicago
80%- White 15%-Hispanic 1.3%-Black 2%-Asian
15.5% Low income
14% Diverse learners
5% English Language Learners
After review of current instructional units teachers were surveyed and the results were:
Eighteen percent (18%) of staff members “often” use culturally relevant instruction in their current teaching practices. The goal of this cycle is for all teachers to use culturally relevant instruction in their teaching practices “often” 75% of the time.
Unit/lesson deep dive using an ILT created template to adjust a current unit and add new culturally diverse literature
Peer observations were organized in order for teachers to observe and give feedback to each other on the previously revised lesson which revolved around a culturally aware or relevant read alouds.
Teachers were required to observe each other a minimum of two times during the school year.
During the first observation phase, teachers chose a peer within their grade bands to observe.
During the second observation phase, names were literally chosen out of a hat.
“The peer observations worked. I think it was a great idea to get a partner that I wouldn’t normally see and see the value and success in that classroom. I find it so helpful to observe others to learn and also just see how other teachers do the thinking routines. It helps me get ideas and also validate my own instruction.”
“I played a video of a Muslim teenager who was arrested for bringing in an invention (homemade clock). Teachers thought it was a bomb and the student was arrested. We had a powerful conversation of it being fair or unfair for the student to be arrested and also if a non-Muslim student would have the same consequence. The students didn’t even need me to discuss and I just watched and listened to their thinking. Students changed their thinking due to listening to their peers. It was pretty magical to witness.”
Created a mission statement with all staff members to drive the implementation of culturally aware instruction
We aim to empower students to become socially responsible, globally aware, and caring individuals through critical thinking and targeted inquiry based teaching and learning by:
- Immersing students with authentic resources and use them to teach social responsibility (newspapers, magazines, internet, etc.)
- Providing opportunities to engage in purposeful real world connections in our local community and global societies
- Promoting student centered discussion and debate
- Incorporating diverse literature throughout all classes
- Giving students the opportunity to work effectively and respectfully with diverse peers
- Increased teacher to teacher trust
- Created community involvement opportunities for students
- Increased student centered discussions
- Developed critical thinking skills in our students
- 100% of teachers reported an increase in culturally aware and or socially responsible instruction – up from 18%!