This past Friday was the culmination of a unique 28-hour professional development experience involving teachers and administrators from three distinctly different schools in size and setting. The event went off spectacularly. One administrator commented, “I’ve been through plenty of professional development before, but this was not something administrators and teachers typically receive.” Other participant comments were: “I learned how to write quality essential questions and use them every moment of the day as I work with students. I now constantly think in terms of essential questions and the desired results when teaching or planning;” “This Academy has helped me see how Common Core State Standards, Teacher Evaluation, assessments, and Student Learning Objectives fit together in the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR);” and, “I’m thinking about using performance assessments, which is something I never did before when planning math lessons.” There are more data yet to be analyzed, including a post-survey set which we will use to revise the academy for our next iteration. Meanwhile, today’s feedback suggests the Academy was effective, which is something we all had hoped for when we first came together last October to explore an idea for bringing coherence to Race to the Top for teachers and school principals.
In a previous blog entry, I wrote about the perceived disconnect by educators regarding Race to the Top deliverables. As a colleague of mine commented, the layers of reform ranging from Common Core State Standards, Response to Intervention, Data-Driven Instruction, and Annual Professional Performance Standards are akin to a seven-layer cake with each distinct and separate from one another. Not the message or perception we want educators and administrators to have in this busy period of reform. Ironically, my co-facilitator and I were thinking the same thing when we invited a core group of National Board-Certified Teachers (NBCT) to explore the possibility of developing an Academy that revealed the interdependencies within Race to the Top while also cultivating teacher and principal leadership. Preliminary participant comments suggest we realized our goals.
To gain both credibility and professional rigor for such an academy, we sought NBCTs and teacher leaders who walked the talk, balancing the daily challenges of classroom instruction with instructional leadership within and outside their buildings. Self-directed professionals sought out as experts because of their pedagogical skill sets and knowledge of what matters in this era of reform. We hit the jackpot with four NBCTs representing secondary ELA, primary reading, special education, and middle level mathematics. We also got financial support from the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center, which has done so much for educators over the past three decades. At a preliminary meeting, we brainstormed what the region’s educators and principals needed to successfully implement RttT components. In particular, we were looking for ways to cultivate teacher leadership. Over the course of a many meetings, we resolved our focus on six modules and described the program as follows:
A 28-‐hour, six module pilot program integrating teacher artifacts, classroom video analysis, and cognitive coaching for participants to develop teacher leadership capacity by fully understanding the integrated nature of New York State Teaching Standards, Danielson Frameworks, Annual Professional Performance Review process, and Student Learning Objective protocols described in New York State’s Race to the Top Program. Master teachers will facilitate sessions over a ten-‐week period, and participants will develop knowledge products that include a participant portfolio, videotaped classroom instruction with analysis and reflections, an Understanding by Design unit aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards for literacy, and individual participant goals using the Student Learning Objective format. Educators and building principals will also observe and rehearse the best practices and artifacts shared by Academy facilitators across the six modules. Each participant will receive a set of books, binder, and flash drive containing best practices and program modules.
Our pilot was ambitious, and we did not have time for the creation of videotaped classroom instruction we described in the description. However, we accomplished so much more than what could be described on paper. The participants’ attitudes and comfort level regarding Race to the Top underwent a signficant shift over the past three months, and our team is eager to launch a second edition this summer at the end of July. However, the summer Academy will not be a pilot but instead will be open to all teachers and principals interested in becoming teacher and principal leaders in Race to the Top components. After all, anything is possible when you bring a highly talented group of teacher leaders and NBCTs together.
PS. Happy Mother’s Day to all moms.