Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of COVID shutting down classrooms across the country, Warner Arts Magnet Elementary in Nashville shares the trials and tribulations they faced, what kept them motivated, and how the IFL work has been a “life-changing” experience that played a key role in providing a quality education.
As educators our goals are to inspire, motivate, and empower the students we interact with every day. Can any of these goals be truly accomplished when we have educators in our schools that feel disenfranchised, alone, and unsupported by their colleagues? Becoming an effective educational ally is a journey that requires substantial self-reflection, a strong sense of self-identity, and a willingness to step up and advocate for a colleague.
Representations are windows into student thinking and reasoning. In a time of virtual classrooms, using visual representations is more complex, but as important as ever. If a teacher values students’ thinking, they need to consider how to make it possible for all students to represent that thinking. This article addresses the use of representations and the questions that help students connect representations to deepen understanding of math concepts.
Dr. Paul Freeman, a life-long educator and long-time partner with the IFL, was recently recognized as Connecticut’s Superintendent of the Year. In this article, he reflects on his career and the choices that lead to a more inclusive learning environment. He also recognizes dedicated work of teachers and the whole school community to move toward a more equitable system.
A story about the art of teaching and the process of translating and refining practice to ensure rigorous learning opportunities for students through collaboration and productive talk.
Many school districts have moved to virtual or hybrid models of instruction and we recognize that using the typical Learning Walk routine, which asks district and school leaders to visit classrooms and provide targeted feedback, doesn’t quite fit in a virtual space. However, we also recognize the need to continue to support district leaders in helping teachers provide high-quality instruction to every student.
Before becoming building principals, we were instructional coaches, each of us having coached either mathematics or ELA. Instruction was always the focus of our coaching work. After several years as principals, we realized that though supporting teaching and learning was a component of our work, it was no longer the focus. Once we came to that realization, we knew that we needed to make some changes.
At Teaneck Public Schools (Teaneck, New Jersey) we are focused on establishing common instructional practice across all classrooms that is designed to increase our students’ opportunities to engage in demanding curriculum content in both mathematics and English language arts lessons.
The Guilford Public Schools’ vision is that of a professional learning community where instruction invites effort and supports academic rigor for all students and educators. To that end, our daily work in classrooms is rooted in and supported by the Principles of Learning (POLs).
Clear Expectations and Self-Management of Learning: Moving the Principles of Learning from Theory to Practice
In thinking about the work we have been moving throughout our district, we are extremely proud of the way our teachers have been incorporating Clear Expectations and Self-Management of Learning, two of the Principles of Learning that are inextricably connected.
The Networks for School Improvement (NSI) work taking place among Dallas ISD (DISD), the Institute for Learning, the University of Pittsburgh School of Education Center for Urban Education, and the Learning Research and Development Center, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has largely focused efforts on improving instructional rigor, providing better supports for English language learners, and improving cultural relevance.
Propel Pitcairn, one of the Institute for Learning’s newest partners, went through the process of an organization-wide curriculum adoption for both math and English language arts last year. As a result, the teachers will now be regularly using high-level tasks, which dovetails with the network’s vision that students will do the thinking.
“It definitely makes my heart smile when I hear a teacher say, ‘I just stopped what I was doing because the student knew more than I did and just took over!’ or ‘I began to feel frustrated because we were not able to work through the content the way that I originally planned, but I learned so much about what they know and have experienced by re-framing some of my questioning and allowing them to create the questions too.
The Institute for Learning (IFL) and Schenectady City School District have worked collaboratively for several years, and this year, we continued our ongoing partnership with a focus on using improvement science methodology to “get better at getting better.” District-wide, there is a focus on using improvement science to work on persistent problems of practice.
In her article “Framing Equity: Helping Students ‘Play the Game’ and ‘Change the Game’” (2009), Rochelle Gutiérrez lays out the four key dimensions of equity: Access, Achievement, Identity, and Power, which sit on two axes. Access and Achievement create the dominant axis, and Identify and Power create the critical axis.
Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future conducted interviews with teachers and school administrators to understand the disconnect between professional learning that teachers need and want and what they actually experience.
There is no shortage of professional development (PD) available to teachers, but PD alone is rarely enough to result in a change of practice.
What does it mean to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of every learner in a mathematics classroom? Giving different students different tasks does not yield a common learning experience; therefore, the availability of holding rich mathematical conversations with the whole class is lacking.
When a district successfully shifts their trajectory of students’ performance, many people ask how they did it. New Brunswick Public Schools’ use of strategic decision-making, grounded in improvement science principles, and greater collaboration across role groups resulted in impressive gains in mathematics scores across the district.
Coaching, at its best, bolsters district goals while supporting individual needs, gracefully weaving coherence and differentiation into a tapestry of continuous learning. With Content-Focused Coaching® (CFC), both the culture and the instruction are positioned to evolve in ever-increasing complexity through the interdependence of people—coaches supporting teachers through individual conferring and teachers supporting one another during PLCs that are truly collaborative pursuits.
Designing for academic rigor in a thinking classroom starts with the choice of task with which students will engage. Likewise when striving to improve student achievement, we ask our school partners to begin by analyzing the tasks students experience. If we want students to truly understand mathematics, as opposed to a series of tricks, sayings, and acronyms, then we have to ensure they have a regular diet of high-level tasks that require thinking and reasoning about mathematics.
As the supervisor of humanities (at the time) for New Brunswick School District, I have had the opportunity to work with the Institute for Learning (IFL) for the past 3 years, and one of the areas on which we focused during that time was increasing the cognitive demand in the classroom.
Searching for the Root Cause: An interview with Bridget Goree, NSI Coordinator for North Dallas High School
Campus Network for School Improvement (NSI) coordinators learn to discover and understand the root causes of a problem of practice and find that understanding the problem takes time and requires a cultural shift. In this interview, Bridget Goree, an instructional coach at North Dallas High School, shares her own experience learning to approach this work. She discusses three considerations—what to stop doing, what is important to do, and what they are learning to build.
Recently, the Institute for Learning was selected to bring its expertise and extensive experience with instructional coaching to mathematics educators in the state of Tennessee. More specifically, IFL provided instruction around coaching moves that support high-quality teaching, resulting in improved student learning.
New Brunswick Public Schools (NJ) is a continuing partner with the Institute for Learning (IFL). Over the last 4 academic years, the district has seen definite growth across grades 3 – 10 in both English language arts and mathematics, as measured on the NJ state assessment tests.
Paterson Public School’s Guiding Coalition, a working group in academic services composed of content area senior staff, began its journey with improvement science in the fall of 2016. As we examined the various issues that we faced in curriculum and instruction, one flash point was the extraordinarily low state achievement test scores in science on the Grade 8 and high school biology assessments.
Through a three-year Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant with the TN Department of Education, the Institute for Learning (IFL) and researchers at the Learning Research and Development Center explored and studied coaching in mathematics.