Fellowship

Checking in with Instructional Specialist Michelle Morrow

Michelle Morrow is the Instructional Specialist at North Godwin Elementary School in Grand Rapids, MI and part of the 2017 Leading Educators Grand Rapids cohort.  This past July, Michelle spoke with us about her vision for school transformation after attending the 2017 Leading Educators Institute (LEI).  We checked in with Michelle to hear about her team’s experiences during the fall semester.   

LE: When we spoke with you in July, you said LEI was one of the most intense and rewarding professional opportunities of your career thus far.  What were you looking forward to as you entered the fall semester?

MM:  I was most excited to see how our team’s learning would translate into our school culture and ultimately what it would look like in the classroom.  I knew the equity sessions at LEI had a powerful impact on our team, so I was also excited to explore how having the equity lens front of mind might impact how our teacher leaders speak about the standards, their instructional practice, and our students’ learning.     

LE: What were some of your team’s specific priorities for the fall?

MM: We not only wanted to increase teacher collaboration within our school from a functional perspective but also have those collaborative conversations anchored in equity, evidence, and rigorous standards.  Our staff has the best of intentions for our students and they have worked extremely hard to open up their classrooms and collaborate with each other.  Our goal was to deepen these collaborative conversations and push ourselves to examine our instructional design and delivery through an equity lens.

LE: How did you use your team’s professional learning plans to get to that place?

MM: We began the school year with professional development where staff members challenged their biases and opened themselves up to be honest and vulnerable with each other.  This continued in the work of our cycles of professional learning (CPLs) when we narrowed in on creating lessons and units that were rigorous with the proper scaffolding so all of our students could access high standards.  Beyond our regular content learning as adults, we have also had teams practice challenging conversations with their colleagues in order to push the envelope for our school culture.  All of these experiences have helped increase collaboration to a deeper and more meaningful level.

LE: What was challenging about implementing this work?  What surprised you or others on your team?

MM: Time.  With our district having several other priorities on the table, our team had to get creative in meshing them together.  We did not want this to come off as ‘one more thing’ to do, so our team had to carve out additional time to design the CPLs as part of our districts goals.  I wouldn’t say this surprised me because of the dedication and willingness of our team, but I’m always amazed by the commitment that educators have to making changes that help their students get the most out of school.  Our team made a commitment to come to work 60 minutes early two days a week to continue our instructional work, and they also gave up their prep period  once a week to review their session facilitation.  Our team even created a website where staff participating in the CPL could have easy access to presentations and materials.  They are the hardest working bunch I know!  

LE: What has been your biggest win so far?

MM: We had more than half of our elementary staff volunteer their personal time and come to work 60 minutes early for eleven weeks to attend our first round of professional learning sessions.  Because we did not have this time built into the master schedule for this year, it is amazing to see the dedication of not only my teacher leaders, but also their peer teachers who also gave up their time to participate in instruction-focused learning.  

LE: What advice do you have for others leading similar work across the country?

MM: Keep with it!  It is tough, and the wins might feel small, but look carefully enough and you will see those little wins adding up to much bigger successes. Every tough step through the mud is a step that gets us closer to closing the equity gap.

Cohort 2015 Spotlight: Dean Gancarz-Davies

School: FirstLine Schools

Hometown: My early years were in Severna Park, Maryland. Then my high school years were in Brooklyn, New York.

What made you want to become a teacher?

I was a psychology major in college (at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota) and as junior and senior, I had an internship as a Developmental Therapist with autistic preschoolers. I loved it and completely grooved on it and thought "I want to do this for the rest of my life." I talked with my program, and they said I had to go into the public schools to do that. So I had various teacher aides positions in public schools and then when I moved to New Orleans...I did a program called Pathways to Teaching at Tulane where I took classes and taught in New Orleans public schools. Now I've been teaching for over 20 years since.

What brought you to your current position as Athletic Director?

I taught 4th grade, 6th grade, gifted resource, and 2nd grade. And I figured out that I was so busy that I was never able to exercise. To feel good, I need to exercise. So I thought, how can I make exercise part of my job? I have to be a PE teacher! So I went back to UNO and got my Master's Degree in PE and Health in 2005. And since then, I've been teaching PE and then became an athletic director.

Can you explain your inspiration for your CPL and Impact Initiative?

When I was a fourth-grade teacher, I was at a brainstorming session around what can we do to improve test scores. Well, my fourth graders were having a hard time sitting still, and I thought if we had an intense physical activity portion at the start of the day, my test scores would improve. I was laughed out of the room. I read a book called "Spark" after that. The first part was how in Illinois, a heavy fitness program at the beginning of the school day really advanced test scores in a huge way. When I read this in the book, I thought "That's what I was saying!" Later, when I was pushed to doing the Impact Initiative (with Leading Educators), I thought this was something I really believed in - if we can get kids to be more physically active that their academics will improve. So that is what I am trying to do, with all my PE teachers and specifically with kids who are really struggling, getting some of that exercise-induced focus back into the classroom.

What is one lesson you learned last year that you would share with a first year LE Fellow?

Make your Leading Educators time a priority. There will be a lot of pulls on your time and it would be easy to put LE stuff on the back burner, but it's equally as important if not more important than all the other stuff you have to do. It's a development of our craft that can really make significant strides with our students more so than other things we may be required to do.

The Drive to Teach & Lead

When I drive, I think about my own mortality. Although I’m not typically a nervous person, I still realize how easy it would be to get hurt or killed while in my car. When I first had those thoughts, I wondered what the impact would be if I died right then. I got this strange pleasure knowing that I was a good enough person that my family and my friends would be heartbroken...

CEO Jonas Chartock on "A False Choice"

We’re looking for our first VP of Storytelling & Development in Leading Educators’ 5-year history. I’ve been reflecting on what this role will mean for our organization, why we believe diversity and equity is so important and why I am excited about where we’re headed.

  • This is our moment to tell our story + shape the narrative.  We’ve proven that when given access to skill development and the right leadership roles, teacher leaders increase student achievement, remain in their schools longer than their peers and develop leadership skills that ignite whole school transformation. Our new VP of Storytelling will re-imagine our story, help us tell it and then ensure it quickly spreads throughout the world.
  • The choice between diversity + excellence is false. Diversity is the very means to excellence. I still have conversations with colleagues in the field who are not talking about the business case for diversity and equity. The facts are that diverse teams perform at higher rates than non-diverse teams and the research that shows women often outperform men yet women are not represented in senior leadership. Without diversity and equity, Leading Educators cannot grow from 1,000 Teacher Leaders to 10,000; from serving 200 schools to 2 million students or move from raising $6 million to $20 million over the next three years.
  • If you browse our website, you might note that there are fewer senior leaders of color. You might interpret this fact to mean we do not think a senior leader of color can be successful here. It does not. It means we have significant work to do and we will not shy away from it. We are happy to talk to you personally about what we’re doing to work on this. Studies also show that men often apply for jobs when they only meet 60 percent of the qualifications for a senior role. Women wait until they meet 100 percent. Please do not wait. Please put yourself and others forward.
  • We’re just getting started. Ninety percent (90%) of principals with a Fellow said that our teachers have had a positive impact on their school. In 5 years, we’ve expanded into new regions and nearly 100% of our Fellows remain in education and continue to assume greater leadership and impact within their schools.

Our inaugural VP of Storytelling & Development arrives to a learning organization whose intent is to expand its impact. To learn more, reach out to Ify Offor Walker  or me directly.

Here’s to the next phase and seeing you aboard the teacher leader rocket ship!

RAND Report Shows Early Signs of Success in Leading Educators Fellowship

Today the RAND Corporation released the first stage of a multi-year study on the Leading Educators Fellowship program. This initial report examines the effects of our Fellowship programs in Kansas City and New Orleans on leadership growth, student achievement, and teacher retention. 

The results of the report suggest that the Leading Educators Fellowship improves leadership skills in teacher leaders, shows promise in positively impacting student achievement, and helps retain teachers in high-poverty schools. Below is the press release from RAND, which can also be found here:

Program to Improve School Outcomes and Student Achievement Shows Early Signs of Success

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A program intended to boost student achievement by providing teachers two years of professional development, including formal training sessions and meetings with a leadership coach, is showing early signs of success, according to a new RAND Corporation report. The program also includes the mentoring of other teachers by those receiving these more-intensive efforts.

The fellowship program created by Leading Educators, a national nonprofit based in New Orleans, is showing promising results on student achievement, according to a preliminary evaluation of the effort. The program is unique because it focuses on middle-career teachers, while other efforts typically focus on new teachers, and offers leadership development for classroom teachers.

The fellows participate in a two-year training program consisting of a series of professional development sessions, school visits and meetings with a leadership coach. Fellows can be teachers as well as school administrators. In addition, fellows select other teachers to mentor at their own school. The teachers mentored by the fellows participate in meetings and workshops throughout the school year.

The findings are based on the 2011–12 through 2013–14 school years for fellows and the teachers they mentor located in New Orleans and Kansas City, Mo. Over the study period, there were 255 fellows and 916 teachers mentored. The RAND study focused on teachers that researchers were able to match to state databases for student assessment test scores, which included 75 fellows and 438 mentored teachers.

“Since the leader development program may influence students of the fellows or the other teachers they mentor, our team examined achievement outcomes from students across this wider group,” said Kata Mihaly, the report's lead author and an economist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

These early findings of the program are mixed, but suggest that the program shows promise in improving student achievement. Fellows who taught mathematics in New Orleans had a statistically significant positive effect on student achievement. However, the analysis did not find statistically significant findings for other subjects taught by fellows in New Orleans or Kansas City. Teachers mentored by fellows had a positive impact on student mathematics and social studies achievement in New Orleans.

The analysis also examined whether teachers are more likely to stay in the same school or stay teaching in high-poverty schools after participating in the program. Program teachers remained in high-poverty schools at rates that were similar to or higher than that of other teachers in the district.

Researchers note the current results are based on few years of data and on a small sample of teachers, and results may change when there are more fellows and mentored teachers included in future studies. Prior to the evaluation being completed, Leading Educators expanded the fellowship program, with opportunities to participate in Memphis, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.

Support for this research was provided by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.

The report, “Examining the Early Impacts of the Leading Educators Fellowship on Student Achievement and Teacher Retention,” is available at www.rand.org. Other authors of the study are Benjamin Master and Cate Yoon.

This research was conducted by RAND Education, a division of the RAND Corporation. Its mission is to bring accurate data and careful, objective analysis to the national debate on education policy.

 

About the RAND Corporation

The RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous.

Bezos Foundation Grants Award to Leading Educators

Leading Educators is excited to announce the support of the Bezos Family Foundation. The Foundation seeks to create systemic improvements in how educators and the K-12 education field think about and prepare students for work and life success. The Foundation’s investment in Leading Educators will help train teacher leaders to not only be effective in the classroom, but also lead teacher teams to improve student learning throughout their school. We are excited to welcome the Bezos Family Foundation into the Leading Educators family. With their help we will ensure that even more teacher leaders are equipped to best develop their colleagues to ultimately improve students’ lives.