Professional Development

"A Policymaker's Playbook" Cites LEAP in DCPS Transformation

A new release from Georgetown University's FutureEd highlights Leading Educators' efforts with DC Public Schools to launch and scale LEAP (LEarning together to Advance our Practice) as one of several human capital reforms that have strengthened teacher expertise across the district.

In A Policymaker’s Playbook: Transforming Public School Teaching in the Nation’s Capital, FutureEd Director Thomas Toch examines key milestones over the past decade that have raised expectations for teacher quality and driven higher student performance.  The report highlights the challenges DCPS experienced in the roll-out of Common Core-based instructional standards, which led to the development of Cornerstones lessons.  Realizing that teachers needed more support to align their instruction to curricular shifts, the district worked with Leading Educators to define an adult learning curriculum and build LEAP as a new school-based solution. 

Since the launch in school year 2016-2017, the program has created capacity for grade-level and subject-matter teams to meet for 90 minutes each week to co-plan, examine student work and student data, and build knowledge about upcoming units.  This change in the weekly work of a teacher has shifted the locus of improvement from individual teacher to the school.  Jason Kamras, cited throughout the paper, reflects, "LEAP is a key to building teacher morale in an era of high standards.  It says, 'We get that this is hard and we want to help you.'" 

 Read the full report on the  FutureEd website.

Read the full report on the FutureEd website.

Leading Educators Launches Innovative Teacher Development Strategy with TPS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 5/14/18

CONTACT:

Adan Garcia

(202) 510-0827

marketing@leadingeducators.org

 

LEADING EDUCATORS LAUNCHES INNOVATIVE TEACHER DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY WITH TPS

Professional learning approach will dramatically expand supports for content mastery

 

TULSA, Okla. - May 14, 2018

Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) launched Empower, a dynamic professional learning strategy that will incorporate focused collaboration into the day-to-day work of teachers, in 10 schools this weekend.

Building on the district’s “Destination Excellence” vision of inspiring and preparing every student to love learning and achieve ambitious goals, Empower creates weekly opportunities for teams of teachers in a content area to lead collaborative learning and practice in rigorous standards and pedagogical best practices.  The program, developed in partnership with Leading Educators, stems from a central belief that schools are a critical unit of social change, and teacher leaders should be drivers of that change in pursuit of equity. In order for schools and districts to achieve equitable student outcomes, all students need to consistently experience rigorous and joyful learning and great teaching.  

Danielle Neves, the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning for TPS, shared, “Meeting our ambitious goals for students will require outstanding learning for our educators that is grounded in content and curricula, happening day-to-day and week-to-week in schools, and led by and for teachers.  Leading Educators is supporting us, but it is our work as a district, our vision, our ambitious goals for students.”

Leading Educators began planning with TPS one year ago to ensure that conditions and leadership at all levels of the district would be prepared for an effective roll-out.  The program is designed to gradually scale over a multi-year arc so support structures and planning systems become fully embedded in the district’s operations. This approach offers greater consistency and relevance relative to traditional, outside professional development options and focuses district-led work on iterative practice known to directly effect to student learning.

Leading Educators has worked with Education Resource Strategies to help school leaders align time, people, and money to schools’ priorities.  Each Empower school’s content-specific teams will experience 90 minutes of collaborative learning time within their master schedule each week - an increase of 30 minutes over previous years. TNTP supported this planning by conducting classroom walkthroughs meant to assess current instruction across the district.  

The Empower program’s first cohort of 55 educators was inducted on Saturday, May 12th in Tulsa.

“We believe we can accomplish something incredible together in Tulsa that radically changes expectations for what our teachers and students can collectively achieve when effectively supported to master strong content,” said Chong-Hao Fu, Leading Educators’ current Chief Learning Officer and incoming Chief Executive Officer.

 Photo courtesy of Tulsa Public Schools

Photo courtesy of Tulsa Public Schools

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ABOUT LEADING EDUCATORS

Leading Educators is a national nonprofit organization founded in New Orleans that seeks to improve student achievement by leveraging the positive impact of experienced teachers who take on leadership positions in their schools.  We partner with states, districts, and public charter networks to design learning systems that develop the instructional skills and content knowledge of teachers so they can reach better, more equitable student outcomes.  www.leadingeducators.org

Connecting Teacher Leadership and Professional Learning in D.C. Public Schools

How can we best connect teacher leadership to professional learning? What do schools sometimes get wrong - despite their best intentions - and how can we help more schools get it right? With the publication of Igniting the Learning Engine: How School Systems Accelerate Teacher Effectiveness and Student Growth Through ‘Connected Professional Learning', the nonprofit organization Education Resource Strategies highlights promising practices at four leading school systems. They offer examples of what it looks like to deeply connect professional learning to the everyday work of teachers and teacher leaders and to a coordinated, system-wide strategy for student success. They also explore how these systems organize resources like people, time, and money to make this happen.

As a national organization focused on the development of teacher leaders, we at Leading Educators are acutely aware of both the challenge and promise of connected professional learning. With regular opportunities to collaborate and deepen instructional expertise, teacher leaders can play a key role in improving student learning. At the same time, we know that teacher leaders are part of a larger connected system within schools, and their success often depends on the presence of content experts, access to high quality instructional materials, and the necessary time to work with colleagues.

Since 2012, Leading Educators has served as a key strategic partner to DC Public Schools (DCPS), one of four systems profiled in the ERS paper. At the beginning of the partnership, DCPS had just received a federal grant through the Teacher Incentive Fund to increase opportunities for teacher leadership, building on the district’s previous work on teacher evaluation and compensation. Leading Educators partnered with DCPS to provide technical assistance, drawing on our long-standing work with teacher leadership programs in New Orleans and Kansas City, Missouri.

Leading Educators worked with DCPS to launch the Teacher Leadership Innovation (TLI) program at a pilot group of seven schools. In the early years of the program, schools had great latitude in creating teacher leader roles. This meant that school leaders were highly engaged in the process but also that roles varied widely. While these roles added capacity for school leaders, they were not exclusively focused on examining student work or building teacher skills. For many teacher leaders who were new to leadership positions, coaching their former peers created challenging dynamics. Additionally, some schools struggled to protect release time that had been allocated for teacher leader functions when staff turnover occurred and emergencies arose.

As TLI expanded, structures, systems, and training were gradually put in place to address many of the lessons learned from the first cohort of schools. Over time, new teacher leader roles became more narrowly focused on what the paper refers to as “content-focused, expert-led collaboration” instead of tackling both administrative and learning functions. This ensured that principals aligned the roles to the key instructional priorities of their schools. To support TLI participants’ transition into new leadership roles, the program content focused heavily on developing both hard and soft leadership skills. DCPS also focused on helping new teacher leaders develop adult leadership skills. Leading Educators partnered with the district to provide sessions focused on relationship management, addressing topics such as difficult conversations, team dynamics, influence with and without authority, and conversations about difference. This content translated leadership best practices into normed processes and tools.

In addition, Leading Educators worked with DCPS to create systems and structures to support principals in becoming stronger distributive leaders. These included how to strongly connect school priorities to teacher leadership roles - the School Theory of Action - and how to regularly and rigorously analyze formative leadership, teacher practice, and student data - the Quarterly Data Review. Maggie Slye, the Managing Director for Leading Educators’ LEAP team, explains how these structures function in practice:

 

"The Theory of Action serves to anchor the school in its priorities, not just for students and teachers, but also anchors the leadership team in the commitments they’ve made to teachers. By establishing these priorities and commitments collaboratively, the Theory of Action supports alignment and a shared understanding of priorities. Each quarter, a Leading Educators Leadership Coach leads the leadership team to analyze student and/or teacher data to assess what has been accomplished and what may need to be revised. This data cycle - setting goals, assessing progress, and course-correcting - is something many schools do for students. It’s far less frequent to see schools doing this type of analysis for teacher goals and for leadership goals. Our schools emerge from Quarterly Data Reviews not only clearer on the next quarter’s goals for students, but also goals for teacher instructional practice and the leader actions they will take to support teacher development in those instructional practices."

 

Finally, the DCPS central office team, in partnership with school leaders, began to research, create, and share innovative scheduling approaches that would create more release time cost neutrally. With coaching, school leadership teams developed contingency plans so that they could provide sufficient time for productive collaboration even when unforeseen challenges emerged.

Leading Educators has had the honor of learning alongside outstanding DCPS school and central office leaders. Principal Art Mola from Bancroft Elementary shares:

 “It is hard to think of Bancroft and Leading Educators as a partnership. The amazing team at LE has become an intricate part of the Bancroft family in such a way that we do not view them as an external entity, rather a member of our leadership team. And as a result, Bancroft LEAP Leads continue to celebrate the amazing job our LE coach has done with each one of them, and with the whole team. I can confidently say that the quality of our Quarterly Data Reviews has improved exponentially, as we are firmly grounded in our commitment to the Theory of Action, and are already looking forward to next year as we get ready to roll out a more improved version than even now.”

These efforts laid a strong foundation for LEAP. With LEAP, DCPS is leveraging distributive leadership to improve instructional practice in content-specific and job-embedded teams. LEAP has ignited the learning engine by empowering principals and teacher leaders with the structures and tools to drive continuous improvement.

Learning and Practicing Strategies to Improve Instruction with DCPS

In mid-July, approximately 600 educators and school leaders from throughout Washington, DC spent two weeks learning and practicing strategies to improve instruction in schools throughout the city. This intensive effort is part of the District of Columbia Public Schools’ (DCPS) LEAP (LEarning together to Advance our Practice) initiative, and it represents a focus on growing teachers’ leadership capacity within classrooms, throughout schools, and across the entire district.

"I learned so much and developed my capacity as a teacher leader. After these two weeks, I feel more confident in the transformation in our students and teachers that LEAP is going to inspire, and feel more secure in my ability to help lead this work as a teacher leader. I am excited for this year!"

Leading Educators worked in close partnership with DCPS to provide the content and expertise needed to design a tailor-made professional development experience for teacher and school leaders from 115 schools. Over the course of two weeks, participants focused on common core content development, pedagogy for literacy and math instruction, planning for implementation, and equity and leadership.  

"This has been one of the most enriching PDs that I have ever experienced. The videos, the exercises, the culture building activities, the learning and sharing protocols were all very beneficial."

LEAP also marked a significant milestone for Leading Educators. While our focus has gradually evolved over the past five years from working with individual teacher leaders from a number of unrelated schools, to supporting teams of teachers who come from the same school, LEAP pushed our engagement even further. Our partnership with DCPS represents the first time that Leading Educators has brought its model of inquiry, practice, and development to teams of school and teacher leaders throughout an entire school district.

This represents a new phase for our work and the large-scale impact that it can have on student achievement. We are excited to build on this new approach, and look forward to the opportunity to continue to partner with DCPS and other districts around the country that recognize the power of teacher leadership to drive instructional and academic excellence.

DCPS Riding the Wave of Teacher Leadership

Leading Educators' Statement on the Connection Between Teacher Leadership & Race in America

We here at Leading Educators are deeply saddened by the violence that took place over the past week in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas. The senseless deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the 5 police officers in Dallas only underscore the deep racial divide that continues to plague our communities and, ultimately, our democracy.

Leading Educators Receives $300,000 Commitment from Baptist Community Ministries to Support the Teacher Leader Teams Fellowship

NEW ORLEANS, July 7, 2016 – Leading Educators has received a $300,000 commitment from Baptist Community Ministries (BCM) to support the instructional leadership development of teacher leaders across Greater New Orleans over the next two years...