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.

Q&A 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.  She attended the Leading Educators Institute (LEI) with her team in June.  Michelle spoke with us about her biggest takeaways from the week of learning and her vision for school transformation this year.

LE: What are the most urgent student needs in your school building?

MM:  Amid the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) several years ago, we have experienced growing pains at North Godwin around aligning instructional approaches to the shifts.  Given that we work with an at-risk population, the CCSS required us to significantly shift our instructional strategies in order to ensure that our students were mastering content and on track for college and career readiness.  This came with difficult transitions that we are still trying to work our way through today, particularly meeting new ideas and shifts in our teaching approaches with openness and a desire to learn.  At a time when test scores can seem heavily weighted, we are finding it difficult to frame the opportunities that come from more rigorous teaching and learning for teachers and students.  While this is a challenge, we have gradually seen our staff embrace personal development and dip their toes into the water.  Our students are collaborating more than they ever have, and they are engaging in deep, meaningful dialogue with each other, which is incredibly exciting!

LE: What do opportunities do you see to build on these successes?

MM: Students in our school need to be exposed to a curriculum and teaching practices that are directly aligned to the standards.  I feel that the focused content learning at LEI opened my team's eyes to how to make rigorous content accessible to our students.  We have learned how to create a more equitable environment for our students.

LE: Looking specifically at teacher practice, how has your thinking or approach to professional learning for teachers shifted as a result of LEI?

MM: There is so much I am excited about!  In particular, I think about finally using data to drive meaningful instructional shifts rather than getting stuck in our old pattern of looking at data, making adjustments, and never returning back to a connected plan to see if those changes actually had an impact on students.  I am excited about the laser focus of the Cycle of Professional Learning (CPL) structure and the way in which it connects professional learning aims.  Through the Leading Educator experience so far, I have learned that we have missed a large component of professional learning in the past that is needed to truly shift our practice and our thinking as adult learners.  Seeing ourselves as learners in this process is key in creating significant impact for our students.  

LE: How can we best provide support for the student and teacher goals your team is prioritizing? What do you hope to gain from being in the Leading Educators program?

MM: Leading Educators has already reignited passion for improving instructional practices among my team of teachers that attended LEI!  The learning experience was intense, but we are excited to bring the CPL process to our entire staff and use it as a tool for school transformation.  My team chose to seek out Leading Educators in the hopes of sparking new thinking and deepening our understanding of current education trends. We all have a passion for the education field and in particular urban education.  Through Leading Educators we are looking for our thinking and approaches to be challenged so we can continue to grow and impact the students we teach.

LE: What would you like others to know about your experience at LEI?

MM: LEI was one of the most intense and rewarding professional opportunities in my career thus far.  This work is not for the faint of heart!  Through the LEI experience I have realized what an incredibly challenging and difficult line of work we are in, and it has inspired me to continue to dig in and challenge myself both in content knowledge and instructional practice.

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Reigniting My Practice at the 2017 Leading Educators Institute

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Kelly Compher is a teacher leader at North Godwin Elementary School in Grand Rapids, MI and a member of the 2017 Leading Educators Grand Rapids cohort. 

This past June, I had an incredible learning experience at the third annual Leading Educators Institute (LEI) with my team from North Godwin Elementary School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One of the most exciting experiences over the course of the five days of learning was the opportunity to reflect on how we use data to set goals for our students at North Godwin. For context, our school has been actively engaged in the process of looking at student data as the basis for setting student learning goals and developing an ambitious action plan to meet those goals.  We have a strong desire to respond to the trends we see in the data, and we have much to celebrate about our current practices. However, we have consistently faced gaps in our ability to revisit previous goals to measure progress against teacher actions in our action plan. We tend to move on to the next problem without fully resolving the current one. As a result, we continue to miss opportunities to get better as teachers.

By utilizing the Cycles of Professional Learning (CPL) approach we explored at LEI, we will be going into this next school year with a more structured, embedded process for examining our goals and identifying adjustments.  The key shift under this model will be utilizing our data to inform what we, as teachers, need to learn to achieve our goals. We have always been so focused on what students need to know to achieve their goals, that we forget to consider the instructional supports that teachers need to move their students forward.  For all of our students to be successful, we have to be purposeful about how we are working together as adults to learn and build skills.

As I look ahead, I’m excited to take all the learning we did around literacy at LEI and apply it to the CPL learning I’m designing with my colleagues. The English and language arts sessions that we attended that focused on text complexity and text dependent questions could be the missing link as to why our changes in teaching to the Common Core State Standards have not yet been as successful as we had intended.

In order for us to take advantage of this new learning fully, we will all have to show vulnerability and approach our practice with a growth mindset. Showing vulnerability is often a challenge among adult learners because it can spark uncomfortable emotions. As a teacher leader, it is my responsibility to help my colleagues work through personal barriers and misconceptions to create a safe space for learning. The Leading Educators Institute reignited my passion for teaching and inspired me to be a part of greater change. I hope to reignite and inspire my colleagues to transform their teaching as well, so that we can provide an excellent education for all of our students.  

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

CEO Jonas Chartock on LEI 2016: Leading from the Core

This summer, we are doing something different and extremely exciting in New Orleans: the Leading Educators Institute 2016 is now open to educators everywhere.

District of Columbia Public Schools: Excellence in Teaching Awards

As 2014 drew to a close, the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) has released the names of their annual award winners and it has clearly been a great year for Leading Educators’ Teacher Leaders.

DCPS notes the Excellence in Teaching Award as one that, “recognizes the outstanding achievement and dedication of seven DCPS teachers with a $10,000 prize”. Educators from across the district were nominated for the award and a panel of community stakeholders selected the final list of winners. Our Washington, D.C., Leading Educators team was very excited to see that one of their 2013 cohort Fellows, Charisse Robinson, was awarded one of the prestigious awards!

The Rubenstein Award for Highly Effective Teachers recognizes the success of additional DCPS teachers. “The awards are funded through the generosity of David Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group and chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.” 2013 cohort Fellows, Jamila Marston (Elementary Math & Science, Truesdell Education Campus) and Frank Medley (Spanish, Whittier Education Campus), were both recipients of the 2014 Rubenstein Award.

DCPS also announces Principal of the Year and Rubenstein Awards for School Leaders at the end of each calendar year. Chancellor Kaya Henderson surprised Principal Janeece Docal of Powell Elementary School with the Principal of the Year award in late November. Chancellor Henderson said, “When I think about the qualities that make a phenomenal principal, and the qualities that I want in a school leader, both as a parent and as a Chancellor, I think of Janeece Docal. She holds incredibly high expectations for her students, [and] has built a team of people who deliver on those expectations every day”. We couldn’t agree more! Janeece sponsors both Washington, D.C., Leading Educators Fellows as well as DCPS Teacher Leadership Innovation (TLI) Teacher Leaders in her building and is deploying their leadership expertise to drive results across the building. Leading Educators partner schools, Whittier Education Campus, Truesdell Education Campus, and Seaton Elementary School, were also acknowledged for the outstanding leaders driving student achievement through the Rubenstein Awards for School Leaders. Congratulations to Tenia Pritchard (Whittier), Loren Brody (Whittier), Mary Ann Stinson (Truesdell), Cynthia Robinson-Rivers (Seaton), and Kim Jackson (Seaton).

The announcement of Teacher of the Year did not occur until late in December, but it was well worth the wait. DC 2013 cohort member, Charisse Robinson, was named 2014 Teacher of the Year. Charisse has always loved learning and working with children – even as a child herself. Despite spending many years struggling to pass the teacher certification exam, Charisse was not willing to give up on her students and their growth. The classroom was where she was meant to be, so she began working with a colleague after school, prior to her last chance at the exam, to ensure she was able to honor her commitment to her students. Now, 15 years into her teacher career, the Cleveland community is happy that Charisse was able to receive her certification and continue on her path of impactful and holistic educating. Last year, 95% of Charisse’s 3rd graders met or exceeded grade level standards in reading, even though a fourth of her class started the year significantly behind. Her leadership coach, Lori Wilen, says: “Charisse is an absolute pleasure to work with. She is a reflective practitioner and is willing to be open and honest about her own work. She is dedicated to her students and the work of urban education in general. Her passion is contagious and all who enter her presence are fortunate”.

All award winners were honored at the 5th Annual Standing Ovation for DC Teachers at the Kennedy Center on January 12th, 2015.