Reflection

Take Action to Protect Dreamers

Like many of our peers in education (Chiefs for Change, Houston ISD, Boston Public Schools, Oklahoma City Public Schools), at least five former U.S. Secretaries of Education, and millions of Americans, we were stunned by the Trump administration's decision this week to eliminate protections for 800,000 DREAMers.  As a nationally-focused organization that works in a range of urban contexts to advance socially just teaching, we know many of the teachers and students who bring their talents and stories to the learning communities we serve are DREAMers: undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children by parents who wanted their families to join in the promises of the American Dream.  Through our direct support to school systems and teacher leaders, we work to cultivate equitable classroom environments where each student and teacher’s experiences are affirmed and celebrated so that, the moment they step foot in a classroom, their minds are  focused on working to harness their limitless potential.  Denying DREAMers the protections afforded through DACA creates inhumane chaos and directly challenges their opportunity to thrive. This decision affects us all and requires our persistent attention.

Much of the conversation since last Tuesday has focused on the qualities and contributions of DREAMers: 700,000 DACA recipients are in the workforce and pay taxes, 45 percent of DACA recipients are currently in school, 100 percent of DACA recipients have not committed a felony or other serious crime.  Yes, these facts negate baseless economic and security justifications for ending DACA, but the reality is that there’s an even more important rationale for keeping and expanding the protections of DACA: DREAMers are humans. They are our friends, our neighbors, our students, and our colleagues.   They live and work alongside us every day, adding beauty and richness to the social fabric of the only country they have ever known. Listen to some of their stories.  They have upheld their promises to meet the requirements set forth by DACA, so it is our responsibility to ensure that our nation upholds its promise to them by demanding a permanent legislative solution.  

So, as educators who work with and alongside DREAMers, what can we do?

  • Build knowledge: Several education organizations including Educators for Excellence, the American Federation of Teachers, Stand for Children, Teach For America, and the Education Trust are hosting a tele-town hall on Tuesday, September 12 to share stories, take your questions, and provide information about opportunities to support undocumented students in your classroom and beyond.  You can register here.

  • Help students and parents understand their rights: Many districts have policies in place to prevent immigration officers from entering a campus without special authorization.  Research your school or district’s policy and provide accessible materials such as these from Remezlca.  

  • Support DREAMers in renewing DACA by October 5: Individuals whose DACA expires between September and October have until October 5 to renew for 2-years.  Once a person’s DACA has expired, they will not be able to re-apply.  United We Dream provides more information here.

  • Amplify DREAMer voices:  Brave individuals like Leslie Arreanza and Jose Gonzalez are using their personal stories to challenge misconceptions and build momentum for Congressional action.  Seek out opportunities to learn from their first-hand experiences as you have conversations with those around you.

  • Contact your Congressional Representatives: Direct appeals from constituents have been a powerful force in driving congressional action this year.  Platforms such as this tool from FWD.us make it easier than ever to make your voice heard.  It takes less than 1 minute to sign the petition AND get on the phone with your representative’s office.

We commit to taking action, and we value your partnership and accountability in doing our best for our undocumented students and peers.  Will you join us?

Bonus: Watch this powerful statement from Superintendent Ricardo Carranza of Houston Independent School District.

Owning the Work of Dismantling Racism

Dear Friends of Leading Educators:

Like you, I’ve been taking some time to process the heinous acts of white supremacist terrorism in Charlottesville earlier this month. While news cycles plow forward, my thoughts are still with the people of that city and with everyone feeling the ongoing pain inflicted by persistent systems and acts of white supremacy. For many of you reading this, the events in Charlottesville were not at all surprising; for many others, they served as a wake-up call to delve more deeply into understanding white supremacy at the personal and systemic levels. No matter where each of us may be on our journeys toward understanding and ultimately disrupting the effects of systemic racism, it is important for us to individually and collectively continue to engage.  

It is with that in mind that I wrote to the Leading Educators’ staff shortly after the tragic events in Charlottesville and shared reflections from some of our teammates, each of us calling on each other to recognize the privilege and responsibility we all have to say and do something. We shared our thoughts on how the unabashed parade of hatred and bigotry we saw in Charlottesville is but a symptom of larger systemic oppression that has targeted people of color since this country’s founding. Following the example of counter-protesters who took action in the face of hate (including a great many educators), we are steadfast in our belief that we must be even more committed to owning our personal responsibility to dismantle white supremacy in our institutions - be they nonprofits like Leading Educators or the school districts from which our students and families rightfully expect excellent, bias-free education.

As CEO, I am thinking about how we as an organization move beyond simply talking about systemic racism internally and in our work with teachers, schools, and districts. First, we know we don’t have all the answers, so we are looking to our friends and colleagues for resources and reflections to spark the necessary and difficult conversations.  Here are a few from TNTP, Education First, and Facing History and Ourselves that we have found valuable. Thank you to you all.

Next, we are focusing our efforts on tangibly addressing our own institution’s systemic racism using readings like this. Informed by a cross-functional, diverse Equity Working Group, we are creating better systems to foster collaborative and inclusive approaches to our work. To ensure that we have the knowledge and skills needed to align all of our work to diversity, equity, and inclusion principles, we are engaging in cycles of professional learning about issues of equity in small groups and developing affinity groups. To be sure, we, like so many others in our sector have a long way to go as illustrated in this report from the New Schools Venture Fund and Promise 54.  

Our curriculum features teaching for social justice as a core component, and we will continue to collaborate with our partners around learning systems that maintain high expectations through a rigorous curriculum. All children can and deserve to grow without the shadow of bias limiting their opportunity to experience the joy of learning and to reach their fullest potential.

Additionally, we continue through partnership with experienced, diverse educators to adapt our programming to ensure that our work results in students learning in safe, equitable schools alongside teachers who acknowledge and control for their biases. This work by individual educators is hard but powerful, and it requires teachers to commit to walking a long, shared journey over time. In this video from our summer institute, several teachers speak to the emotional impact of this processing and the implications they see for their instructional practice moving forward. We are hopeful about the conditions we can collectively build for students to discover and harness their full potential. In order to do so, however, we must push for educators to see the necessity of their own personal growth - coupled with explicit conversations that bring about further awareness of identity and racial equity.

We know there is even more we can do, and we are inspired to take action with you.  Please take the time to share what you, your schools, and/or your organizations are doing to seek out opportunities to learn together.

With care and solidarity,

Jonas Chartock

CEO, Leading Educators

Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress/AP

Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress/AP

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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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 May Newsletter

Dear Friends of Leading Educators:

Last week was national "Teacher Appreciation Week." At Leading Educators, we have the opportunity to see the amazing things teacher leaders are doing every week to develop and support their colleagues and their students. We deeply appreciate this hard work and the critical, exponential impact it is having on student learning. As you'll see throughout this list of our latest accomplishments and developments, Leading Educators has been working hard to ensure that more teacher leaders have the opportunities and skills to make the impact they seek:

  • During Teacher Appreciation Week, our Chief Program Officer, Chong-Hao Fu, and I wrote about teacher leadership as a force to improve schools for all students; how three types of teacher leadership roles are busting cages to improve student learning; the untold story of New Orleans' big education export; a DC superintendent's perspective on teacher leadership; and thebridges that are key to effective teacher-leader roles.
  • Leading Educators has released our 2014 Annual Report, which features some of our Fellows' impact on teachers they lead, principals they support, and students they serve. Check it out on our website here:www.leadingeducators.org/impact
  • Our latest white paper, Building Bridges: Connecting Teacher Leadership and Student Success, focuses on roles that make teacher leadership successful.
  • In the last two months, we did strategic consulting work with Hiawatha Academies in Minneapolis and provided training for Teach For America alumni in Connecticut. We are also finalizing contracts with the New York City Department of Education, the Michigan Department of Education, and DC Public Schools. 
  • The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is now supporting our work as we take on the important tasks of developing teacher leaders and their teams in high-needs schools. 
  • The Carnegie Corporation of New York is supporting our development and launch of online classes that we will be offering to teacher leaders across the country for the first time this fall. These classes will focus on coaching others, leading teams, student culture, performance management, and Common Core State Standards in Literacy and Math. 
  • Leading Educators continues to be at the forefront of the national discussion of the teacher leadership movement. In the last few months, Chong-Hao and I have presented at conferences hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers, National Board of Professional Teaching Standards' Teaching and Learning, Iowa State Administrators, Teach For America, Educators 4 Excellence, National Network of State Teachers of the Year, Teach to Lead, ECET2 Kentucky, Massachusetts and New York City Departments of Education, Denver Public Schools, and Urban School Human Capital Academy.

Leading Educators has worked with over 700 teacher leaders so far this year. I am honored to be a part of this growing movement. I hope you will share any feedback or questions you have for me or our team, and that you'll join me in celebrating teachers for all that they do year-round!

Best regards,

Jonas Chartock

Learning from School Visits in New Orleans

by Jeff Fouquet, Leading Educators Fellow in Kansas City, Cohort 2012


Two weeks ago I traveled to New Orleans with the 2013 Leading Educator fellows from all around the Kansas City area. Although I had already experienced a School Visits Trip (SVT) to Chicago with my own cohort (2012), I knew seeing more schools and talking with more teachers would broaden my thinking about the possibilities for my own students and adult team. These goals were certainly accomplished, but I did not anticipate how many new partnerships this trip would introduce. 

Because of the generous levels of time, attention and guidance offered by our hosts in NOLA, I was able to identify specific, bite-size adjustments that would help my team immediately impact our students. Upon returning, I partnered with the computer apps teacher in my building to develop a data tracker so we could provide specific feedback to students. By using measurable, timely data to encourage academic and behavioral growth, students can show students specific changes they can make to improve their levels of success. Additionally, this week my team will stop recognizing a “Student of the Week” to adopt “Weekly Shout-outs.” My school serves an at-risk population, so spreading the praise around strategically instead of highlighting the success of one student will result in higher levels of student investment and build a stronger sense of community.

As exciting as these changes are, the best part of the SVTs was getting to work with other teacher-leaders as they tried to address their teams’ needs. As a second-year fellow, it felt good sharing some of the resources and strategies my Leading Educators coach, Tara Tamburello, had showed me to gain ground in similar situations. And, in kind, all the teacher-leaders I met were able to lend their perspectives to my mission to increase student investment.

I feel like I’ve written so much, yet I haven’t even mentioned the amazing educators and reformers who joined us from as far afield as England! We had guests from organizations both peripheral and essential to education who came to NOLA hoping to leverage what they learned in ways that might immediately impact the students they serve.

I sincerely thank Leading Educators, Kansas City Cohort 2013, and the teachers, students and schools of NOLA for creating such a transformative opportunity for personal and professional growth; I met so many amazing teachers and people. My team and my students are grateful for the changes this experience has inspired -  and I’m already look forward to next year’s trip!