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How Top Performers Build-and-Support
Build Teams and Focus on Continuous Improvement

by Bill Honig

Reformers fundamentally misunderstand how schools and districts work. As a result, they have focused their school improvement efforts on indirect structural changes and top-down governance reforms. Research has shown that the top-performing schools, districts, states, and nations take a very different approach. There is one strategy that is invariably used by these top performers—districts have in place a strategic plan to build on-site capacity and establish systems for continuous improvement of curriculum and instruction. Top performers respect teachers’ professionalism and engage them in improving their craft knowledge and pedagogical practice. They provide positive working conditions and create a learning community that generates social and decisional capital. And instead of using test results and teacher appraisals to reward or punish, they use performance results to support the school’s improvement efforts.

Professional Learning

Successful strategies for increasing teacher effectiveness are aimed at individual teachers—to build knowledge and technique—and at collaborative teams—to support teachers’ efforts and continuously improve the school’s overall performance. Linda Darling-Hammond and her colleagues produced one of the best guides to professional learning for teachers and instructional leaders. Maximizing the Use of New State Professional Learning Investments to Support Student, Educator, and School System Growth was developed under the auspices of Darling-Hammond’s new think tank, the Learning Policy Institute and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE). These researchers and practitioners created it to help districts in California determine how best to spend the $500 million allocated for improving teaching and learning. The report provides a thorough review of the research, specific policy recommendations, and links to many important professional learning documents, including the standards for professional learning from Learning Forward, the Superintendent’s Quality Professional Learning Standards (QPLS) from the state of California, Greatness by Design, and Professional Learning in the Learning Profession. The report also includes numerous exemplars of good practice.

In the Learning Policy Institute/SCOPE report, Darling-Hammond and colleagues offer this underlying rationale:

A starting point for building a system that develops teaching capacity is to consider what professional learning is and how it occurs. The National Staff Development Council, now referred to as Learning Forward, defines professional learning as “a product of both externally provided and job-embedded activities that increase teachers’ knowledge and change their instructional practice in ways that support student learning. Thus, formal professional development represents a subset of the range of experiences that may result in professional learning.”

Meaningful professional learning is not a product, but is a process comprised of multiple opportunities for educators to learn and practice skills that advance their expertise. Both teachers and principals can benefit from ongoing professional learning that is closely tied to student learning and the realities of practice, and that builds off of the expertise of colleagues.
Research in the field has demonstrated that effective learning for educators has, at minimum, the following four qualities:

  1. Professional learning should be intensive, ongoing, and connected to practice.
  2. Professional learning should focus on student learning and address the teaching of specific curriculum content.
  3. Professional learning should align with school improvement priorities and goals.
  4. Professional learning should build strong working relationships among teachers and provide time to collaborate.

Support Structures for Professional Learning

The development of effective professional learning depends on effective support structures. To quote a further section of the Learning Policy Institute/SCOPE report:

Even when these elements of professional learning are put in place, more needs to be done to ensure instructional quality. Instructional quality is dependent on both the knowledge and skills of individual educators and on the workplace conditions that allow effective practices to take root and flourish across classrooms.

This instructional capacity relies on at least four kinds of interdependent resources:

  1. Instructional knowledge (including knowledge of content, pedagogy, and students), which can be built through professional learning;
  2. Instructional materials (e.g., curriculum, instructional tools, textbooks, teaching materials, assessments—and know-how to use these materials);
  3. Instructional relationships among staff that are characterized by trust, mutual respect, recognition of instructional expertise, and openness to interpersonal learning;
  4. Organizational structures that support the identification, development, and use of instructional resources (e.g., common learning time for subject and/or grade-level teachers; formal instructional leadership roles and organizational mechanisms that foster teacher collaboration, learning from peers, and communication pattern that develop a shared understanding of teaching practices that are linked to student learning).

Finally, the Learning Policy Institute published a report by Kini and Podolsky, Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research. The report debunks the idea that teachers don’t continue to become more effective after the first three-year learning spurt. Obviously, well-constructed professional learning will enhance the normal growth process.

Team Building, Capacity Building, and Collaboration

Almost every school and district that has substantially improved student performance is developing and supporting school teams. With fellow teachers and administrators, a teacher can wrestle with the best way to implement a new demanding curriculum, such as the one envisioned by the Common Core State Standards. Teachers compare notes, visit one another’s classrooms, and continually revise instruction. They collect relevant data on student work and rely on their colleagues’ assessment of student performance and engagement to devise next steps. Teachers receive effective professional development around implementing the core curriculum, adapting craft knowledge to their classrooms, acquiring quality materials, and working with one another. Top-performing districts hire and train principals and coaches who understand how to develop collaborative teams, encourage distributed leadership and decision-making capabilities, and connect staff with best practices and where to find the best resources aimed at improving instruction.

For a comprehensive look at how the most successful nations in the world build effective professional development, collaborative teams, and continuous improvement, see the National Center for Education and the Economy’s (NCEE) 2016 publications Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems and Developing Shanghai’s Teachers. Such policies engender the crucial ingredient of performance improvement—teacher engagement and intrinsic motivation. For example, a large district in Melbourne, Australia, that contains significant numbers of hard-to-educate children found teacher engagement the secret to improved performance.

Commenting on these two reports, Marc Tucker, president of NCEE, explained (I have quoted him in depth because he captures the essence of the argument for restructuring schools into learning organizations):

Professional development looks very different in all these places than it typically does in the United States. It is the main driver of school improvement. Far from something that takes the teacher out of her school and away from her students, it is woven into the very fabric of the teacher’s work in every way. Professional development is not synonymous with workshops. In the United States, teachers appear to develop increasing expertise during their first three years on the job and then stop. But in the systems Jensen [president of Learning First, Melbourne, who authored the study of how successful nations improve] researched, they never stop learning–from other teachers, from their reading, from the research they do, from the data they get on the results of their work.

That is because their workplace has been restructured so that almost everything they do in the course of a normal workday is intended to contribute to their learning. First, in all of these systems, teachers spend less time facing students than American teachers do and more time working collaboratively to improve student performance. Teachers work in teams organized by the subjects they teach, by the grade or grade span they teach in and the research and development projects they choose to work on together.

Second, when teachers are working together, they are not just hanging out in discussion groups. They have specific goals, whether it is to develop a much more effective way to teach a particular topic in mathematics or to figure out why a whole group of students in the fourth grade are falling behind and fix the problem.

Whatever the project they take on is, they have a general method for dealing with these problems. It starts with collecting data on the problem, then systematically identifying the best research in the world that bears on that problem and seeing what it says, then using that research to formulate a response to the problem, then putting together a research plan that will enable them to collect data on the difference that their intervention makes, then implementing their intervention, then collecting the data and analyzing it, then revising their intervention in the light of the data and doing that repeatedly until they get the results they are after. When they are done, they not only implement their intervention, but they write it up and, in some of these countries, publish it in journals that other teachers in other schools, sometimes throughout their whole country, can read and profit from.

What I have just described is a continuous improvement cycle. It is a very powerful engine for school improvement. Indeed it is a model of school improvement that puts classroom teachers, not university researchers or central office bureaucrats, in charge of improving schools. It is a professional model of school improvement.

This model for continuous improvement of student performance is also, as Jensen points out, a model for continuous learning, an engine for professional development. It both produces incentives for school professionals to learn and, at the same time, supports that learning in myriad ways. In this model, teachers are constantly consulting the best research in order to diagnose the problems they are facing and to find solutions to those problems. They are in each other’s classrooms all the time, observing teachers who are piloting their group’s interventions, learning from the best teachers and critiquing each other’s teaching. More experienced teachers are mentoring less experienced teachers. Teachers learn when they are leading and they learn when they are collaborating with others.

Jensen reports that, in these systems, principals are evaluated by their supervisors on their skill at organizing these high performance professional environments and at providing opportunities for teachers to grow and learn. They are expected to identify exceptionally skilled teachers who can be given leadership roles on the teams whose operation I just described. These teachers are tasked with helping to develop the skills of their colleagues and helping them to implement the effective practices that the whole process identifies and promotes. They are expected to become champions of those effective practices in and beyond their own school.

A network of teachers has banded together to improve instruction and provide advice on capacity building.

Management Science

A collaborative approach based on continuous improvement and informed by data is used throughout the business world and taught in business schools. It was originally pioneered 50 years ago by W. Edwards Deming, whose ideas were instrumental in revamping Japanese industry (initially, no one would listen here) and eventually in US manufacturing. Management gurus such as Peter Drucker then applied these ideas to knowledge enterprises and knowledge workers. The argument against these ideas then was similar to what is being said now about teachers—the American workforce is weak and that is why we can’t compete. When Japanese auto companies opened plants here and saw huge productivity increases using American workers and applying Deming techniques, it became clear that lackluster performance was the fault of management and organizational strategy, not the capabilities of the workforce.

The power of teamwork has been significantly corroborated by Alex Pentland, a professor at MIT, who heads the Human Dynamics Lab and is the author of the groundbreaking book Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter. Professor Pentland has been one of the major proponents of the efficacy of group decision-making in improving performance. He and his team point to the number and quality of team interactions and the ability to seek out innovative ideas through exploration, work them through the group, and engage the whole team in the effort. He proposes developing collective intelligence by shaping and changing organizations to foster the growth of this social capital. Social Physics provides several remarkable examples of how performance is enhanced by interaction and engagement.

Carrie Leana, George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management at the University of Pittsburgh, maintains that collaboration at the school site is the most powerful strategy for improving instruction. She found that instructional conversation and help from fellow teachers outweigh all other improvement initiatives. Professor Leana calls into question reforms that pursue test-driven rewards and punishments. Since, according to Professor Leana, only about an estimated five percent of US schools are actually managed this way, the unrealized potential in expanding this approach far outweighs other strategies. Team building around powerful instruction and curriculum should be one of our major priorities. She also emphasizes that this approach requires the following:

  • training principals how to promote collaboration and holding them accountable for it
  • building the infrastructure to support instructional improvement and team building
  • striving to get more talented people into our schools
  • avoiding rhetoric and policies that make collaboration more difficult

Positive Working Conditions

Management expert Esther Quintero, writing for the Albert Shanker Institute blog, has also published a series of articles on the crucial importance of building social capital. Quintero explains that conventional Test-and-Punish reform measures lower morale and undermine positive working conditions—a key component of successful school improvement.

Thus, good schools, led by capable principals collaborating with the most talented and activist teachers at the site, build on and enhance individual strengths and ameliorate weaknesses. They accomplish this by engaging teachers, creating effective teams, and establishing a positive, professional working environment. In a recent article, Brown University professors John Papay and Matthew Kraft summarized the research on the importance of a positive professional environment:

An emerging body of research now shows that the contexts in which teachers work profoundly shape teachers’ job decisions and their effectiveness. Put simply, teachers who work in supportive contexts stay in the classroom longer, and improve at faster rates, than their peers in less-supportive environments. And, what appear to matter most about the school context are not the traditional working conditions we often think of, such as modern facilities and well-equipped classrooms. Instead, aspects that are difficult to observe and measure seem to be most influential, including the quality of relationships and collaboration among staff, the responsiveness of school administrators, and the academic and behavioral expectations for students.

In their 2014 report, Papay and Kraft found large benefits for a supportive workplace environment states:

Our analyses show that teachers working in more supportive professional environments improve their effectiveness more over time than teachers working in less supportive contexts. On average, a teacher working in schools at the 75th percentile of professional environment ratings improved 38 percent more than teachers in schools at the 25th percentile after ten years.

See also a recent University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University survey of 9,000 teachers in 336 Florida schools and “Educating Amidst Uncertainty” an article demonstrating why paying attention to the professional environment is especially important in urban schools.

Reformers would be well advised to shift gears and concentrate on building social capital (the ability to work together) as one of the best ways to improve schools since neither Test-and-Punish nor close-public-schools-and-replace-with-charters strategies come close to matching the potential for impressive gains in teacher and student performance.

Craft Knowledge and Pedagogical Practice

Finally, one crucial aspect of continuous improvement is connecting the professional learning communities with the best content and pedagogical knowledge and the most effective practices used in other districts, states, and the nation. In her recent book, Building a Better Teacher, Elizabeth Green explains the value of craft or pedagogical knowledge in improving schools based on the work of such renowned educators as Lee Shulman from Stanford University and Deborah Ball from University of Michigan, whose work is discussed in Provide High-Quality Instruction.

Much like other professional fields during the past decades, powerful understandings of how best to address a range of educational issues have emerged. A current shibboleth assumes that all a teacher needs is knowledge of a subject such as math. But knowing how to use fractions or percentage is not the same as knowing how best to teach these procedures and concepts, understanding where students usually have trouble, and offering the best ways to assist them if they are having difficulty.

Unfortunately, many efforts of team building never reach their potential by turning into unstructured and unproductive discussions disconnected from craft knowledge. Team building and continuous improvement activities must be focused on improved instruction, and it takes time and proficient leadership for faculties to learn how to successfully work together. David Sherer and Johanna Barmore have written a perceptive piece on how to increase the chances that teacher collaboration becomes effective. Larry Cuban has also written an excellent piece on this topic. Jal Mehta cautions that team building alone often is insufficient for effective professional learning and that it must be part of a greater capacity building effort.

Susan O’Hara and Bob Pritchard have developed the Strategic Observation and Reflection (SOAR) rubric which helps teachers and administrators focus on deeper learning in each discipline. The rubrics are organized around high-impact instruction, including:

  • Acquisition of Disciplinary Language
  • Disciplinary Thinking Processes
  • Disciplinary Perseverance
  • Disciplinary Communication
  • Disciplinary Discussion
  • Disciplinary Use of Evidence

The authors also have identified three cross-cutting practices teachers need: fostering meta-cognition for disciplinary learning, fostering a culture for disciplinary learning, and monitoring and guiding disciplinary learning.

Richard DeFour’s In Praise of American Educators: And How They Can Become Even Better provides detailed recommendations for creating effective learning teams that continuously improve school performance as well as strategies for preventing professional learning communities from becoming unproductive.

Finally, Learning Forward has cooperated with the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future to produce a comprehensive report on increasing teacher agency and developing successful professional development: Moving From Compliance to Agency: What Teachers Need to Make Professional Development Work.

Community Schools and Wraparound Services

Successful districts provide the resources for school and community social support and the time necessary for the school improvement efforts. In examining what worked in the top-performing Chicago schools, Tony Bryk found five key elements. One was strong parent/community ties. The Coalition for Community Schools defines community schools in this way:

A community school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities. Community schools offer a personalized curriculum that emphasizes real-world learning and community problem-solving. Schools become centers of the community and are open to everyone—all day, every day, evenings and weekends.

Using public schools as hubs, community schools bring together many partners to offer a range of supports and opportunities to children, youth, families and communities. Partners work to achieve these results: Children are ready to enter school; students attend school consistently; students are actively involved in learning and their community; families are increasingly involved with their children’s education; schools are engaged with families and communities; students succeed academically; students are healthy—physically, socially, and emotionally; students live and learn in a safe, supportive, and stable environment, and communities are desirable places to live.

For information about building community schools with wraparound services, see the National Education Association (NEA) policy brief Wraparound Services and these resources: Coalition for Community Schools, the Schott Foundation for Public Education, a report from a coalition of educational groups, and Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone.

In 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed expansion of community schools in New York, and scholars at Harvard University have created a six district network to coordinate services for children.

Systems for Continuous Improvement

Deming’s ideas on continuous improvement by line workers using crucial data has become the basis for what is now known as “improvement science.” In Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better, Tony Bryk and his team utilize ideas from improvement science, taking examples from medicine, and apply them to upgrading school performance. They recommend six basic ideas:

  1. Make the improvement work problem specific and user centered.
  2. Focus on variation in performance.
  3. See the system that produces the current outcomes.
  4. Measure the effects of interventions to go to scale.
  5. Create a cycle of continuous disciplined inquiry to drive improvement efforts.
  6. Accelerate learning and problem solving through supportive networks.

These researchers offer this example from medicine: Some hospitals saw tremendous differences in results from asthma interventions among socioeconomic groups; others found few discrepancies. Through improvement science processes, the improvement team discovered that some institutions were much more thorough than others about focusing on a major cause of asthma—the incidence of mold and cockroaches in patients’ homes. When the processes changed so did the results.

Bryk and his team then picked two specific educational problems grounded in the workplace and applied the principles stated above. The first problem was that few entering community college students eventually graduated or transferred to a four-year college; the second dealt with the efficacy of coaches. The team started small with a few classrooms and participants, including a perceptive teacher and administrator playing various roles. After brainstorming, the group narrowed the problem to a major barrier—that most students failed remedial math in their first year. The team then examined whether it was the students, the teachers, the instruction, the curriculum, or another factor. It turned out to be a combination. For example, in the case of African-American males, if those students didn’t connect in the first few weeks, most were lost. In response, initial improvement efforts were aimed at giving these students early success through a more active and supportive instructional program. The team shifted instruction to a more student-centered approach. The results were impressive, and more and more classrooms and community colleges joined the effort. Team members kept revisiting and fine-tuning their interventions, and the program got better with better outcomes. This type of effort is gaining traction nationwide.

Another example of improvement science in action occurred in the Fresno Unified School District/University of California, Merced partnership. The district wanted to increase the embarrassingly low number of students attending college. The transmission to both two-year and four-year colleges was like a leaky pipe. The district examined all the places where students got off track academically and procedurally and discussed with its schools and colleges ways to fix the leaks. The results were spectacular. As one example, students qualifying for a four-year college (California’s A–G subject requirements) increased by 50%, from 32% to 48%; and students meeting A–G subject requirements in technical education fields rose from 4% to 48%. College attendance soared.

Unfortunately, despite these persuasive findings, a plethora of statements continue to belittle or ignore collaboration by business thought leaders (and like-minded political and media fellow-travelers) who should know better. Many of the same business thought leaders who advocate a Test-and-Punish regime for schools follow very different, more supportive team-building strategies in their own enterprises. The exceptions are the financiers and hedge fund operators who thrive on pressure, super-salesmanship, and bonuses—an inappropriate management style for manufacturing and knowledge-based entities such as schools, law firms, hospitals, and research organizations. Increasing accountability pressure on schools has not produced the promised results but has sabotaged the collaboration and engagement necessary for improvement.

The Build-and-Support approach fosters the capacity of teachers, schools, and districts to work together to improve school performance and student outcomes. It is informed by the best educational and management scholarship, irrefutable evidence, and the practices adopted by the most successful schools, districts, and states in this country and abroad.

For a comprehensive look at how the most successful nations in the world deliver effective professional development, build collaborative teams, and achieve continuous improvement, see the National Center for Education and the Economy’s 2016 publication Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High Performing Systems. In addition, Marc Tucker’s article about the importance of importance of a mutual reinforcing system of individual improvement components argues that treating and evaluating each policy as separate will frustrate results—each is necessary but not sufficient.

Recent Developments

7/30/2016 Another piece on the efficacy of team building by the important website Learning Forward, reviewing the Learning Policy Institutes latest report on how teachers continually improve over time:

The report, Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research, finds that, by and large, teachers become more effective at their jobs the longer they teach. The report draws on 30 recent research studies to highlight key findings and make policy recommendations.

Among the findings, the report says that “teachers make greater gains in their effectiveness when they work in a supportive and collegial working environment” — which includes the leadership of a strong principal, opportunities for collaboration, and a shared vision for student achievement.

Several policy recommendations conclude the report, including: “Create conditions for strong collegial relationships among school staff and a positive and professional working environment.” The report stresses the promise of principal career pathways and particular attention to scheduling.

BBS Companion Articles

How Top Performers Build-and-Support
Provide High-Quality Instruction

Reference Notes

Professional Learning
Bishop, J., Darling-Hammond, L., & Jaquith, A. (2015, Nov). Maximizing the Use of New State Professional Learning Investments to Support Student, Educator, and School System Growth. Learning Policy Institute / Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE).

Learning Policy Institute.

Learning Forward.

California Department of Education. (2015, Mar). The Superintendent’s Quality Professional Learning Standards (QPLS).

Tom Torlakson’s Task Force on Educator Excellence. (2012). Greatness by Design: Supporting Outstanding Teaching to Sustain a Golden State. California Department of Education.

Wei, R. C., Darling-Hammond, L., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009, Feb 4). Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the U.S. and Abroad. Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE).

Support Structures for Professional Learning
Darling-Hammond, L. (2011). Effective Teaching as a Civil Right: How Building Instructional Capacity Can Help Close the Achievement Gap. Voices in Urban Education.

Jaquith, A. (2009). The Creation and Use of Instructional Resources: The Puzzle of Professional Development. Education. ProQuest Dissertations.

Jaquith, A. (2015). Site-Based Leadership for Improving Instruction. The Educational Forum, 79.

Kini, T., & Podolsky, A. (2016). Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research. Learning Policy Institute.

Team Building, Capacity Building, and Collaboration
Tucker, M. (2015, Aug 13). Organizations in Which Teachers Can Do Their Best Work: Part I.

National Center on Education and the Economy. (2016). Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems.

National Center on Education and the Economy. (2016). Developing Shanghai’s Teachers.

Schwartz, K. (2016, Feb 29). Tapping Teachers’ Intrinsic Motivation to Develop School Improvements.

Tucker, M. (2016, Jan 14). Professional Development Transformed.

Tucker, M. (2016, Jan 21). Top Performers Offer U.S. Much More Effective Models of Teacher PD. See also OECD. (2015). Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing.

Doctor, J., & Parkerson, E. (2016, Feb 17). Building a Culture of Improvement in the Context of External Accountability.

Management Science
Gabor, A. (2014, Nov 15). Lessons for Education Reformers from W. Edwards Deming, America’s Leading Management Thinker.

Pentland, A. (2014). Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter. New York: Penguin Books.

Leana, C. R. (2011, Fall). The Missing Link in School Reform. Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Positive Working Conditions
Quintero, E. (2015, May 21). Trust: The Foundation of Student Achievement.

Papay, J. P., & Kraft, M. A. (2015, May 28). Developing Workplaces Where Teachers Stay, Improve, and Succeed.

Kraft, M. A., & Papay, J. P. (2014). Can Professional Environments in Schools Promote Teacher Development? Explaining Heterogeneity in Returns to Teaching Experience. Educational Effectiveness and Policy Analysis.

Gnagey, L. T. (2015, Jul 1). Collaboration with Colleagues Can Spell Success for Teachers, Students.

Kraft, M., Papay, J. P., Charner-Laird, M., Johnson, S. M., Ng, M., & Reinhorn, S. (2015). Education Amidst Uncertainty: The Organizational Supports Teachers Need to Serve Students in High-Poverty, Urban Schools. Educational Administration Quarterly. See also Green, E. (2014). Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone). New York: W. W. Norton.

Craft Knowledge and Pedagogical Practice
Green, E. (2014). Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone). New York: W. W. Norton.

Sherer, D., & Barmore, J. (2015, Dec 8). What Makes Teacher Collaboration Work?

Cuban, L. (2016, Mar 4). School and Classroom Cultures: Easy to Describe but Tough to Create and Sustain.

Mehta, J. (2016, Mar 8). From PD to Professional Learning: Organizing for a New Paradigm.

Frontline Technologies. SOAR Literacy Frames.

DuFour, R. (2015). In Praise of American Educators: And How They Can Become Even Better. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Calvert, L. (2016). Moving from Compliance to Agency: What Teachers Need to Make Professional Learning Work. Learning Forward.

Community Schools and Wraparound Services
Bryk, A. S. (2010, Apr). Organizing Schools for Improvement. Phi Delta Kappan.

Coalition for Community Schools. What Is a Community School?

National Education Association (NEA). Wraparound Services.

Coalition for Community Schools.

Schott Foundation for Public Education.

Superville, D. R. (2016, Feb 23). Ed. Groups Urge “Whole Child” Approach to Counteract Poverty. Education Week.

Harlem Children’s Zone.

Shapiro, E. (2016, Jan 14). Cuomo, Echoing deBlasio, Bets on “Community Schools.”

Klein, R. (2016, Mar 8). Harvard University Has a Bold Plan to Transform K–12 Education.

Systems for Continuous Improvement
Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L., Grunow, A. & LeMahieu, P. (2015). Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. See also Bryk, A. S. (2015, Dec). Accelerating How We Learn to Improve. Educational Researcher 44.

Mathews, J. (2013, Jul 30). Schools Are Working to Replace the Placement Test Barrier to Community College Success. The Washington Post.

Haxton, C., & O’Day, J. (2015, Oct 8). Improving Equity and Access in Fresno: Lessons from a K12-Higher Education Partnership. American Institutes for Research.

Jensen, B., Sonnemann, J., Robert-Hull, K., & Hunter, A. (2016). Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems. Center on International Education Benchmarking.

Tucker, M. (2016, Mar 9). Why Education Research Has So Little Impact on Practice: The System Effect.

2 thoughts on “How Top Performers Build-and-Support: Build Teams and Focus on Continuous Improvement

  1. Jackie Mahler

    Congratulations on launching Building Better Schools!

    One approach to supporting teacher effectiveness is showing promising results. “Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Educators” teaches educators how to use mindfulness to reduce stress and cope with the increasing demands of today’s classrooms. A DOE-funded study found that CARE improved not only teachers’ sense of well-being but the quality of their classroom interactions and student achievement.

    “In a soon-to-be published study, Jennings and her co-authors provided an extended version of CARE training to 224 teachers in high-poverty schools in New York City, with several two-day sessions spaced over the course of a year. The participants reported that their anxiety, depression, feelings of burnout, being rushed and perceived stress all went down compared with a control group. Their sleep improved, and the teachers said they felt less judgmental.

    Even more interesting effects came from classroom observations. When teachers were more mindful, “yelling went down,” says Jennings. Classrooms were rated more emotionally positive and productive. Students were more engaged.

    Among the students who rated lower on social skills at the outset of the study — presumably some of the most vulnerable — reading scores also improved. Again, these effects came from working with the teachers, not directly with the students.”


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