Research & Insights / Leaders cultivate a school community that values collaboration and continuous learning for all educators

Leaders cultivate a school community that values collaboration and continuous learning for all educators

EdVestors’ School on the Move Prize serves to highlight the strategies of Boston’s most improving schools. Through years of research, EdVestors and the Rennie Center have identified key practices that enable schools to improve and sustain progress. The ten schools in consideration for the 2022 School on the Move Prize exemplify these practices in their pandemic recovery efforts.

Blackstone Elementary in the South End drives equitable literacy goals by investing in rigorous teacher learning. The Instructional Leadership Team (ILT)-designed arc of learning for SY21-22 combined monthly training sessions during the school day with weekly after-school teacher-directed Professional Learning Communities. Two grade level teams devoted additional stipended time to evening learning. The Blackstone credits these efforts for the increased growth students show on MAP reading assessments, regardless of disability or ELL status.

To monitor teachers’ progress, the Blackstone relies on continuous evaluation. With the support of a new instructional coach position, every teacher received bi-weekly feedback and each grade level team participated in 4-6-week equitable literacy inquiry cycles. Many teachers shared videos of their literacy practice, some of which have been disseminated by the district’s Office of Early Childhood. The Culturally Responsive Instruction Observation Protocol assesses progress toward the teacher-identified goal of a “culture of achievement” for all students.

Mario Umana Academy, a large dual language K-8 school in East Boston, entered the pandemic in a state of change: not only with a new school leader, but also recently designated a Transformation school based on low MCAS performance. In the midst of changes, the school remains strongly rooted in bilingual education. Staff, students, and family members voted on new school values to anchor the transformation process: Bilingualism, Inclusive Community, Joy, and Respect.

Umana has leveraged the resources that come with Transformation status for teacher learning: new high-quality dual-language curriculum and new staff positions for multiple instructional coaches and social workers. This increased capacity has allowed each teacher two planning periods per week in grade-level and subject teams. Teachers demonstrated growth in their instructional skills in 2021, even in the midst of the pandemic. 

According to teachers, the Umana’s greatest strength is instructional leadership, which exceeds the BPS average by 24 points. Over the last two years, the school has distributed leadership through teacher-driven committees. School-wide PD has been led by the Climate Team, focused on antiracist instruction. Looking forward, the Inclusion Committee is adapting dual-language curriculum for cohesion across general and special education strands. As one parent emphasized, “The school is doing some cutting-edge work around dual language inclusion, which is a huge gap in our district offering. I’d like to see our school become a pioneer in this regard.”

Learn more about the School on the Move Prize here. Click here for more information on the School on the Move Prize Ceremony on October 26, 2022 at the Westin Copley.

Read the next post “Schools use data to make a comprehensive set of decisions on improving student learning” featuring Boston Green Academy and Channing Elementary here.