And when trying to implement large-scale initiatives like the Common Core State Standards that require rethinking professional learning, curriculum and instructional materials, family engagement activities, assessment and other aspects of the education system, collaboration is particularly important.
Easy access to professional learning
But too often the rhetoric of change indicates that it is being done to teachers, not with them -- particularly change driven by politicians who know little about education and are more conscious of the political realities they face than the best interests of students. And as we have learned from education reforms past, that type of change is doomed to fail. Yet there are places across the country where that is not the case. These are places where teachers and administrators work together both to implement policy decisions in ways that benefit students and to develop innovative solutions to the challenges that their community faces.
ABC has been widely praised for the collaborative relationship that exists between its teachers and administrators. Not only has the district received a great deal of positive press about this partnership for example, one blogger recently wrote that he "left ABC rejoicing in what they have been able to accomplish" in this arena , it also served as the basis for research by Rutgers University's Saul Rubinstein and John McCarthy on how working together improves student achievement.
What makes ABC so special is not just the fact that a strong partnership between teachers and administrators exists. It is the fact that the collaboration has been institutionalized. The partnership has thrived for well over a decade, under multiple superintendents and through a number of school board elections. And this has led to a district culture "of shared planning, decision-making, and responsibility" that is "built on respect, commitment, and trust," as a case study puts it.
How Teachers Can Build a Trusting Relationship With Their Principal
Among the many issues that teachers and administrators in ABC have tackled together are curriculum development, textbook selection, recruitment and hiring, mentoring, teacher evaluation and support, and use of data-based decision making to improve student performance. And the partnership is having a positive impact on students. One early example of collaborative problem solving in the district was the creation of the Southside Schools Reading Collaborative, which targeted resources and support to six high needs schools that then showed the most growth on standardized assessments in the district.
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And Rubinstein and McCarthy's research shows that the district's students have higher achievement in the schools with stronger partnerships between teachers unions and school administration. Those in education use the words "collaboration" and "partnership" quite liberally, often giving little to no details on what specifically good examples look like.
But a set of case studies of six districts, including ABC, that have developed and sustained strong relationships between teachers and their unions and administrators while improving public education found thirteen common themes, including:. When a district that has a strong collaborative culture undertakes a major initiative like implementing the Common Core, what does it look like?
Relevant, Rigorous & Innovative Academics
In other districts, an entire half day is set aside each week for staff development, in part to help align curricula among grade levels. Manage and Share Data. The dashboard will enable school administrators to quickly review teacher performance, identify those who may need coaching, and build teacher teams more effectively.
This all-in-one system for school performance management will allow administrators to better evaluate the impact and effectiveness of its plans to improve curriculum and professional development programs. The district plans to finish the prototype this year, though it will take another year to get the online dashboard running. Since many teachers are data-driven and track student performance throughout the year, the pilot has drawn much interest.
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Although the district recently trimmed millions of dollars from its budget—even eliminating cost-of-living allowances this year—Burbridge calls the project a top priority. Teacher quality is the top predictor of student outcomes. Use Free Digital Tools. Want to get teachers excited about using media and technology in the classroom? Take Wordle, for instance, which could be used by elementary teachers to create a highly visual word wall. Students can use these to create their own podcasts and public service announcements.
New media presentation software makes it easy to combine photos, video, music, and text—check out Empressr, Animoto, and JayCut. Joe Geocaris, an English teacher at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, has successfully used nings, user-created social networks, with his students.
At Ning. Students used the online space to post resources and ask questions of their teacher and peers. Reduce Fixed Costs. Five years ago, Bowling Green Independent Schools in Kentucky introduced a music program featuring string instruments donated by a local music foundation, says Superintendent Joe Tinius. Tinius found the money. The district also purchased equipment to clean school doormats instead of having them replaced weekly. By fall, Tinius says, the equipment will have paid for itself—while the music program continues to grow.
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Share Work. Teachers upload their lessons for other educators to use, and they collaborate with one another to modify, improve, or update existing lessons. The district used the website as part of a pilot program. Earlier this year, 45 teachers in its technology integration leadership program created more than 50 new lessons, uploaded them, then downloaded other lessons from the site that involved technology.
It has been a great success, says Webb. Now the district is developing creative ways to expand its use of the website, focusing on specific areas that need improvement. The plan is to roll it out to teachers across the district and explore collaboration opportunities with teachers worldwide.
Each inspector rotates working the midnight shift to ensure schools are properly shut down. The district expects to save the same amount this year. Several years ago, the district began using a portion of these savings to equip classrooms with PCs, printers, and whiteboards to help prepare students for 21st-century work and learning. Reexamine Staffing Needs. Back in , money was tight at Fridley Public Schools, a K—12 district just north of Minneapolis that supports 2, students.
One or two teachers were facing layoffs.