(Left to right) Malachi Byrd, Devyn Jefferson, Juwan Middleton, and Cynthia Johnson performed original spoken-word pieces as part of the School Leadership Program conference. These students represent CONTRA VERSE, a spoken-word team from Cesar Chavez School for Public Policy, which is led by their teacher and coach, Michael Bolds. Throughout the two-day convening, these students and others shared insightful perspectives on education and the impact of current reforms on educators and students.
What happens when you invite students to a project directors’ conference on school leadership? They infuse the atmosphere with energy and enthusiasm, push the envelope in thoughtful ways, inspire with their creativity, and remind the adults why our work is critical.
OII’s School Leadership Program office recently hosted a convening for 45 of its grantees currently implementing projects that prepare and develop principals to serve in high-need schools and districts. The conference provided an opportunity for districts, universities, partner organizations, Principal Ambassador Fellows, and federal policymakers to learn from each other and other experts in the field about how to improve and promote school leadership. Throughout the two-day conference, student performers graced the stage to intermittently bring our work back in focus while also challenging us all with provocative questions, such as “At what point does patience give way to urgency in our reforms?”
Every spring, the National Writing Project (NWP), an OII grantee, brings together a core group of teacher-leaders from across the country to study and share effective practices that enhance student writing and learning. This year’s Spring Meeting was held on March 28 in Washington, D.C. Matt Williams, educational technologist at KQED, the San Francisco Bay Area’s award-winning PBS affiliate, led off the day with an engaging discussion about the powerful role of digital tools in promoting and improving civic engagement among the country’s youth. Matt was joined by NWP teacher-leaders Janelle Bence, Chris Sloan, and Meenoo Rami, who are implementing the Do Now project in their classrooms as part of a collaborative effort between KQED and the NWP’s Educator Innovator network. There are currently 150 schools across the nation actively participating in this endeavor.
(April 23, 2014) The U.S. Department of Education today announced the start of the 2014 grant competition for the Investing in Innovation (i3) program’s Scale-up and Validation categories. This competition will continue the Department’s investments in promising strategies that can help close achievement gaps and improve educational outcomes for our neediest students.
“This year’s Validation & Scale-Up competition is an opportunity for us to continue supporting strategies that help our highest need students succeed,” said Nadya Chinoy Dabby, assistant deputy secretary for Innovation and Improvement. “These efforts are part of our larger commitment to investing in what works.”
The i3 program aims to develop and expand practices that accelerate student achievement and prepare students to succeed in college and in their careers. As in years past, the program includes three grant categories: Development, Validation and Scale-up. This year, school districts and nonprofit organizations, in partnership with districts or schools, are eligible to compete for nearly $135 million across all three categories. The maximum grant amount available in each category is based on the evidence of effectiveness.
“This is remarkable leadership in action,” Secretary Arne Duncan told the press at the Hollywood FamilySource Center, following a roundtable with community stakeholders of the East Hollywood Promise Neighborhoods project. (Official Department of Education photo)
A small youth and family resource center is tucked away in the corner of a strip mall at the intersection of Western Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard in warm, sunny Los Angeles. It’s in “the other Hollywood,” where instead of calling for the lights, camera, and action of movie making, community leaders are in search of the solutions to poverty, mental health issues, and learned helplessness. Since 2013, with the help of a $30 million Promise Neighborhoods grant, the Hollywood FamilySource Center has become the “one-stop-shop” for local families in need of help.
On March 19, Secretary Arne Duncan, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods team, visited the center, which is operated by the Youth Policy Institute (YPI). The goals of the center are to increase family income and students’ academic achievement. During its fourth year of operation in 2013-14, more than 3,140 clients benefited from the Center’s core services: adult education and computer literacy classes, tutoring and enrichment programs to improve children and youths’ academic skills, medical and dental health care, and a number of other services.
For the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2014, the Office of Innovation and Improvement is conducting 13 grant competitions in five program areas: Arts in Education, Charter Schools, Investing in Innovation, Full-Service Community Schools, and Teacher Quality Partnerships. Four of the competitions are underway, with announcements of the other nine slated for later this spring.
Arts in Education grants are available in two categories: Arts in Education Development and Dissemination and Professional Development for Arts Educators, both of which help schools and districts to partner with community-based organizations to increase the quality and effectiveness of arts teaching and learning, including integration of the arts with other core academic subjects.
The three Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competitions — Development, Validation, and Scale-up — support school districts and nonprofits to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices. Development grants are for new and promising practices that should be studied further; Validation grants verify the effectiveness of programs with moderate levels of evidence; and Scale-up grants support applicants with the strongest evidence and track records of success. (Note: While the rest of OII’s 2014 grant competitions will make grant awards by September 30, 2014, the i3 grant awards will be made by December 31, 2014.)
A tireless champion for the arts in education, Philadelphia Assistant Superintendent Dennis W. Creedon draws on nearly 30 years of working in or partnering with schools in Philadelphia to make the arts part of a well-rounded education for all of the city’s 131,000 students.
As a senior administrative leader in the district’s central office, Creedon, who began his education career as a theatre teacher in 1987, combines his understanding of research into the nature and value of arts learning with creative approaches to tapping Philadelphia’s rich array of cultural institutions to weather the latest budget reductions. Since 2008, Philadelphia schools are required to have art or music offerings and a commitment to every student having at least one arts lesson weekly. The policy, which Creedon was instrumental in developing, appeared to be in jeopardy last year as the district faced a $304 million budget deficit.
In a recent Education Week profile of Creedon, the conductor of the All-City High School Orchestra, Don S. Liuzzi, draws on the meteorological metaphor to explain the school leader’s importance. “The ship was sinking,” he said, describing the district’s most recent round of budget reductions that threatened the jobs of nearly 4,000 teachers. And while some arts specialist positions were lost, the arts education ship is still afloat, according to Liuzzi, because the district’s top arts education advocate is “a very persuasive and avid supporter of the arts.”
(March 18, 2014) The U.S. Department of Education announced the start of the $134 million 2014 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition on March 14th, 2014 with the release of the program’s invitation for pre-applications for the i3 “Development” grants (up to $3,000,000 each). In its fifth round of competition, the i3 program continues to develop and expand practices that accelerate student achievement and prepare every student to succeed in college and in their careers. The i3 program includes three grant categories: Development, Validation and Scale-up. The Department plans to announce applications for the Validation and Scale-up categories this spring.
“We’re excited to begin this year’s i3 Development competition to support promising efforts in the field. The initiatives supported by i3 are not only designed to boost students’ success, they also improve our understanding of what works for students and educators,” said Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Nadya Dabby. “We look forward to supporting new ideas to help all students—especially our highest need students—achieve.”
Teachers at Sammamish High School meet for collaborative PBL curriculum planning. (Photo courtesy of Gabriel Miller/Edutopia)
Changing a high school curriculum — such as moving it from traditional pedagogy and assessment to problem-based learning (PBL) — is a huge challenge, and one that the faculty and students at Sammamish High School in Washington state’s Bellevue School District know well. They’re three years into a five-year transition to PBL with support from an Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grant.
Since the inception of i3 project in 2010, teachers and administrators at Sammamish High School have collaborated and redesigned 30 courses to incorporate PBL. They believe it will better prepare their students for college and careers by making content across the curriculum more engaging and relevant to the world students will encounter after high school. “Turning the school inside out,” is how Suzanne Reeve, a Sammamish High teacher leader, describes it.
Sammamish High teachers describe the process of integrating problem-based learning into a traditional curriculum through thoughtful planning and implementation.
Collaboration has been key for teachers and students as they make the transition from Sammamish’s traditional curriculum to problem-based learning. Seventy-five teachers so far have worked in subject-area teams to create rigorous coursework that engages all students. It’s a “really challenging mental shift” for the teachers, according to Adrienne Curtis Dickinson, another of the PBL teacher leaders, but the course redesign process is giving teachers a voice and the ability to decide where best to integrate problems or projects into the curriculum.
Dickinson, who is social studies teacher at Sammamish, is reporting on her school’s journey in Edutopia™, part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, that is collaborating with the Bellevue schools on the implementation of its i3 project. Click here to read her latest report and watch a companion video in “Case Study: Reinventing a Public High School with Problem-Based Learning.”
San Antonio is undergoing a transformation, one that involves reinvestment in its schools and neighborhoods, including Eastside, one of the city’s fastest growing and diverse communities. As part of Eastside’s transformation, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro unveiled the EastPoint brand earlier this month. Because of the neighborhood’s innovative initiatives in education, housing, and economic development, it was “in need of some major rebranding,” according to a press release. Mayor Castro joined Eastside community leaders to announce the rebranding effort, which affects the neighborhood’s approximately 18,000 residents.
At the heart of the EastPoint revitalization are a Promise Neighborhoods grant from ED’s Office of Innovation and Improvement and a Choice Neighborhood Program grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For the Eastside Promise Neighborhood (EPN), the emphasis is on leveraging and strengthening the neighborhood’s assets and resources so that children and families are “inspired to stay, grow, graduate … and stay.”
An estimated 340,000 beginning teachers, according to the National Center on Education Statistics, will enter America’s public school classrooms this year, a more than 50 percent increase in new teacher hires compared to 1999. Many are teaching in classrooms and schools that serve some of the most disadvantaged students — those with the greatest need for a strong, skilled teacher. These new teachers, who are just beginning to master their craft, are working long hours trying to meet those students’ needs, planning lessons, and managing complex curriculum requirements, often with very little assistance.
Mentor Shalini Patel (right) meets with new Chicago Public Schools teacher Emily Lopez to provide feedback following Patel’s observation in Lopez’s classroom. (Photo by Daniel Shea, courtesy of New Teacher Center)
Even the most promising new teachers are not fully prepared for the challenges of leading today’s classrooms. In too many cases, it’s a sink or swim experience, and students pay the price.
The right kind of support for new teachers is critical
Many district leaders across the country have recognized this issue and are responding by providing new teachers with some form of onboarding. Some districts simply offer a summer orientation, or a “buddy system,” that pairs new teachers with a teacher down the hall who can help them navigate school facilities in the first weeks. But districts implementing more robust models of induction — full systems of intensive support more focused on instructional delivery — say they are seeing more effective teaching and higher teacher-retention rates.