TalkingPoints - A must-have tool for Back-to-School!

Today’s piece explores an exciting new tool that promises to solve one of the largest problems in the domain of parental engagement – communication between teachers and parents across language barriers. TalkingPoints is a multilingual texting platform that elegantly connects teachers and families in more than 20 different languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, French, Hmong, and Haitian Creole.

Given that the ELL student population is expected to triple by 2030, this is exactly the type of platform educators will need to ensure that families and parents are engaged in their child’s education. And best of all, it's free! If you’re teaching ELL students, TalkingPoints is a must-have tool for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year!

Read More

Restorative Justice at Bright Star Schools - Part 2

We’re excited to bring you Part 2 in our discussion with Bright Star Schools about restorative justice! Today, we speak with Marni Parsons, Bright Star’s Vice President of Student and Family Services about the specific programs and practices use in its schools. Throughout our conversation, Marni makes it very clear that any successful restorative program has its foundation in strong community. She tells us, “The foundation of being a restorative community is that you’ve actually taken the time to build community. If you don’t already have a community built, you have nothing to restore when a harm is done.”

Read More

Restorative Justice at Bright Star Schools - Part 1

Earlier this spring, we had the pleasure of bringing you several pieces on the Bright Star Schools network. This week, we return to Los Angeles to ask the Bright Star team about their use of restorative practices. Today’s piece is a discussion with Hrag Hamalian, Chief Executive Officer at Bright Star Schools, about the importance of having a restorative justice program. We discuss the pitfalls of traditional discipline models in schools, how Bright Star has gone about implementing restorative practices, and the improvement in school culture they’re seeing as a result. Later in the week, we’ll follow-up with Marni Parsons, Bright Star’s Vice President of Student and Family Services, about specific programs and practices used in its schools.

Read More

Learning Links for July 2017

We started this series last month with the premise that we focus on is what we get. So instead of accepting the media’s narrative of low test scores, broken budgets, and poor morale, Thriving Schools has decided to go in the opposite direction (to focus on all the positives and the amazing individuals who make them happen). This is the list of stories and articles that our Thriving Schools network read and shared with us this month! We hope you find a few nuggets of inspiration and intrigue!

Read More

Continuous coaching with Mike McKenna

Good school leaders know the importance of coaching and developing their teachers. However, finding the time to do so is often very challenging. Today, we speak with Mike McKenna, the Founding School Leader of Memphis Delta Preparatory Charter School, about how he strives to spend 100% of his time coaching staff. In this piece we ask Mike about the tradeoffs he makes to spend more time on development, the difference between short-term and long-term fixes, and some of the coaching drills he uses to provide effective feedback.

Read More

Bitsbox: Engaging coding projects for the classroom

Being successful with coding requires lots of practice. But the only way students are going to put in the necessary work is if it’s also fun and exciting. Bitsbox is an education startup working to bridge this gap and we recently had the chance to speak with one of its co-founders, Scott Lininger. Scott told us one of his favorite questions to ask students is, “What’s your project?” Because it doesn’t matter if it’s building a robot, making a website, or coding an iPhone game – if a student’s got an answer, they’re likely to have the resilience to succeed. Read on to learn how Bitsbox is bringing this style of engaging, project-based programming into the classroom.

Read More

Round 2 with Matthew Patterson

Earlier this spring, we spoke with Matthew Patterson, winner of TNTP’s Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice in 2016, about how he creates engaging curriculum for his students. He told us, “Teach what you’re interested in! Teach what you’re excited about! Show yourself! When you’re just pretending and reading Madame Bovary because everyone else reads it . . . Who cares! That’s SO boring.”

Today, we present round 2 with Mr. Patterson! In this conversation, we shift our focus to building strong student relationships and how to keep teaching fun. Mr. Patterson tells us, “The most powerful thing you can do is to believe in someone – to say to them, “You have greatness in you!” And when somebody really believes in you, it changes your entire life. And that’s the teacher I want to be.”

Read More

Learning Links for June 2017

What we focus on is what we get. And for educators, that means the ubiquitous narrative of low test scores, broken budgets, and poor morale is unlikely to inspire positive action. At Thriving Schools, however, we’ve adjusted our lens – we simply focus on all the positives (and how all the amazing individuals behind the scenes are making them happen)! To that end, we’ve decided to start a monthly post that shares some of the articles, stories, and links that we receive (and read) each month that were published on other sites. Below is our list for June 2017 – we hope you find a couple nuggets of inspiration and intrigue!

Read More

Building strong co-teaching relationships with Ruhi Khan

Special education is challenging. And building the collaborative relationships within schools to help students with disabilities isn’t much easier. That’s why we decided to chat with Ruhi Khan, a Clinical Assistant Professor at Arizona State University. In addition to having nearly two decades worth of classroom experience, Ruhi now works to train and support dual-certification, special-education and elementary teachers. With her vast experience, Ruhi has developed a talent for finding ways to help general and special education teachers work together. And in this piece, we ask her how strong co-teaching relationships are formed.

Read More

Experiments in Problem Based Learning

In this piece, we speak with Natasha Nethero who has taught for the last 9 years in South Phoenix. While it’s tempting to think you’ve got it all figured out after nearly a decade of teaching, Natasha isn’t that way at all! In fact, she’s used this last academic year to experiment with problem-based learning in her classroom and understand the systems needed to make it work. Because Natasha’s constantly trying out new things, we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to ask her how she’s gone about implementing PBL.

Read More

The Teacher Career Pathway at KIPP Austin, Part 2

KIPP Austin recently implemented a Teacher Career Pathway that elegantly ties together the development and advancement of its teachers. In the first part of this series, we talked to Emily Schneider-Krzys, the Chief Talent Officer for KIPP Austin, about the design and structure of the Pathway. In this second piece, we ask her about the evaluation structures that are used to promote teachers. Given the numerous challenges that many schools face in evaluating their staff, this is definitely a must-read piece!

Read More

The Teacher Career Pathway at KIPP Austin, Part 1

We know we need to do a better job at helping our teachers develop and honoring that growth with prestige and pay. But the question is how to do it without sacrificing creativity and purpose along the way. This week, we are featuring a 2-part interview with Emily Schneider-Krzys, Chief Talent Officer at KIPP Austin.

KIPP Austin recently implemented a Teacher Career Pathway that elegantly ties together the development and advancement of its teachers. In this first part of our interview, Emily shares her thoughts on getting the design of a career ladder right, including the obstacles her team encountered, the specific structures of the Pathway, and the values the program is based on.

Read More

BloomBoard - A new vision for professional learning

Most educators have known for some time that traditional professional development is in need of a significant makeover. According to a growing body of research, we spend considerable amounts of money on a development system that is neither effective nor helpful. That’s why we here at Thriving Schools spend so much time on new approaches, programs, and resources that allow us get better!

In this piece, we speak with Jason Lange, co-founder and President of BloomBoard, to share his company’s vision for what professional learning for teachers can look like. Imagine – curated learning resources, virtual collaboration spaces, the ability to demonstrate mastery, and access to coaching. All with the focus on giving teachers exactly what they need!

Read More

Creating a Board of Directors with Malka Borrego

We recently had the chance to speak with Malka Borrego, Founder and CEO of the Equitas Academy Charter School network, about managing school facilities and creating a strong board of directors. In the first part of our interview, focusing on facilities, Malka shared with us some key metrics for managing the facilities budget and how she does her homework when making decisions in this area. In this piece, we shift our focus to how Malka built the board of directors at Equitas and how the needs of her board have changed over time.

Read More

Building student portfolios with Seesaw

While the idea of student portfolios has been around for a long time, they’ve never really taken off due to the significant demands placed on a teacher. It turns out collecting and organizing student work can be very time consuming! But by giving students ownership over these tasks and providing them access to a wide range of media (video, pictures, audio, notes, and more), the EdTech firm Seesaw is showing how powerful student-portfolios can be. And in the process, it’s giving students an audience for their work in ways never before seen.

Read More

Creating strong staff culture with Hrag Hamalian

Back in March, we posted the first installment of a conversation we had with Hrag Hamalian, Chief Executive Officer of Bright Star Schools. In that piece, Hrag told us that academic excellence is predicated on student culture and he shared with us a number of programs used at Bright Star. This time around, we shift gears and discuss staff culture. We cover topics like work-life balance, valuing teacher input, and creating a salary schedule that gets teachers to stay in the classroom. Oh, and along the way Hrag gives us plenty of ideas for infusing fun into an organization. We hope you enjoy round 2 with Hrag Hamalian!

Read More

Sharing Sanford Inspire resources with Brian Nethero

Educators are quite familiar with the problems of traditional professional development – it’s often one-size-fits-all, it rarely focuses on what teachers need, and it’s really expensive. More and more, however, we’re seeing that it doesn’t have to be this way! In this piece we talk with Brian Nethero, Executive Director of the Sanford Inspire Program. Along the way, we learn about the program’s free professional development modules, how schools and teachers are using them to improve their development, and several creative uses of its curriculum.

Read More

Differentiation and discovery with Abe Cohen

In this piece, we speak with Bronx Arena’s Abe Cohen about the differentiation practices he employs in the classroom. Specifically, Abe tells us how he uses metacognitive conferencing, student interest inventories, and The 5 E’s to create an environment in which students initiate their own learning. All too often, a dichotomy is set up between “fun, engaging” learning and a more “regimented, exam-preparation” style of instruction. But in this piece we see that it doesn’t have to be this way – that if students are driving the instruction, there’s no reason why you can’t achieve both!

Read More

How schools are saving money with asset tracking!

Did you know that the average urban school misplaces nearly $20,000 worth of assets each year? And that for large schools, that sum can be twice as much? Shocking, right? You don’t have to be a budget expert to know that these sums represent a lot of money – money that could be used to hire another teacher, invest in development programs, or purchase badly needed supplies.

But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if nearly all of those resources could be recouped with a small investment in an intelligent asset management solution? In this piece, we talk with an education startup that’s on a mission to do exactly that!

Read More

The problem with development

A mirage is something that appears real or possible, but is in fact illusory or without substance. It’s also the title of TNTP’s report on teacher development, aptly named because of the widely held (yet mistaken) belief among education leaders that we know how to help teachers improve. In this piece, we review the report’s conclusions and recommendations. Along the way, we provide some additional perspectives that we think will allow educators to better implement the report's ideas.

Read More