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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Developing instructional coaches with Paul Dean

We recently spoke with Paul Dean about how to develop strong instructional coaches. Paul is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Jounce Partners, an organization that trains current and future school leaders for a reimagined principal role that emphasizes teacher development. In this piece, we talk about specific practices that Paul uses in coaching teachers and school leaders.

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Coaching practices at Village Prep Woodland Hills

The last time we spoke with Chris O’Brien and Ronald Brownrigg we focused on how to create an environment in which live coaching can take place. For instance, we asked them why so many schools fall short in the development of their teachers. Ron responded, “The problem comes down to too much talking! Coaching needs to be a practice of modeling for and with a teacher to show them what something should look like – talking isn’t going to suddenly result in the formation of better habits.” In this second part of our conversation, we discuss the specific coaching practices at Village Prep Woodland Hills. We cover scheduling, tools and techniques, coaching conversations, and the use of video.

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Student self-direction with Evelyn Rebollar

It’s every teacher’s dream – allowing students a high level of self-direction in their studies while not sacrificing performance on standardized tests. Yet for the last several years, Evelyn Rebollar has done exactly that! Despite her disdain for our culture of standardized testing, she has found a way to encourage a high level of differentiation and still have her students “performing” at the highest level. In this piece, Evelyn shares with us how she has shifted her thinking on student self-direction and some of the processes she uses to help achieve it.

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Prof. Shawn Datchuk: Writing strategies for all students

If we want students to thrive in post-secondary education, they need to be proficient writers. But in an environment of standardized testing, writing is rarely given the class time it requires. As a result, 71% of 8th and 12th graders have partial or limited proficiency in writing, according to 2015 NAEP results.

In this piece, we talk to Prof. Shawn Datchuk who researches writing instruction in the classroom and has years of experience teaching special education. Shawn provides us with classroom strategies and techniques for improving handwriting, spelling, academic fluency, and grammar in student writing.

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Charlie Friedman: Retaining top teachers!

This is round 2 with Charlie Friedman, Founder and Head of School at Nashville Classical. Last time, we asked Charlie when his school starts to think about hiring for next year. His response? “When are we not thinking about hiring? We believe there shouldn’t be an off-switch on the hiring front!”

In this piece, we focus on teacher retention. When we asked Charlie what a successful retention program looks like, he told us that getting your most impactful teachers to make a 3-5 year commitment to the school is much more important than seeing how many teachers come back on a year-to-year basis. Read on to learn about the other systems Charlie uses at Nashville Classical to retain top talent!

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Breakout EDU - Escaping the classroom

To close out the week, we wanted to bring your something fun! And that's why we decided to talk to James Sanders, co-founder of Breakout EDU, about how the company's platform is helping to bring engagement into the classroom.

Breakout EDU is the classroom version of an escape room. What’s an escape room you ask? It’s a real-world game consisting of a series of timed puzzles that participants must solve in order to escape a locked room. Now it goes without saying that locking students up in a classroom isn’t going to fly. But that’s where Breakout EDU comes in! It’s a student-centered platform that uses a locked box and numerous challenges to inspire creativity and problem-solving.

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Mindfulness and "letting go" of detention

Over the last year, several schools have received media attention for their implementation of mindfulness practices. News reports have touted fewer suspensions, improved attendance, and higher concentration levels. Sounds pretty good, right? But while the media has been quick to report these stories, they haven’t provided any help in navigating available resources or understanding how to implement a new program.

That’s why we decided to give Marni Parsons a call at Bright Star and ask how the network went about designing their own pilot program. If adding a little Zen to your school sounds like an intriguing idea, you’ll definitely want to check out this resource-packed conversation!

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Developing fascination (and curriculum) with Matthew Patterson

“When you’re just pretending and reading Madame Bovary because everyone else reads it . . . Who cares! That’s SO boring. Ooh, and now we’re reading Hamlet. And this is the place where we get to talk about Polonius. Stale. It’s absolutely stale. And no real learning will take place in an environment like that.”

These are just a few of the thoughts Matthew Patterson, winner of last year’s TNTP Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice, offered to us on how he selects literature in his classroom. We recently had a chance to chat with Mr. Patterson, and in the process, ended up having an unbelievably fascinating (and hilarious) conversation on how to design curriculum. Enjoy!

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Malka Borrego: A strategy for facilities

Having a strong facilities strategy often means having extra dollars for educating students. And that’s never a bad thing. But the vision and planning this requires is often overlooked. So for this piece we decided to talk with Malka Borrego, Founder and CEO of the Equitas Academy network, on how she plans for and executes on her facilities strategy. The examples she provides are an excellent indication of the long-term thinking required to successfully navigate such decisions.

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Science tailored to every student!

Bird Brain Science is a one-stop shop where science teachers can find standards-aligned passages and articles that are tiered to meet each student’s reading level. It aims to bridge the gap between the curricular goals and objectives of a science classroom and the reality of students’ reading and comprehension skills.

And it was created by Brendan Finch, who taught in a middle school science classroom for several years. After seeing how effective differentiated science passages were for his own students, Brendan knew he was onto something . . .

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How to build student culture with Hrag Hamalian

According to Hrag, people’s understanding of how culture works is flipped. A lot of people think a school’s culture is predicated on academic excellence, but it’s quite the opposite. Academic excellence is predicated on student and school culture. That also means that systems in many schools are set-up to prioritize the wrong thing. Most schools are so focused on performance, they ask questions like: “How do we get the test scores we want” or “What assessments do we need to create?” But unless you have instilled in children the fundamental attitude of “I want to learn” they’re never going to meet your expectations. Read on to learn how Hrag thinks about strong student culture!

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