Critical Needs Elementary

Theme - Staff Selection, Leadership, and Capacity Building

Best Practices

  • Care is taken to hire educators who will fit well with the school culture and philosophy and who value and desire to work with diverse and challenging populations.
  • When teachers are asked to adopt new practices ongoing support is provided formally and informally.
  • Approaches to curriculum and instruction are not “cookie cutter” but expect teachers to be problem solvers.

In the higher-performing schools leadership is shared. Principals are instructional leaders and are seen by teachers as part of the team working to improve student outcomes. Collaborative work is supported not only by the schedule but also by attitudes that expect that teachers continue to learn – from each other, from school or district experts, from their principal, and from attendance at relevant conferences. All staff are called upon to solve problems and implement change in the service of student learning.

Some differences between higher- and average-performing schools

The higher-performing schools have experienced some degree of stability – either through a long-time and strong teaching staff and/or through administrative leadership. At the heart of discussions about professional development in the higher performers lies a confidence in the expertise of those currently in the district and their capacity to work together to deepen their individual and collective knowledge and expertise. This is expressed by teachers as well as by administrators at building and district levels.

Educators in average-performing schools are more likely to have experienced frequent changes in leadership, and sometime in the teaching staff. Although in some of the average performers teachers report sharing what they learn from attending workshops and conferences, expressions of belief in their own knowledge and inviting contexts to share deep knowledge about student learning is lacking. Professional development initiatives are seen as “flavor of the week,” disconnected from a larger and longer plan for improving student performance.

Selected Evidence

In Valley Central, candidate interview protocols like this sample ask questions and provide scoring guidance to try to determine a candidate's potential fit with the school in terms of practice and program.

The principal at Centennial Ave. welcomes teachers back with a letter sharing with them some of the ways she expects them to continue to grow professionally.

Professional development offerings are focused on school and district priorities, as in a year-long schedule from Port Chester-Rye, which includes time for teacher collaboration, especially across grades. In Utica, the Professional Development Plan is created by a multi-constituent team, clearly specifies the goal of serving all students, commits to providing learning opportunities for teachers, and lists a wide variety of ways for teachers to fulfill their individual development responsibilities.

In New Rochelle, tenured teachers may replace some direct observations with individual or collaborative projects. The teacher Observation Checklist in Davison Ave. combines guiding questions about the entire lesson with spaces for notes and reflections.

Expecting teachers to be problem solvers, School 19's leadership team entertains proposals for changing school organization or practice and provides guidelines for submitting proposals for departmentalization.