Best Practice Link
Elementary School Themes
Theme - Staff Selection, Leadership, and Capacity Building
- Candidates hired through rigorous processes; once hired, teachers are encouraged through mentoring and professional development.
- Collaboration and communication encouraged, planned for, and scheduled regularly within and across grade levels.
In the districts of the higher performers, teacher candidates show what they know through multiple interviews and often, by providing a lesson. Once teachers are hired, the district invests time and money in building their knowledge through mentoring programs and professional development opportunities. Professional development comes in the form of committee work, involvement in various projects, and through workshops focused on improving instruction.
Teachers are encouraged to meet within and across grade levels regularly, and time is scheduled for them to do so. These meetings focus on how to improve student learning. The school climate is one that encourages teachers to work together to develop plans and solutions to problems.
Some differences between higher- and average-performing schools
Districts of the average-performing schools use essays and single interviews to evaluate potential teacher candidates. Mentoring is reported to be more informal, with teachers “just helping each other out.” Professional development activities are offered sporadically, and topics and themes do not come from teachers' needs. In the districts of the higher performers, rigorous selection and interview processes include model lessons and multiple interviews. Mentoring programs are formalized and continual, embedded in part of the expectation that teachers will continue to grow in their practice. Teachers have opportunities to grow through ongoing professional development, including study groups, committee work, and curriculum projects—i.e., they engage in work that matters in their classrooms. Professional development is clearly tied to student learning.
In the average performers, school leaders make most curricular and scheduling decisions. Collaboration occurs "catch as catch can" across grade levels because teachers often do not share free periods in which to meet. In their higher-performing counterparts, teachers actively participate in identifying problems and generating solutions in regularly held meetings. School administrators block schedules so that teachers within a grade level can consistently collaborate; other meetings provide opportunities for teachers to regularly communicate across grades.
Lockport City School District uses a rubric to evaluate teacher candidates.
Elmont Union Free School District offers professional development courses that support district goals and focus on practice-oriented topics and strategies. The Professional Development Team created courses for their staff on such topics as cognitive coaching, collaborative research projects, writer’s workshop, and many more.
Higher-performing schools schedule time for teachers to meet. For example, Gotham Avenue in Elmont blocks time for grade-level meetings in the master schedule. In Mount Vernon, Traphagen School provides time for grade-level collaboration at least bi-monthly; the principal and reading specialist organize the schedule to facilitate teacher team meetings. And at Smallwood Drive in Amherst, monthly staff meetings provide time to reflect on instruction together.