Middle School

Theme - Staff Leadership, Selection, and Capacity Building

Best Practices

  • Highly qualified educators who “fit” with the district vision hired and provided opportunities for leadership and growth.
  • Teachers use strategies learned in grade-level teams, district department meetings, and other professional development opportunities.

Despite the challenges, leaders in the higher-performing schools have found the time for collaboration, using resources from within and outside the district to do so. They hire new employees based on a clear vision of the kind of learning environment they strive to create -- an environment characterized by an emphasis on acknowledging and building on whatever strengths individuals (students and educators) bring with them. Hiring teachers who show the potential to actively participate in discussions and projects on student learning and providing opportunities to share work and take on facilitator roles in committees are some of the ways district- and school-level leaders build leadership skills in teachers and promote a climate of continual improvement. These meetings, projects, and committees are centered on curriculum and instruction and offer opportunities to engage in decision making around important curriculum, instruction, and program adoption changes.

Team meeting time is built into the schedule, and team meetings focus on how to improve student learning; they emphasize successes and brainstorming solutions and draw on support from guidance counselors, parents, and special education teachers.

Teachers and administrators are encouraged to share their work in professional development workshops and attend conferences. They share what they have learned with colleagues in grade-level, team, and district department meetings, as well as professional development workshops. Teachers in the higher-performing schools report being on the “same page” when it comes to instructional strategies. They see the relationship of what they teach with other teachers within their grade and across grades. They use interdisciplinary and differentiated approaches toward the teaching of their content to meet all students’ learning needs.

Some differences between higher- and average-performing schools

In the higher-performing schools, collaboration within teams and across grade levels is expected, built into the schedule, focused on student performance, and occurs regularly, while in average-performing schools collaboration is typically inconsistent and less frequent.In higher-performing schools, time constraints are acknowledged but managed through scheduling common team meeting and department meeting times, while in average-performing schools, teachers and administrators are more likely to point to these constraints to explain why more collaboration does not occur across the district and within the schools.A team atmosphere pervades higher-performing schools. Newer teachers in higher-performing schools are mentored informally and formally and inspired by more veteran teachers to take on leadership roles, while in some average-performing schools a “wait your turn” stance is reported to inhibit teachers’ and administrators’ professional development.

Selected Evidence

In Binghamton, the district's philosophy appears as the first item on the teacher application.

In Holland, tenured teachers have many alternative evaluation options, many of which support teacher collaboration.

Niagara Falls provides an Administrative Candidacy Program for leadership and administrative positions and evaluates administrators based on collaborative, instruction-based leadership qualities.

In Queensbury, administrative candidates respond to questions that reflect the district's commitment to certain leadership qualities; interview questions for teachers seek to identify effective, highly qualified teachers who fit the goals of the district.

In Utica, professional development activities are selected collaboratively by a team of stakeholders. Their Professional Development Plan's guiding principles support the frequent use of data analysis by the faculty.

At Niagara Middle School, the Literacy Coach meets daily with teachers in small groups and individually. The principal completes student visitation logs during classroom observations to provide deeper implementation of the workshop model by teachers.

At Port Chester Middle School, the school schedule reflects daily team planning time in addition to individual teacher planning time.