Friday, February 21, 2014

SKY Partnership Teachers Share Best Practices

There were times in my teaching career when I spent countless hours creating lessons that I thought were ingenious.  The lessons that resulted in at least 90% of my students demonstrating understanding meant to me that I pretty much nailed it on teaching that particular concept. 

However, there also were times when I felt like all of my energy was exhausted teaching a lesson that left my students looking at me with that “deer in the headlights” expression on their faces.  I had to ask, “Is designing lessons by myself best for my students?”  The answer: No.  Here’s why . . .

“If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go together.” – African Proverb

8th Grade Northbrook Middle School teacher,
 Crystal Nicholas shares an example of student
work with colleagues
This quote commonly used by The SKY Partnership, motivated Hasina McKend and Abigail Parker, Teacher Liaisons for Spring Branch and YES Prep Northbrook, respectively, to organize professional development sessions that would provide both Northbrook Middle and YES Prep Northbrook teachers the chance to collaborate with colleagues of the same grade level and content area.

“We have amazing people here with great ideas.  I can’t wait to work with our YES Prep counterparts!” commented a Northbrook teacher on a survey that followed the December professional development.  Teachers have continued to voice their desires for more time to collaborate and share ideas with colleagues. 

Last week, teachers from Northbrook Middle and YES Prep Northbrook were afforded that opportunity once again.  They were grouped by subject and grade level to engage in conversations related to best practices for topics like: cause and effect, using graphic organizers for writing essays, small group management and teaching strategies for map use. “Finally, the time to talk about our content with no other distractions . . .” responded a teacher on a recent survey. 

During the same professional development session, administrators from both organizations participated in a workshop that shared strategies for effective management.  In this session lead by Dustin Peterson, Director of Leadership Development at YES PREP Public Schools, school leaders were able to engage in role-playing activities to help determine areas of strengths and challenges in their management styles.

Providing quality time to share and model best practices now, is an investment that will ultimately lead to the growth and success of all students.

Take a look at this video to see the collaboration between Northbrook Middle and YES Prep Northbrook teachers and administrators.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

CRPE Highlights The SKY Partnership

The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) held a Portfolio School District Network Meeting in Houston last month.   The meeting brought together district leaders from around the country and focused on the importance of public engagement in the school improvement process.

Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD) was featured as a public school system focused on narrowing up the educational gaps among student groups.  SBISD has set forth an aggressive goal, known as Spring Branch T-2-4, to double the number of students completing a technical certificate or military training, or a two-year or four-year degree following high school graduation.

SBISD has taken steps towards reaching this goal through an innovative partnership with two of the nation’s highest performing public charter management organizations, KIPP Houston Public Schools, and YES Prep Public Schools.  This partnership, known as SKY (Spring Branch ISD, KIPP Houston and YES Prep) provides students and their families with an additional high-quality school choice option within the district.

Mr. Davenport and Ms. Munger teach
band to Landrum Middle and KIPP Courage students 
CRPE conference attendees from across the U.S. visited Landrum Middle School, one of the SKY sites, where both KIPP Courage and Landrum Middle students, teachers and staff co-locate.  In the SKY Partnership co-location model, SBISD schools share physical space, elective classes, best practices between both organizations and sports.  (Click here to gain more insight about this district-charter collaboration as written by Sarah Yatsko, Senior Research Analyst, CRPE.)

The three-day conference offered participants breakout sessions on topics ranging from the basics of portfolio strategy to a consultancy session that helped district administrators work on solutions for specific concerns within their schools, districts or communities.  Portfolio strategy is a model in which districts manage a portfolio of schools as part of their continuous improvement efforts.

SBISD Superintendent of Schools Duncan F. Klussmann, Ed. D., Community Relations Officer Linda Buchman and SKY Partnership Project Manager Mandelé Davis were key presenters who shared their expertise around strategies for public engagement, building support for new ideas and empowering key community stakeholders.

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