Breakthrough for Learning
The goal of the BFL project was to improve learning outcomes for students in Brooklyn’s working-class District 19. Our undertaking included far-reaching professional development projects for two schools: one elementary and one junior high. Despite a challenging urban environment that saw a 40-50% turnover rate of principals every year, we were able to implement our “Train the trainer program” and collaborated with school principals so leadership was aligned with our change plan. The Brooklyn project accomplished breakthroughs in two areas: survey feedback on the teacher training program was overwhelmingly positive in terms of how we helped teachers become more effective; We were also recognized for demonstrating to the teaching union that their members needed better compensation for their work.
Our role in the Breakthrough for Learning project focused predominantly on Schools Under Review (SUR schools), characterized by repeatedly failing to reach achievement test standards. In addition to consulting on classroom instruction, we also provided professional development to lead teachers from each school, and worked with principals to further empower them to become effective administrators.
To help the schools under review, we needed to help staff become more effective instructors to improve their students’ performance. The best way to develop instructional capacity was by being in the school, observing their delivery, and providing ongoing direct coaching to the teachers in the schools. We also provided specialized training seminars every two weeks to lead teachers from different schools, who went on to become the instructional coaches for their respective schools. The third component of this project worked at supporting the principals in the district, particularly new principals in their early leadership years. Every quarter, we met as a group to reinforce support for the professional development initiatives and ensured our work was aligned with their management plans.
The Brooklyn project accomplished breakthroughs in two areas: survey feedback on the teacher training program was overwhelmingly positive in terms of how we helped teachers become more effective. We were also recognized for demonstrating to the district’s teaching union that their members needed better compensation for their work. Our work with lead teachers who went back to work as an instructional coach in their schools led to their receiving additional compensation. The teaching union supported this initiative, as building the capacity of their membership and developing lead teachers was consistent with their organizational plan.