OneThing44: Team Capacity means what?

Building Instructional Team Capacity is about Skill and Knowledge

Two key stocks build up an Instructional Team's capacity to instruct young people:  acquired pedagogical skills and a knowledge of teenagers.  These are two quite different things.  One can love and understand teenagers but be an ineffective teacher; conversely, one can have the all pedagogical strategies, but with little understanding or empathy for children, very little learning will occur.

Two key stocks build up an Instructional Team’s capacity to instruct young people: acquired pedagogical skills and a knowledge of teenagers. These are two quite different things. One can love and understand teenagers but be an ineffective teacher; conversely, one can have the all pedagogical strategies, but with little understanding or empathy for children, not much learning will occur.

As I think about my School Change Model and build its components, more elements open up to detail.  Admittedly, what is here is but an 80,000 foot view of only one component of school change: how teachers respond to gaps in student learning and improve their craft.  My thinking in these areas flows out of 25 years in classroom instruction and 12 years as an administrator (there’s a six-year overlap in there!) . . . and I am still learning!

The focus on the School Change Model this week has been on the critical stocks that constitute Team Capacity:  Pedagogical Skill and Knowledge of Teens.  

Considerable research in the last 15-20 years (Joyce, Marzano, Lemov, Danielson) and even more so in the last five years (ASCD, Gates Foundation MET) have resulted in clearly effective High-Impact Instructional Strategies that sustain ordered and respectful classrooms where teachers engage students in learning.  Researchers throughout the world  have verified the efficacy of various strategies and tools.  And teachers can (and should) learn these strategies to improve their capacity.

Likewise, what we know about teenagers has grown in the last decade in a few key areas:  cognitive science provides insight in not only brain development but also brain function –  how people learn, how and why people forget things, what happens neurally when children learn (Bjork, Coyle, Dweck).  In addition, cultural competence (West, Singleton, Gay, Payne)  is a critical set of conscious awareness and strategies that help teachers (everyone, really) build empathy for the students entrusted to their care.

Students at De La Salle North Catholic High School, Portland, Oregon

A few of the resilient, beautiful, aspiring students at De La Salle North Catholic High School, Portland, Oregon

At De La Salle North Catholic High School in Portland, the staff is about 80% white whereas nearly 80% of students are ethnic minorities, life experiences that generate quite different world views and aspirations.  As Cornel West’s famous book asserts, race does matter.

I am trying to map a system of change:  what are the key stocks within our bounded system, and how can we leverage them to improve student learning?  Maybe you can help me think this through.

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OneThing41: a model for school reform

Creating a community where everyone learns

De La Salle North Catholic High School in Portland, Oregon, was the first school in the United States to replicate the Cristo Rey model (see Cristo Rey Network) where every student works five days a month in a corporate setting while simultaneously completing a rigorous college preparatory curriculum.

I have been principal at De La Salle North Catholic High School in North Portland for three years. It’s quite a school with an extraordinary staff who work tirelessly and effectively to provide a college-ready curriculum for a diverse, urban community of students, two-thirds of whom qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program.  Over 95% of our graduates go on to college and graduate at rates three times those of the national average for similar SES students.

But there’s no resting on these data.  Our students arrive as timid 9th Graders with reading and math skills one and a half to two years below the norm. In short, our instruction must be so direct and yet also compassionate that our students advance six years while attending but four.  There is so much for us to learn.

Building the model

School Reform 1.1Over the next several weeks, I will construct my model for how we learn.  Just so you know, it’s not yet complete; but I have enough ideas and sufficient disregard for being right the first time that I am ready “to make my ideas explicit,” as Barry Richmond would put it.

So, what are the key stocks in the system? I believe they are STUDENT LEARNING and TEACHER CAPACITY. In this model,  all staff and all students are learners . . . the experienced learners teach the young learners. We live in a world saturated with information and distraction, and where opportunity is limited.  A school, therefore, should be a place where young people learn the requisite skills of discrete retention and professional competence.

I’m curious to see how the model evolves.  I hope you are, too.