Takeaways from teachers in turnarounds

Successful school turnarounds have
long been elusive
not downright impossible to find
. Yet a newly piloted model out of Boston
shows some promise. The Teacher Turnaround Teams (T3) program, a Teach Plus and
Boston Public Schools (BPS) joint venture, recruits and places groups of
effective, experienced teachers in select BPS buildings, infusing these
struggling schools with both a “critical mass” of accomplished teachers and a
teacher-leader cadre ready to up the abilities of their peers. At the two pilot
schools participating in the program, T3 teachers—who have been chosen through
an intense application process—make up about 25 percent of the teacher force. And
it seems to be working. Eight months into the program’s inaugural year, T3
schools are seeing marked student improvement. But that’s not all. Along with
catalyzing achievement gains, T3 offers standout teachers the chance to lead,
while remaining in the classroom—a “career ladder” if you will. T3ers run weekly
team meetings with teachers in their grades and subject matters, debriefing,
mentoring other teachers, and vetting team concerns. “It’s where the profession
needs to move,” explains elementary school teacher Callie Liebmann. Kinks
remain to be ironed out, but the concept is compelling: Recruit a cohort of
high-caliber folks, place them in leadership roles within the teaching
profession, and offer them the school-based autonomy needed to make smart
shifts. Now if someone could work through just how to scale this all up.

Teacher-Leader Corps
Help Turnaround Schools
,” by Stephen Sawchuck, Education Week, April 18, 2011.