Teacher teams lead turnarounds

One great teacher can’t save a school. But teams of good teachers are turning around troubled schools in Boston, reports Education Week. Specially recruited Teacher Turnaround Teams (T3) make up a quarter of the staff at the pilot schools, where they serve as education leaders.

T3 participants must have at least three years of classroom experience, and they must complete a rigorous interview process and provide evidence of past success in improving learning. The current crop of recruits averages nine years in the classroom.

Brian Denitzio, a 6th grade English teacher at Orchard Gardens, said he was drawn to the program by the appeal of working alongside other high-performing colleagues. “I really enjoy the feeling of being surrounded by other strong teachers,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to get so much better.”

T3 teachers say they applied for leadership opportunities and the chance to be part of a strong team. They also receive a $6,000 bonus.

The T3 teachers run weekly grade-level or subject-level meetings where teachers discuss how to improve teaching.

Each of the three turnaround schools also has a special T3 coach who attends all the teams’ meetings and helps them work through roadblocks, such as when a number of students struggle on a concept or skill.

Because all the T3 teachers have had past success, “they have a vision of what it looks like when students and classes are operating at a high level,” said Lisa R. Lineweaver, who serves as the T3 coach at Blackstone. “When we haven’t seen the gains we want, how do we respond?”

The three T3 schools have made significant academic progress this year.

There are few turnaround success stories, notes Education Gadfly Weekly.

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  1. You know, some of the problems with schools is the need administrators feel to bring in outside “experts”. They really don’t trust teachers to know or figure out what is needed. For all the talk about “empowerment” of teachers, everything they do seems aimed at keeping them from exercising their professional judgement.

  2. The problem is that in urban districts, you pretty much end up with two types of people: 1) devoted missionary-types; 2) those who can’t get hired anywhere else. There is also the combination of enough clueless administrators to bork everything up and enough lousy teachers to make the rest of us look bad.

    It’s natural to look at a dysfunctional situation and assume that you need outside help; after all, if those inside knew what they were doing the situation wouldn’t be as dire. What people don’t realize, is that those who know what needs to be done often do not have the authority to do it.

    The fact that teams of teachers are able to turn these schools around has to rank among the largest “Well, duh!” moments in history.