(Wenger, 1998). They can repurpose
time traditionally set aside for faculty
meetings, reorganize the schedule to
accommodate common planning
time, bank time for professional
development, or locate funds for
ongoing release time.
At Dayton’s Bluff Elementary, grade-level teams of teachers use release
time to review classroom-based
assessment data, discuss instructional
strategies, and plan for each upcoming six-week period. As
teachers discuss individual students’ performance and
specific teaching strategies, the school’s literacy coach and a
district-level instructional coach look on and take part. By
participating in collaborative planning sessions, coaches are
better able to provide just-in-time support.
Leaders in the Lapwai School District use professional
learning time to focus on developing assessment literacy and
common classroom-based assessments. At Granger High, the
initiation of student-led conferences not only improved
students’ understanding of their own learning, but also
significantly improved parents’ attendance rates at their
Does our instructional framework guide curriculum,
teaching, assessment, and the learning climate?
Leaders in the schools we studied credit much of their
success to a high level of instructional program coherence.
Several of the schools began their improvement efforts by
adopting a comprehensive school reform model. For
example, P.S./M.S. 124 selected Core Knowledge, whose
framework emphasizes building students’ knowledge base in
world history, geography, civics, literature, science, art, and
Schools customized the reform models to better fit their
needs. Finding the content to be “too Eurocentric,” teachers
at P.S./M.S. 124 have added content relating to Africa, Latin
America, and Asia. In addition, they have incorporated
knowledge about the various ethnicities and cultures represented in their student body.
Do we have common assessments, and
do we embrace assessment literacy?
High-performing/high-poverty schools establish clear learning
targets and engage their students in activities that help them
acquire assessment literacy. These activities include selecting
individual learning benchmarks, compiling portfolios, making
public presentations of work, completing reflective revisions,
and participating in student-led conferences.
Are all students proficient in reading?
Second only to safety, ensuring that all students develop
literacy skills became a priority in most of the schools we
studied. Designing a comprehensive approach to reading
improvement may entail conducting an analysis of students’
unique needs (for example, those of English language
learners); developing an understanding of the influence of
poverty on reading achievement (Neuman, 2008); and examining the research base, especially concerning adolescent
literacy (see Slavin, Cheung, Groff, & Lake, 2008).
All teachers at Port Chester Middle School consider themselves to be English language arts teachers. To sell this idea,
school leaders began by helping teachers understand that
students’ inability to read proficiently was a significant
barrier to learning the content the teachers were attempting
to teach. Now all teachers teach 24 bundled key reading and
Do we provide targeted interventions?
The schools we studied use data to identify students who
need before-, during-, and after-school small-group and individual tutoring; self-paced interventions using technology;
one-on-one academic advising and coaching; homework
support; or additional assessment time.
Taft Elementary in Idaho focuses on developing literacy skills early.
The school offers full-day kindergarten and keeps class sizes
small. In addition to the district-adopted reading program,
Taft assesses the proficiency of all students and, if necessary,
assigns students to one of three different reading interventions
that provide different approaches to literacy learning.