Wednesday, December 12, 2012

School improvement strategy designed by teachers shows promise

Students in lowest-performing Boston schools are closing the achievement gap compared to their peers in the district and statewide

Data from the 2012 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) shows that students in Boston’s T3 Initiative partner schools are making extraordinary gains in English language arts and math.

Teach Plus’ T3: Turnaround Teacher Team Initiative partners with Boston Public Schools that are among the lowest-performing in the state. But a new report by Teach Plus shows that students in these schools are now catching up with their peers in all other Boston Public Schools and Massachusetts turnaround schools. In some cases, they’re even out-performing their peers.

The T3 Initiative is teacher-designed and led. In Spring 2009, Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows in Boston—public and charter school teachers—proposed a strategy for ensuring that the highest-need students had better access to excellent teachers. Their model sought to place cohorts of highly effective, experienced teachers in chronically under-performing schools. These teachers would receive intensive support and additional compensation to serve as Teacher Leaders, leading teams of colleagues to improve teaching and learning school-wide.

The program launched as a partnership between Teach Plus and Boston Public Schools in 2010, piloting in Blackstone Elementary (in Boston's South End), Trotter Elementary (Dorchester), and Orchard Gardens K-8 (Roxbury). The following year, the program expanded to Roger Clap Innovation School (Dorchester), Dearborn Middle School (Roxbury) and UP Academy (South Boston).

Students in the first six T3 partner schools have closed or narrowed the achievement gap in English language arts and math, compared to their peers in all other Boston Public Schools and Massachusetts turnaround schools. While students in the comparison groups have performed at consistent levels in English language arts and math over the past two years, students in T3 partner schools are on steady upward trajectories toward success.

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol R. Johnson says, “If we’re going to make lasting positive change in our schools, we need to look to teachers to lead that change. We’re proud to be part of a partnership that puts teachers in vital leadership roles, and we’re thrilled with the progress these schools are making.”

Teach Plus founder and CEO Celine Coggins agrees, saying, "T3 is an extraordinary example of the powerful role teachers can play in turning around schools that have failed students for years in the past. We applaud the teachers, students and administrators in all six schools for the hard work it took to see such outstanding growth."

Highlights from the report include:

• Across grades 3-8, student achievement in both English language arts and math has grown faster in T3 partner schools than in other turnaround schools in the state. In the first cohort of T3 partner schools, the percent of students earning advanced or proficient status has increased by 12.8 percentage points in English language arts and 16.5 percentage points in math—compared to 3.1 points in ELA and 4.3 points in math for students in Massachusetts turnaround schools.

• All six T3 schools began far behind Boston Public Schools in terms of the percentage of students in grades 3 to 8 achieving advanced and proficient status on the MCAS in ELA and math. In ELA, the first cohort of T3 partner schools cut that achievement gap in half, from 25.3 percentage points to 11.3 percentage points. In math, the first cohort of T3 partner schools cut the gap down from 19.4 percentage points to just 2.6 percentage points—nearly eliminating it. The second cohort of T3 schools is now exceeding district achievement in math and ELA.

• All six T3 partner schools from the first two cohorts are now placing a greater percentage of students in the MCAS advanced and proficient categories for math than they were before partnering with T3. Five out of six partner schools in the first two cohorts are currently doing so for English language arts.

In the 2012-2013 school year, the T3 Initiative expanded to three additional Boston Public Schools, two Fall River Public Schools (Fall River, MA) and three schools in Achievement School District (Memphis, TN).

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