If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes an even bigger mutual effort to raise a school. Research to Practice, a Not-for-Profit organization, reached out to several groups to form a collaborative that would do just that. This group includes McGraw-Hill Education, EPIC and, of course, JP Associates. This past September 17th, all of these partners came together to celebrate a "new start" for Buffalo School #6.
This re-start process began last year when Research to Practice was awarded a school improvement grant. The grant provides funds for the collaborative, working closely with the school to design and implement an improvement plan. Months in the making, it is called the Buffalo Re-Start Plan.
A special day full of pomp and circumstance officially kicked off the re-start effort, pehaps a premonition of the future of all these lucky students who are part of the new program. There are several goals and priorities targeting the re-start effort.
Developing a school culture where everyone believes all students are capable of achieving "The American Dream;"
Creating more awareness of special populations, including students with disabilities and ELL students;
Ensuring everyone has a voice;
Making the best use of time so that the school day is meaningful and impactful to students;
Addressing the needs of parents coming from different countries and speaking different languages;
Involving local communities and businesses and expanding partnerships.
Research to Practice is heading up the collaborative effort to re-start Public School #6. They are working closely with Principal Sharon Brown and her faculty to support the implementation of professional development. Ms. Brown will work closely with the Education Change Leader, Omar Tabb. Ms. Brown and Mr. Tabb will monitor school progress though feedback from all stakeholders and ensure open lines of communication across the school system, from educators to parents to students. Teachers will learn what the new Common Core State Standards are and how they align to the school's curricula. They will be trained to review various examples of student data to determine appropriate placement for interventions in order to meet the needs of diverse learners. Research to Practice will support the implementation of a new teacher and principal evaluation and development program as required by the new state laws. These are just a few of the crucial components of the re-start effort.
To learn more, please see the features on the key leaders of this program. While there are several individuals who have made this re-start effort possible, the features below reveal the heart of the program. It is true - it does take a village to raise a child. And it takes a lot more than a village to re-start a school. Buffalo Public School #6 is well on their way to positive growth and change, and we can't wait to share it with you as they grow.
Principal Sharon Brown
Ms. Brown, as the building leader, is integral to the Buffalo re-start effort. She will be working closely with the Educational Change Leader, Omar Tabb, and JP's President, Janie Feinberg, the Lead Collaborative Partner. They will work together to ensure student academic needs are addressed. "As a result, with clear communication and follow-through, our school should benefit tremendously, " says Ms Brown.
Already, Ms. Brown is seeing positive change. She notes the teachers and administrators are involved in side-by-side coaching, improving skill sets. Coaches are involved in grade-level and common planning meetings, offering assistance and in-services to teachers. A Summer Institute was held to teach meaningful professional development. And the Jumpstart to Success 2013 Event, hosted by Research to Practice, was a huge success and well received by the entire school.
Ms. Brown stated that effective communication among all members of the Research to Practice collaborative and her school staff is key to ensuring goals are aligned to the needs of the students and the Common Core Learning Standards. "We need to continue to refine the chain of communication so that the message delivered to the faculty and staff is one voice and consistent, thereby transferring those expectations to the teachers as it relates to impacting student achievement." She is also looking forward to a changed school culture, where her teachers will feel comfortable to invite their colleagues and administrators into their classrooms to observe.
Thus far, the re-start plan is off to a great start. Says Ms. Brown of the effort, she is looking forward to the appointment of the S.A.M. Assistant Principal, which will take over the responsibility of many managerial tasks, allowing Ms. Brown to focus on instructional improvements, which will lead to increased structured support for teachers and "ultimately, lead to increased student achievement."
JP President Janie Feinberg
Under the offices of McGraw-Hill Education, JP President Janie Feinberg could not be more excited about the involvement of JP Associates in the Buffalo re-start effort. Says Ms. Feinberg, "I feel like this is the culmination of my entire career! Everything I have learned for over 45 years in education is coming into play in this implementation: leadership, team building, intervention, school culture, scheduling an entire school from Pre K-8th grade to maximize instructional and staff collaborative time."
Says Ms. Feinberg, "Being one of the partners who is administering to the needs of an entire school is very exciting. I feel that all JP's years in so many different schools has finally given us this unique opportunity that we are now ready to address successfully and effectively. I am humbled by this opportunity to assist and support School 6 in their journey to excellence."
We are all focused on raising student achievement, Ms. Feinberg explains. In order to actually accomplish it, though, there must be effective Professional Development for teachers, teacher assistants and administrators. The first place to address in turning around Buffalo's School #6 is the school culture. "Effective leadership is pivotal to the success of this project and we have a team of educators working and coaching our administrative staff. Assessment that drives instruction needs to be embedded in the culture of School 6." Ms. Feinberg asserts that attention to the most minute details will make all the difference.
Ms. Feinberg believes the achievement gap is the ever-widening gap between the Haves and the Have Nots. "While the gap between white and black students is narrowing ever so slightly, the gap between the rich and poor has widened in recent years. I am convinced that this is the primary obstacle to our country reclaiming its greatness we once had as the premier education country. These children who are failing are our children," says Feinberg.
Ms. Feinberg has always believed all children can learn and further believes it is her company's responsibility to show teachers and leaders that all schools can improve and a failing school can be turned around. Asserts Ms. Feinberg, "It is JP's awesome responsibility to provide the effective, researched-based Professional Development that gives teachers the skills they need in order to teach all children. We must prove, which I have no doubt we can, that ALL schools can be changed into effective institutions of learning where ALL children achieve at a high level on a consistent basis."
Educaton Change Leader Omar Tabb
What exactly is the Education Change Leader? He is the "boots on the ground" leader of the turnaround project. He is charged with working closely with school leadership and partner collaboration to guide the reform project. Mr. Tabb's goals for this project are lofty. He wants to increase student achievement in both math and ELA by 5-7% points. To do this, explains Tabb, there must be a foundation that is set to ensure an environment with high expectations, the establishment of a Professional Learning Community and the creation of a healthy school environment.
Says Mr. Tabb, "Toward the end of the 2012-2013 school year, teachers were under a lot of pressure because of the new evaluation process. To prepare for this, JP's School Improvement Specialists went through some training and dialogue about learning objectives and their implementation into the instructional process. As the evaluation process began, School Improvement Specialists began to have conversations with teachers. Slowly, more and more teachers began to seek help. Before the end of the year, teachers and School Improvement Specialists were working collaboratively on the improvement of instruction school-wide. This is important because it is an integral change in past culture."
Mr. Tabb admits change is a difficult process. A failing school in a failing district is steeped with flawed organizational culture. "However," he explains, "changing a culture of failure to one of high expectations and achievement is an even more daunting task." Although a great challenge, it is a critical necessity in turning the school around.