Your Highest Potential: We’ll Take You There!
Developing each teacher’s fullest potential is at the heart of our culture. We are continually learning and developing, and we push ourselves to improve all the time. We plan together, observe each other’s lessons, share ideas, and talk all the time about teaching. Our leaders are serious about doing everything possible to support the growth of our teachers. And the intellectual energy is palpable!
Our vision of professional development is inspired by the Japanese concept of kounaikenshuu: when teachers meet at regular intervals to collaboratively plan lessons, analyze outcomes, and refine teaching strategies to continuously improve student learning.
In The Teaching Gap, Stigler & Hiebert write, “Japan has given teachers themselves primary responsibility for the improvement of classroom practice. Run by teachers, kounaikenshuu is the design, implementation, testing, and improvement of lessons – the continuous process of school-based professional development that Japanese teachers engage in once they begin their teaching careers.”
Another form of kounaikenshuu that we practice is the Japanese practice of lesson study – the meticulous design, testing, observing and analyzing of one lesson over the course of several months. For every lesson, teachers work together on a voluntary basis to analyze how the lesson can be improved, always with an eye towards increasing educational achievement. Through this rich practice, communities of teachers enhance their practice by thinking deeply together about teaching and learning.
Teachers Collaborating in Teams:
Teamwork is central to our culture. Teachers work together in small teams both by grade-level and by department. In grade-level teams, teachers solve problems, generate ideas, and talk about character development, home life, behavior challenges, and helping students with personal issues.
Intensive Summer Institute:
Our annual five week Summer Institute gives teachers an opportunity for meaningful reflection on the previous year, development of lesson plans for individual courses, refinement of assessments, and collaboration with colleagues. It also allows new faculty to receive mentoring and training.
Academic Directors at each school provide teachers with individual or small group instructional coaching and feedback, co-planning, and ongoing guidance to ensure continual improvement. In addition, teachers get together with Academic Directors to collaborate by department on lesson planning and reflect on effective instructional strategies.
Data-driven Instructional Planning Sessions (DIPs):
At our DIP sessions, teachers meet at regular intervals with each other and with Academic Directors to review student work and analyze assessment data. Data analysis is used to improve instruction, determine tutoring groups, and inform any adjustments that may be needed to the scope and sequence. The result is profound and continual improvement in teaching and learning.
Excellent School Visits:
The most accomplished professionals in any field are inherently avid learners, always excited to incorporate great ideas into their own repertoire. We provide teachers with days off to observe a wide variety of educators at other schools. Teachers select the charter, public or private schools that they wish to observe.
Our teachers meet twice a year – in the summer and winter – for academic retreats. Faculty from all our schools collaborate in a thoughtful and meaningful way, share best practices, and ensure curricular coherence. And by the way, what happens on retreat stays on retreat!
Peer Observation and Feedback:
We embrace a culture of feedback as a means to improve instruction. Teachers regularly observe each other within the school and consult with one another regarding strategies that are contributing to student achievement.
Professional Growth Opportunities:
The vast majority of our leadership positions are filled from within. We believe in promoting teachers who exemplify our values and excel at improving student achievement. At the same time, the most revered individual in our community is the classroom teacher, and we do everything possible to support, respect and honor those who make teaching a lifelong career.
Workout is a concept originally pioneered by Jack Welch that takes our faculty meetings to a higher level. Workouts are collaborative sessions in which faculty identify school-wide problems and tap into our collective wisdom to develop solutions. We work as a team to continually improve our schools. To keep the meeting focused, administrative announcements are not allowed during workout.
Teachers as Professionals:
We are passionate about treating teachers as scholars and professionals and creating a rich intellectual life for faculty. The school provides teachers with a professional working environment, including office space, computers, modern photocopy equipment, voicemail, and a faculty library.
Our culture emphasizes love, respect and appreciation for teachers. We develop traditions to reflect the esteemed place that teachers hold at all of our schools.