Successul strategies in team teaching are spurring on student progress at a school in Minneapolis, where more than half the children are still learning English.
The K-5 Pillsbury Community School’s success is attracting the attention of district officials who are under pressure and struggling to boost achievement, especially among low-income and minority students.
“My staff here is just incredible,” said Principal Laura Cavender after observing the fifth-grade classroom.
The district is reaching out to principals to see what’s working and what’s needed to accelerate student achievement in schools. Faster gains, especially with the achievement gap, were mandated for Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson last month by members of the school board, most of whom are up for re-election in a year.
When the district released disappointing academic results for last school year in November, Johnson’s No. 2, Michael Goar, said the district would pursue the eye-catching strategy of installing a second teacher in the primary-grade classrooms of a half-dozen of the most-struggling schools.
But it turns out that the district’s midyear adjustments are likely to be far more nuanced. The midyear changes depend on huddles between principals at about a dozen schools and their associate superintendent bosses.
Deciding How To Bridge The Achievement Gap
“It’s going to be so dependent on what the school identifies as their need,” said Susanne Griffin-Ziebart, the district’s academic chief. She said the district isn’t pushing a particular strategy, but trying to find what added resources principals think could make a difference.
One example might be returning to literacy coaches who could teach small groups of students directly or show teachers how to do that more effectively. That might require redeploying people from central office jobs, but also hiring some recent college grads with intense support from district specialists, she said.
“Part of our goal in doing this is to get better at what works and what doesn’t,” she said.
Team teaching at Pillsbury does seem to be working. The school shot up last spring in the state’s new multiple measurement of proficiency, student growth and achievement gap reduction, scoring especially strong in the latter. The school outperforms the district averages for math proficiency and usually matches the average for reading, despite its concentration of new English speakers.
Among such students, it outperforms the state and district for reading proficiency, and does so by a wide margin in math. It also matches the district for reading proficiency among low-income students, and beats the state as well for math proficiency among those students.