This post was written by Geoff Zimmerman, former senior director of impact and improvement at KnowledgeWorks.
In 2016 Roosevelt Early College High School in Yonkers, New York, over half of graduating seniors earned college credit while in high school, and half of those students earning credit earned 12 or more credit hours.
A large part of the school’s success is the very well executed Professional Learning Communities (PLC) model that they have put in place over the last several years. The PLC model has been successful in large part because it has changed the school’s culture. This kind of work provides a more lasting effect than other short-term, technical fixes that might be applied. Building culture is an essential element to creating the conditions for successfully scaling personalized learning.
At the heart of the PLC’s work is that it brings together common stakeholders to use data to drive decisions about instruction. The three big ideas that make their PLC’s successful are:
- Focus on learning, rather than teaching
- Work collaboratively on matters related to learning
- Focus on results rather than intention
The way the teaching day is set up at Roosevelt Early College High School is an integral component to its success as well. Each day has common planning time built into it – 44 minutes in the middle of the day. Each day of the week has a different focus and groupings for those 44 minutes. Mondays are subject area, Tuesdays are grade level, Wednesdays are interdisciplinary, Thursdays are subject area, and Fridays are grade level professional development.
During the grade level time, all adults who work with students in a particular grade level work with each other. Data are used to set and monitor broad student engagement and achievement goals and practices.
During the subject area time, teachers who teach the same subject are grouped together. Data are used to guide instructional improvement, including differentiated instruction and credit recovery.
Finally, during the interdisciplinary time, teachers from different content areas, guidance counselors, and other support staff who share the same students meet together. Data are used to identify and immediately respond to students who are off track or falling off track.
The subject of the professional development period falls on the teachers. At the beginning of each year, teachers identify topics that they are most interested in and the offerings are planned accordingly.
Roosevelt Early College High School graduation rates have been steadily increasing over the last four years. This increase can be attributed to strong leadership and the student-focused culture that is in large part driven by this intentional time in the middle of the day that is set aside to get the adults aligned and focused collectively on the students.