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Archive for October, 2012

The Power of Collaboration

Teams ought to take time to read Peg Tyre’s article, “The Writing Revolution” in the October 2012 Atlantic Magazine (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/10/the-writing-revolution/309090/2/). She focuses on the journey of a high school that seemed destined for closure, yet found its way to success.  Although the article is about an entire school, the lessons learned could certainly be applied to a middle grades team.

Here’s the story in bullets:

  • New Dorp High School was one of the 2,000 lowest performing high schools in the country.
  • Led by a determined principal, the staff identified poor writing as one of the reasons students were doing so poorly.
  • The staff was reluctant to look at their own practice.  The answer, they thought, was that the students were just lazy.
  • With the help of a persistent consultant-coach the staff dug deeper into what was holding students back.
  • They learned students couldn’t put together sophisticated sentences or coherent paragraphs.
  • Teachers began to reflect on their own practice.
  • Writing skills began to be emphasized in every class. Here is an example of how writing skills were approached: “By fall 2009, nearly every instructional hour except for math class was dedicated to teaching essay writing along with a particular subject. So in chemistry class in the winter of 2010, Monica DiBella’s {student} lesson on the properties of hydrogen and oxygen was followed by a worksheet that required her to describe the elements with subordinating clauses—for instance, she had to begin one sentence with the word although.”
  • Achievement and graduation rates have climbed.

This article details what happens when a staff focused on a common goal, collaborates.  They also were willing, eventually, to explore and change their own teaching practices. The result–students with a long history of mediocre skills and motivation began to perform at much higher levels proving they were neither dumb nor lazy.

Certainly a team could use some of the strategies described in this article as a starting point for addressing writing across the curriculum.  The bigger lesson, however,  is that when educators work together in a reflective manner toward a common goal, good things happen for kids.

For ideas on specific ways teams can collaborate to improve learning, check out Teaming Rocks! Collaborate in Powerful Ways to Ensure Student Success.

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