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  • Sara Needleman

Learning from our JumpRope Users: A Case Study of Capital City Public Charter School (CCPCS)

With so many schools focused on the shift to a standards-based practice and all that that shift entails, it only makes sense to look at success stories as they unfold and highlight why they are success stories. This careful examination allows us to do two things: First, it reveals practices we can share with all of you, right here at our blog. One school's great idea could shape your next goal. Second, the conception and implementation of ideas that actually work help shape our own thinking as we craft JumpRope professional development. When we see our own users moving their classroom practice, crafting mindful school policy, and leading thought-changing conversations in their communities, we pay attention. Last week Abner wrote that one of our goals is to become a "true partner in your school and district improvement efforts." Celebrating your success stories and synthesizing your collective work so that we can share it with others is central to that partnership.

One of our gold star partner schools is Capital City Public Charter School (CCPCS) in Washington, D.C. When I spoke with Pat Coyle, the instructional coach at the 9-12 level of this K-12 school, I knew his story would lead to two posts. Stay tuned for a future one on the actual changes the school has made and read on for the process that the team at CCPCS underwent to shift to a standards-based practice.

My conversation with Pat confirmed for me the common notion that change requires thoughtful and steady leadership. CCPCS is a success story because its faculty has worked hard to bring about change and because it has a leadership team that saw how to guide that change. Without knowing it, the leadership at CCPCS applied Thomas Gusky's model for effective professional development. Featured in this month's issue of Educational Leadership, Guskey writes that, like good classroom instruction, good professional development should plan backward from desired student outcomes. The model urges us to consider, in this order:

  • Student learning outcomes

  • New practices to be implemented

  • Needed organizational support

  • Desired educator knowledge and skills

  • Optimal professional learning activities

The CCPCS teachers identified that their learning outcome was to provide more consistent and regular feedback to students. Through weekly meetings, the instructional leadership team identified from Ken O'Connor's work five of his 15 Fixes for Broken Grades and focused on them. These were their new practices:

  • Don't include student behavior (work completion, etc.) in grades

  • Don't reduce grades for lateness; provide support for the learner

  • Move away from using the mean, in favor of another indicator for determining grades

  • Don't measure students against one another but against performance on standards

  • Don't include zeros in grade calculations when in fact evidence is simply missing

The organizational support was provided through weekly protocol-facilitated discussions among teachers in small self-selected groups. Each week saw a new "fix" as the discussion topic, and each group was charged with the task of generating ideas to address it. Through gallery walks, jigsaw discussions, and re-consideration of concerns, they were able to land on faculty-supported collaborative plans for change.

In order to build the desired knowledge and skills in support of these changes, the faculty read Mindset by Carol Dweck. Her work discusses a growth mindset and encourages us to look at learning as a place of growing, rather than something that can be pre-determined by IQ. They continued to have regular discussions where disagreement was OK but where adopting the five fixes they had identified was a non-negotiable. Pat tells me that all staff signed off on the new policy for this year. And as they implemented it, JumpRope held them to those changes in practice, allowing them to reach the student learning outcome of more consistent and regular feedback.

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