Academy for Urban School Leadership Utilizes Critical Mass to Strengthen Student Achievement
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings speaks at the Business and Professional Women's Leadership Summit; The Washington Post offers Grants in the Arts; Virginia Walden-Ford releases book on school choice; the NewSchools Venture Fund releases report on performance-driven strategies; Reading Is Fundamental celebrates Reading Is Fun week; new teachers are inducted into the National Teachers' Hall of Fame; and ASCD sponsors an Outstanding Young Educator Award.
Innovations in the News
Advanced Placement classes are booming in Washington County, Maryland; plus information about arts education, charter schools, teacher quality, and teaching American history.
Academy for Urban School Leadership Utilizes Critical Mass to Strengthen Student Achievement
Ms. Mahnlaye Boayue, a former health information manager with Humana, Inc., decided to shift her focus from research conducted in a science lab to a new type of laboratory: a school managed by a program that offers alternative routes to teacher certification. After earning a degree from a college of biomedical and health information sciences and working in the health field, Ms. Boayue entered the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) to become a teacher in a Chicago public school. As part of her teacher training, she worked toward fighting low student performance, while academically strengthening students as they sought to realize their dreams.
The nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership attracts mid-career professionals such as Ms. Boayue and recent college graduates with diverse backgrounds and experiences to its teacher preparation program. Fifty-four percent of AUSL participants enter the program after a stint in the professional workforce, while 46 percent enter directly after receiving their college degrees. Most of the AUSL "Residents," as they are called, enter with a long-term commitment to education in mind. Many have been called to education as tutors, teachers' aides, substitute teachers, social workers, mentors, or education volunteers for summer youth programs or nonprofit organizations.
Chicago civic, education, and business leaders founded AUSL in January 2001 with the purpose of infusing the city's public schools with new teaching talent. One aspect of the program that sets it apart from other teacher training programs is its focus on "critical mass" in a school in order to provide concentrated education reform, with the goal of enhancing student academic achievement. In other words, a large number of AUSL graduates needs to teach in the same school in order to have a lasting impact on the school culture and the students' academic achievement. Chicago Public Schools, therefore, has contracted with AUSL to completely manage and conduct teacher preparation programs in three schools: the Chicago Academy, the Dodge Renaissance Academy, and the Chicago Academy High School.
The Chicago Academy opened in 2001 and currently serves 562 pre-kindergarten to eighth grade students, and the Dodge Renaissance Academy opened in 2003 and serves 392 pre-kindergarten to eighth grade students. The Chicago Academy High School welcomed its first freshman class of 122 students this academic year and will add one grade level for the next three years, increasing enrollment to 500 students. All three schools operate independent of the city's public school system.
Each AUSL training classroom contains three instructors: one Mentor Teacher and two AUSL Residents. AUSL Mentor Teachers advise Residents and help them build a repertoire of core teaching practices in a co-teaching environment, with the goal of having a positive impact on student achievement. AUSL and the schools it serves are optimistic that positive test scores will grow as students receive instruction from Mentor Teachers and teacher candidates. In 2004, 77.3 percent of students at the Chicago Academy met national standards in reading, and 81.9 percent met those standards in math.
The program's mantra is "attract, train, retain." As an incentive, AUSL offers its Residents a $30,000 living stipend, health benefits, a reduced-tuition Master of Arts in Teaching degree from National-Louis University (NLU), and the opportunity to earn Illinois teaching certification at the elementary or secondary level. AUSL uses a variety of recruitment strategies by reaching out to national and community organizations, sending representatives to colleges and universities, and placing special emphasis on the recruitment of men, who are not typically drawn to education programs.
As part of the application process, candidates must complete an interview with a panel of four AUSL staff, including two who have over twenty years' experience each as principals. In addition, candidates must write essays, teach a model lesson to panelists, and write an impromptu reflection on the lesson. All finalists take the Haberman Star Teacher On-Line Pre-Screener, a tool developed by the Haberman Educational Foundation (see Innovator, February 23, 2004) to identify those candidates who are more likely to become leaders and who will take ownership of practices implemented in their urban classrooms.
Once Residents commit to AUSL, their rigorous 12-month training begins. During the summer, they spend two months in intensive coursework through National-Louis University that provides them with theory and research across six areas: (1) Foundations of Education, (2) Knowledge of Students, (3) Methods of Teaching, (4) Teacher Leadership, (5) Power of Data, and (6) Technology. In addition, they participate in several AUSL workshops that address such topics as diversity, culturally competent teaching, written and oral communication, and cognitive coaching.
Once the public schools open in September, Residents spend the academic year in classrooms working alongside experienced Mentor Teachers who have demonstrated their effectiveness in urban settings. After school, Residents divide their time between structured reflection sessions with their Mentors and classes with NLU faculty. Under the tutelage of their Mentors, Residents learn how to create and sustain a positive learning environment and differentiate instruction for various types of learners. As part of the NLU coursework, Residents complete classroom projects that help them apply theory and research to their work with children. Student study team meetings and teacher learning team meetings are also part of the Residents' daily schedule.
As part of its goal to retain teachers in the school system, all Residents must commit to a five-year placement in low-performing Chicago public schools after they graduate. AUSL works with principals who want to maximize the potential of new, passionate teachers in their schools. These principals hire AUSL graduates in teams and sustain an ongoing partnership with the program, which includes quarterly professional development seminars and on-site consultation with AUSL field coaches. NLU faculty members maintain contact with graduates through a liaison who facilitates the communication process. AUSL has a 97 percent retention rate of teachers in the field.
Residents are evaluated several times during the year using a competency appraisal developed collaboratively by NLU faculty and AUSL staff. This rubric assesses the Residents' professional practice based on standards developed by the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), the Illinois State Board of Education, and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). The combination of NLU coursework, AUSL workshops, and practice with Mentor Teachers builds a strong pedagogical foundation for Residents, prepares them to meet AUSL's challenging standards, and readies them for Chicago public school classrooms.
To help measure AUSL's success, the program is working with the Chicago Public Schools' Office of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability to examine test scores of children taught by AUSL graduates, as compared to scores from non-AUSL teachers. AUSL also received a grant from the Spencer Foundation to contract with Brown University and the University of Memphis Center for Research and Education Policy. Both universities will perform the first comprehensive evaluation of AUSL and its impact on student achievement. AUSL receives funding from the Office of Innovation and Improvement's Transition to Teaching program and the Fund for the Improvement of Education program.
- Academy for Urban School Leadership
- Transition to Teaching Program
- Fund for the Improvement of Education Program
From the U.S. Department of Education
Secretary Spellings spoke at the Business and Professional Women's Leadership Summit, celebrating women's roles in government and business as well as the 85th anniversary of women's right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. Secretary Spellings hailed the recent developments for an American university in Afghanistan that will help to educate young girls. She also hailed the efforts to make equal education a reality for all children in the U.S. through the No Child Left Behind Act. (May 17)
Awards under the Washington Post's "Grants in the Arts" program have been announced. This program provides educators in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia with funds for art education activities to enhance existing curricula, expose students to visual and performing arts, and encourage students to think critically and be creative. (May 15)
Virginia Walden-Ford, director of D.C. Parents for Choice, will release Voices, Choices, and Second Chances: How to Win the Battle to Bring Opportunity Scholarships to Your State, on May 26 at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC. The book highlights successful efforts to provide education options for low-income families and the federal D.C. Choice Incentive Act, which is administered by OII. (May 23)
Closing the Achievement Gap
A new study PDF (566KB), of 28 urban districts targeted as leaders in "performance-driven practices," which are designed to focus school districts on student achievement, shows that no blanket model works for all schools and all students. The report was prepared for the NewSchools Venture Fund and examines promising practices, as well as barriers to implementation. (May 23)
For Reading Is Fun Week (May 15-21), Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) partnered with the National Cartoonists' Society, and over 30 syndicated and regional artists promoted reading in their comic strips. RIF also announced the 2005 Community Reading Challenge and Volunteers of the Year awards. (May 18)
Five teachers have been inducted into the National Teachers' Hall of Fame. Two of them teach at schools of choice. Randy Granger is head of Visual Arts at the private William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, the oldest Quaker school in the world, which was established by William Penn in 1689. John Mahoney teaches high school math at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, an alternative "International Baccalaureate World School" in Washington, DC.
These two schools also have received recognition in other ways. Sarah Caleb, a sophomore at William Penn is one of five winners of the Seventh Annual Young Composers Project—a collaboration of the Philadelphia Classical Symphony and the Partners in Distance Learning Classroom Arts Project. Banneker was listed in Newsweek among the 100 best high schools in the country, based on the number of Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at a school, divided by the number of seniors taking AP courses. (May 23)
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Outstanding Young Educator Award honors an education professional 40 years of age or younger who continuously demonstrates leadership among colleagues and whose exemplary teaching practices have a significant impact on student achievement over time. Two finalists for the award will be announced this month. Fall nominations close on October 15, 2005. (May 23)
Innovations in the News
In Washington County (MD), principals and guidance counselors are seeking struggling students and moving them into more rigorous courses. Ten years ago, South Hagerstown High School nearly lost its Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry course because so few students enrolled. Now that class is full, along with the 17 other AP classes the school offers. Last year 93 percent of the twelfth graders at South Hagerstown High graduated when, in 2000, just 74 percent received diplomas. [More-The Baltimore Sun] (May 16)
When Irene Sullivan, director of Advanced Placement programs for the Covington (KY) school district, wrote an application for an AP grant for Holmes High School, she didn't hold back on the grim facts. Holmes ranked 226th out of 229 Kentucky schools on state assessment tests in 2002 through 2004. Despite this ranking, the school's AP program has been growing. More students have begun to enroll in AP U.S. History, English Literature, and Economics. Moreover, while in 2002 the pass rate on the AP tests was 5.4 percent, it rose to 21.7 percent last year. This month the College Board awarded Holmes a $32,000 AP Start Up grant to add an AP course in English Language Skills. [More-The Sunday Challenger] (May 18)
Superintendent of Washington, D.C. Public Schools Clifford B. Janey has called for $13.1 million to hire more art and music teachers, buy supplies and equipment, and include the arts in the elementary and middle school curricula. Out of the district's 167 schools, 44 have no art teachers, and 49 have no music teachers. Mr. Janey is centering his plan around the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, the system's college-preparatory arts magnet high school. [More-Education Week] (May 18)
When they enter the New Haven charter middle school, Amistad Academy, the 275 students and their parents sign contracts pledging to uphold Amistad's strict standards on dress, homework, attendance, and values such as tolerance and respect. Amistad is one of the highest performing middle schools in Connecticut, with 81 percent of eighth graders achieving mastery in reading on the 2003 state test, compared with 67 percent statewide. [More-The Washington Post] (May 14)
Teacher Quality and Development
Teach for America (TFA) teachers are filling many persistently empty teaching slots in St. Louis Public Schools (MO). The nonprofit added St. Louis to its list of recruiting sites three years ago and has since placed nearly 100 teachers in St. Louis public and charter schools. TFA plans to expand the St. Louis corps next year by adding 55 to 60 teachers to the local school system. [More-St. Louis Post-Dispatch] (May 13)
Teaching American History
Twenty-five teachers took advantage of a Teaching American History grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement to the Northern Humboldt Union High School District (CA). These teachers recently received master's degrees from Humboldt State University. The elementary through high school level teachers participated in a three-year program where they took summer history field trips, made presentations at conferences, produced lesson plans, and analyzed primary source documents. Another 30 teachers will receive their master's degrees from Humboldt next May. [More-Times-Standard] (May 17)
Last Modified: 08/13/2009