Principal Craig Garber sets lofty goals for his students at Brooklyn Environmental Exploration School (BEES). But his goals and dreams are bigger than his team: just eleven teachers and no assistant principal.
How did such a small team manage to improve the school’s English test scores by a whopping 4.2%—one of the largest positive percentage changes in New York City?
It didn’t happen overnight. Principal Garber spearheaded a deliberate three-year effort grounded in a vision for every teacher and student in his building to be, “happy, safe, and learning.” He coupled a strong school culture with a cohesive, tightly-aligned partnership with ANet for “robust assessments, coaching support, and guidance on data-driven instruction.”
Principal Garber and his ANet coach, Rashid Johnson, partnered with Teachers College to diagnose the school's needs and develop a strategy for standards-based, differentiated instruction. They created instructional priorities in ELA and math at the beginning of the school year.
ELA: Using complex texts effectively
Principal Garber wanted teachers to feel confident choosing texts at the appropriate grade level. He also wanted students fearlessly “attacking” texts and spending the majority of lessons reading, writing, and speaking about texts.
Rashid helped teachers identify measures of text complexity to inform their text selection. To get students to engage actively with the texts, Rashid supported BEES’ implementation of the 3 → 2 → 1 framework:
3 minutes of reflection, journaling, jotting, or silent thoughts
2 minutes of guided discussion, turn-and-talks, or table talks
1 minute of whole class share-outs, whole group closing, or popcorn share-outs
Math: Addressing the major work of the grade
A common challenge for teachers is getting through the whole curriculum. Rashid helped the BEES team plan from standards and focus on important topics within the vast Common Core standards. He introduced high-quality tasks that target different aspects of rigor. Teachers used high-level questions and discussion techniques to raise the level of academic conversations. As a result, students were emboldened to ask each other questions and have conversations about mathematical concepts.
“You can see and feel a new level of engagement in BEES' classrooms,” says Rashid. “The hard work of this small and mighty team of educators is paying off for kids and teachers. And in addition to increasing test scores, BEES shed their State Priority School status last year. We’re excited to continue the momentum with them!”