Have you ever been so passionate about a vision that you read every book, went to every conference, talked to every expert, and ended up going in a ton of different directions? This rang true for Principal Chrissie Cavaliere and her team at La Cima Elementary. The New York charter made terrific gains in ELA, but it took focus to bring La Cima’s vision to life.
Chrissie and her teachers knew they needed to improve ELA instruction—and they were hungry for change. The leaders had been working hard to bring teachers as many resources as they could. However, teachers felt like they were getting mixed messages and had a hard time facing what felt like “an initiative of the month.” And who could blame them? After all, many of them had gone through several new leadership transitions and initiatives that didn’t make any lasting impact.
Chrissie turned to ANet for support in 2012. Her coach identified that prioritization was needed to make the instructional changes they were all looking for. ANet had just completed an analysis of the schools from our 700 partners across the country that had delivered the highest gains for their students. There were a few patterns, but by far the most consistent was that all of these schools chose just one or two instructional priorities for the year. With this in mind, Chrissie and her coach worked together to select just one ELA priority—text-dependent questioning—and align systems and structures that would accelerate progress on this goal.
Fast forward three years, and the tone at La Cima is completely different. Rather than being thrown a bunch of new materials and feeling frustrated, teachers receive protocols, professional development, and collaborative planning time they can actually use and learn from. Students are responding positively and engaging deeply in class. As a result, scores have increased by nearly 20% on the ELA state summatives .
Anyone would feel overwhelmed trying to take on several new priorities at once. Once Chrissie and her leadership team focused on just one priority, they started to notice a marked difference. Teachers felt more confident and comfortable with a focused principal leading them. After all, it's a powerful thing to identify a development goal, get support in that area from your principal and peers, practice a bunch, and see yourself getting better. By leveraging ANet coaching and resources to really home in on and target key areas of instruction, La Cima dramatically boosted student learning.