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The power of standards: From institute to action

Recently, teachers and leaders from across the country, including twelve from Lawrence Public Schools, attended UnboundEd’s Standards Institute, a professional learning experience that our ANet coaches help to facilitate. For two Lawrence teachers in particular, it was PD that didn’t just increase their knowledge: it helped them reframe high expectations as an issue of educational equity. Third-grade teacher Jaimie Jenks and fourth-grade teacher Jodie Martin from South Lawrence East Elementary in Lawrence, Mass., took full advantage of the opportunity.

“Standards Institute helped me change my thinking about what we call the ‘achievement gap,’” says Jodie. “We need to start thinking of it as an opportunity gap instead.”

Jaimie agrees. “If we’re setting high expectations and exposing students to complex texts, we’re giving them that opportunity. The whole idea of productive struggle—that’s where the learning happens.”

Both Jaimie and Jodie are re-examining their understanding of educational equity. “So many people are afraid to talk about race and bias,” Jodie explains. “But if we don’t talk about it, we can’t figure out how to address it in our teaching. And without addressing it we can’t provide equitable instruction for our kids.”

“It’s really important to have a climate that supports all students,” Jaimie adds. “To get there, we need to start those tough conversations.”

The two teachers are eager to share their ideas with their Lawrence colleagues—and to put those new ideas into action back at their school. “We don’t want any of our kids to say they can’t do it,” says Jaimie. “We want them to know that they can. To do that, we need every student to understand that we truly believe in them.”

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