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White Street School jumps from turnaround to the highest status

What’s the most important part of building a house? Is it the paint? The floors?

You’re right, it’s the foundation. The house needs strong systems and structures to support all of the people and activities living inside.

Teachers and leaders at White Street Elementary School in Springfield, Mass. would tell you that the same applies to instruction. After building strong structures around a teaching and learning cycle, they did something amazing. The school jumped from “underperforming” at Level 4 to Level 1, the top category in Massachusetts state accountability system. 

Laying a solid base

White Street School had been at Level 4 for four years. In the fourth year, they brought on Principal Kristen Hughes, who immediately began making changes that were successful in her previous schools. She partnered with ANet to help implement a systematic teaching and learning cycle that started with planning from standards. Their ANet coach also helped the leaders develop their own data analysis and instructional coaching skills.

A circular image with arrows to reflect a cycle. Text says Teaching and Learning Cycle in the middle and has four different steps to create the circle. The first is Plan from texts and standards, then teach, then a half step to remind you to assess, then analyze data and student work, the adapt teaching and re-assess, then a half step to reflect, and then the cycle continues with plan.

Kristen and her team approached the challenge methodically. After each teaching and learning cycle, they reflected on what went well and what could improve. Each cycle went better than the previous one as they honed their skill at each step. The T&L cycle enabled them to give teachers timely feedback on their plans and facilitate reflection conversations about their teaching.

Building up and up

Once they had strong systems in place, teachers and leaders could focus on academic priorities. According to ANet’s analysis of our highest-performing partner schools, choosing just one or two instructional priorities for the year is key to boosting learning.  

After a few cycles of practice and refinement, teachers began leading the T&L cycle work. This “distributed leadership” model brought more brainpower and creativity to the process while freeing leaders to work on other challenges. It also fostered a dynamic, respectful school culture.

White Street School made further gains—in both ELA and Math—on their 2015 summatives. They continue to partner with ANet to boost student learning. “We’re never finished,” Kristen says.

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