Building Sustainable Networked Instructional Leadership in Elementary Mathematics Through a University Partnership with a Large Urban District

The goal of this project is to build instructional leadership capacity in teachers and school-based leaders in a network of underperforming elementary schools with limited resources. Through design-based improvement research, the project is designed to enhance the knowledge, skills, and competencies of elementary teacher leaders and principals to develop a shared vision and provide ongoing support of high-quality math instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813048
Funding Period: 
Saturday, September 1, 2018 to Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Full Description: 

Mathematics is an important discipline that provides access to students to the other STEM disciplines. Early competence with mathematics has proven to be an important predictor of later achievement in school across socioeconomic backgrounds (National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008). It is difficult for schools and districts to maintain a sustained focus on improving math instruction in the elementary years, particularly in low-income and underperforming contexts where these goals are often overshadowed by more pressing needs and issues. Instructional leadership development holds promise for increasing the ability of school-based leaders to understand and support evidence-base practices, improve the quality of instruction, and ultimately improve student achievement (Ingersoll, Sirinides, & Doherty, 2017). The goal of this project is to build instructional leadership capacity in teachers and school-based leaders in a network of underperforming elementary schools with limited resources. Through design-based improvement research, the project is designed to enhance the knowledge, skills, and competencies of elementary teacher leaders and principals to develop a shared vision and provide ongoing support of high-quality math instruction. During the first 3 years of this project, cohorts of 2-4 schools will be added each year for mentored mathematics lead teachers (MLTs) coaching development and strategic school-based leadership support. Each cohort will begin with a year of instructional leadership mentorship, where a university-based consultant with expertise in mathematics instruction works side-by-side with the MLT as they co-participate in coaching activities. The second year of participation will involve a launch phase where MLTs will have the opportunity for monthly check-ins with the mentor while working with more independence with a new set of focal teachers and continuing to participate in the network-wide professional development. By the third year of participation, schools will be expected to assume ownership of the instructional leadership and strategic planning efforts while continuing to participate in network-wide professional community. Concurrently, the project team will offer professional development to MLTs and school-based leaders across all 13 schools, building up an ongoing networked community with different levels of expertise. The multi-year design of the project allows for studying the development of a group of teachers as they transition from mentored novices to more experienced and independent instructional leaders over time.

Building on two years of prior work and relationship building, the project aims to build coherence from the district to school to classroom level, leveraging the resources of the university to help translate the district vision for instructional improvement into classroom practice. In particular, the project focuses on developing shared understanding of high quality math instruction at the network level, strategic planning for math instructional leadership at the school level, and mentorship for lead teachers to provide effective instructional coaching at the classroom level. Development goals include: building math leadership capacity within the network, developing and refining a set of tools and routines to support instructional improvement at the classroom, school, network, and district levels, and building a networked community of schools, teachers, and leaders. The overarching problem that this project seeks to address is: How can instructional leadership expertise be developed in newly appointed math lead teachers within a large urban school district? The project will collect data including coaching artifacts such as observation and debriefing forms; mentor logs; interviews with teachers, MLTs, principals, and university-based mentors; and video recordings of coaching cycles. The focus of the data analysis will be to determine coherence and evidence of growth at different levels of the system to continually improve the intervention through a variety of qualitative data analysis techniques.

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