Sunday, April 5, 2015

Dillard Elementary School

One of the things that I like best about my job (I run an edtech company) is that I feel that I have a front row seat to history. I'm watching and participating in a historic review and shift of the American educational system. Long considered the best in the world, we have been trying to recreate it and it's very interesting.

Last year, I got very involved in helping Dillard, a local elementary school. Basically, it's a school with a tough challenge. With a 100% of their students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, the probability is that it should be an F school just like all the other Broward elementary schools with that demographic.

But Dillard Elementary School, led by Principal Angela Brown, is defying the odds. She's in her third year of leading the school with a determined and innovative approach. Last year, it counted as a C school and if it hadn't been for her 5th graders (who had only been with her for 2 years), she would have had an even better rating. How does she do it?

Well, it's a very interesting story.  Here's a few pictures of what her classrooms look like. Notice how different they are from conventional views of a classroom?

There's a lot more to the story of her approach.  For instance, she believes that the weekly lesson planning for the following week should start with the standards. That's right, she has each group of teachers take the time to have a close reading of the standards that they are supposed to cover the next week.  She doesn't start with curriculm and she doesn't have lead teachers explain the standards to others.

The teachers collaboratively read and try to unpack the standards breaking them into four Depths of Knowledge

She also expects her teachers, after having analyzed the standards, to come up with three new ways to teach them which are essentially kinesthetic and collaborative and which address each of the different levels of Depth of Knowledge.

Oddly, she has been there three years and her staff, who was initially very very resistant to her ideas, has become a big fan. She has had very low turnover. It's a huge school, over 800 elementary students.

As you would expect, Angela Brown won Principal of the Year for Broward County!

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