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Teachers as Partners in School Improvement

Teams of educators and school administrators from Boston, Lawrence, and Lynn recently attended the American Federation of Teachers’ Center for School Improvement Leadership Institute, a three-day conference in New York City focused on strengthening collaboration skills with district and school improvement teams to improve student achievement.

Boston 2019 CSI Team
“We were delighted to offer this opportunity to school improvement teams from three school districts that are already doing amazing collaborative work in their local schools,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “When educators and management work together to improve our schools, we can do so much for our students. We look forward to even more positive collaboration in the future thanks to the lessons teams learned at this conference.”

“School improvement teams are a critical way for teachers, administrators, and district personnel to work collaboratively on what matters the most-helping our students succeed,” said Lawrence Teachers Union Executive Board Member Kimberly Barry. “The Center for School Improvement Leadership Institute provided an amazing opportunity for our teams to strengthen our professional relationships, learn strategies we can bring back to the classroom, and develop shared decision-making processes that will allow us to work more closely together in the future.”

The Center for School Improvement Leadership Institute is the AFT’s premier professional development and technical assistance opportunity. Attendees of the conference from Massachusetts included educators, principals and other school administrators, district officials, and union staff.

“The professional development and team building that we experienced thoughout the three days are going to greatly influence and drive our school improvement planning. The time we spent together strengthened relationships and improved our team’s common vision of where we would like to see Lynn Classical in the future,” said Amy Dunn, Principal of Lynn Classical High School. “I have already witnessed team members incorporating strategies that they learned on their first day back, and many of the members came in to debrief with me as they are excited to share what we have learned with the rest of the staff.”

“The Center for School Improvement Leadership Institute was an important deep dive into effective collaboration and our ongoing work together here in LPS, including ways we can continue to improve and what other opportunities there might be to bring more stakeholders into the process,” said Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Cynthia Paris.

"The Leadership Institute allows time for teachers and administrators to reflect and discuss their school’s areas of strength and weakness, said Sheila O’Neil, President of the Lynn Teachers Union.  ‘The collaborative process brings the team together to plan for transformative change in their schools.” 

Interactive sessions at the conference presented practical strategies that school improvement teams can use directly in the work of improving schools for students. Each session ended with team meetings guided by focused questions to help teams reflect and respond on how they will bring what they have learned back to their colleagues. Sessions covered topics including:

  • Capacity-building toward strong and effective labor-management-community teams through the integration of key components such as team building, communications and data-informed decision-making;
  • How to develop shared values and shared decision-making that will lead to long-term systems change at school or district level;
  • Capacity-building on restorative and trauma-informed practices; and
  • How to harness the power of youth activism and voice to create change in the community and the classroom.

"When teachers, school-based administrators, district, and union staff work together in a collaborative spirit designing school improvement plans, much is possible,” said Betsy Drinan, Secretary-Treasurer of the Boston Teachers Union. “Central to the success of our efforts is the follow through when we get back to our schools, but the training provided by AFT and their Center for School Improvement was excellent.”

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