Guest post by Amber Schroering and Jim Snapp
In our post last week, we introduced you to The Brownsburg Way, the approach our district—the Brownsburg Community School Corporation (BCSC) in Central Indiana—uses to deliver consistent and high academic results year after year. We discussed how our narrow teaching and learning focus contributes to our achievement. Of course, curriculum and instructional programing aren’t the only factors. Without our stellar educators, none of our success would be possible. So how do we support our teachers so that they do their very best?
The answer to this question is twofold. First, we hire great teachers. When there is a teaching opening due to a retirement or a new position being added to support growing enrollment, we seek the very best candidate for the position whether it is a graduating college student or someone with previous experience in education. Only candidates who are committed to teaching in schools with very high performance expectations are successful in BCSC.
The second way we get the best out of our faculty is through focused professional development. Teachers new and old receive job-embedded professional development, including faculty meetings focused on instruction; professional learning communities dedicated to ensuring each student reaches his or her fullest potential; and subject-centered professional growth sessions that are linked directly to the classroom.
Most BCSC educators will share that our enduring success is due in large part to the successful utilization of professional learning communities (PLC). This time, set aside each Wednesday, allows teachers to meet in grade-level or subject-level groups to review the curriculum, discuss performance expectations, share effective instructional strategies, and most importantly, use relevant data sources to determine what needs to be done for students struggling to master the content or to enrich those who have already demonstrated mastery.
The most impressive feature of Brownsburg’s PLC process is the open dialogue between colleagues that often highlights a less effective instructional delivery method or student performance that falls short of expectations. In some schools, professionals would not open themselves up for such constructive feedback nor readily admit their failings, but that is not the case in Brownsburg.
All teachers value the feedback of their colleagues, and as a teacher new to Brownsburg, there are two important expectations. First, our new teachers are prepared to receive feedback—both positive and constructive. Many teachers initially struggle with such direct, developmental feedback, but over time, they come to highly value it as a source of improvement and support. Secondly, new teachers are equipped to provide feedback and share with colleagues. Too often, those relatively new to the profession hold back ideas and are concerned about sharing, especially at the beginning of the year. All teachers are expected to provide feedback to colleagues while asking questions in a genuine effort to improve as a professional.
We often say that our goal is to get better while helping others get better. To develop capacity, all educators in the system must focus on a few, very clear goals through a sustained effort over multiple years. Our system is specifically developed with this process in mind.
If you talk with a teacher in Brownsburg, it is likely that he or she will share that teaching in BCSC is hard work and expectations are very high for teacher performance and student learning. But our teachers will also hopefully share that the demonstrable impact they have on student learning is both professionally rewarding and a source of great pride.
The Brownsburg Way is certainly not a panacea for other districts. It takes consistent and repeated effort from many outstanding professionals to deliver our high results year after year. Our approach to hiring the best teachers and supporting them with embedded professional development contributes to our success. If you want to learn more about BCSC and The Brownsburg Way, feel free to contact us via Twitter (find our handles below) for details and assistance.
What does your school or district do to support teachers and help them do their very best?
Amber Schroering is an assistant principal at Brownsburg East Middle School and is the 2016 Indiana Assistant Principal of the Year. She presents regularly at state conferences and hosts site visits to teach others about The Brownsburg Way. Follow her on Twitter @AmberSchroering.
Jim Snapp, EdD, is superintendent of Brownsburg Community School Corporation which serves nearly 9,000 students in the growing Indianapolis suburb. He served as a teacher, assistant principal, middle school principal, K–12 curriculum director, and assistant superintendent before assuming his current position in July 2010. In 2000, he was one of 120 principals selected from across the country by former United States Secretary of Education Richard Riley to participate in the first National Principals’ Leadership Summit. Snapp currently teaches graduate courses in curriculum and principal leadership at the University of Indianapolis. Follow him on Twitter @BCSC_SnappChat.