In the winter of 2013, SchoolWorks partnered with Vital Source Media to create a series of videos illustrating Common Core-aligned instructional strategies and leadership activities for the EngageNY website. While the short term objective of the work was the production of videos, the long-term goal is to impact the practice of teachers and leaders across the state of New York and, because of the open nature of the EngageNY website, the practice of teachers and leaders across the country, as well. By providing examples for teachers of what Common Core-aligned instruction can look like in action, and by anchoring these examples in real teachers’ classrooms, SchoolWorks hopes to support all teachers in making the transition to Common Core. The teachers whose classrooms were filmed for this project represented a range of experience and expertise, proving that one does not have to be a superstar to incorporate these teaching techniques and to adjust to the new expectations of the Common Core. In fact, we set out to explicitly prove that all teachers, regardless of tenure or evaluation ratings, could demonstrate progress toward effectively making the instructional shifts required by the Common Core when provided with coaching and support to enable such a transition.
The project began by identifying over 100 districts who had adopted leadership and instructional practices in line with the new state expectations, and who were open to the idea of being coached to refine these practices for video. From there, SchoolWorks worked to ensure that the districts represented the geographic and demographic diversity of the state of New York, ultimately identifying a mix of 21 urban, suburban, and rural districts from across the state. In each district, the work began with an initial call with district and school leadership to identify potential practices and interested teachers, followed by a scouting visit to allow SchoolWorks coaches the opportunity to see leadership and instruction in action. Using the insights gleaned from on-site scouting, coaches selected a set of teachers and then identified a target, Common Core-aligned practice to support and expand upon for video, working closely with teachers and leaders via phone, webchat, and email to craft a plan that could highlight this practice in a brief clip.
Over the course of the project, SchoolWorks engaged 15 coaches to support over 120 teachers and leaders, resulting in the creation of 687 video clips for the New York State Department of Education. 53 of these clips illustrated English/Language Arts instructional shifts, 47 of the clips illustrated Math instructional shifts, 12 of the clips illustrated Common Core shifts in other content areas (such as PE, Art, and Library), 488 of the clips illustrated general teaching practices aligned to the Danielson rubric, 33 of the clips illustrated data driven instruction and teacher collaboration, and 54 of the clips illustrated leadership practices aligned to New York state’s standards for administrators. Altogether, these clips totaled 2593 minutes of video that, when posted to EngageNY, can be used to model the types of instructional and leadership practices demanded by the newest generation of standards and assessments.
While we cannot yet formally measure the impact of this work on the instruction being delivered in classrooms across New York, or on the achievement of students in these classrooms, we can share anecdotal evidence of impact. Our other projects bring us to schools and districts across the country, and in many of these we have seen evidence of teachers and leaders using the materials available on EngageNY to improve their practice. Principals report using the videos for professional development, and teachers cite them as resources that they access independently when seeking out information for how to teach certain standards or how to make certain instructional shifts. Additionally, after completing their work on this project, participating teachers and leaders reported that they felt they had been able to improve their instruction through the coaching process, regularly citing the opportunity to practice new techniques, reflect on their existing strengths and areas for growth, and learn about instructional approaches aligned with Common Core standards as highlights of the project. Teachers also reported that they appreciated the honest and constructive feedback from coaches, and that they felt more comfortable with the types of Common Core-aligned practices that had previously been foreign to them. As more and more of the clips become live on the EngageNY website, and as NYSED is able to gather data around the number of views and the schools and leaders who are using these resources most actively and then associate that with performance on achievement measures, we hope to soon be able to assess the impact of this project on those who matter most: students.