At WestEd's Symposium
The presentation covered how the school moved from a place where people believed our student population of low-income English Language Learners would be forever doomed to low achievement (The Myth) to a place where students work hard and learn hard, all without resorting to absurd militaristic screaming and shaming. I outlined five reforms that made the difference:
1) Regain control and raise expectations
2) Group students effectively by triangulating CELDT, CST, and local assessment
3) Improve instructional focus by focusing on scaffolding and key ELL strategies
4) Extend the school day
5) Effectively target after-school and Saturday interventions***
Things went well. The groups were a mix of teachers, instructional coaches, district personnel, and administration haling from parts of California I didn't even know existed. If I had to draw a dividing line, I'd say the teachers didn't get us, but the principals and assist. Superintendents did. The teachers asked bone-headed questions and non-questions ("I've been a social studies teacher for 18 years and I'm tired of doing Language Arts teachers' jobs."); as well as questioning the validity of our achievement ("no way they get these scores" when they thought I wasn't listening).
The others asked insightful things concerning funding, contractual alterations/evasions, student placement and replacement, etc. One question really got me: "What trainings and professional developments did you attend to learn how to teach ELLs better?"
How did you succeed?
1) I worked hard.
2) I kept trying.
3) I've been practicing.
And at the risk of being glib or annoying, that poster holds the key to what we've done more than anything else. We spent a lot of time looking at standards, working to break them down into instructional chunks, learning how to properly assess students' instructional levels, and continuing the conversations of effective instructional strategies, but much of this was done internally, without the aid of high-priced consultants. We just kept working and talking and keeping the kids in the classrooms for extended periods and on Saturdays. There isn't a magic bullet training you can go to that will fix everything.
Needless to say, this answer didn't satisfy.
I had a couple other answers that I tweaked, shall we say, because the truth is pretty ridiculous. "What is the mechanism for changing a student's schedule mid-year?" The real answer involves writing some names down on a post-it note and handing it to POY during brunch. The answer I gave involved a form we admittedly used in the past, with sections for academic proof of rescheduling necessity. I tried to present the model as much as possible, because we've moved past the model in ways that are almost silly when you think about how much decision making and problem solving occurs during brunch and walking across the quad.
So here's the buried lede of this whole adventure: A consultant from Orange County came up to me after the second workshop and offered to fly me down to give a similar presentation to a school she's working with. This is definitely cool, but I feel like I run the risk of becoming... one of them.
***Look at the list. Seriously, look at it. Every school can do those things. They are highly replicatable. Highly. They do not require life-abandonment or monolithic leaders.