Borrowing from the best: STCM School Leadership Coaches learn from a visit to Sci High in New Orleans

December 16, 2015

Our team of School Leadership Coaches recently visited The New Orleans Charter Science & Mathematics High School, better known as Sci High. STCM coach Rashida Evans says the school is the highest-performing open enrollment program in the city of New Orleans, and showcased many practices and ideas our coaches are excited to bring back to Milwaukee.

Sci High has an intense focus on math and science, but the school also emphasizes that post-secondary success has multiple pathways. Though all students are expected to be college-ready by graduation, the Sci High model emphasizes rigorous coursework, summer internships and opportunities abroad to prepare students for whatever follows their senior year.

The trip to Sci High was part of an annual retreat taken by STCM coaches. These coaching retreats include intensive collaborative worktime, group reflection, and visits to some of the country’s best urban schools. The time provides an opportunity to focus on solving key problems and to drive our work forward by seeing excellence in action.

Among the observations our coaches brought back with them from Sci High:

  • Shared leadership is powerful. Sci High is run by co-principals, with one principal focusing on operations and funding, and the other focusing on instruction, day-to-day school culture, and student development. In addition, most teachers also serve in some leadership capacity as coaches, grade level leaders, or department chairs.
  • Time is built into the schedule for collaborative planning with teams. Non-instructional staff members participate in grade-level teams to add a more holistic perspective to conversations and planning.
  • Teaching and learning at Sci High is intense, but focuses on what is developmentally appropriate and best for kids. Since many students enter below grade level, instruction is differentiated and employs personalization and technology to address varied needs. Class assignments are based on skill level, resulting in multi-grade classrooms.
  • Relationships are a key component to success. Teachers visit students at home before the school year begins. Every adult in the building – not only teachers – mentors a group of students through an Advisory period. All adults take responsibility for supporting student discipline needs. The school employs Restorative Practices to ensure that student-student and student-teacher relationships are repaired after conflicts.

Rashida Evans has worked in school leadership for the past 12 years as school turnaround principal, district administrator, academic director, and dean of students. She has a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, a M.S. in Education Counseling from Concordia University – Mequon, and a M.A. in Educational Leadership from National Louis University – Wheeling Campus via KIPP. As one of STCM’s School Leadership Coaches, Rashida supports school leaders in executing their vision to close the achievement gap and send Milwaukee’s students to and through college.

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