This morning our faculty spent a terrific hour discussing in small groups their reactions to the first chapter of Tony Wagner’s book The Global Achievement Gap.   We used a professional learning community protocol (from the Critical Friends network) to guide us, identifying and discussing what in the text we wanted to argue with, what we agreed with, what we aspired to from the inspiration he gave us, and what the impact will be on student learning.  View the show to see what we discussed, what we learned, and some of our ideas for implementing Wagner’s ideas:

Cover ImageRegular readers here know of my appreciation for Tony Wagner’s book, The Global Achievement Gap.  Here at St. Gregory this year, we are having all teachers and administrators read it for their summer reading, and soon we will embark upon a year-long consideration of its implications and applications for our teaching here.  Wagner’s book concludes with a summary overview of the qualities of “Schools that Work:” those schools, such as High Tech High, that do work in successfully closing the global achievement gap, and it is certainly my intent to ensure that our school, St. Gregory, continue to be, and ever more, a School that Works.

In describing them, he provides several  different lists of their attributes, but here right now, I want to discuss and reflect upon the last such listing: the qualities of their schools that are “strikingly different from what we see in most schools today.”

1. They have a learning and assessment focus.   This is something we are putting at the center of our attention here; we are using the slogan “Focus on Teaching and Learning, with Kids at the Center,” and we are discontinuing any use of precious all-faculty time for “business as usual meetings.”  Instead, all such time is to be focused upon enhancing student learning.  As for assessment, the highest priority for our Academic Committee’s agenda this year is a wholesale revamping of our report cards and “reporting of student learning” in order to bring us up to 21st century standards of assessment and reporting (to guide us in this work, we are employing Guskey and Bailey’s Developing Grading and Reporting Systems for Student Learning.” (More to come about this book, and this work, in future posts).

2. Motivation:  “Students are motivated to learn through a combination of three distinct, interrelated incentives.  First, the adults in their lives…have close relationships to students.   Students in all three schools are not only well known by their teachers, but are in advisory groups with a teacher… Second, opportunities for students to explore their questions and interests are a driving force for learning.  Third, learning is a hands-on in these schools.”    Motivation cannot be an afterthought, we have to raise it up to an essential focal point. (more…)