More than 30 West Contra Costa educators energized about creating change in their schools gathered in a room full of colorful sticky notes and large posters earlier this month to share their vision with community leaders and education advocates.
At the inaugural School Design Fellowship Showcase event, educators from six different West Contra Costa Unified schools presented unique plans and ideas for reimagining education at their schools. These principals and teacher leaders shared an ambitious vision to significantly improve student outcomes at their schools.
“One major challenge at our school is meeting the needs of all students, including students who are advanced and others who need more help,” explained Misuk Nam, a Teacher Fellow from Ohlone Elementary School. “So our focus was: How might we create an environment where learning is personalized in order to increase student engagement and autonomy?”
Guests of the event – including leaders of local nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, elected officials, and fellow educators –joined the discussion and shared ideas centered on solutions.
Misuk Nam, a 5th grade teacher at Ohlone Elementary, speaks to community members about a differentiated, project-based science assessment developed through the Fellowship.
Educators applied to the School Design Fellowship and started meeting as team in August 2017, after school and on Saturdays, working as a team to develop new learning models within their schools. Using design thinking, the Fellows learned about student-centered approaches to problem-solving, participated in extensive “empathy work” with students and families, and engaged in monthly coaching sessions to deepen instruction in their classrooms.
In partnership with TrueSchool Studios and WCCUSD, the Chamberlin Family Foundation launched the Fellowship because of a core belief that real change happens at the school level. Research shows that student achievement gains occur in schools where there are strong principals, empowered teachers, and a community of deep professional collaboration among adults. Schools selected for the Fellowship were led by visionary principals and teams of teacher leaders committed to collaboration.
The Peres Elementary team, and other School Design Fellows, crafted ideas in workshops or “Design Studios.” throughout the school year.
“This Fellowship has been a way for our team to address challenges at our school while maintaining a child-centered focus,” said Matt Burnham, principal at Korematsu Middle. “It’s been great to develop our own theory of change that will ultimately lead to student achievement.” The Korematsu team explored different ways to leverage teacher collaboration time to create more effective and engaging instruction for students.
As school teams look to next year and beyond, many say they hope to continue implementing and refining strategies from the Fellowship. The Fellows at Chavez Elementary, for example, identified math achievement as a focus for the next five years. They hope to expand parent math workshops designed during the Fellowship, and to secure a part-time math coach to better support teachers on math instruction.
At the Showcase event, Fellows from each school presented an action map to guide long-term impact.
While much work remains until every child in West Contra Costa is on track to achieve their full potential, the School Design Fellowship helped catalyze and honor new ideas from our talented educators. We are excited to celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s Fellows, student progress, and teacher innovation at each school.
Learn more about the School Design Fellows, their innovations, and results achieved here.