I love spending time inside great schools; they never fail to inspire and provide learning opportunities. Kindergartners discover their favorite books, new teachers cultivate their passions, and — in my most recent experience — a group of future education leaders observe best practices that they can use to transform schools across the country.
When I brought four leaders-to-be on a tour of schools in Queens and Brooklyn earlier this month, I aimed to show leaders exemplary, integrated schools. The Diverse Charter Schools Coalition recently launched UnifiED, a new program to recruit and prepare future leaders of diverse-by-design charter schools.
Our UnifiED Fellows undertake training that is coordinated for each person’s individualized learning, exposing them to exemplary models, providing access to experts and resources, and placing them in full-time, tailored residencies at Coalition-member schools. Our goal is to equip entrepreneurial leaders with a deep understanding of top-notch models as they each prepare to launch their own excellent, integrated schools by 2020.
That’s how we found ourselves at Success Academy Cobble Hill. After meeting with Principal Alissa Bishop — who answered the Fellows’ many questions — we embarked on a school tour. As we made our way through the classrooms, three things stood out:
- Academic rigor: Students dug deep into difficult content. In one lesson, students grappled with math word problems. They were certainly challenging, but what was most striking was the way teachers pushed students to think deeply, plan their way to a solution, and discuss their thinking.
- Student engagement: In every classroom, the students were deeply invested in the thinking at hand. Students were genuinely interested in their studies and encouraged by their teachers.
- Artistic inclusion: We met with SACH’s creative and talented art teacher and learned how she teaches art through a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her students study various art forms and artists from a wide range of backgrounds. Art at SACH not only sparks creativity, it serves as a connector between students and their identities, their peers, and even other members of the community.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Success Academy Cobble Hill, and I am grateful that the school could host UnifIED Fellows’ first Excellent School Visit. I look forward to bringing future Fellows to Success. It’s learning opportunities like these that make me confident in our Fellows, who will establish a clear vision and lead people toward it by creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive school communities. Ultimately, the diverse-by-design charter schools that they’ll launch will help students achieve strong academic results and close the gaps in student performance, family satisfaction, and staff retention.
Pictured Above left to right: Sonia Park, Executive Director; Daniel Brink-Washington, Elmwood Village Charter School in Buffalo, NY; Ann Powell, Success Academy; Kristin Hull, DSST Denver Public Schools; Dana Mulwanda, Brooklyn Prospect; Alisha Gripp, Citizens of the World Charter School in Kansas City, MO; Principal Alissa Bishop, and art teacher Sarah Mallory.