Baltimore City Schools: A Case Study in Teacher & School Leader Effectiveness

Baltimore City Public Schools

The Challenge

The Baltimore City Public Schools has a committed staff of educators throughout its central office and 200 schools. In a system this size, the district needed to ensure that all educators had a common understanding of clear instructional expectations that would lead to student achievement.

The Baltimore City Schools wanted to retain their sense of autonomy while benefiting from a structured system of sharing best practices, guiding instructional improvement, and measuring effectiveness.

They envisioned a framework that identified expectations for teachers, which would be the foundation for classroom observations, data collection on teaching, coaching and instructional development, and guidelines for professional conversations.

"Teachers are able to excel as the authority in their classrooms while operating with a sense of clarity regarding the district’s expectations."

The Solution

Over the course of a year, a working group, comprised mostly of teachers but also including various other stakeholders, sat side-by-side with Insight consultants and developed an Instructional Framework from scratch.

The Insight team facilitated focus groups to ensure a broad representation of voices—from teachers to principals to district partners—were informing the identification of “key actions,” or standards of practice that are exhibited by the city’s most effective teachers.

This process was replicated to develop a rubric that describes what these practices look like at four different levels of efficacy.

In addition to developing a customized framework and rubric, Insight worked closely with district leaders to develop a thoughtful, comprehensive implementation plan that staged the roll out of the framework and rubric throughout the district to ensure long-term success.

The Results

Building Capacity:

  • School leaders are seen as a critical lever in effectively observing and collecting data on teacher practices, as well as strategically guiding teachers’ growth through feedback and coaching.
  • Over 500 school and district leaders and 1,500 teachers experienced professional development diving into the framework’s utility for improving instructional practice in their schools.
  • 45 teacher facilitators were trained to deliver professional development to their peers throughout the district, creating buy-in regarding the utility of the framework as well as evolving into a corps of skilled and experienced facilitators of dynamic professional development.
  • Central office staff and district partners are designing professional development experiences that are targeted to the district’s needs based on framework data. All professional development is designed according to guiding principles that dictate consistency in experience, design, and challenge.

Driving Towards a Common Language:

  • A common language about instruction is now developing throughout the district, whether during a feedback discussion between a teacher and a principal or during the superintendent’s budgeting process when determining professional development priorities.

Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Teachers are able to excel as the authority in their classrooms while operating with a sense of clarity regarding the district’s expectations.
  • School leaders are able to identify instructional priorities based on well-normed data about his or her teachers’ strengths and challenges.
  • District staff and partners are able to design professional development that is relevant, targeted to needs, and aligned to the practices expected of teachers.

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