Teacher Retention Grants: Lazear Charter Academy

Educate78 is continuing to focus on – and provide funding for – teacher retention strategies because we know great teachers are essential to student success. Our Teacher Retention grants empower teachers to change the conditions at their school that are preventing teachers like themselves from staying. Oakland teachers know best what is needed in their schools to improve teacher success and retention, and we want you to hear straight from them: How did they identify the need at their school site? How are they using the funding, and what are some of the successes so far?

Other entries in this series:

In this blog, we hear from Luis Torres, a 5th and 6th grade math teacher at Lazear Charter Academy. Lazear received funding to support a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum to increase both teacher retention at a high-needs school and students’ academic success by reducing their emotional stress.

What is the focus issue your site is seeking to address with the support of a Teacher Retention Grant?

We believe investing in a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum will accelerate students’ academic success by reducing their emotional stress. The benefits will lead to a better school culture, academic success, and student engagement, which will lead to a higher retention of staffing.

How did you identify this as a need at your site?

The vast majority of students at Lazear Charter Academy face high levels of stress outside of school that includes violence, dislocation, poverty, and crime, and are unable to process and cope with the negative long-term effect of stress on their well-being and success.

In the past three years, we’ve had over 90 percent of our homeroom teachers specifically identify intervention and support with Tier II/III students as a direct causation for the decision to leave the school or for their low level of satisfaction at our school site. Evidence was collected through exit interviews, the School Climate Assessment Instrument (SCAI) report, post-Lazear surveys, and Gallup Q12 surveys.

How are you using the retention grant money?

We identified a researched backed program, TOOLBOX, as a means of developing our students personal and resiliency skills and also help teachers meet the needs of our Tier II/III students, an area focus for our school and cause of teacher burnout.

What are some of the key successes or areas of progress so far?

We have seen a decrease in referrals this year in grades that are implementing TOOLBOX.

Why advice do you have for other schools looking to increase teacher engagement and retention?

Each Oakland school is unique and has it’s own challenges. I would recommend schools digging deep into their data and identifying issues that you have control and can change at your site.

Every child goes through some form of stress and trauma. Coping with trauma and stress is a necessity in order to maintain a healthy learning environment. Without SEL tools and resources, we are disregarding our students’ basic needs and further creating a toxic environment that is hard to maintain for both students and teachers.

 

Teacher Retention Grants: Life Academy

Educate78 is continuing to focus on – and provide funding for – teacher retention strategies because we know great teachers are essential to student success. Our Teacher Retention grants empower teachers to change the conditions at their school that are preventing teachers like themselves from staying. Oakland teachers know best what is needed in their schools to improve teacher success and retention, and we want you to hear straight from them: How did they identify the need at their school site? How are they using the funding, and what are some of the successes so far?

Other entries in this series:

In this blog, we hear from Life Academy’s Christi Grossman, the Humanities Department Chair, and Rowan Driscoll, the Health and Bioscience Academy Director and Science Department Co-Chair. Life Academy received funding to build teacher capacity that drives forward student learning. Life Academy partnered with Mills Teacher Scholars to facilitate collaborative inquiry sessions with the Humanities and Science departments, building teachers’ individual and collective practice and driving student learning. Life Academy increased teacher retention to over 80% in 2017-18.

What is the focus issue your site is seeking to address with the support of a Teacher Retention Grant?

We are working to improve teacher efficacy with high-quality PD focused on a self-directed inquiry question. Our theory of action is that if teachers feel successful as educators, they will continue in the profession — while getting better in the process!

How did you identify this as a need at your site?

Our partner is Mills Teacher Scholars. We became involved with them three years ago when the Humanities Department began examining our practice as it impacts English Language Learners. The positive feedback from Humanities teachers led us to expand the work to the Science Department (2016-2017) and full staff this year.

How are you using the retention grant money?

Facilitation from Mills Teacher Scholars uses 100% of the Teacher Retention grant. MTS facilitators lead our PD once a month as teachers move through the inquiry cycle. They also provide monthly 1:1 support to teachers and work with Department chairs to make sure the trajectory is working to meet our goals.

What are some of the key successes or areas of progress so far?

Use of data to talk about student learning has been a huge win! By broadly defining data to include formative assessments, student writing, interviews, and surveys, teachers are getting a student-focused look at what is happening in their classrooms.

Why advice do you have for other schools looking to increase teacher engagement and retention?

One size fits none. While best practices in teacher retention can help school leaders ask good questions, the answers are going to be individual to your teachers.

Guest Post: Want to design a school? Go to jail!

This is a guest post from Dr. César A. Cruz, a School Design Lab fellow with Educate78. Dr. Cruz is co-designing the HomiesEmpowerment School based out of East Oakland. The school’s mission is simply to “welcome home resilient youth, with revolutionary love, holistic resources, nurturing the scholar, warrior, healer and hustler within, in the process of emancipation.” Learn more at www.homiesempowerment.co.

Dear Educators,

As part of our Homies Empowerment school design journey, I sat in jail today. I sat inside of San Bruno jail near San Francisco, and heard from 12 brothers — 12 men, all adults —speak what they know is true. They spoke through tears about their schooling experiences. We were there as invited guests of 5 Keys School and here’s part of what was birthed: this poem. After the poem, I humbly urge you to read the 10 pieces of advice they gave us all.

The words below in bold are titles to their pieces. The words in quotes come directly from their soul. All I did was try to listen, really hear, begin to understand, and tranSCRIBE.

(Photos courtesy of Dr. César A. Cruz)

***

What We Know Is True

Do you hear the screams and the anger?

We’ve been held back and left behind.

In the public eye,

they say I’m a product of my environment,

but there’s a corrupt bond where war, is somehow the answer.

What I’ve seen, has created an early loss of innocence,

where I’ve been “looking for answers,

without even knowing (some of) the questions.”

As early as age 10, I knew that black and white don’t make gray,

but still got cuffed, beaten and locked up,

with a police officer’s boot on my neck telling me, to somehow “stop resisting.

But we can’t stop, resisting!

I now see, it’s been us, versus them, all along.

Have we been set up to fail (to jail)?

When you see us (men in orange suits),

do you see criminal or human being?”

Can you hear the “PTSD” that can no longer remain muffled in silence?

And yet, even in a cage, isolated from the outs(ide),

our spirit and point of view, will still be free.

Sharing our dreams 2 (our) reality are “what (we) know is true.”

You might lock us up, “and first place might already be decided,”

but, can you ever fully enslave us?

No, (and if you must know) that means NEVER.”

Typed by Dr. César A. Cruz, but really written by Fotu P, Kelvin J, Marcus W, Johnnie R, Eric J, Valentino V, Jordan A, Christopher S, Travis J, Dale T and Lafayette R.

***

These brothers then shared this;

  1. Encourage kids, stop (de)grading them!
  2. Have a recording studio, because self expression is key, but they don’t always want to do it your way through English class.
  3. Be more interactive, field trips can be anywhere, so help us get out, literally and otherwise.
  4. Understand where we are coming from, and why we might bring a gun to school, not to hurt anyone, but because we have to walk home afterwards. Can you actually understand that reality or do you just judge it?
  5. Teach things that can be productive for us in society.
  6. Have role models there that look like us, but not just look like us, but have some of our lived experiences.
  7. It takes the hood to save the hood, so have the hood at your school.
  8. Don’t scold (it stays with us forever).
  9. Have incentive programs based on what we like to do.
  10. Stay away from blanket statements and labels. I am not a minority or free and reduced lunchDon’t write that about us, ever.

Bless you all,

Dr. César A. Cruz, on behalf of Homies Empowerment

Note from Dr. Cruz: I am deeply thankful to teacher Ellen Dahlke, from 5 Keys, for allowing us an opportunity to come inside, and learn from the wisdom of men, who are currently caged, but whose wisdom is for free(dom).

Teacher Retention Grants: Greenleaf Elementary

Educate78 is continuing to focus on – and provide funding for – teacher retention strategies because we know great teachers are essential to student success. Our Teacher Retention grants empower teachers to change the conditions at their school that are preventing teachers like themselves from staying. Oakland teachers know best what is needed in their schools to improve teacher success and retention, and we want you to hear straight from them: How did they identify the need at their school site? How are they using the funding, and what are some of the successes so far?

Other entries in this series:

In this blog, we hear from Romy Trigg-Smith, the Greenleaf Elementary principal. Greenleaf received a grant to increase teacher sustainability while implementing an ambitious dual language school redesign. Greenleaf partnered with The Teaching Well to provide 1:1 coaching and whole staff PD sessions around research-based strategies to support teacher wellness and sustainability and dramatically increased teacher retention into this school year.

What is the focus issue your site is seeking to address with the support of a Teacher Retention Grant?

The focus issue our site is seeking to address is both individual and systemic supports for Educator Well-Being. As a school, we believe if we create an environment that promotes the well-being and agency of our staff at all levels, they will be more effective with students and willing to be foundational partners for the work we plan to do for years to come.

How did you identify this as a need at your site?

Since 2014, Greenleaf had an average annual retention rate of 66%. As the former assistant principal, I noticed how each year, as we lost roughly ⅓ of our staff, our team would spend too much of our time rebuilding relationships and trust rather than refining effective pedagogy for students and events for families. I knew that in order for us to transform and be the best community school possible, we must find a systemic ways to retain our talent and build a educator environment that allowed the work to develop over years rather than restart each August.

How are you using the retention grant money?

We are using the retention grant money to partner with The Teaching Well, a local non-profit organization committed to supporting the well being of educators and schools. Through the support of the ED78 grant, we are able to provide our staff a three fold support structure for their well-being.

  1. Whole site PD on Stress Resilience, Healthy Communication and Managing Transferred Trauma,
  2. 1-1 Mentoring for 60% of our teachers during the work day to turn these new skills into actionable habits
  3. Research reports where teachers were able to share gaps in support and as a leader I could course correct in simple ways to ensure that their voices were heard.

What are some of the key successes or areas of progress so far?

In our first year of the ED78 grant we increased our retention to 85%. Because of this, we were able to start the year with trust and go quickly into building off last year’s results. This year, as a leader I have seen an increase in collaboration, depth of ideas and our community’s ability to flow together.

Why advice do you have for other schools looking to increase teacher engagement and retention?

Outside Partnership with The Teaching Well has made a difference in our ability to support our teachers. Through this partnership, I am able to fully support my staff and keep my focus on accountability and student success. My teachers find it incredibly valuable to have a “third party” invested in their personal and professional growth while that outside resource is removed enough from the day to day community to allow for freedom of expression and comfort in addressing high needs.

Why is this work important?

This work is important because our students in East Oakland deserve a consistent, quality education and stable, reliable relationships. By prioritizing adult well-being, we ensure that we value and care for the individuals who create and develop these stable, reliable relationships. In order to be our best for kids, we need to be our best selves and that requires devoted time for and prioritization of self-care. When teachers stay connected to why they are in the work AND to their well-being, they are more reliable with kids and colleagues.

Teacher Retention Grants: Madison Park Academy

Educate78 is continuing to focus on – and provide funding for – teacher retention strategies because we know great teachers are essential to student success. Our Teacher Retention grants empower teachers to change the conditions at their school that are preventing teachers like themselves from staying. Oakland teachers know best what is needed in their schools to improve teacher success and retention, and we want you to hear straight from them: How did they identify the need at their school site? How are they using the funding, and what are some of the successes so far?

Other entries in this series:

In this blog, we hear from Annie Hatch, a Pathway Coach at Madison Park Academy. MPA received funding to provide teachers with materials and supply budgets to cover “the little things” – markers, paper, binder clips, as well as books, equipment for science experiments, and journals – in order to design quality daily lessons for students, while valuing teachers as professionals by providing needed classroom supplies and materials.

What is the focus issue your site is seeking to address with the support of a Keep Our Teachers grants?

Our focus is teacher retention. We lost about half our teachers last year and understand how traumatic that is to a school community. We want to keep our teachers and our teachers identified that a huge need for them is having the basic supplies and materials they need to do the job.

How did you identify this as a need at your site?

I had suggested maybe applying for the Educate78 grant as a way to partner with Mills Teacher Scholars. The teachers I met with pushed back and said, our needs are more basic — we need books, supplies, equipment, and we’re tired of fighting for everything or paying for it out of our own pockets.

The MPA team.

How are you using the retention grant money?

Teachers are allowed to spend their $500 in any way that supports them and increases student learning, teacher efficacy, satisfaction, and retention. They are using this money in a wide variety of ways — on manipulative, a vocab website, tools for digestive system modeling, posters, subscriptions to a coding website, glue and paper and pens, the list goes on.

What are some of the key successes or areas of progress so far?

Teachers feel respected as professionals and empowered to spend this money in a way that makes the most sense for them and their students.

Why advice do you have for other schools looking to increase teacher engagement and retention?

Ask teachers what they want and what they need! They will usually have some very good answers for you.

Why is this work important?

Because we need teachers to stay teaching in Oakland!