"As schools and districts address the current health and economic crisis in addition to the widening of their students’ opportunity gap, the most effective response will prioritize the system’s ability to learn from the practitioners who are working most closely with students and their families."
A 2019 report from the Aspen Institute takes on the important agenda of educating the whole child. We’re honored to be one of a handful of programs to serve as models for districts across the nation in A Policy Agenda on How Learning Happens. The entire report is worth reading but if you’re short on time, skip ahead to page 32 to read about our work with our amazing partner OUSD.
"If we are successful, continuous improvement could become a part of the fabric of our
education institutions, in which educators model for our students the mindsets, skills, and
behaviors that support true learning."
Over the 2019-2020 school year, Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) worked with Mills Teacher Scholars as a learning partner, focusing on collaboration with district and school leaders in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD).
"Teacher Leaders used the Mills Teacher Scholars meetings to expand teachers’ responsibilities and to strengthen their professional judgment (Wood, 2007) to, in essence, take expertise back into their own hands. This required learning and growth by both the TLs and their colleagues. The teachers began to recognize their expertise, to work towards developing their professional voice as urban school teachers, and to engage in continuously learning about their students’ learning and their own teaching. The TLs worked to support the teachers in this work that required restoring a learning context where all teachers’ knowledge was encouraged and valued."
"For all of these people, professional learning is central to their jobs. It is not an add-on. It is not something done on Friday afternoons or on a few days at the end of the school year. Teacher professional learning is how they all improve student learning; it is how they improve schools; and it is how they are evaluated in their jobs. They work in systems that are organized around improvement strategies explicitly anchored in teacher professional learning."
"In the end, well-designed and implemented PD should be considered an essential component of a comprehensive system of teaching and learning that supports students to develop the knowledge, skills, and competencies they need to thrive in the 21st century. To ensure a coherent system that supports teachers across the entire professional continuum, professional learning should link to their experiences in preparation and induction, as well as to teaching standards and evaluation. It should also bridge to leadership opportunities to ensure a comprehensive system focused on the growth and development of teachers."
"Specifically, we documented how the Mills Teacher Scholars Teacher Leadership Network meetings (a) offered safe thinking spaces that positioned teachers as intellectual professionals who could socially construct knowledge and learn together, (b) allowed teachers to surface and name the complexities and uncertainties inherent to teaching that would undoubtedly arise as they sought to facilitate learning communities at their school sites, and (c) provided guidance for teachers through a parallel process, that is, modeling for them and supporting them in experiencing firsthand what they would be responsible for enacting and scaffolding with their teaching colleagues."
In 2016-17, Resourcing Excellence in Education (REEd) at UC Davis School of Education was contracted by Mills College to conduct an evaluation of the Mills Teacher Scholars Program. During this program evaluation year, the Mills Teacher Scholars Program was working with 16 school-based teams of teachers and principals throughout Northern California to model and facilitate the collaborative inquiry process around a local problem of practice directly related to student learning. Program developers were interested in conducting an evaluation to determine the extent to which the program is meeting its goals with building capacity for teacher-led communities of inquiry.