Power of teamwork touted in new book

Professional teamwork is the key to improving school performance and student achievement, according to an extensive review of research and case studies compiled into a new book from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF). NCTAF is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to providing every child with caring, qualified teaching in schools organized for success.

In Team Up for 21st Century Teaching and Learning, NCTAF notes six common themes among high performing schools that use professional learning communities, which have been shown to positively affect school culture, teacher retention, teaching effectiveness and student performance. These themes include: Shared Values and Goals; Collective Responsibility; Authentic Assessment; Self-Directed Reflection; Stable Settings; and Strong Leadership Support.

“We have been trying to improve schools the old-fashioned way—one teacher at a time,” said Tom Carroll, Ph.D., President of NCTAF. “It is time to recognize that stand-alone teaching in self-contained classrooms won’t prepare today’s students for 21st century college or careers—we need to build on the power of teamwork that is the key to success in every high performing organization in our country.”

The power of teamwork is recognized in the approach taken by Pearson Learning Teams, an evidence-based collaborative model that brings together teachers to learn from each other, refine their skills and assess their progress. This approach is based on a five-year comparison study that included 15 Title I schools serving 14,000 mostly low-achieving, limited English proficient students. Achievement in the schools using teacher learning teams rose by 41 percent overall—54 percent for Hispanic students—relative to a comparable group of schools that used other methods. The model has since been replicated in elementary, middle and high schools across the country.

At George Washington Carver/Bruce Street School for the Deaf in Newark, Principal Winston Jackson attributes the school’s positive teaching culture and improved student achievement to the implementation of Pearson Learning Teams. Similarly, at Wilmington Middle School of the Los Angeles Unified School District, there has been a positive shift in the school’s culture, as well as more teachers relying on data to inform decision making about their teaching practices, according to Diana Zarro-Martinez, the school’s Problem Solving Data Coordinator.

“As documented by the research and case studies cited by NCTAF, our work in chronically underperforming schools shows that Pearson Learning Teams can drive change on a number of levels: student achievement, school culture, student expectations and site leadership,” said Beth Wray, President of Pearson Learning Teams.