If there is one common denominator among Torsh’s wide array of clients, it is a desire to improve student outcomes by providing educators with meaningful and transformative professional development opportunities. Teachers who regularly reflect on their practice, receive ongoing coaching or mentoring, and then apply their new-found knowledge in the classroom are more likely to move the needle for their students. At Torsh, we firmly believe that coaches and mentors are an essential component of the teacher professional development process. Torsh TALENT, our platform for teacher PD, is specifically designed to facilitate coaching.
One example of a client using TALENT for this very purpose is Leading Educators, a non-profit teacher training organization located here in New Orleans. They may be local but their impact reaches far beyond NOLA — to school districts around the country that serve in-need student populations. Last year they trained over 800 teacher leaders, who in turn coached and supported 6,500 teachers in cities like Houston, Memphis, Kansas City and Washington D.C. Armed with research and best practices, Leading Educators seeks to “equip teacher leaders with the content and pedagogy skills needed to strengthen their own instruction, and the leadership skills to support and coach peer teachers to higher levels of performance.”
Leading Educators partners with school districts to tackle challenges in schools that, for whatever reason, are most in need of intervention. They accomplish this, in part, through their Leading Educators Fellowship, which provides formal, rigorous training in the following areas: Developing Self, Coaching Others, Leading Teams, and Driving Initiatives. While the Fellowship provides the foundation, the training and development continues under the guidance of a “leadership coach.” Fellows work with their coach to devise an “Impact Initiative” that can be implemented within their school — a plan that is specifically designed to improve student outcomes. The ultimate goal is to “decrease teacher attrition in high-needs schools, and contribute to robust systems for impact on student learning at scale.”
When you are an organization with a nationwide footprint, how do you train and mentor teachers who are not in your geographic area? That was the challenge presented to us in the spring of 2016 when we first connected with Leading Educators. Ultimately, a partnership made perfect sense. Through TALENT, their army of Fellows could share materials with their coaches for feedback and ongoing training. They could upload best practice videos, curriculum materials and other files and share them with their coaches and colleagues. As a bonus, TALENT integrates with the learning management system that Leading Educators already uses, making it easy for teachers and teacher leaders to access their materials and feedback.
One example of Leading Educators in action is their partnership with Aurora (Colorado) Public Schools. The project began in 2016 with an in-depth needs assessment of the district’s “professional development and teacher leadership strategy.” This year, Leading Educators facilitated the launch of a program called ATLAS (Advancing Teacher Leadership in Aurora Schools.) The inaugural ATLAS cohort of 60 teacher leaders in ten district schools is currently leading math and literacy content teams, and assisting their peers in the transition to Common Core State Standards. Over the next five years, the program will scale to include all 60 district schools, impacting nearly 2,000 teachers and 40,000 students.
Whether it’s assisting in the implementation of Common Core, decreasing suspension rates, or ensuring a student body is performing at or above grade level in reading, Leading Educators’ impact is being felt around the country. We certainly share their belief that well-trained teacher leaders can have a profound positive impact, driving transformative changes in their own classroom and beyond. We are proud that TALENT is enabling this incredible organization to continue delivering on its mission: “To advance teachers’ leadership skills and opportunities, building a national movement to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed in school and life.”