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Building Momentum in Cincinnati Public Schools


Written by V. Châu with Cincinnati Team

Building Momentum in Cincinnati Public Schools

Recapping Content-Based Summer Professional Development

We all want today’s students to be ready to thrive in the future. That’s why Leading Educators is partnering with visionary school districts nationally to nurture excellent teaching across classrooms and to expand opportunity for more than 286,000 students this year.

One of our newest partners is Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), Ohio’s second-largest school district, serving about 36,000 students in 65 schools.

About the District Partnership

This year, we’ll help CPS leaders and educators craft and implement key instructional initiatives that lay the foundation for accelerated student learning. Here’s a glimpse of what’s in store:

  • Providing ongoing, district-wide professional learning for 2155 math and English Language Arts (ELA) educators.
  • Ongoing support for curriculum and instruction leaders (C&I) to facilitate continuous improvement in schools that will amplify their capacity to cultivate high-impact instructional methods and drive progress.
  • Identifying a cohort of pioneering teachers from more than a dozen CPS schools to pilot mini-coaching cycles up to six times annually.
  • Building on current district best practices in adult learning and facilitation that will prime CPS staff for future leadership roles in district-wide professional learning.

Just this past month, we launched a professional learning series. This series focused on grade-appropriate scaffolding in math and ELA. It was designed to meet the instructional shifts and utilizes research-based classroom practices. With an impressive participation of 2,000 educators, this launch has set a promising tone for the transformative year ahead.

Sara Neal, Senior Director; Ana Luis, Director of Content and Coaching; and Patricia Thibodeaux, Instructional Leadership Coach, reflect on what they heard and saw at the launch.

Teachers Are Eager to Own the Work and Practice with New Materials

Sara Neal: “Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has a compelling vision of fair and just learning for all students, and I heard teachers really owning that charge. We focused on establishing a common definition of instructional scaffolding so teachers understand how appropriate scaffolds support access to grade-level standards and address unfinished instruction.

They were highly engaged with content focused on deep analysis of student work alongside curriculum. The teachers I worked with were deeply invested in centering student strengths and taking responsibility for accelerating their learning.”

Patricia Thibodeaux: “It was great working with teachers and professionals who are not just skilled but deeply committed. They exuded professionalism and focus, and there was a strong sense of trust and comfort among us. The room was charged with positive energy, driving us to delve deeper into our goals for the students’ outcomes.

I remember a particular instance where someone posed a question, and I threw the question back to the group. They skillfully facilitated the discussion, offering him an excellent response. It was a real-time model of how we want our classrooms to operate.

Qualify Professional Development Feels Empowering

Collage of teachers engaged in a professional learning daySara Neal: “A 4th and 5th-grade teacher came up to me ecstatic about the learning and her facilitator Ebony. She said, ‘I just have to tell someone that Ebony was the best. I even called my partner to tell them… I’ve had a similar PD several times, but this one was different…I actually learned something new! She’s amazing!’

Teachers are hungry for quality professional development that builds their knowledge and expertise. They believe in learning and crave it for themselves too. Great facilitators make those connections with teachers. It’s personal, and it makes a difference.”

Ana Luis: “I was really impressed with the dialogue during the session about mathematical scaffolds and the perspective teachers were bringing in. They had a good base of knowledge about how to support students, and it was fun to hear their brainstorming and ideas of how to do so. That’s what relevant and collaborative professional learning can unlock.”

Patricia Thibodeaux: “Certainly, there were instances of feedback that left an impression. Towards the end of the day, a math leader from CPS noted that as people were leaving, they were acknowledging how beneficial and enjoyable the session had been. That, of course, feels great as a partner, but what struck me was that she didn’t have to ask them. She overheard these comments exchanged among the participants themselves.

There was even a math champion assisting with the technical aspects who shared positive feedback about the dynamic discussions and energy in the room. These reflections reinforced the idea that aligning the session with participants’ needs fosters an effective learning environment.” 

Building Momentum

Sara Neal: “We’ve built a strong foundation of trust and inspiration at the start of the school year. Our work ahead lies in supporting and challenging teachers to deliver on the promise of Cincinnati Public School’s north star.”

Ana Luis: “I hope to continue to work with the team to ensure the design of sessions is high quality and responsive and to identify teachers who would like to be part of our coaching cohort to continue the learning.”

Patricia Thibodeaux: “Moving forward, my goal is continuously improving and elevating my approach. Building on the momentum means maintaining and enhancing those trust-based relationships between the facilitator and participants, as this greatly influences the learning experience. I am excited to take these steps forward and continue fostering a positive and effective learning environment.”

What Comes Next

Throughout the year, CPS is poised to engage in district-wide professional learning days. These professional learning days will be bolstered by continuous support from the curriculum and instruction (C&I) leaders, who are committed to nurturing ongoing improvements within schools. Additionally, CPS will partake in the transformative coaching program and participate in specialized sessions curated for C&I team leaders.

Previously, CPS educators received some district-led and designed teacher professional development. However, recognizing the value of research-backed, external capacity-building at a critical inflection point, the district is ready to harness new dimensions of high-quality professional learning and build momentum.

Follow Their Lead!

Like Cincinnati Public Schools, we know all districts can become dynamic learning organizations where all students and teachers are set up to achieve greatly together.

Do you want support to make your best even better? We offer strategic advising, professional design and implementation, and coaching. Drop us a note, and a member of our team will be in touch to learn more about your goals.

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