Taking Coherence Across the Chasm in Tulsa
Nearly one year ago, Leading Educators launched an innovative partnership with Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) to help teachers foster equity in the classroom by developing their practice. Today, these efforts are the focus of a new publication, “Taking Coherence Across the Chasm”, which highlights the importance of adopting a coherent instructional approach and districts who are leading the way.
Every day, educators make countless in-the-moment decisions that shape a student’s opportunities to learn. Before this point, many teachers spend 7-8 hours per week searching for instructional materials to supplement their lessons, which is neither a good use of their time nor a reliable way to ensure students engage with the content they need. Instead, when schools and districts adopt a coherent instructional system that aligns time for meaningful collaboration, quality curricular materials, and supports for strong teaching and learning, teachers are more likely to create teaching experiences that set up every student to succeed.
TPS is among a group of “early adopters,” visionary districts who have been willing to experiment with new ideas and pursue innovative systemic change. This approach could be misperceived as risky, so leaders at TPS made concerted efforts to coordinate a network of support partners including Leading Educators, TNTP, and Education Resource Strategies who could bring expertise and technical assistance to the design and implementation. This required setting a strong vision with a narrow yet deep focus on instructional improvement to succeed. One year into a five-year roll-out of Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA), there is promising evidence that the conditions for effective teaching and learning are improving.
In the piece, TPS Deputy Chief of Academics Danielle Neves shares, “CKLA takes a long time. [The curriculum] requires 120 minutes for K-2, 150-180 in grade 3, and 90 in grades 4-5.”
The authors note that, without thoughtful design, either the curriculum would be implemented poorly or leaders would have to let go of other priorities. Early adopters like TPS are critical to generating new learning and establishing proof points of practices and strategies that may work in other systems.
Devin Fletcher, Chief Talent and Learning Officer at TPS, shares, “Teachers are rapidly building their knowledge both in content and the pedagogical process. [Seeing the progress] from where they self-assessed at the beginning to where they are now is exciting.”
Grantmakers and mission investors have an important role in helping coherence take hold at large: increasing compatibility with existing systems and initiatives, providing capital for iterative product and service development, and building research and evidence-sharing capacity.