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The Impact of Top Teaching Talent

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In recent posts I have been sharing some thoughts about what happens to the teaching profession when we have salaries and working conditions that attract the top end of the talent pool. At a July meeting of the Prichard Committee Team on Effective Teaching , we heard a powerful talk by a great teacher, Ali Crowley! She is one of those teachers who came out of the top of the talent pool. Before her talk to the group I told this short story about her:

Ali is a National Board Certified math teacher atLafayette High School in Lexington, Kentucky. She has been teaching for 11 years and is member of the Center for Teacher Quality's Implementing Common Core Standards team.

When I was serving as a superintendent of schools we were deeply concerned about the low numbers of minority kids taking Advanced Placement(AP) classes and we challenged our principals to find ways to change this. Lots of good things happened to positively impact the problem (with much more needed) but one in particular stands out. The principal at LHS at the time, Mike McKenzie, asked all teachers to find one minority student who they knew needed to be taking AP classes and tap them on the shoulder and convince them to sign up for the next year.

Well, Ali Crowley not only tapped one student, she tapped 15 students! And not only did she tap them on the shoulders, she made a deal with them to work with them during the summer to prepare them for the math course the following year. She met with the 15 students from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day for a week during that summer and prepared them for the course. They all showed up daily and 14 of the 15 finished the course with passing grades the following year (one dropped out of the class). Just so you know, Ali did that work without pay. It was so powerful that we instituted it district-wide with pay for teachers (and named it Camp Crowley - the only program I ever named after anyone.)

I encourage you to watch this video of Ali's talk where you will see what happens when a great person at the top of the talent pool becomes a teacher. You will also see how her college peers reacted to her wanting to become a teacher. Ali provides strong insight into what is happening in today's classrooms and what reforms we need to be thinking about.

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