This Spring, Crescent City Schools sent 14 staff members to the Standards Institute, a five-day professional development conference organized by UnboundEd. With a lens and focus on equity, the Standards Institute provides participants with tools, strategies, and frameworks that are designed to enhance instructional classroom, coaching, and leadership practices. This year, the spring conference was held in Las Vegas.
Jasmine Graves Black-Clemons, a veteran educator, who is currently in her first year as the Principal of Akili Academy, chose to attend the conference to dive deeper into the standards and prepare herself for leadership. “As Akili’s principal, I thought it was really, really important that I have a deeper understanding of how to read standards and push for grade level congruence,” Jasmine explained. This deeper understanding of standards will enable Jasmine to provide more effective coaching and guidance to the Directors of Curriculum and Instruction (DCIs), who in turn provide coaching to all Akili teachers. To give students the best education possible, Jasmine is committed to not modifying the curriculum and instead trusting that the curriculum will accomplish the school’s academic goals without compromising equity.
Cynthia Costello, the Director of Instruction for the Crescent City Schools network as a whole, also attended the professional development conference, in an effort to learn more about GLEAM™, an instructional strategy designed by the Standards Institute to be grade-level, engaging, affirming, and meaningful. “When you go into schools with traditionally marginalized students, whether for socioeconomic reasons or racial factors, those students are usually getting less instructional opportunities that are rooted in grade-level standards and high-quality curriculum,” Cynthia explained. “A lot of research over the last few years shows that it’s not an achievement gap, it’s actually more of an opportunity gap.”
By using high-quality instruction, educators can help close this gap. “The whole basis of Standards Institute is that if we can teach teachers, coaches, and educators what the standards are and what high-quality instructional materials look like, they will be more likely to put those materials in front of their students and create better opportunities for them,” Cynthia explains, and that mission dovetails with CCS’s commitment to education. “Our goal is to close the achievement gap and to create a lifetime of opportunities for our students for college, career, and beyond,” Cynthia shared. The Standards Institute aims to help educators learn to do just that.
Crescent City Schools began sending large groups of staff members to the Standards Institute beginning in 2018, but the pandemic brought a temporary halt to those professional development opportunities in 2020 and 2021. This year’s conference also gave staff members big-picture insight into pandemic-era learning loss, as well as strategies to reduce fatigue for both students and teachers.
“We lost a lot of ground in the last two years, but leaning into the standards and curriculum that we have will actually make our lives easier, and it will help us close this opportunity gap for kids,” shared Cynthia.