Conditions and Culture Matter—A Lot

Shifting teaching practice at scale to make engaging, grade-appropriate learning a reality for every student requires alignment of key resources and priorities. These include:

  • adequate time for collaboration

  • diverse and distributed instructional leadership

  • standards-aligned curriculum and assessments

  • limited priorities

When these conditions are in place in schools, instructional culture flourishes, as do teachers and students.

National Data Shows Room for Improvement

These conditions contribute to the fertile soil needed for continuous improvements in teaching in schools. National data suggests that access to all of them is not the norm. According to the American Teacher Panel:

  • Adequate Time: Only 17% of school districts require teachers have time specifically for collaboration.

  • Instructional Leadership: Only 37% of elementary school leaders correctly identified use of complex texts as a standards-aligned practice in English language arts.

  • Aligned Curriculum: Only 16% of elementary math teachers report regularly using at least one instructional material highly aligned to state standards.

Supportive Conditions are the Foundation of Our Approach

Every education context has unique strengths. Over time, we and our partners have worked to distill what makes some school systems more successful at helping students succeed than others.

We use a conditions framework based on the best research and what we’ve learned from district leaders to identify the school- and system- level conditions that we know facilitate successful teacher professional learning.

Under this framework, we rate schools’ stage of development for each condition at each phase of the design and implementation process, and we work closely with leaders at every level of a system to action plan around improvement over time. That’s how we get to solutions that work and last beyond our direct collaboration.

“One factor that contributed to [shifting culture] was teacher leaders modeling vulnerability. They worked really hard to shift the perspective that they were considered ‘the experts’ to the reality that they were also learning and growing right alongside their peer teachers. As teacher leaders, they offered up their own lesson plans for teachers to analyze and give feedback on before ever asking teachers to bring their own lesson plan for the same purpose.”
— Jennifer Sierra, Leadership Coach