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We Are Crew: Chapter 8: Improving Crew across the School

How can you use data and a teamwork approach to make Crew more consistent and more effective across the school?

Addressing the inequities inherent in school structures, conditions, and outcomes is the greatest educational priority of our time. For that reason, creating a culture of Crew that brings historically underserved students, regardless of background or identity, into the circle of belonging is imperative. The practices described in this book, including the lessons, tools, and strategies for implementing a structure of Crew, are designed first and foremost to create more equitable conditions for staff and students.

Crew can make a positive difference in any school. As is true for any other school reform practice, however, creating and maintaining a culture and structure of Crew requires setting goals as a school and monitoring progress toward those goals as a part of a process of continuous improvement. It is not enough to establish and maintain a Crew structure in your school and assume that it is working well for all students and adults. Assessing and improving the efficacy of Crew across the school on an ongoing basis is the focus of this chapter.

"Employing explicit evidence-based strategies for examining and assessing inequities is an important part of creating a more just and equitable school culture for all students." Page 290

Learning Targets

  • I can describe strategies for improving the culture of Crew
  • I can describe strategies for improving the structure of Crew

Watch: “Leading Teams with Data Protocols”

School leaders with a “balcony view” of teaching and learning within a school have a particular responsibility for student performance and growth in all three dimensions of achievement (mastery of knowledge and skills, character, and high-quality student work) and for all students. To be effective, specific practices for improving the culture and structure of Crew in your school must also be aligned with and anchored in a broader strategic improvement cycle for character that includes data collection, analysis, and collaborative planning for strategic improvement. Watch this video of teachers at Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, DC, and consider the following questions.

1. How is the discussion among teachers and leaders at this school “driven by data”? What do you notice about the data protocol they use to guide the discussion?

2. Which of the specific strategies for improvement do you think will be most effective for students and, ultimately, “move” the data this team collects in the future?

Review: Staff Crew Meeting Agenda

Collecting data on character and culture is challenging and, some would argue, the results are often subjective. While we acknowledge these challenges, we also believe that strong documentation of walkthrough observations and surveys of students, staff, and families provides an evidence base that can point the way to strategic improvement and a stronger culture of Crew. It’s equally important for teams to use a data analysis protocol that enables participants to think critically about the data and invites diverse voices into the discussion and decision making. Read the Staff Crew Meeting Agenda for Looking at Data on Belonging and Respect from the Springfield Renaissance School, and consider the following questions:

1. What do you notice about the relationship among the learning targets in this document, the school’s character goal, and the progression of the agenda?

2. How does this agenda work to include multiple and diverse voices among the staff?

Watch: “Teacher Leadership to Support Crew”

Working to improve the efficacy of Crew in your school involves many variables. The master schedule, the number and grade levels of your students, your Crew curriculum, your shared commitments about Crew, and Crew leaders’ experience and training all need to be factored in. To make Crew better for all students, it’s helpful to ask some key questions and to discuss the answers collaboratively with all staff.

  1. How consistent are Crew leaders in leading Crew in your building? 
  2. Is the Crew curriculum too tight or too loose? Is it working for all Crew Leaders? 
  3. Are the logistical decisions you made still working for every Crew? 

The Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in New York has developed a shared leadership model for improving Crew that invites all staff to contribute to planning for and improving Crew. Watch the video and reflect on the following questions:

1. How does the Crew team leadership structure allow many hands to make light work of planning for and making Crew more consistent and effective across the school?

2. How does this model support new Crew leaders to learn how to lead Crew courageously and compassionately? 

Review: Crew Leaders’ Survey

Surveying Crew leaders is an essential part of knowing how well the structure of Crew is working at your school and how effectively the Crew program is accomplishing its aims. Be sure to include questions that will help you disaggregate this data to look for discrepancies between grade levels and between new Crew leaders and experienced Crew leaders. These discrepancies will help you provide additional support (e.g., coaching, lesson plans, modeling, or changes in the logistics of timing, scheduling) to Crew leaders who need it so that all students can be successful in Crew. Review the Crew leaders’ survey from Evergreen Community Charter School in Asheville, North Carolina and ask yourself the following questions.

1. Which questions on the survey would most help guide professional development for Crew leaders?

2. Which questions on the survey would most help leaders and staff reorganize the Crew schedule or curriculum?

3. Are there any additional questions you would want to ask your staff?

Dig Deeper

Scenario on Becoming Ethical People Student Survey  Scenarios like this one, included in a comprehensive character survey completed by students, spark rich discussion among staff and students about students’ ethical choices and actions.

Crew Leader Reflection Tool. Use this tool to reflect on your own practice as a Crew leader and to formulate next steps for improving your practice.

Synthesize & Take Action

For Teachers...

  1. How will you work to improve your own practice as a Crew leader?
  2. How can you support colleagues and leaders in your school to create a more effective and consistent Crew program across your school?

For School Leaders...

  1. How can you tweak or change your strategic planning structures and procedures to improve Crew across your school?
  2. What actions can you take to include more and more diverse voices in discussions of data and decision making about Crew?