Cahn Fellows Program Helps Principals Find Innovative Solutions in Education
So much is required for making a school great: excellent teachers, motivated students, challenging classes and strong extracurricular programs. It falls to the principal to make sure all these pieces come together. In addition to overseeing a school, principals often play the roles of politicians, crisis managers, legal experts, disciplinarians, statisticians, employers and motivational speakers. Not surprisingly, meeting such a demanding job description can be exhausting and isolating.
Since 2002, the Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished New York City Principals at Columbia University’s Teachers College has provided principals with opportunities for professional, intellectual, and personal growth through collaboration and peer discussions. During the 16-month program, Cahn Fellows are required to identify a challenge to student learning in their schools and develop an effective approach to solving it. Below are highlights of the challenges and solutions that were proposed by several of this year’s Cahn Fellows.
Michael Alcoff, Principal, Teachers Preparatory School, 226 Bristol Street, Brooklyn, NY 11212:
The Challenge: How can we improve the credit accumulation and four-year graduation rates of at-risk high school students, without compromising the academic rigor and integrity of our school’s program?
The Solution: After looking at traditional and alternative strategies for helping students make up lost credits, we decided to use teacher-created credit recovery portfolios. The purpose of the challenge was to plan, implement, and evaluate the program so that we can institutionalize it going forward. In this sense, I feel comfortable that we were successful in meeting this challenge.
Alicia Perez-Katz, Principal, Baruch College Campus High School, 17 Lexington Ave. Box A-920, New York, NY 10010:
The Challenge: The challenge I identified in my school was how to use data to effectively assess student growth and develop teachers towards creating systems that would support students in their classrooms.
The Solution: My approach to solving this problem was to have each department create a ‘Do Your Own Assessment’ modeled after the Department of Education requirement. Each department worked collaboratively to map out skills and expectations across the grades and developed ways to measure student progress and keep students informed.
Ruth N. Quiles, Principal, Public School 131, 4305 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11219:
The Challenge: My challenge was to build upon existing structures and create a Professional Learning Community. My staff has traditionally attended professional development outside of our school or has welcomed outsiders to provide it within our school. We are at a place where they should see themselves as members of a community who can provide professional development for themselves. I want a school where there are no classroom doors, and colleagues walk in and out of each other’s rooms to learn from one another.
The Solution: Each teacher chose his own committee, set his own goals, and had to create a project that would be beneficial to the teaching and learning of the entire school community. I am also creating a book where each community member will be listed along with his area of expertise that he is willing to share with others.#
For more information about the Cahn Fellows Program, visit www.cahnfellows.org