More Stories from TASS Schools
In Part II of this series Nancy Cornell, long-time Assistant Superintendent and Curriculum Coordinator shares her perspective about working toward improving their schools in partnership with TASS – Teaching All Secondary Students. TASS is the VT-HEC program that supports middle and high schools with a tailored and coordinated array of coaching and learning opportunities over an extended period of time. Nancy confirmed the TASS belief in the Michael Fullan statement about school reform:
“The main problem with educational systems and corresponding innovation and policy making is that they are, intrinsically, endemically, inevitably, overloaded and fragmented. Therefore, the main solutions have to be ones that contribute to coherence making and connectedness.” Michael Fullan
Nancy told about how Mt. Abraham middle & high school always had pockets of excellence and a history of starting many separate initiatives, some even garnering national recognition. There was not, however, a coherence of purpose and action that saw the whole school working and moving forward together. Nancy recounted that in her 20+ years she had hired many talented consultants who often did great work, but they rarely coordinated that work with other consultants or other parts of the school. In contrast, the TASS consultants were clearly reading from the same page and coordinating their efforts which greatly increased their impact. Nancy joked that when she hired TASS she knew that when even when the TASS consultants were not actually working in her building they were out there somewhere coordinating and planning what they were doing at Mt. Abe because she could see the difference they were making and knew she was getting the most from her investment.
Another point Nancy highlighted was the focus TASS has on making change through collaborative implementation. TASS has the capacity, she said, to train facilitators to help make the school’s collaborative teams and Critical Friends groups work more effectively. That in turn had a positive impact on making progress in multiple areas, even beyond those that TASS was working on. Nancy noted here that TASS consistently acted on the belief that collaborative work was key to making lasting whole-school change. As examples, Nancy told of TASS consultant, Wendy Cohen, providing instruction and coaching to teachers on their work as facilitators and the whole TASS team meeting regularly with the leadership team to plan together.
Nancy also recounted that TASS consultants, Wendy, Bill Rich and Susie Girardin, designed many different kinds of learning opportunities to meet the specific needs of the moment for the teachers they were working with including designing inservice days, planning staff and department meetings, providing in-class coaching and offering graduate courses during the year and over the summer. Nancy told us that some of these courses were offered with Mt. Abe staff partnering with TASS staff to instruct the course as an example of TASS developing and utilizing the expertise found within the staff.
Lastly, Nancy talked about the work that TASS consultants, such as Val Gardner, had done with the leadership to plan for the year including outlining what they wanted to prioritize and developing a calendar that outlined their work, meetings, deadlines, etc. The leadership team also worked with Val to define what they expected from the teachers and to identify what support the teachers would need. Nancy noted that it wasn’t just the building administrators that TASS supported but also the Supervisory Union administrators and leaders of the elementary schools to facilitate district-wide planning.
Nancy ended by saying that she could not speak highly enough about how the comprehensive and coordinated work of TASS had helped Mt. Abe.
For more information about the TASS program, the services it can provide and the findings of its eight years of experience in Vermont schools, go to our web site at vthec.org or contact Seth Marineau at [email protected]
“It used to be that we were always alone, in a silo, and it was uncommon for me to really examine student performance, to find the time to actually analyze an assignment, determine which kids have evidence of understanding…now we are able to support one another Our conversations have been really productive and exciting”
Today I was reviewing Tier III questions with my students I thought it was so affirming of our work together when a student said ‘Hey, we talked about Tier III questions in such-and-such’s class today!’ I responded, ‘Freaky, I know. We actually talk to each other!’ It was great evidence of the collaborative nature and common learning that TASS has supported.”