Instructional Improvement

The NCS approach emphasizes developing and supporting shared leadership among the staff so that teachers have multiple opportunities to contribute beyond their classrooms. Tapping into the skills, ideas, experiences, and enthusiasm of committed faculty and staff throughout the building is a powerful strategy to continually improve instruction that supports learning and growth for all students, particularly Black, Indigenous, and Youth of Color (BIYOC).

To accomplish this, NCS Coaches support schools in establishing and strengthening Instructional Leadership Teams (ILT) that have the capacity, focus, and responsibility to lead continuous instructional improvement. The ILT includes leaders at the school from all academic departments—usually teachers interested in helping define and reach critical instructional goals.

Data, Research, and Instruction

The ILT uses data about their school, from test scores to student work, as well as current research, to determine a school-wide instructional goal called a Targeted Instructional Area (TIA). The TIA applies to all disciplines and supports the learning of all students. Examples of TIAs are critical thinking and argumentative literacy. Once a TIA is determined, the ILT engages in a cycle of inquiry to review the relevant research, explore and implement best practices, and share insights that can improve faculty approach to their work. Each ILT team is supported every step of the way by an NCS Coach who meets with them regularly to discuss how to establish necessary conditions, structures, and practices for school-wide instructional improvement. This process develops a collaborative school culture focused on equitable teaching and learning while continually supporting teachers to improve their practice.

Our approach to working with ILTs builds shared responsibility for reaching common instructional goals in all classrooms. It rests on the belief that adults will perform their best in a safe and challenging environment designed to support them to take risks and grow. NCS supports ILTs using the Targeted Leadership Consulting model of a professional learning cycle, which includes professional reading, teacher observation and feedback, and monitoring and modifying classroom practice. The process reinforces collaboration among faculty and is embedded in the day-to-day work.

NCS also supports schools in holding instructional Learning Walks, in which members of the ILT visit classrooms at their school to see their colleagues in action. Furthermore, NCS organizes Guided Visits, in which members of ILTs from all NCS schools are invited to another partner school to visit several classrooms. Afterward, members meet to discuss what they observed, give feedback to the host school, and discuss the implications for their schools. This process is a powerful way for teachers to share their teaching methods and gain insight from their peers.

As an ILT grows and its practices take hold in the school, NCS continues to work with the team to lead the school in deep layers of interaction around common instructional goals and culturally responsive teaching and learning. In this way, the ILT builds a robust culture of investment, equity, and excellence for all students.