Opportunity Culture Voices: When Students Own Their Academic Results, They Transform Their Schools

May 16, 2017

When you’re not sure where to start, ask your students! Well, not always, but when I came to Charlotte, North Carolina’s James Martin Middle School as a multi-classroom leader in 2014, I felt overwhelmed.

I started as the MCL for sixth grade, where for the previous three years the students had been experiencing negative learning growth — falling further and further behind. By my second year, my teaching team’s students exceeded the state’s expected growth targets in literacy and achieved double-digit growth in overall proficiency.

How did we accomplish this?  We began by surveying our students about their interests, trying to learn what motivates them and how to better serve their needs.

From that first survey on, I saw clearly that as an MCL, I can try as hard as possible to energize, support, and coach my team of teachers, but without empowering students, the efforts won’t yield results.

I was shocked to discover in student conferences how few students knew about grade-level expectations; even fewer were aware of their own performance on the previous state end-of-grade test. I asked myself how a student could succeed without any idea of the goal — and how effective could we be as teachers if our students were not fully invested in their success.

It was time to empower our students!

–Charlotte, N.C., Multi-Classroom Leader Erin K. Williams in When Students Own Their Academic Results, They Transform Their Schools

In interviews with many Opportunity Culture multi-classroom leaders in Charlotte and elsewhere, we hear them note the increasing importance of having students be exposed to, understand, and take responsibility for their “data.”  Read how dynamic multi-classroom leader Erin Williams confronted that need with joy and enthusiasm–and how that enthusiasm and belief in all her students’ potential transferred to them and led to terrific results. In an accompanying, inspiring video, Williams explains more about how she led her team to get those results.

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