Four Schools on the Way to Total Transformation
“From Vision to Results”, a project by Teach For Bulgaria and Sofia Municipality, or how to support schools to accomplish their goals and disseminate best practices
What is total transformation and how can it be achieved on a school level? Four Sofia schools answered this question by sharing their experience and best practices on October 14 at a forum called “From Vision to Results”. This was the final conference at the end of the pilot year of a project supported by Sofia Municipality and Teach For Bulgaria. The project participants focused their efforts on improving the school environment and learning outcomes of their students. The four schools selected to participate in “From Vision to Results” were 90 Secondary School “Gen. José de San Martín”, 106 Primary School “Grigoriy Tsamblak”, 156 Primary School “Vasil Levski”, and 159 Primary School “Vasil Levski”.
“We asked ourselves what would happen if we identified several schools which have already taken significant steps towards positive change, helped them define a specific goal for the year as well as clearly defined criteria of what success would look like, and supported them to accomplish this goal,” Neli Koleva, Chief Officer of Public Partnerships at Teach For Bulgaria, said in her opening speech.
The project is yet another example of the collaboration between Teach For Bulgaria and Sofia Municipality. The two partners first collaborated eight years ago when the first Summer Academy was organized by Teach For Bulgaria to give students the opportunity to engage in useful activities during the long summer break and to provide practical training to the first class of participants in the program.
Ivetka Petrova, member of Sofia Municipal Council and the standing committee on education, also addressed the participants at the forum and said it was high time politicians prioritized education.
According to Neli Koleva, the four schools selected for the pilot year of the project had one thing in common: they all had already started working towards positive change and they had accumulated some good practices which they were happy to share. Such schools are rarely in the spotlight, but they are a pretty good representation of the average educational institution in Bulgaria.
“Our strategy was to learn from experience and explore every possible solution to get to the right answer,” Neli Koleva added.
In the Beginning – Clear Goals and a Plan
Radostina Boycheva, Project Manager for Teach For Bulgaria, shared how important it was that the schools set their own goals, identified potential challenges, and created customized action plans. She also added that “you can’t just tell someone there is a problem – they have to see it and want to solve it.” The initial analysis helped schools identify optimization opportunities and decide how to accelerate the process with the help of Teach For Bulgaria and Sofia Municipality.
After each school identified their needs and areas of improvement, they set clear goals for the following school year and specific success indicators in order to track their progress. Then they created school-specific action plans to overcome potential challenges and conducted a diagnostic assessment. The teams of every school were trained to set and pursue goals and to work with data. After this initial training every teacher had to determine next steps for working with students. At the end of the school year the teams analyzed their progress, measured the efficiency of their efforts, and set new priorities.
In order to make accurate initial assessments and set clear success indicators, all teachers, students, and parents had to fill out anonymous surveys. These surveys were based on “The Seven Cs of Effective Teaching” whose methodology was already successfully implemented in Teach For Bulgaria’s leadership and professional development program. According to this framework, there are seven key elements of effective teaching – captivate, consolidate, clarify, care, confer, classroom management, and challenge. These were the main criteria which the teachers used to track their progress during the pilot year of the project.
When Hard Work Pays Off
The results at the end of the pilot school year show improvement in the performance both for the students and their teachers. The number of students who think that their teacher is captivating has increased by 25% by the end of the school year. The number of students who think that their teacher manages their classroom effectively has also increased by 25%. The number of students who think that their teachers believe in their potential and recognize their needs has increased by over 40%.
According to the data collected at the end of the year, twice as many teachers share that every student works hard, follows the rules in the classroom, and demonstrates an interest in the specific subject. Teachers also feel that their students appreciate their efforts and that collaborating with their colleagues leads to better academic results for the students.
Find out more about the results in this file.
“Children are an exceptionally good indicator for what goes on in the classroom,” commented Neli Koleva and added that “the fact that students appreciate their teachers’ hard work has a huge impact on the classroom climate. Teachers should be able to see it and their students should be able to learn better when their voices are heard.”
The analysis also indicates better student performance in all subjects – this undoubtedly comes as a result of everyone’s purposeful effort to work for the success of every child.
A YEAR LATER: WHAT DID WE LEARN
Reflections and discussions at the end of the school year outlined a few lessons learned which could easily be implemented in other similar projects and initiatives. Some of the most important lessons are:
- When everyone who works at the school internalizes the fact that change is much needed, their commitment is stronger and their efforts are purposeful;
- When the principal is just as engaged in the process as the rest of the team, teachers find their new tasks more meaningful and don’t just think of them as “more paperwork”;
- The school staff needs to reflect on their progress, celebrate every success, share their challenges, and look for solutions together;
- Change is a long and purposeful process which requires persistence.
- The project activities can easily be adapted and implemented in other schools willing to work towards their total transformation. We are going to publish a detailed list of all project goals and practices set and implemented by each of the four schools.
You can find more stories about best practices inspired by Teach For Bulgaria’s experience or shared by some of our participants here.
Take a look at some photos from the event: