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Scaling the Successes of Excellent Teachers

November 19, 2012

We want to announce an ambitious new undertaking here at BetterLesson; a common core-inspired, teacher-to-teacher learning project. First, a little background.

Here at BetterLesson, we’re pretty darn convinced that great teachers are the key to student learning — and there are lots of great teachers out there, demonstrably and impressively helping students learn.

So what’s the problem, you ask? Well, “the successes of excellent teachers live and die with them.” So said our man John Dewey over 80 years ago. And much to the peril of our education system here in the US of A, the same is true today. We don’t know what great teaching looks like; it remains a mythical thing. We can’t learn from these masters teachers.

Luckily, this is a problem technology can help us solve. We at BetterLesson feel poised to bring online the 95% of effective teaching that currently lives offline. And our friends at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation agree. Building off of two incredibly successful BetterLesson Fellows programs, newly bolstered by Gates’ judicious use of 3.5 million dollars, we’re in a uniquely great position to now do this work. We’ve spent the past few years cracking the nut of curriculum sharing, and we’ve validated some hypotheses and learned a few things about helping teachers learn from one another:

1. Curriculum really is a critical component of effective teaching, and it’s at the heart of the demands felt by veteran and developing teachers every day. It must remain central.

2. Teaching is more than great curriculum. This new project will center around the “how” (instructional strategies, classroom management approaches) as much as the “what” (curriculum) of teaching.

3. Classroom teachers, in the classroom, are the key. Our Master Teachers will share their noble craft from right in the thick of it. We will work with current classroom teachers, not “gurus” who have been out of the profession for 25 years.

4.  Excellent teachers taking the time and energy to share their wisdom in an externally-palatable, accessible way deserve to be recognized and compensated for their work. There should be more professional opportunities and mobility for our best classroom teachers.

Basically, we’re going to create a living, breathing body of knowledge that is rooted in the common core and centers around incredible teachers. How, you ask? By sourcing and recruiting the best teachers from around the country; by giving them access to the most capable common core-knowledgeable coaches in the country; by supporting their development of full courses built from the common core up; by capturing their approaches to planning, instruction, and classroom management in the context of these courses; by sharing this with every teacher via the BL site; and by providing the community the tools to discuss, remix, and adapt these resources to meet the needs of their students. Simple, right? Well, probably not. We know it’s ambitious, but it’s powerful, necessary work. And we’re also pretty sure it’s going to be fun.  

Oh, and we’re starting now. We’re starting with grades 6-12 Math. So, are you or a loved-one a Master Teacher? Or do you just want to learn more? Drop us a line (christine.glandorf@betterlesson.com), and we’ll get in touch to begin the application and interview process.

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