LESSON #1: GROUPING THE PARTICIPANTS
Ensemble Learning is a national organization committed to fixing the inequities in the education system by improving how schools serve students – especially our most underserved. To accomplish this work, we’re working directly with charter school leaders in three different pilots to provide space, expertise, collaboration and resources they can leverage to address the challenges at their school sites. Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about the best way to build networks of charter school operators to improve instruction.
The first lesson we learned is how to group the participants. In one case, we looked at data for a gap in achievement between English learners and native speakers in a specific region and invited those CMOs to work with us. In the second pilot, we put out a national RFP focused on helping teachers who teach learners with disabilities. The final pilot allowed any CMO of a certain size in a specific city to participate.
Our conclusion is that there is no single way. Although the data was important to identify a common need, the impetus for improvement did not come organically from the organization. We were an outside agency offering a way to take action. Offering an RFP provided an active route for organizations to commit, but many of the individual participants weren’t sure why they were part of the pilot. Finally, the geographic group of charter schools could not identify a common problem they were all able to address.
In our future networks, we’ll use a combination of approaches. First, we’ll use data to identify schools with a common instructional need. Next, we’ll introduce ourselves, explain the project and make sure the right individuals are aware of the work we’ll do. Finally, we’ll ask them to do a simple RFP that includes every participant signing before submitting.