Puzzle of Practice

P.S. 26 had a major and immediate issue to address. The culture and climate of the school was in great need of attention. There had been a series of situations and opportunities that led to a very difficult climate where the students were permitted to behave in a way that created great distraction and made learning and positive habits a challenge. As one can imagine, because the climate was in such need, the overall learning and performance of students was not moving in a positive direction.

The first thing the principal did was build a climate of respect and positive choices including accountability for student behavior. This slowly but surely began to have an impact on the teaching, pedagogy, and learning expectations for students. One of the greatest observations and concerns made was that both students and teachers felt that their voices were not heard. Once addressed, the school began to make positive changes that allowed a shift to focus on improving teaching and learning.

Collective Goal

The School began its work by addressing the culture and climate. Once the climate began to improve, the next issue was to empower teachers to regain their creativity in teaching and responsiveness to student needs. As this series of positive actions and feelings built over time, it then became possible to support teachers in deepening their understanding and expanding their skills in the standards they teach. This move soon uncovered the next major piece of work, that is, supporting teachers to have a common and deep understanding of the target standards. Much time and effort was spent discussing and working to understand what a rich unit of learning would contain and how targets for students can be supported and assessed.

This collaborative work further built strong and positive relationships with teachers because they could see much more clearly the cause and effect of what they did with students and their impact on learning.

The School continued on this path of building clarity of the standards and knew that if they kept working at this that student performance and achievement would improve.

Collective Action

Together, P.S. 26 and The Core Collaborative co-constructed six steps to success.

1. Focus on Climate
PS 26 began their journey with a focus on cli-mate. They knew that if students and staff didn’t feel that the school was a welcoming and emo-tionally safe place to be that consistent and deep learning would never take place.

2. Develop Clarity
As climate and student accountability began to improve, the School provided professional learning opportunities for teachers to dive deep into the focus standards and collaboratively develop clarity across grade levels.

3. Expectations of the Focus Standards
This dive into clarity uncovered the reality that the School’s curriculum needed updating and a complete overhaul. This led to a powerful partnership with a local University to use a research-driven curriculum in ELA and Math. The teacher teams began having powerful collaborative conversations on the grade level expectations of the focus standards.

4. Refinement of Units and Learning Expectations.
The more time that was spent in the building and supporting teacher understanding of the standards and curriculum led to even more precise team work and further refinement of units and learning expectations.

5. Analysis of Student Work
Teams were now excited to look at student work and performance because they had a much clearer view of the expectations of the focus standards. Teams used the Impact Teams protocol Evidence, Analysis, Action – Analysis of Student Work with skill because it provided an opportunity to identify root cause as well as the collaboratively designed targeted actions that they valued. It made a difference in student learning and they (teachers and students) could see improvement.

6. Improved Clarity
PS 26 now has a clear pattern of examining high priority standards and diving deep into not only understanding what the student work should look like but how to respond to students’ needs. This improved clarity has allowed the School to set even more targeted student performance goals in the areas of application and transfer.


Teachers now make it a common practice to expect students to self-assess regularly and practice speaking about their current performance and how they expect to improve. Collaboratively building teacher clarity across grade levels and then building student proficiency and confidence in identifying their current performance and next learning steps has allowed PS 26 to dive deep into high impact practices and create a targeted focus in both application and transfer. This combination of practices allows teachers to be timely in their response to all students’ learning needs and has resulted in improved achievement:

  • English Language Arts (ELA) – the number of students scoring 3 or 4 on the State Test increased by 18% from 2016 to 2019
  • Mathematics – the number of students scoring 3 or 4 on the State Test increased 28% from 2016 to 2019
  • P.S. 26 performed higher than the city comparison reference group in both ELA and Mathematics

Download the whitepaper to view the data.