Transforming Sanchez School: Shared Leadership, Equity, and Evidence
Raymond R. Isola,
Paperback: 216 pages
Published: November, 2019
This book is the result of a 20-year collaboration between a school principal (Raymond R. Isola) and an educational researcher (Jim Cummins). Together, they document how the Sanchez Elementary School successfully implemented evidence-based instruction to transform the learning experiences of students from a low-income and linguistically diverse community in the Mission District of San Francisco.
The Sanchez School story shows the positive impact of using shared leadership and the results-oriented cycle of inquiry to implement school-based policies designed to activate students’ talents and intellectual power within the classroom. Over the course of 13 years, from 1999 to 2012, test scores improved dramatically. The school’s average annual academic growth was more than 20 points, much more than the 11-point average growth for elementary schools in California.
When Dr. Isola became principal, the school was performing in the lowest quartile of California’s Academic Performance Index. Contrary to top-down formulaic approaches, Principal Isola used a horizontal leadership system that engaged all stakeholders—including teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, parents, community members, businesses leaders, and students themselves—in the project of improving student learning and school reform.
Key focus areas of the transformation process:
- Development of dynamic learning communities that relate empirical research of what works for diverse students, schools, and communities to the concrete challenges faced at Sanchez School
- Shared leadership and results-oriented cycle of inquiry to build capacity for effective learning across generations within the school community
- Multi-dimensional roles of the school principal, including instructional leader, resource manager, social architect of learning, and community organizer/activist
- Evidence collection, including student achievement data, performance-based assessments, teacher leadership development, paraprofessional career ladder, and parent education and activism
By sharing the experience of the Sanchez School, the authors hope to open dialogue between administrators and staff and encourage reflection on their own school’s improvement strategies. Readers will be inspired to see the possibilities for linguistically and culturally diverse students from low-income communities; current notions will be challenged and guidance offered for important changes that will renew readers’ schools.
Core principles of the Sanchez renewal experience:
- Build relationships of trust and respect among administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, students, and parents.
- Develop shared leadership structures and processes that offer opportunities for all staff to grow professionally and share in the responsibility for promoting student achievement.
- Implement instruction that connects to students’ lives, respects their multilingual talents and cultural knowledge, and enables them to use multiple modes of representation (e.g., language, music, visual art) to express and expand their identities.
- Support strong parental and community engagement in the shared enterprise of educating children.
- Focus on students’ physical, emotional, and social well-being in order to remove potential impediments to learning.
- Provide preschool that generates curiosity, habits of inquiry, and literacy engagement.
- Use curriculum-focused assessment that monitors students’ academic growth as a means of informing instruction and, when necessary, intervention.
- Structure the school grounds as educational resources that enhance students’ socioemotional wellness, physical fitness, nutritional awareness, and overall environmental literacy.