Studying our Nation’s Complicated History: Leveraging Productive Struggle for Student Growth

Last winter, I got a call about Emmett Till. The caller was a member of my team, one of a brilliant group of teachers and planners who develop middle and high school history curriculum and assessments. This team member was creating curriculum for Uncommon Schools’ first African-American History course, and asked for help framing his … Continued

Why Trust and Rapport Matter to School Leadership, and How to Foster It

Having an effective principal is a key driver of student success, teacher retention, and teacher satisfaction. Unfortunately, across the country, we’re seeing a decline in school leaders’ average number of years of experience, especially within the highest-need schools. Over the past several years, we at Uncommon have been laser-focused on cultivating a pipeline of teachers … Continued

Two Surprising Secrets to Academic Success

Welcome back to another school year! I love so many things about this season, but I especially enjoy reconnecting with our returning teachers and meeting the new additions to our team. This year, I was thrilled to see a returning teacher, Mr. Shawn Toulson, who also happened to be my student in my first year … Continued

Our Plans for the 2022-2023 School Year

Almost one-year ago, we shared our K-12 plan for the 21-22 school year in Our Plans to Reverse COVID-related Learning Loss. Our approach was designed to address both the academic and the social-emotional needs of our students grounded in the pillars of staff and student wellness, prioritizing reading instruction in K-6, small group instruction focused … Continued

Look Who’s Talking!: Building a ‘Brave Space’ in Class

   “To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.” -bell hooks My teenage years included trips to the movie theater where I was mesmerized by 3D movies. I loved watching … Continued

Yes! You can teach sight words efficiently. Here’s how.

Cajsa is a 1st grader at Leadership Prep Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. In September 2021, after a year and a half of remote learning over Zoom, she started the year as a STEP 1 (Fountas and Pinnell (F&P) Level A), with a reading accuracy of only 83% (90% is a passing score). In just 6 … Continued

One Year of Uncommon Sense

One year ago, we introduced Uncommon Sense, a blog whose intention is to introduce you to some of the incredible members of our Uncommon team along with ready-to-use resources and the cutting-edge research that we utilize to drive student engagement and achievement.  Our hope was and continues to be that when asked, “Are your students … Continued

Getting to Why: Developing Inspirational Leaders by Connecting to Purpose

“If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.” —Dr. Maya Angelou I began my career at Uncommon Schools as a teacher. As part of my hiring process, I guest-taught a lesson. It didn’t go well. I knew it, and the hiring principal Michael Mann knew … Continued

Revising Curriculum With the DEI Lens Tool – A Collectivist Approach

In Jerard Walker’s essay, Dragon Slayers (The Iowa Review, 2006), Walker reflects on his journey as a black professor who realizes that black literature is too often approached as a record of oppression. After deep introspection, he designed his classes to challenge that narrative with a focus on the flip side: black courage and heroism. … Continued

A Tool to Ensure Your Curriculum Includes All Voices

Four years ago, I received an email from a teacher regarding a middle school history lesson about the tenuous relationships of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, in which key Haitian perspectives were not accurately included. The teacher, who identifies as being both Dominican and Haitian, knew the importance of including the complete perspectives of both … Continued