Why We Held a Coding Camp for Teachers This Summer

Coding is a fundamental literacy, similar to reading. Just like “we are all teachers of reading,” teachers who are properly equipped can incorporate coding activities and discussions at the intersection of their course content and technology (i.e., discussing the use of machine learning in language translation, running Python scripts that analyze large chunks of literary … Continued

The Missing Ingredient in Science of Reading: Teacher and Leader Training

The Science of Reading (SoR) can be a game changer for students, especially student demographics that have historically struggled in reading. However, as states figure out how to fully implement SoR into classrooms across the country, one key ingredient of success is often still missing: effective teacher and leader training.  In our January 31st post, … Continued

Transforming Principal Diversity: Uncommon Schools Lead from Within Fellowship Program Empowers Leaders of Color

Where would I be without the mentorship and tutelage of Julie Jackson? Yes, Julie Jackson has impacted the careers of countless school leaders across the educational landscape. For me personally, I struggle to name all of the countless ways Julie has seen me, poured into my development as an educator, delivered tough feedback when I … Continued

Make History Real: Activate Student Engagement by Giving Access

Picture this: You’re about to teach one of your favorite history lessons. It’s a subject so nuanced and relevant that you want your students to come out of the lesson with the same passion and understanding that you have. It sounds simple. Yet the reality can be far different. Too often, when the day finally … Continued

The Power of Peer Mentorship

“The constant communication and productive collaboration provide continuous feedback that ultimately helps to improve student outcomes – it promotes an ‘iron sharpens iron’ mentality.”    –Dare’ra Spragg, first-year principal, Brownsville Collegiate Middle School The power of peer mentorship Authentic collaboration is one of the pillars of Uncommon Schools’ culture, and that extends to our Principal … Continued

Sprites, Spreadsheets & Salsa: Breaking Barriers in Computer Science

Salsa music filled the air as students walked into Spanish I at North Star Academy Washington Park High School in Newark on a recent morning. One by one, they greeted their teacher, Mya Rodriguez-Mendoza, with “Buenos días” and opened their laptops. But instead of tackling a traditional lesson, they dove into something new: Creating a … Continued

“Sold a Story” is a Renewed Call to Action

54% of American adults between the ages of 16-74 read below a 6th grade level.  That number is staggering.  That number means 130 million adults in our country face lost earning potential and are not equipped with the literacy skills needed to effectively self-advocate for themselves or to engage as citizens of a democracy. While … Continued

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

Introducing Uncommon’s Open Source AP Curriculum Hub

At Uncommon Schools, we are deeply committed to supporting our students to get to and through college, which includes providing a college-ready academic course trajectory with preparation that allows all students to access Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Research indicates that students who take at least one AP course perform better in college than those who … Continued

Our Plans to Reverse COVID-related Learning Loss

The 2021-2022 school year launches in two months and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome our students to a new school year full of fresh opportunities. The reality of COVID learning loss requires us to set a bold and necessary goal: to reverse 100% of COVID-related learning loss by June 2022. To achieve this … Continued

‘I am Black and I am Proud To Be’: Fostering Self-Love and Celebrating Identity in the Elementary Classroom

School Wellness Lessons On the cue of “go” a class of 4th graders races to find their favorite book. Bursting with excitement, they eagerly return to their seats with popular titles such as Goosebumps and Harry Potter. At the start of this community building block, students have space to indulge in 5 minutes of leisure … Continued

What Viola Davis Can Teach Us About Preparing for Discourse

Viola Davis, a true icon of stage, screen, and most likely future EGOT winner, had this to say about her research and process before a scene: Source: BAFTA Ms. Davis prepares to listen. To respond. To use whatever her partner gives her to create the most authentic and transformative theatrical experience. Engaging in effective discourse … Continued

To Maximize Summer School, Double Down on Reading

This year kids and teachers across the country have faced unprecedented challenges, both in and out of school. Despite schools’, teachers’, and parents’ heroic efforts, we know many students have lost instructional time and have fallen behind where they traditionally should be academically. Education leaders across the country are determined to find ways to make … Continued

Using Desmos to Drive Mathematical Discourse

Before the pandemic shut down school buildings, one of Lauren Masco’s best teacher moves was strategically walking around the classroom to observe students’ math work. Based on trending student thinking, Lauren would be able to quickly determine which students she should call on in order to orchestrate discourse based on students’ mathematical understandings and misconceptions. … Continued

Are Students Learning, Growing, and Thriving? Building a Community of Learners

Welcome to the first entry of the Uncommon Schools instructional blog, Uncommon Sense! We are excited to connect you with some of the incredible members of our Uncommon team along with ready-to-use resources and the cutting-edge research we utilize to drive student engagement and achievement. Our hope is that this blog may spark a new … Continued