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Every School Can Become Great

We believe all schools can empower their students to acquire the academics and agency to break generational poverty and achieve their life goals and dreams.

Every school, no matter its starting point or the socioeconomic status of the communities it serves, has the innate potential to achieve the Empowerment Destination for all students.

What is the Empowerment Destination for a School?

No matter where a school begins their journey on the Pathways to School Advancement, their instructional systems, educator capacities, and resulting classroom learning culture develop along the way. The Empowerment Destination is reached when systems, capacities, and culture mature to the point that all students of all races and socioeconomic status achieve grade level proficiency or higher and develop the agency to break generational poverty.

At the Empowerment Destination, the vast majority of students reach grade level proficiency through rigorous and engaging Tier 1 core instruction with few students needing the support of Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions.

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Vision for Tier 1 Core Instruction

Schools need a destination vision for instruction that everyone aspires to, rallies around, and aligns their work toward achieving. The Empowerment Destination provides the motivating vision for instruction that is achievable for every school and for all students from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

When a school on the Pathways to School Advancement reaches the Empowerment Destination, Tier 1 instruction transforms across all classrooms with a focus on student-led learning in a team-based environment where students engage in rich, grade level texts and cognitively complex tasks with interdisciplinary real-world applications.

In the learning environments our model of instruction creates, students develop self-efficacy and a sense of dedication to their community of scholars in their student learning team. Students develop and own the learning culture of their team where they self-regulate and peer-regulate their behaviors to the benefit of their learning community. Students develop care and empathy for other students and build lifelong bonds.

Within the student-led learning community in their team, students develop persistence, leadership, organizational skills, critical thinking and reasoning, creativity, and the robust agency necessary to succeed in college or career and in life. These are the skills necessary to break generational poverty and advance all students.

Every school, no matter its starting point, can follow the unique systems-based approach of the Pathways to School Advancement and reach the Empowerment Destination for its students, staff, and community.

Empowering Teachers

Working towards the Empowerment Destination classroom learning culture brings immense benefits to teachers, including a significant increase in professional satisfaction and happiness. Although there is work to put the new structures and processes in place along the Pathways to School Advancement, once those new classroom instructional systems start producing fruit, teachers experience a surge of positive student behaviors associated with high agency. Students’ needs are met in their teams, including the needs of students who previously expressed challenging behaviors. Students come to class equipped and ready to learn grade level rigorous content. Students’ active engagement in their learning skyrockets. Students become resources to one another to reach rigorous lesson learning targets. And students co-own their team’s learning culture.

Teachers often report how their students are “learning without me” meaning that their students have become self-motivated learners within their teams and take responsibility for their own and their peers’ learning success. Teachers who have previously experienced fatigue and burnout now report a sense of renewal and energy as teaching becomes more joyful through this process.

“I am a happier teacher because I’m not doing all the work. Yes, I’m planning it, but my students are doing the work. I just love watching them grow and figure things out by themselves.”

Julie Lake
Kindergarten Teacher, Howe Elementary School, Des Moines, IA

Empowering Principals

As students develop and display higher agency skills in the classroom and teaching becomes more joyful, we see a similar benefit reported by principals. Like teachers, principals must work hard to generate greater student proficiency results each year with the inherited legacy instructional systems in today’s schools. When those systems are transformed on the Pathway of School Advancement to the Empowerment Destination, students’ proficiency gains increase each year while achievement gaps narrow by race and socioeconomic status – with an attainable goal of disappearing entirely. In other words, the instructional systems and resulting classroom learning culture begin doing the heavy lifting instead of over relying on principal and teacher effort.

This Is Systems Work, Not a Program

The Pathways to School Advancement focuses on the root cause systems that are holding the school back. Too frequently, the answer to the symptoms produced by weak instructional systems is buying more and more programs. This often leads to further educator fatigue and eventually a distrust of new initiatives from teachers. The answer lies within the Pathways to School Advancement process of focusing on systems improvement and systems maturity.

The amount of lift these innovative instructional systems can achieve in Tier 1 core instruction – particularly for students who have been historically marginalized – is truly revolutionary. Principals on the Pathway to the Empowerment Destination learn how to implement and lead these evidence-based systems of instructional empowerment for teachers and students.

“For a long time, our district had been focused on programs, but we wanted to partner with an outside expert to build sustainable practices that were not reliant on a specific program. One of the things that drew us to this partnership was that it was not program-based. Over time, we could substitute or replace curriculum materials or different programs but the practices would remain because the partnership helps to change educators’ way of work, their classroom practices, and their expectations for students.”

Jonathan Hinke
Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives, Putnam County Schools, FL

One Transformation Inspires Another

On the Pathways to School Advancement, PLCs transform into high-functioning teacher teams that drive a proactive system of ensuring all students are learning in Tier 1 core instruction. State assessment results only confirm what teachers already know by proactively tracking student learning. Teachers develop into master planners of rich and rigorous learning tasks that act as fuel for highly engaged student learning teams in their classrooms. Student learning teams mature into student-led learning communities where every student supports their fellow team members to achieve higher proficiency. This quickly becomes a virtuous cycle where teachers and students together are experiencing greater agency each cycle of instruction.

“What I see now is focus and energy that wasn’t there before. Our teachers have pride in what they’re doing and what they’re accomplishing. They want people to come in and see the exciting things they’re doing because they’re really proud of their kids and they’re proud of the work they’re doing.”

Selena Valentine
Principal, Starr Elementary School, Grand Island, NE

Empowering Leaders at Every Level

The Pathways to School Advancement process builds the capacity of leaders at every level from student leaders to teacher leaders to school leaders. These innovative systems result in a culture of empowerment that cascades through the school as it reaches the Empowerment Destination. Teachers empower student teams. Principals empower teacher teams. The school leadership team transforms into a “team of teams” and becomes the heartbeat connecting the systems and teams together under the leadership of the principal as an agile instructional leader.

Everyone is a learner. Everyone is a leader. The school becomes a true learning organization with a flourishing learning culture for the adults and the students. All of this creates a leadership development pipeline as leaders are organically developed at every level including students, teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators.

Founder and CEO of Instructional Empowerment Michael Toth celebrates progress with Dawn Swann, principal of Greensboro Elementary School in Caroline County, Maryland, after walking classrooms together and observing student-centered pedagogy in action.

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Empowering Students for Life Success

Imagine an entire K-12 school system on the Pathway to the Empowerment Destination. Each grade level feeds up to the next with higher levels of rigor and agency development in students. Racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps disappear entirely. All students accelerate their learning and development within an empowering model of instruction. Students in this school system graduate with significant agency and the robust academic skills to advantage themselves and others in college or career and throughout life.

We are on a mission to bring the instructional systems of empowerment and the empowered learning culture of the Empowerment Destination to every school that wants to achieve it, for every student.

Where Will You Begin Your Journey to the Empowerment Destination?

Schedule a meeting with our expert educators to discuss your school’s story. We meet you where you are on three unique Pathways with different levels of support. No matter your initial starting point, we can help you reach the Empowerment Destination.

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