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A North Carolina district is empowering second- and third-year teachers with a fresh approach to lesson design
Gaston County Schools, located in North Carolina, is the 10th-largest district in the state. We have a very diverse, economically challenged population in our school system, with roughly 65 percent of our student population eligible for free and reduced lunch.
Three years ago, when I started as executive director for high school instruction, our state of student achievement was average. That was not good enough for us. Like districts all over North Carolina, we were also facing teacher shortages. We typically see 40 new teachers in our high schools each year. These include teachers new to the practice as well as those new to our district.
We had pockets of excellence happening inside of classrooms, but only a handful of students benefiting from them. We aimed to have 100 percent of our classrooms doing great things for children. The challenge was how to get 700 teachers to buy into that.
We have a nationally recognized teacher induction program series (TIPS), but we decided that we needed to take a harder look at how are we supporting our new and younger teachers in years two and three.
Rather than starting with those that some might identify as on the “struggling” end of the spectrum, we chose the opposite approach. Two years ago, we invited 50 teachers—some might say the best teachers in each of our high schools—to join professional learning communities (PLCs). Last year, we expanded to a second cohort of 30 teachers.