In 2010, only 20% of the students at D.C.’s Truesdell Education Campus could read on grade level. Eight years later, more than 87% can read on or above grade level--and they love reading! How did this school turn around? Principal Mary Ann Stinson and Assistant Principal Michael Redmond II share their innovative strategies, creative approaches, and inspiring commitment to closing the opportunity gap in their school community.

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00:00:02They read that book it had to little black kids eleven year olds and fourteen forty year old jeannie and ernie and the boys are like i loved that book I felt like i was a part of it but it was just a coming of age story Welcome back
00:00:17to ed fix by michael feuer your hosts for our podcast which is a source for insights about the practice and promise of education We are in for an amazingly interesting conversation with two wonderful colleagues friends of ours here a the graduate school of education and human development and
00:00:41even more importantly friends of the community of the district of columbia Marianne stinson is the principal at the truesdale education campus a d c public school for students pre k through grade eight in ward four and michael redman is the assistant principal Trusdell has won already the standing
00:01:08ovation d c excellence in school innovation award for two thousand seventeen both marianne and michael are students doctoral students here at g w just some introductions so i'm goingto defer to our principle Yes first Good morning and thank you dean for you for having us this morning I've
00:01:32been at truesdale for eight years now i came to d c public school Ls for the position at truesdale on dh was very excited to be the principle of an education campus serving children pre k three through middle grades up through eighth grade i'm a product of the
00:01:49catholic school system and went to a similar school with those kinds of grades and i really believe in the value of having students for ten years and being able to really shape and mold and give them every opportunity that they need to go on to the next phase
00:02:05of their life which would be to our case make sure our boys and girls are ready for the highly selective high schools here in the district that they had that opportunity just the same as any other student in the district So we focus on that from them a
00:02:20minute that a three year old enters our doors and continue that joyful rigorous work so that they are prepared to go on to high school and then of course to college Prior to coming to the district i was an administrator in richmond public schools just through serendipity met
00:02:37somebody at a conference that work for the district We were in a data working lunch meeting and that person said to me wow you know a lot about data we need you in the district and that started the conversation and a recruitment process to come to the district
00:02:52that time michelle rhee was the chancellor i really wanted to be at the forefront of the reform effort I have very high expectations and belief and children and threw my teaching experience and administrative experience in an urban school and urban schools in richmond I really so what could
00:03:11happen when you have teachers that believe in kids It's never the kids that don't make it it's not a and achievement gap i think sometimes it's a teacher gap so i was very excited to come and be part of a reform movement on over the eight years we've
00:03:25seen substantial change at trusdell in a positive way we've seen student growth we have gone from twenty percent of our students reading on grade level in twenty ten to over eighty seven percent of our students now read on grade level or above and a significant portion of the
00:03:42students read well above grade level s so we're very excited to give that gift to our boys and girls and to prepare them for whatever their wildest dreams Maybe we know that our job right now is to prepare them for a world that we don't even know exists
00:03:58we don't know what they're going to be facing we don't know what type of job opportunities there will be so we're preparing our students for those opportunities that will come to them mr michael redmond say a little bit about yourself and how long you've been a truce though
00:04:15and then you know i'm going to ask you something very specific about one of your projects there but go ahead tell us what you can Good morning and thank you so much for having me I've been a truesdale for three years but actually a cross paths with ms
00:04:32tinson through the access felt as access fellow at g w and it's such an awesome opportunity to come to a job but that is your purpose in your passion and for your leader toe have faith in you to do the work and trust you and that has been
00:04:50the greatest experience of these four years learning from her and her trusting me to do this work I am where i am because i'm i have the opportunity to stand on your shoulders like you She is tremendous in the district in this work in education and then breath
00:05:06of knowledge that she brings up to reforming schools in places that other people don't believe could have the results that she's had every day We're pushing for more and more kids we want all of our kids that when we use the fried like all means all we really
00:05:21mean that and it's not like we're not satisfied with having the great turn around until every single one of our babies is able to read and ableto like ms tinson said be equipped with the skills in the knowledge that they need to be able to go out and
00:05:37fulfilled their wildest dreams not my wildest dreams for them or societies wildest dreams but whatever they decide is what they want for themselves We were involved in educator preparation here among other things are we creating a foundation of skills and knowledge that are sufficient for our graduates toe
00:05:59work even in places work They don't have the kind of leadership atmosphere that you've described it at truesdale what could we be doing more I think for schools of education i think that it's important that yes we train teachers and we give them a lot of the theory
00:06:18and a lot of the background but we have to they have to get more experience and more practical mes you're talking about cognitive development you're talking about this and what does that look like when you have a kid that hasn't eaten or whose mom is dealing with substance
00:06:31abuse or who has a brother who was just murdered and there have you know six seven eight nineteen adverse childhood experiences what does that really look like in this no textbook that can really prepare you for that so making sure that we continue to link these awesome theories
00:06:49with doing the work every day there's nothing that replaces doing the work and i think that the field of medicine does a really good job of that like we just don't send doctors out there because they have studied a book and they've followed around other doctors for a
00:07:03couple of hours we said like no you're going to go to a very intense residency program and you're going to follow in burke entering with other doctors for years and i don't think that we operate with that same urgency and that same mindset around how life for debt
00:07:22teaching is so marianne your you did mention that you come from a catholic school background is your current philosophy of leadership somehow related to what you experienced you know being raised by the nuns is not necessarily the most loving experience because they they have high expectations and there's
00:07:48a lot of structure Catholic schooling is very structured it's very routine it's very consistent and i think there's a lot of value and then we bring that consistency and that's structured to our students and our staff and there is that expectation that learning is going to be happening
00:08:05every day at a high quality every single day but i think what is very different and a lot of this was really developed through the work here at g w and i could talk about a few very significant experiences that both michael and i had here a g
00:08:19w that transformed the work that we do in twenty ten and over the next few years we were very focused on academics Our mission statement was reading on grade level and people would tell me over and over again that's not a mission statement like that's a goal and
00:08:34i said well you could call on a mission a vision a goal by priority But i'm telling you right now every kid in this school is going to learn how to read and we're not doing anything else This is a choosed allen twenty ten yeah but i was
00:08:45hired in august fifth twenty ten tau open school august twenty first the principal was gone the assistant principal has gone the instructional soup was gone and the school was under total renovation and this is not an exaggeration This was the reality i walked in the first day that
00:09:01gave me a hard hat and my first job was to hire an assistant principal which i did Clinton turner who was an amazing force as well But as i looked at the data and the outrage that students in eighth grade were reading on a kindergarten level that they
00:09:15were going to graduate a school that they may have been at for ten years and still didn't know how to read i just could not put my head down on my pillow at night So it was a very simple a vision that we were going to figure this
00:09:28out and kids are going to learn how to read and that's what we set out to do and through the hard work of a lot of people Mr our plea who's another assistant principal was a coach at the time he it was promoted from within as an assistant
00:09:40principal Now he and i both had the same vision for what literacy needed to look like and to be quite honest those structures were not in place within the district or within the school Michelle rhee was doing a lot of reform work that was needed The school went
00:09:54under the control of them mayor so we had a lot of latitude and i think because the district had so much work to do we were sort of left alone at the school to design what we needed to design however fast forward five years into twenty fifteen twenty
00:10:09sixteen where we saw the fruits of that labor for reading kids know how to read kids could technically reed they knew their phonics they understood comprehension skills they were able to do that but we weren't seeing the truth love of reading or the joy of a rigorous experience
00:10:25in the school and we knew that that was our next step and meeting mr redman we both have the same sense of what the purposes and our passion is around young people We went to policy institute with dr luke kant mcgee coach bryant and at that policy institute
00:10:42that summit was all around adverse childhood experiences and developing trauma sensitive environments I had not had the language for that before i knew what we did i knew how we love kids I knew that when kids came in and dragged themselves down the wall of the school or
00:10:58would fight now want to go into a classroom that the only way to combat that was through love and conversations but i didn't really have the why behind it and that institute galvanized that for me and that's the work that we have now brought back to the school
00:11:13and we say that every classroom has to be just a cz much therapeutic as it is academic and now teaches of the first responders to kids who are showing up every day coming from traumatic situations that they faced but maintaining high expectations for them and we know that
00:11:32all the love in the world is not going to get them into aa high performing high school so it needs to be both It has to be the academics that has to be therapeutic so i've always affirm kids believed in kids but well mr redman showed up a
00:11:47choose doubt and truly showed us how you feel firm a young black boy It was life changing for me All the work that i thought i was doing all the affirmation i thought i was giving i realized was so small and so little compared to what was really
00:12:02needed and i think we have this conversation a lot I think representation matters i think any work that i do it's not authentic I don't have the the experience in life to truly understand through the eyes of our boys and girls i don't look like but the kids
00:12:18at my school and i needed to see it through somebody that did have that experience And mr redman brought that to our school and he's taught all of us so much about how you truly love children and that solves so much S o the nuns were the rulers
00:12:35i've left that behind that that i ever had a rule it towards a child anyway But you know old school would be you keep your foot in the back and kids until december don't even say hello to them that is so wrong and it's so opposite of what
00:12:48really works But if you only give like a little dose of affirmation or little dose of love that's not enough it has to be so overwhelming that kids can't fight it and they come around because they're coming in with so much hurt and pain i would say that
00:13:04they're at least two two components to ingredients of the recipe that you are suggesting one is total commitment and dedication on the part of the teachers the administrators the aids and the second part of the recipe is the leadership what we see in schools and this is my
00:13:28third school of reform and it's happened in all three schools so it's not happened stands and it's not by chance and i said i was not the leader and the other to school so i am just bringing forward what i've been shown and taught by other fantastic school
00:13:40leaders When you build a structure and you build the team and you're relentless on what your expectation is for children it will happen you have to believe in the kids and it has to be a whole team effort for high expectations and believe me in twenty ten eleven
00:13:58twenty twelve even today there's a lot of people that do not like mary instance and that do not believe in the work that has to be done and i'm okay with that and i tell people like this is not for everybody working in an urban school is not
00:14:13for everybody and i don't know why it is for some of us that we have it but there's some reason why that it is the drive and we've been fortunate enough over eight years now to build a very powerful team that go far beyond what anyone would expect
00:14:28somebody to do for their work but they love the work mr robin and i talk a lot about in some of our research that we hope to do is around scholar identity and high quality literacy programs within schools separately either one of them is not going to make
00:14:45it just to give kids reading skills without the correct mindset are out without the right believe in themselves that's going to fall short to give them the scholar identity to think that i'm scholarly yet i can't back that up with anything that full short two we've seen people
00:15:02that are sort of loud and wrong that's not going to get you far either so it's the combination mr redmond was working on the scholar identity work and programs that contribute to that might work has been on the side of literacy and being able to set up systems
00:15:17within schools that way work i think far too long we hear about how brown and black boys can't read that's unbelievable to me because i'm telling you you send any black boyd's accused l they will learn how to read and now we not only have them learning how
00:15:32to read but they're absolutely loving reading and when mr redmond shares the number of books the volume within those books and the text that our boys air reading far above their grade level we now see the fruition of this and it's not just i thought that we had
00:15:49that maybe this would happen it is happening and i'd like to also say like a program that we've set up it impacts out parent out parents air reading the books out parents of seeing what their kids can do sometimes stuff that they were never able to do themselves
00:16:03that they wish that they could have but it's a second chance for all of them and i do think in time it could also impact the community in a very powerful way Interestingly you mentioned that you started at trusdell eight years ago which is approximately a year and
00:16:22a half into our experiment with mayoral control in washington d c and a year or two we're probably two years into the tenure off the then chancellor michelle rhee both of those phrases mayoral reform and michelle rhee i would venture to say are not the most popular metaphors
00:16:47on the lips of washingtonians today Yes what's the plus minus so far i this experiment could add a third leg to that Yes please teacher evaluation systems i was about to ask and principal evaluation testings So go first thing Yes i'm not opposed to assessments that i think
00:17:10there's some confusion over assessments though state what assessments is not necessarily assessing what individual students can do but it gives us a little bit of a benchmark about where schools are performing being able to say what type of resource is might need to go into a school What
00:17:26kind of a change needs stow happen and you have to triangulate that data It can't just be that one point of reference is a lot that needs to be looked at there's three things that we could look at when student or class is not doing well the amount
00:17:39of time our students receiving enough time on instruction to bring them up to where they need to bay If they're getting adequate time then what's the content that's being taught Are they getting the right content Is it at the right rigour Are they looking at rhea world math
00:17:53problems that they need to think through and analyze And then lastly who's delivering it because if you've got the time and you've got the content but the stood the kids still aren't getting it i'm telling you it is not the student it is something else and that third
00:18:05leg might be the person that's delivering it and we have to take a look at that And now this is this is your moment tell us about the book club because that's not the first thing that would come to mind when you think about an accountability oriented movement
00:18:20way have actually born out of data So the true story behind the book club started i will kick it over to you I was in my office cleaning my desk and someone had put our reading data on my desk I started looking through and two or three of
00:18:39our boys names came up and instead of being in green and blue with a were previously showing that they were reading above grade level they were in yellow and i couldn't believe it i so what is going on here So fifth grade boys that we had been struggling
00:18:53a little bit without fifth grade class so i i got up i went into the cafeteria and i said where is damon where's devon and where's the third student i want to see them i want to talk to them before i left my office i picked up three
00:19:08books and took them with me and i said you all need to start reading what is going on with your test scores and i want you to be reading damon isn't crying saying the test is broken the test is broken so ms stinson is like his middle of
00:19:24the year data has come back on his reading assessment and his yellow so she's been dramatic and i'm already like super dramatic some like what Damon is four tiers some instant and says okay well prove to me that it's that it's not broken his a book so he
00:19:43starts reading and she's like ok like good all you can drink sit out keep reading so she calls the next student he does the same thing i'm confused like we have to take these tests seriously i know that you could read on grade level but all people have
00:19:58is this printout all people will see of you is this number So you have to make sure that when you're testing your given it all that you have every single time we never want to put out into the world anything less there what we truly are capable of
00:20:11doing so i have that little stock conversation diamond stop crying one of my favorite kids in the whole world divide he walks by and i'm like hey come here i want you to start reading this book and he was like i'm not yellow and i was like read
00:20:27that book then he's like ok mr redman i think and i want to read it too so you three boys and me so the four of us will read this book and it was walter dean myers bad boy i purposely got divine because he's going toe a lot
00:20:40and he's this kid that i've chosen for the rest of your life i will be in your life to make sure that whatever you want to do i can help you and support you to get there about an hour later i'm in instances office and we get a
00:20:52knock on the door it's a little kid i was wondering could i get like a copy of bad boy So missus is like our cool great yes so she gives him a copy of the book ten minutes later knock on the door Hey i was wondering if i
00:21:07could get a copy of the book Bad boy mr jin says already gave your copy is not for me it's for my friend who wants the copy of the book but he doesn't want to come down and acts for it so she's like sure three thirty our librarian
00:21:22into the river like oh hey miss hamm how's it going came you tell me what's going on like i'm getting all of these calls all of these requests for this book bad boy and i don't have any in the library all these boys are these fifth grade boys
00:21:35are coming in actually there's a book ok Well we'll porter some for some kids will keep some of the office and then what do you some further library So the ten boys who was tim boys they end up getting the book that day and i was like fantastic
00:21:48we're we're going to just start a book club so i'll see you tomorrow morning eight fifteen and we're going to talk about the first couple of chapters and we did that for what So dee myers a bad boy and within a couple of days i had girls that
00:22:04were coming to ask me mr bremen cannot be a part of this cannot get the book and get the book well the boys had created this filling in it was i was like well i don't know if you should be a part of this but i'm super excited
00:22:17that you're excited about reading so i went to dr fields who's our instructional coach one of our stocks and calls for your life as you can you start a book club for girls yep got the book so she had jacqueline woodson book selected for the girls so she
00:22:30started reading with the fifth grade girls a week later the boys finished the book they were super excited the conversations that they were have the language that they were used to talk about it the just the energy in the room we would get people who would just come
00:22:50in here like you have a book club meetings and i'm like yeah we're meeting and people just i just want to sit in the room from that moment we've read walter dean myers pai boy they were red monster hymn book for boys crossover crossover black paint all of
00:23:09them black panther release and that's like a huge moment for black people everywhere and so we had like a big huge discussion about that and one of the little kids in the club he was like this is such a great moment for my friends they're able to see
00:23:25a superhero that looks like them who's not the psychic who is a lead character from this place wauconda where they're super smart and they have re sources and it's not this poor africa that like people like to talk about and so i'm super excited that rock and have
00:23:43like a hero and divine can have a superhero they're like looks like looks like them the same way that little girls can have how to super here with wonder woman i'm just sad that there's not a superhero like me so rock is latino so immediately i'm like we
00:23:58need to read jason reynolds morale is spider man's was latino spider man we've got to read this bill you know like so the next book and so there i was like well what's the next book what's the next book we're reading morale is jason reynolds morale is miles
00:24:11morales spider man romeo whips out the book from his backpack he's like i just picked it up from the library so it was such a great moment so now all the people in his book club are reading this book with them and they were so excited like oh
00:24:25my god latino spiderman lips so excited in to see his face to see how he was so proud for black panther for the boys in the book of the little black boys in the book club like for them to be super excited to then read that book and
00:24:39them tow ob arena together like they were super excited but it has taken off we have parents that are reading the books they just finish reading jason reynolds as brave as you talking about what does it mean to be brave what his brave look like the book was
00:24:57This is so funny that book is four hundred ten pages of they had a week to read it we announced there follow a book kwamie alexander's to cross over the next day we had a snow day on wednesday The boys came back to school were done So ms
00:25:13stinson is talking to them like oh have you are you know you read the book you write the book that was two hundred pages That was nothing They said that that book was way too easy I saw them in the cafeteria yesterday morning and i said oh you
00:25:24got the new book crossover there like done finished I need another one We need to get on to the next boat and they were like alice book was four hundred pages but they actually they loved the longer book as we all do And like there at that stage
00:25:37now where they're getting so in invested in reading and it means so much to them their conversations have changed their analytical skills The the way they approach reading is so much different And that comes you know daniel willingham Zwart talks about that like stop teaching so much about
00:25:54the comprehension skills and start leading and you need a little bit of that But get the volume of reading And that was our goal And we had been working towards that at the school we knew we did a good job getting everybody to technically learn how to read
00:26:07i said but they need the next launch the super lever is when kids going to go home and start reading on their own and the other thing that we had been thinking about and working towards and the reason why i had the stack of books in my office
00:26:18was to make sure that i literature represented out boys and girls Jason reynolds a zoo braves you they read that book it had two little black kids eleven year olds and fourteen fourteen year old jeannie and ernie and the boys are like i loved that book i felt
00:26:34like i was a part of it but it was just a coming of age story and schools need to be responsive to that that's very very important and i don't see that in a lot of schools in the research that we've done and the readings that we've done
00:26:48but we were very intentional about that an honest like we're just starting like this school year making sure that our library is going to represent a type of literature and the reading that our kids will be really interested in and feel connected to and then having teachers with
00:27:02a lot of energy that can relate how boys and girls is very very important mary instance and michael read thank you ever so much thank you my pleasure and you're showing me at least that my congenital optimism about public education is not entirely misplaced Wait we're going to
00:27:22make a go of it for thinking so thank you again Both of you were very grateful that you took some time think could be with us on this show While you've been sitting here with us I'm quite confident that it truesdale things are okay but i know you
00:27:38want to get back on so we're going to let you go Thank for listeners If you enjoyed today's conversation and i can't imagine why you wouldn't have you can subscribe to the ed fix podcast on itunes spotify i heart radio stitcher and soundcloud For more information about this
00:27:59podcast about our guests and about other episodes you can see our website go dot dw dot edu forward slash ed Thanks

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