Tulsa Public Schools
GKFF has been an active partner with Tulsa Public Schools (TPS), as the district seeks to transform the way teachers and leaders are trained, evaluated and supported in classrooms and school buildings. In 2009, through a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, TPS launched its Teacher and Leadership Effectiveness Initiative (TLE) after months of research and collaboration between district administrators, principals, teachers, Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association leadership and the broader community.
Key elements of the Initiative include:
- Deployment of a thorough and objective teacher and leader five-tier evaluation process to measure the effectiveness of all professional staff;
- Use of student performance data to inform teaching strategies and personalized professional development;
- Remediating ineffective teachers and exiting those who fail to improve;
- Improving the human resources department so that highly effective teachers are recruited, retained and supported.
As TPS has focused its efforts around TLE and seriously committed to college and career readiness for all students, GKFF has worked with the broader Tulsa community to support this transformation. The community has warmly responded to the changes. In spring 2011, when TPS closed 14 schools due to under-enrollment, the plan (“Project Schoolhouse”) was met with healthy debate and minimal public discord.
TPS is clearly on a path to improved teaching and learning for all students. Each professional employee in the district (teachers, leaders, principals and administrators) has had their job performance thoroughly reviewed. Teachers have received testing results on each student and can make instructional adjustments based on individual scores.
Teach For America (TFA) is focused on eliminating education inequity through the enlistment of our nation’s future leaders to serve a two-year commitment in high-needs schools across the country. The organization recruits top recent college graduates who demonstrate the potential to be successful teachers and places them in urban and rural schools across the nation. TFA provides specialty training and professional development to corps members in order to lead students to achieve significant academic gains.
In 2009, GKFF, TPS and others partnered with TFA to bring the program to Tulsa. The Tulsa region began with 81 corps members and within its second year, grew to more than 150 corps members teaching in 36 schools and impacting more than 12,000 students.
Teach For America selected Tulsa as host of its annual teacher training institute set to begin in June 2012. During the institute, 650 TFA corps members will provide high-quality summer school programs to more than 3,000 students in Tulsa Public Schools and Community Action Project centers while attending courses and living at the University of Tulsa. The Tulsa institute will be the ninth TFA training location, joining Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, the Mississippi Delta, New York City, Philadelphia and Phoenix.
Charter schools inject a healthy dose of competition into public school systems. Today, KIPP Tulsa is the best example of a national charter model that focuses on at-risk students with a college prep curriculum (longer day, increased rigor, more focused attention given to college), but it has yet to be governed by a charter (it is technically a school under “contract” with the district). This transition, as well as a strategic plan to grow from the current one school to three by 2013, is underway. Another nationwide charter, Lighthouse Academies, is set to open in Tulsa in fall 2012. TPS has adopted a collaborative approach to integrating charters into the district as a means to provide a more varied portfolio of options to at-risk students.
KIPP Tulsa is part of the widely-acclaimed Knowledge Is Power Program, which is a national network of tuition-free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools seeking to prepare students in underserved communities for success in college and in life. In alignment with state and national standards as well as the KIPP national model, KIPP Tulsa takes an innovative, strategic approach to education with a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. The KIPP Tulsa goal is simple, yet the responsibility is powerful: do whatever it takes to ensure that our students matriculate to college.