As part of the Tennessee-Shanghai Leadership Collaborative, Professor Li of the Institute of Schooling Reform and Development at East China Normal University visited Munford Middle School recently.
Last August, Vicki Shipley of Munford Middle School, Patricia Mills of Drummonds Elementary and Leisa Bennett of Austin Peay Elementary visited the Institute of Schooling Reform and Development at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China. The three principals from Tipton County, along with 15 other principals from across the state, participated in a leadership development project hosted by Vanderbilt University.
The week-long visit included observation of methods used to create positive change of low functioning schools to become high functioning. The Tennessee Leadership Shanghai Collaborative, developed by Vanderbilt, focused on nurturing teacher leadership through teacher observation with peer evaluation.
Teacher peer example groups, or TPEGs, were highlighted, with real life application techniques for classrooms, in which teams of teachers work as a group, one teaching and the others observing the lesson. Afterwards, all participate in a feedback session.
When the principals returned the lessons they learned in China were added to the school’s teaching methods.
The observation techniques also recommend partnering with other schools for best practices. Drummonds is partnered with Collierville Elementary and is currently cross training.
According to Mills, the methods have worked so well that they are now being used in all grades at Drummonds, as opposed to the initial plan of only administering to the fourth and fifth grade levels.
“This is a direct result of Race to the Top,” said Mills. “The more you do the method, the more little things you learn. It pulls barriers down for new teachers because they are exposed to different ways of teaching, something that normally doesn’t happen. This also allows for different ways of thinking.”
Now that those practices have been in place for several months, Professor Li came to observe the program’s success and also learn about American culture.
Professor Li was most taken with Munford Middle School. “I have been struck by the climate of the teachers. The sense of community,” he said. "It is such a good atmosphere. My first feeling was one of happiness. It is nice to see such a collaboration between the principal and the teachers and students and also the school board and superintendent. I have learned so much from this kind of leadership.”
More than 30 people were on hand to greet Professor Li at a lunch given in his honor, including representatives from the school board, principals from surrounding schools and local dignitaries.
Professor Li toured the school, taking photographs and asking questions of Principal Shipley, teachers and students.
The program was funded by a Tennessee Department of Education Lead grant. The grant funded, by Race to the Top, is to “improve the quality of instruction and levels of student performance in more than 20 Tennessee school districts.”
Tipton County, along with Loudon County, Shelby County, Knox County, Nashville Metro and Murfreesboro City schools were chosen to participate in the program.