Adelante Schools: Pursuing Student Growth- How Adelante Structures Teacher Feedback Cycles

In our new blog series, ‘Meet Our Schools’, Teach Indy will share the work of schools across center township uplifting the vision and mission for student success through the eyes of educators in the buildings.

Adelante Schools began operating Emma Donnan Elementary & Middle School in fall 2020. While they started in a topsy-turvy world, a few years in, it’s clear that Adelante Schools navigated those choppy waters with aplomb and is getting things right for its K-8 students. In large part, their early success is attributable to how they coach and care for teachers. 

That ethos comes from how they were founded and who they were founded by. Grace Christodoss, a 7-8 Global Literacy Teacher, put it this way: “Having administrators who have all been teachers before model the moves I should make has allowed me to see the way effective practices affect students.” Christodoss emphasized just how involved Executive Director Eddie Rangel is in her development as a new-to-Adelante teacher. “Mr. Rangel has helped me so much. I know he is so busy, but he has stepped into my classroom to show me how to apply real time feedback. I and my students know the face behind Adelante.”

That sentiment extends just as easily to Adelante’s co-founder Matthew Rooney, who Christodoss notes is incredible at modeling how to balance rigorous instruction with being yourself and bringing your humanity to class every day. “I see Mr. Rooney [teaching] and launching and cracking a joke and connecting with students all while delivering instruction and teaching key skills.”

How Adelante Structures Teacher Coaching Cycles

But all this modeling is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how Adelante Schools conducts its cycles of coaching and feedback for teachers. And while the buy-in certainly starts at the top, it has filtered through every layer of the school. 

Adelante’s Director of Literacy Chrissy Franz described the model Adelante uses to coach teachers in this way: 

“For the elementary, our coaching and feedback is structured with foundational skills in mind. Fridays are data collection days where our teachers analyze their data as a group. We look for strengths and error trends to make adjustments or upgrades for the upcoming week’s lesson plans. Then the next week, on Monday, we do a practice clinic that is linked to student misconceptions that the data analysis found.

If there’s a strategy teachers need to help scholars be more successful, we do a ‘see it, name it, do it’ protocol where we model the teacher moves for them or show them an example video. We name a criteria for success and follow it up with real-time practice. Future observations then build on that strategy, with teachers observed twice weekly. Finally, we regularly film portions of each teacher’s class to review later and offer feedback on.”

A Focus on Data

Adelante has built their observation and feedback cycles in this way because their model is data-driven first and foremost. One example of how this data-driven approach leads to teacher gains that ultimately impact student growth comes from their recent DIBELS assessments. DIBELS is a foundational literacy assessment that gauges students’ levels at different times during a school year. At the beginning of the year, DIBELS benchmarking found only 18% of their incoming kindergarten students were proficient in segmenting words and using phonological awareness. 

They used data and feedback cycles to coach specifically for that skill. By mid-year, 52% of their kindergarten students tested proficient. Franz attributed this growth to “The power of feedback and teachers understanding the why behind specific teacher actions.”

The Importance of Real-Time Feedback

Tina Cowan is a Literacy Specialist at Adelante. It’s her first year with the school but she’s racked up nearly two decades of experience in education as a teacher and assistant principal. Something she emphasized about the coaching educators receive is that, during observations, Adelante leaders offer real-time feedback. “Real-time feedback is always happening. Being able to fix mistakes in the moment is super impactful.”

Another thing Cowan believes fuels the success of Adelante’s coaching structure is that the way Adelante chose to implement data meetings and feedback cycles does not force teachers to give up their prep times. 

Cowan again: “Meetings are always after school during contracted time. In a previous job I had, it was hard to get teacher buy-in for this type of structure because the meetings always happened during teacher prep time. I love that we protect teacher prep time while still making room for coaching and feedback.”

School-Wide Investment in Student Success

Each of Adelante’s educators was quick to note that school-wide investment in student success was part of what makes it a special place to work. That is certainly influenced by the rigor of their coaching and feedback cycles. But it is just as much about the humanity behind those cycles and the personalities of who is on the team.

“I’ve seen the work our leadership puts in by helping in ways that go beyond their job description,” Christodoss noted. “I love our team. There’s no drama. There’s just teachers supporting each other.”

Cowan echoed that sentiment, sharing, “Teachers are valued here. That’s what makes us want to do the work and be here. We are all in this together and working hard to support each other.”

Franz, in closing, brought the discussion back to one of Adelante’s core values: Ebullience. For Franz, the joy, zest, and energy invested into each day is invigorating. For her, the biggest sign that their culture and coaching style works goes right back to the student experience. “It is very rewarding when you go through our feedback cycle and see kids growing as a result,” Franz shared. “That growth has a lasting impact.”

We thank the incredible educators of Adelante Schools for sharing their experience: Grace Christodoss, 7-8 Global Literacy Teacher; Tina Cowan, Literacy Specialist; Chrissy Franz, Director of Literacy; Eddie Rangel, Executive Director and Matthew Rooney, Co-Founder.