My newest story explores how the rift between San Diego Unified and its teachers union might impact the big reform push.

When I write about these reforms, one of the biggest challenges for me as a reporter — and one of the challenges for the school district in rolling it out — is explaining what it might look like. Because each school comes up with its own reforms, every school could reform itself differently.

But if you want a peek into what reform-from-the-inside looked at one San Diego school, check out this article I wrote last year about Euclid Elementary in City Heights. Teachers there teach the same things at the same time, share data about how kids are doing and meet frequently:

Being open and sharing problems has helped Euclid zero in on solutions. Teachers realized that their kids were tripping over the word “which” on tests because they had only been exposed to “what” or “that.” So they started teaching “which,” a simple step they might have otherwise overlooked. (Second grade teacher Starla) Ortiz saw that another teacher had knockout homework assignments, so she copied them. Data about how kids are doing, including scores for each grade level, are publicly posted. It all hinges on trust.

(National Center for Urban School Transformation Director Joseph) Johnson said that trust is one of the key ingredients in surprisingly successful schools: Teachers focus on getting kids to master their classes, not just finish them. They work together and share problems and successes. They back each other up — but they don’t let each other slack off. While reformers often talk about school accountability, Johnson said, they often fail to understand how school culture can be a powerful form of social accountability. Teachers don’t want to let fellow teachers down.

Trust was the key. And broken trust is why the teachers union says it can’t work directly with the school district on reform right now, even as it continues to meet with schools and community groups on its own.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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