Priority Charter Schools in Central Texas consists of four schools that serve approximately 900 students, each situated in different communities within 60 miles of each other, and each with different student populations, grade structures, enrollments, and more.
Cedar Park Academy and Georgetown Academy, for example, both serve more affluent communities. However, Cedar Park is a PreK-12 school with approximately 190 students. Georgetown serves around 80 students in grades PreK-8. In contrast, Cove Charter Academy supports 240 students in grades PreK-12, most of whom are from transient military families stationed at nearby Ft. Hood. Temple Charter Academy, Priority Charter Schools’ flagship school, is its largest with an enrollment of 300 PreK-12 students.
This diversity comes with some hurdles, says Assistant Superintendent Derrick Love, Ed.D. “The challenge is meeting the unique needs of all of the students in each of the different communities which our schools serve.” Superintendent Lula Turnipseed, M.Ed., elaborates: “We need to make sure we provide teachers with the necessary tools and skill sets to identify the level of instruction needed to achieve great outcomes for all students.”
To achieve this goal, Priority Charter Schools leaders have implemented a number of new, differentiated resources designed to help teachers better serve the distinct needs of each campus and the students studying on them. One of those resources includes professional learning with CORE.
“We Needed Support in Instructional Pedagogy and Delivery”
Priority Charter Schools reached out to CORE in the fall of 2017 when math scores were trending down. After analyzing their current curricula (Envision Math, Digits, Pearson, and McGraw Hill) and instructional practices at every grade level, leaders found that the curricular content was not the problem. “Teachers’ understanding of the content and utilizing the content within the curriculum was missing. We needed to support them in instructional pedagogy and delivery,” Dr. Love says.
Previously, Priority Charter Schools had worked with CORE to provide six weeks of online English Language Arts (ELA) training to literacy coaches and instructional support staff. After seeing success with that model, they hired CORE in 2018-19 to provide monthly, on-site professional learning to 24 teachers, four instructional coaches and five principals in grades 3-12. That number increased by 15 K-12 educators in 2019-20.
CORE facilitator Patty Copeland focused Priority Charter Schools’ professional learning on improving understanding of the curriculum and implementing high-leverage instructional practices through direct work with site leadership and teachers in and out of the classroom.