Rocketship Education Leadership Development Program

Rocketship Education Leadership Development Program

Rocketship Education Leadership Development Program

At Rocketship, the staff is not only invested and focused upon academic gains and skills for their students, but is also highly invested in their own professional growth. In fact, at Rocketship, we believe that it is the mission of the organization to not only realize these academic goals, but to also help develop additional leaders within the organization that can develop the capabilities to become future founding or take-over principals or Academic Deans. With this in mind, we have created a multi-year leadership development program that supports teachers in developing their craft in the classroom and in preparing for possible school leadership roles in the future.

Rocketship school leadership teams are made up of, first and foremost, the principal. Principals at Rocketship are responsible for the success of the school and their role is defined by the following primary responsibilities:

•Attaining API results (closing the achievement gap)

• Instilling Rocketship culture in students, teachers, and parents

• Developing other leaders to support Rocketship’s growth and scale.

Every school also has an Academic Dean, who serves as an instructional leader at the school with primary responsibilities in the following areas:

•Coaching teachers so that they attain 1.5 years or more of growth with 100% of their students

• Running a highly effective Response to Intervention (RtI) program

• Managing staff professional development

Together, these two roles make up the leadership team of Rocketship schools. Because both deans and principals are responsible for the success of the school (and thus Rocketship’s ability to close the achievement gap) and because we believe that many deans may eventually take over established schools, we see the qualities and skills necessary in these roles as very similar. However, the weight or importance of particular items (such as depth of knowledge of the Response to Intervention program or ability to establish school culture) varies in the two roles. Furthermore, while we believe that all principals are responsible for the areas listed above, we also believe that there are skills and qualities that are slightly different for principals beginning new schools and those taking over existing schools, so we distinguish between these two roles and the preparation needed for them later in this document.

Using the above responsibilities and priorities for Rocketship leaders as a guide, Rocketship engaged its current school and national office leaders and identified the attitudes, skills, and competencies required to excel in these areas and created a framework for selecting principals and deans to participate in the Leadership Development Program. These qualities may be divided into our key characteristics, which we believe should define all Rocketship employees (for our leaders, we place even higher expectations on demonstration of these characteristics) and then additional leadership competences.

Key Characteristics and Leadership Competencies

Key Characteristics / Additional Leadership Competencies
  • Perseverance
  • Rocketship Student Achievement
  • Self Awareness
  • Judgment
  • Internal Locus of Control
  • Planner
  • Adaptable
  • Mission Driven
  • Collaborative
  • Innovative
  • Eternally Positive
  • Quick Learning
  • Effective Written and Oral Communication Skills
  • Math Curriculum and Instruction
  • ELA Curriculum and Instruction
  • Effective at Using Data to Drive Decisions
  • Ability to Give Feedback
  • Ability to Receive Feedback
  • Investment In and Use of Rocketship Parent Involvement Model
  • Ability to Inspire and Motivate Others

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In order to support teachers in reaching high levels of performance in these qualities and competencies, the Rocketship Leadership Development program includes five phases. These five phases span from our first contact with teachers when they are applying to work at Rocketship to the ongoing support and development we provide for principals and academic deans. An overview of the program is shown in the map below.

Phase 0: Recruitment and Outreach

At Rocketship Education, we are focused on recruiting excellent teachers and excellent future school leaders. Our interview and selection process includes authentic tasks that screen for our key characteristics and leadership competencies (listed above). Rocketship maintains a strong partnership with Teach for America, attracting both high-performing corps members and alumni to our network.

Phase 1: Leadership Development for All Teachers

Everyone at Rocketship Education will participate in Phase 1 of the Rocketship Leadership Development Program to some extent. Phase 1 includes the following components:

1)Integration of leadership competencies into the Professional Growth Plan. As with goals for instruction, all teachers will have one identified leadership goal or focus area.

2)Regular coaching, feedback, and evaluation for teachers from the immediate supervisor (often the Principal) on this leadership goal, in addition to the Instructional leadership goals. (Academic Dean may also be coaching teachers, but will be primarily focused on the instructional goals).

3)Option for teachers to participate in professional development specifically devoted to leadership. There are multiple advantages to having large group sessions initially. First, it will make it possible for Rocketship Education to have a wider scope of individuals that are being trained. Moreover, these individuals will begin to self-select as variation appears in their patterns of attendance, acquisition of content knowledge, and performance on embedded various leadership tasks. This large group training format, typically at the cluster level, allows Rocketship to cast a wider net for future leaders and become much more familiar with each individual’s strengths and weaknesses – both as teachers and leaders.

4)Selection by principals of certain high-potential candidates to participate in low-level embedded leadership opportunities (ELOs) and receive feedback on these assignments. For example, a teacher might be asked to run the homework program for his or her grade level and then be coached and evaluated on their work. Principals will be required to assign a minimum number of these opportunities in order to contribute to a more robust applicant pool for Phase 2 of the Leadership Development Program. In these roles, the teachers will be responsible for leadership tasks with clear predetermined objectives and expectations.

5)Identification or recommendation by principals of individuals to participate in later phases of the Leadership Development Program based on their progress in the classroom (attaining 1.5+ years of growth for all Rocketeers), performance on leadership tasks (if applicable), and progress in their selected leadership goals on their Professional Growth Plans (PGPs).

The Rocketship Professional Growth Plan Leadership Component will occur for all teachers at Rocketship Education in order to cast a wide net for potential leaders. Thus, even teachers in their first year at Rocketship (or in their first year teaching) will also have a Leadership goal selected for themselves. This is important to note because each Rocketship school selects four first year Teach for America corps members each year, who must first and foremost focus on their classroom instruction. In the first months of school, these new staff members will collaborate with the Principal and Academic Dean to ensure that they are developing as effective teachers within their own classrooms and focus primarily on their goals in instruction.

Following this first month, the Principals will begin to finalize the Professional Growth Plans (PGPs) for all staff members. The Dean will assist with this process for staff members that they are currently mentoring, but the Principal will have the final discretionary decision regarding staff PGPs. It is at this time that either the Dean or Principal selects at least two instructional focus areas, and at times three for the staff member.

Additionally, staff members in Phase 1 will have one leadership strand selected. These leadership strands will be “first level” skills that even first year teachers can address in their work. It is essential that Rocketship be able to identify these first level skills and integrate them into performance evaluations for all staff in order to begin the leadership development process immediately.

NOTE: For a struggling first-year teacher, they may have only instructional goals selected for their PGP. However, by the second semester, they should have improved and begin to have a leadership goal within their PGP.

Throughout the year, the Principal, and at times the Academic Dean, will be responsible for coaching the staff member on these first level leadership skills. These skills will be derived from the Leadership Development Scorecard and may include areas like time management, strong voice, planning, etc. By including these focus areas on the PGP; Principals can address leadership development with staff from almost day one, in addition to instructional goals.

Phase 2: Participation in Rocketship Leadership Training Program for Select Teachers

Phase II is the true beginning of the Rocketship Leadership Development program, with participants being selected from the skilled pool of applicants cultivated in Phase 1. This rigorous selection process may include requirements for instructional outcomes (1.5+ years gains for their students), leadership skills (measured on the PGP Leadership Component), or implementation of Rocketship culture, evaluations (by anonymous survey), performance on low-level embedded leadership opportunities in Phase 1, formal application, selection committee, supervisor recommendations, and/or a selection committee. We expect that no more than 33% of participants in Phase 1 (which includes all teachers) will advance to Phase 2.

The selection of individuals into Phase 2 will typically occur in May for returning teachers and October for teachers who are new to Rocketship.

Phase 2 of the Rocketship Leadership Training Program involves four components:

1)Regular (1-2 per month) trainings that are in a small group format. Trainings will include a wide range of topics, informed by the scorecard and a leadership competencies scope and sequence that will be developed.

2)Participation in structured embedded leadership opportunities with clear objectives. Such opportunities will require higher-level skills than those assigned in Phase 1 and will be selected for participants based on focus areas, school needs, and principal discretion. Possible embedded leadership opportunities in this phase include:

  • School Level Parent Involvement Manager
  • Instructional Manager
  • School Culture Manager
  • Teacher Mentor

3)Ongoing coaching, feedback, and evaluation from the immediate supervisor (often the Principal, sometimes the Dean as well). In situations where participants are struggling with particular skills or competencies and intervention is needed, a cluster-level leadership development staff member may also provide coaching.

4)Extensive self-, manager-, and peer- assessment or 360 assessment program to identify strengths and areas for growth and set goals and objectives for the year.

Phase 2 is far more intensive than Phase 1 in that it involves a selection process or individuals to participate, the embedded leadership opportunities are more demanding (and may provide stipends), and there is a greater investment of Leadership Development resources for training and coaching. Phase 1is intended for everyone at Rocketship to develop as a leader, rather Phase 2 means that a teacher has been chosen through a rigorous selection process and has been identified as having key traits that will allow them to be an effective Dean, Principal, or other leader within the Rocketship Education network.

A staff member admitted into Phase 2 will start participating in group leadership training sessions, which will occur once or twice a month. These large group sessions will ideally begin in the early fall and continue throughout the year and summer. This program will have a cohort model to foster collaborative learning, but the cohort will not be “set” at any one point in time and candidates may progress at different rates.

In addition to these monthly trainings, individuals who participate in the program will be assigned various tasks and responsibilities, or embedded leadership opportunities, by their principals. Phase 2 will be focused on granting the selected individuals much larger responsibilities within a school, which will primarily be focused on team leadership and mentoring other teachers on staff. Consequently, these staff members may be asked to take on roles in staff or community meetings, their grade level or content areas, the Response to Intervention (RtI) program, or other projects. One of the primary responsibilities that these individuals will receive is mentoring teachers within the staff. They will intentionally be selected to mentor staff that are having specific challenges and at different grade levels, which will put these individuals in positions where they have to truly manage relationships and are more likely to engage in difficult conversations at times. Unlike the previous mentorship in Phase 1, this mentorship will be much more in-depth and involve coaching, observing, modeling, and having difficult conversations.

In general, PIT candidate responsibilities in this year will focus on achieving results through other adults and managing time and stress. Additionally, PIT roles will allow them to gain greater visibility in the community. DIT candidate responsibilities will be more focused on gaining breadth in curriculum and instruction, as well as developing expertise in professional development, Response to Intervention programming, and SpEd/SAT/SST procedures.

These individuals will receive coaching and feedback from their Principals regarding their leadership development skills in the PGP. All coaching and feedback will be tailored to specific strengths and weaknesses, both those from their PGPs and those established through a structured 360-degree feedback process at the beginning of their involvement in this phase of the program. Throughout the year, the Principal, and at times the Academic Dean, will be responsible for coaching the staff member on their leadership development skills, selected as focus areas at the start of the year on their PGPs. In cases where individuals are struggling to progress on specific leadership goals, but exhibit many other high-potential qualities, or where additional support is needed for any reason a cluster-level manager of leadership development may intervene and provide support or coaching. This cluster resource will be limited to working with staff in spot situations or specific trainings, but will be an additional mentor in this process of leadership development. This will be an important component in the growth and development of these Rocketship staff members as they will now be closely integrated with the leadership work and will need greater support in order to reflect and learn from their actions and decisions as leaders.

In most cases, candidates will be selected to participate in Phase 2, or the formal Leadership Development Program, at the end of the previous academic year. In some cases, candidates may be invited to participate in the middle of the academic year. (For example, a high-potential who is new to Rocketship at the start of the year, may immediately demonstrate competency in leadership areas on the PGP and be invited to participate in Phase 2 starting in November or December). In addition, some staff members that are experienced teachers, but new to Rocketship, may be selected to participate in Phase 2 immediately upon their employment with Rocketship. It is also noteworthy that a successful Teach for America corps member can participate in Phase 2 of the program during their second year of instruction, which will prepare them for a PIT year in their third year. This is valuable as TFA corps members with a strong interest in and aptitude for leadership may be considering other options outside of Rocketship at the end of his or her two year commitment, and this leadership opportunity could provide a strong incentive to stay.

Finally, the timeline for Phase 2 will vary depending on the individual development of a leadership candidate. Most candidates will participate in phase two for two years, with the strongest candidates moving into phase three after just one year.

Phase 3: Rocketship Leadership Training Program: Principals and Deans in Training

Phase 3 of the Rocketship Leadership Training Program is the phase where candidates officially move into their roles as Principals-in-Training (either Takeover or Startup) or Deans-in-Training. While it is our hope that a high percentage of participants transition from Phase 2 to Phase 3, as candidates in Phase 2 receive a non-trivial investment of support and resources, the pool needs to be large enough so that in any given year, only candidates of the highest caliber advance in this rigorous process. Some participants (particularly future deans) will stay in Phase 2 for multiple years and others will simply not continue in the leadership program. Overall, candidates will need to meet rigorous selection criteria, derived from the leadership competencies, in order to move into Phase 3.

Candidates in Phase 3 follow one of three specific tracks:

Dean in Training (DIT): Candidates continue to work as teachers but take on greater responsibilities and participate in more rigorous training and coaching sessions to prepare to work as a dean in the following year.

Takeover Principal in Training (T-PIT): Candidates continue to work as teachers but take on greater responsibilities and participate in more rigorous training and coaching sessions to prepare to work as a principal of an already established school in the following year.

Startup Principal in Training (S-PIT): S-PITs are in their 12 month residency program in Phase 3 where, in addition to their own training and growth, they are also responsible for laying the groundwork for the school they will open the following year.

Dean in Training (DIT):

The Dean in Training position occurs for one year prior to a staff member assuming an Academic Dean position. Individuals are often selected as Deans in Training in late October to mid November and train throughout the academic year, prior to their placement as an Academic Dean. With the development of a Leadership Development Program, this timeline could be moved forward significantly, which would allow the Deans in Training to begin their training within the first days and months of the school year.