Innovation Educators are Diamonds in the Rough

Renton Prep and Amazing Grace are unique environments that require a specific mindset of flexibility and interest in continual learning and innovation. This article focuses on innovation educators and how they aid in the vision of our schools. Innovation educators are truly diamonds to be cherished.

Innovation Educators

Recently Dr. Bernard Bull, Vice President for Curriculum and Academic innovation at Concordia University Wisconsin gave some invaluable insight that resonates with both Renton Prep and Amazing Grace Christian Schools. Here are a few notes from his study on leadership and teachers of successful and innovative schools:

  1. a tough mindset is needed when it comes to maintaining the distinct vision and philosophy of the school,
  2. extensive effort focused upon trying to find the right teacher fit, but even with all this…
  3. there will still be high teacher turnover, especially in the first decade of making significant innovations within that context.
    Read more from Dr. Bernard Bull’s findings on our blog

Dr. Bernard Bull’s Innovation Studies

I’ve studied hundreds of innovative schools around the world, conducting over a thousand formal and informal interviews, observations, and analyses of core documents in these schools. In my professional assessment, Renton Prep and Amazing Grace rank among some of the best and most promising schools that I’ve studied.

As with most innovative schools with a distinct vision and philosophy of education, finding educators who share that vision and are ready to thrive in such a context can be a challenge.

In some of my interviews, school leaders have almost given up on trying to find people who graduated from traditional teacher education programs, opting for individuals with a diverse set of academic credentials, but who seem to have a shared philosophy are show the potential to grow and thrive in the school. Even then, finding the right fit can be a struggle, because many of these people lack relevant experience in these rare and exceptional learning environments.

Teacher education programs in Universities rarely provide the type of specialized training necessary to hit the ground running in these truly distinct school contexts. It is probably a bit like studying to become a general practitioner in medicine but taking a position that is really calling for a specialist in radiology or psychiatry. In fact, I recently started participating in a new research group that is trying to address this persistent and documented challenge of better equipping teachers to serve in these exceptional learning contexts.

In one of my early studies of leaders in innovative school contexts, three of the ten key traits of these schools and their leaders included 1) a “tough mindset” when it comes to maintaining the distinct vision and philosophy of the school, 2) extensive effort focused upon trying to find the right teacher fit, but 3) still high teacher turnover, especially in the first decade of making significant innovations within that context. These are important and inter-related. In many traditional schools there is not a consistent or shared vision or philosophy across all teachers. They might have a few general shared ideals, but not the the extent that I see in these truly distinctive and highly innovative schools. This relentless focus upon a shared vision and philosophy is part of the “secret sauce” for making so many of these schools exceptional, but it is also what makes finding and retaining the right teacher talent more challenging than traditional legacy school models.

Dr. Bernard Bull, Vice Provost for Curriculum and Academic Innovation, Concordia University Wisconsin, and author of Missionall Moonshots: Insight and Inspiration in Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), and the forthcoming book Imagine The Possibilities (which highlights ten promising models of Christian education around the world, including an entire chapter dedicated to Renton Prep and Amazing Grace).

Teacher Retention in Washington State

University of Washington published a report on the state of teachers in reference to retention. Here are some of the findings from this article.

  1. Novice teachers (first year) leave at a rate of 47%
  2. Only 1.4% of WA state teachers are African-American
  3. 90% of the state’s 60,000 teachers were White

Read full report from the University of Washington titled Understanding Teacher Retention and Mobility in Washington State

Here is the positive aspects of Renton Prep’s diversity. Below is some comparative data from the report above:59 leave school in less 5 years

Renton Prep requires middle and high school educators to be well versed in more than one subject domain and teach collaboratively with a flexible schedule that more closely aligns with real-world work settings to prepare your students for applying learned skills. Most colleges of education prepare educators for traditional classroom settings. For new educators, and educators accustomed to predominantly traditional methods, the learning curve is steep.

1109 teachers left in 2014-2016

Race, Ethnicity Disparity, and the role of Innovation Educators

The following charts show the race/ethnicity disparity between Washington students and teachers. In 2015-2016, while the proportion of students of color (non-White) enrolled in public schools was approximately 44%, teachers of color represented only 10% of the overall teaching workforce.

race ethnicity WA

The report also shows that while the overall teacher workforce has slowly grown more racially and ethnically diverse in the last two decades, similar to large urban districts nationally, Seattle and Tacoma  have lost substantial proportions of their Black/African American teachers, dropping by 2.8 percentage points from 1995-2009 and 1.6 percentage points from 2010-2015. Since 2010, the teacher workforce in Seattle, Spokane and Highline proportionately have become more White. race ethnicity teachers

As you have seen, teacher retention reports in Central Puget Sound for traditional schools demonstrates high turnover. With 1109 teachers leaving the teaching profession entirely after the first 1-5 years of experience leaving, our turnover rates are less than other schools in the Central Puget Sound region, and even less when you consider the significantly higher diversity in our schools and the added skill required of our teachers as a Showcase School and non-traditional education paradigms.

Technology Challenge for Innovation Educators

Renton Prep and Amazing Grace Christian Schools are not traditional and both include an added challenging variable with technology.

Teachers who are at our school need to be willing to be in classrooms with 24/7 video and audio surveillance as well as having open classrooms for visitors from public schools in the area and nationally, education leaders, global Ministries of Education and Experts in Education to view their classrooms at any time. They realize that we have authors who come in to write about teaching and learning practice. Where other educators may experience performance reviews once or a couple times each year, our educators are essentially having their performance in the public eye as we share our story of learning with the world.

This is not a traditional education experience. The inclusion of the challenging variable of technology allows for innovation and more work from our teachers, and staff. It means that our educators need to be fully engaged at all times. This benefits your children. Not all educators are interested in this style of education or the level of rigor, transparency, and flexibility required. It also requires educators who are interested in continually learning and sharing their knowledge with a broader community, model what it is like to continually learn and grow, and share that knowledge. Make sure you follow our blog to stay abreast of all topics in relation to innovation educators. You can see a glimpse into daily teaching through our photo evidence in our Instagram and Facebook feeds. Recall that this year, 11 of our educators were accepted to present at Professional Education Conferences, and another teacher, Emily Chant was just selected to present in summer, making 12 of our educators who have shared their knowledge with the world, in addition to over 45 students who have presented at conferences locally and nationally this year alone. Learn more at how we did at ncce 2018.

Innovation Educators Challenge

The Washington Post reported that research in Washington D.C. demonstrated not all teacher turnover is bad and showed the positive impact on ensuring the educators are the best match for meeting the goals and ensuring high performing educators for the right school.

We continue to progress in our school’s vision to inspire a passion for harnessing emerging technology for teaching, learning, critical thinking and sharing the hope of becoming responsible and productive citizens, whose legacy will leave the world a better place. We challenge our educators to reach a level of excellence that have helped us become recognized through multiple educational organizations, publish research, and lead in educational paradigms to change education. Are you up for the challenge? Apply today.

80% first and second-generation immigrants

We are proud of our reputation for being the most ethnically diverse parochial school in our community, with 80% of our students coming from first and second-generation immigrant families. Over the past nine years, our student demographics speak for themselves:

race ethnicity AGCS RPCS

We continue to progress in our school’s vision to inspire a passion for harnessing emerging technology for teaching, learning, critical thinking and sharing the hope of becoming responsible and productive citizens, whose legacy will leave the world a better place. Below is some student feedback on this in the form of teacher appreciation:

Quick links to our Innovation Educators Curriculum

View our curriculum for early childhood

View our curriculum for middle and high school