A Charter District Collaboration Grows at Tweed Courthouse


In the Romanesque interior of the famous Tweed Courthouse this week, educators from district schools and the charter school network Uncommon Schools were focused on literacy–and how to best teach students to master comprehension skills that will help them succeed in school and in life.

Eighty-five teachers started the all-day professional development session by sharing their favorite book names with each other and then committing to spark that same love of reading in their students.  They also wrote on brightly colored pieces of paper their “neon signs”, the things they were most proud of in their work with students and the things that they themselves were hoping to grow in as professionals.  This set the stage for a day of strong learning and collaboration.

Throughout the rest of the day, the teachers analyzed what it means to prepare students to access the rigor of common-core standards, how best to boost students’ ability to read complex texts, and the most effective techniques for teachers to help students and support them individually based on their reading needs.

Educators from district schools and the charter school network Uncommon Schools were focused on literacy at the Tweed Courthouse last week. Contributed photo.

The workshop was part of the ongoing joint professional development collaboration between the NYC Department of Education, the Relay Graduate School of Education,  and Uncommon Schools, a high-performing public charter school network with 24 schools in Brooklyn serving more than 8,700 students.

Fifth- and seventh-grade literacy teachers from District 5 in Harlem and District 18 in Canarsie participated in the workshop, which was designed to give them powerful techniques they could use immediately in the classroom to help their students improve reading skills.  At the end of the session, teachers completed a feedback survey in which over 90% of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that the session would help them improve student achievement at their school and that they found the content of the session to be highly actionable.

“I am so inspired when I see people talking about real work with real specificity and that sense of having something that you know you’re going to be able to use tomorrow in your class,” said  Karin Goldmark, the Deputy Chancellor of School Planning and Development, to the group.

For DOE officials, the collaboration is fueling growth among teachers.

“I am excited about the work that we are doing in partnership with Uncommon Schools,” said Beverly Wilkins, the superintendent of District 18 in Brooklyn, whose teachers participated. “I can think of no other way to improve student outcomes than to maximize our potential to do the work. As our teachers maximize their potential, so will the potential of our students be maximized.”

Robin Davson, a deputy superintendent in District 5, said attending Relay when she was in her second year as a principal in Brownsville two years ago changed the way she approached literacy instruction.  

“From then on it changed the entire trajectory of literacy instruction in my building and after I left in 2018, the work continues,” Davson said. “I’m so happy that it left that impact. I’m extremely proud of that impact and I’m also proud of the impact that it’s having across our district so far from the work that we started last year.” 

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