District Administration August 2016 - 27

Realize systemwide potential In New York, he spearheaded the New School Initiative, creating 500 small high schools and charter schools. The charters and schools he helped create were effective, according to various research studies. More students were going into college, he adds. He later became New York's senior coordinator for special education. When longtime New Haven Superintendent Reginald Mayo and former Mayor Joe DeStefano Jr. launched the "School Change 1.0" initiative in 2009, Harries took the chance to work on a deeper level in a smaller urban district. He started as assistant superintendent for portfolio and performance management. "I learned it was possible to change the world and I could do it," he says. Reform was, in part, about closing the achievement gap, halving the dropout rate and preparing students for college and careers. At the same time, Harries' wife had started a community-supported agriculture farm about an hour away in Connecticut, which made moving easy. "She grows fruits, vegetables and animals," he says. "I try to grow people." He also knew that he could connect more personally with students in the smaller New Haven district. "In New Haven, you're a lot closer to the impact of the work you are doing, and able to put together more pieces of the work," he says. "We have examples of school success, but not a whole system. New Haven has the potential to be that." The reform program received a major boost from a teacher's union contract that makes it easier for the district to fire poor educators. It also allows the city to replace underperforming schools and their employees with charter schools and charter employees, Harries says. The initiative also includes social and emotional programs to help children improve their soft skills. Creating space for success Harries has kept reform alive with his own School Change 2.0 initiative, which grew out of School Change 1.0. New Haven employs teacher coaches who guide www.DistrictAdministration.com Learning to use the mind: Harries enjoys inspiring students, interacting with them, and giving them knowledge outside the classroom. earth and its resources, and having empatheir peers in personalizing instruction thy for others. and integrating other innovations. And When the district first implemented Harries has tried to implement play-based learning in early grades and expand social- School Change, many of the best teachers decided to leave. "At first I thought it was emotional learning. a disaster. But in the end, they were not The district has also partnered with willing to operate in a team. And that is Achievement First, a nonprofit network what it takes-to work together more efof high-performing, college-preparatory charter schools in Connecticut, New York fectively," Harries says. and Rhode Island. Harries has turned seven of New Haven's 47 schools into Dive deeper into history charters, impacting less than 10 percent While Harries has achieved much in his of the student population. three years, he still has more to do to en"I think the expansion of charters has sure students gain deeper understanding forced different behaviors among disof the subjects they study. tricts," Harries says, meaning districts see Unlike the typical U.S. education potential in the flexibility. system, Harries thinks focusing for several Under a decade of reform, the high weeks on one pivotal subject-such as school graduation rate has increased by 17 the Civil War-would be a more effective percentage points. And more New Haven way to teach U.S. history, for example. graduates stay in college for their sophoAlthough the school day is packed more year. with testing and other requirements, Brennan-Rogers Magnet School, for students could be more engaged in deep example, was a success when some work thinking about the whos and whys and rules were readjusted so the staff could hows of any war. spend more time with students and with "We have such a narrow perspective each other to plan higher-quality lessons. about what deep learning is," he says. He also brought to the district Enter"Let those kids have a deep course about prise Learning Education, funded under a the Civil War and I will still have them federal SIG grant. sit down at the end-of-year. U.S. history Inspired by the adventurous spirit of exam and I think they'll do OK because the Outward Bound program of wilderthey learned the skills of inquiry-the ness expeditions, it teaches students about skills of documented analysis." DA perseverance, grit, imagination, being curious about the world, protecting the Angela Pascopella is managing editor. August 2016 27 http://www.DistrictAdministration.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration August 2016

District Administration August 2016 - Cover1
District Administration August 2016 - Cover2
District Administration August 2016 - 1
District Administration August 2016 - 2
District Administration August 2016 - 3
District Administration August 2016 - 4
District Administration August 2016 - 5
District Administration August 2016 - 6
District Administration August 2016 - 7
District Administration August 2016 - 8
District Administration August 2016 - 9
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District Administration August 2016 - Cover3
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