Teachers are Changemakers

The TrueSchool Process is grounded in the idea that educators are experts.

“Instead of top-down management where we fit an issue into pre-made solutions, innovation starts from the bottom up. That’s where you find the true heart of the matter.”

—Sue Brumbaugh, Fourth Grade Teacher
Havelock Elementary School
Havelock, North Carolina

At TrueSchool, our work focuses on finding ways to address current inequities in our education system. We want to ensure that students of color and low-income students have access to high-quality education.

Change is within our reach, and that’s why we concentrate on what our education system should and can be. The TrueSchool Process prioritizes our assets and the powerful improvements that we can make happen immediately. 

A school’s biggest resource is its team of educators.

With firsthand knowledge of students and communities, educators have the insight and skills needed to create highly effective learning models and solutions. They see opportunities for success every day. They are best positioned to effect change. Their actions directly and immediately impact educational equity, academic achievement, and well-being for students.

Brian Quinlan, Assistant Principal of James Monroe Elementary in Chicago explains:

“TrueSchool approaches professional learning differently. Instead of a presenter talking at educators, the solution is coming from the talented professionals in the room. Moreover, it creates better solutions as educators are natural problem-solvers and the people on the ground with the deepest knowledge of their students and schools.”

Giving teachers a seat at the table is a critical part of impacting student learning. Researchers Joseph F. Murphy and Joshua F. Bleiberg note that, as part of school turnaround efforts, “teachers must believe in the work being undertaken…Their options should be weighed when deciding upon turnaround strategies, especially considering their role in implementing the plans. When teachers do not buy in to turnaround intervention(s), failing schools do not improve.”

Following last year’s TrueSchool Fellowship, 96% of participating educators—a 12% increase—reported feeling that teachers were involved in decision-making processes. 

And 98% of participating educators reported that their work had the potential to have a transformative impact on student outcomes beyond that year, reaching even more students. 

According to school reform researchers Amanda Datnow and Sam Stringfield, a school team’s belief that they can effect change is an early indicator of impact on student achievement.

Jennifer Perrell, a first grade teacher at Overton Elementary School in Salisbury, North Carolina, reflects on what she learned during her TrueSchool experience: “We should be the ones making the decisions. We can make a positive impact on teaching because of our experience.”

















At HTRS Elementary School in Humboldt, Nebraska, TrueSchool Fellows worked together to find ways to get students more excited about reading. They ended up organizing a “reading flash mob,” where students gathered together to perform a group dance in celebration of the books they had read. They also planned a Mystery Reader series, which involved a mystery guest from the school community reading a book aloud during morning meeting. These literary-themed events got more students interested in reading.

Reflecting on the process, the HTRS TrueSchool Team said they realized “change led by staff (not just administration) is more readily accepted by other teachers” and that working as a team “allowed individual strengths to shine through.”

TrueSchool lets educators lead the way since they are in the best position to know what their students need. Our TrueSchool Fellowship provides teachers and principals with the time and resources to dream up innovative ideas to improve student achievement.

Click here to read more stories of educator-led change from last year’s TrueSchool Fellowship.

And if you’re ready to impact student learning at your school, apply for the 2020 TrueSchool Fellowship by October 15.