Fall 2019 RISE Network Convening: Grade 9, Educator Mindsets, and Student Voice

The RISE Network is built on the belief that we can achieve more on behalf of our students by working together—across schools and districts—towards shared goals. Creating meaningful gatherings of high school educators across Connecticut is one way that RISE acts on this core principle.

In mid-November, nearly 100 teachers, counselors, and administrators from all 10 partner schools met in New Haven for the Fall 2019 RISE Network Convening. We bring together partners at this moment each year, but this fall’s convening was special, as it was the first to include educators from all 10 RISE high schools. This moment in the year and in our partnership finds all 10 RISE high schools dedicating great energy toward Grade 9, whether they are launching new on-track efforts, refining systems and structures to improve student outcomes, or relaunching data teams. Recognizing this shared investment in Grade 9, the convening focused on freshman success with a particular emphasis on the impact of educator mindsets on our work with freshmen.

Throughout the day’s activities, educators engaged with the Student Support Inquiry Framework (SSIF), a tool RISE developed to support teams in thinking expansively about the student experience. The SSIF challenges educators to reflect not only on student actions and behaviors that contribute to producing data we see, but also to consider the impact of educator actions, instructional practices, and policies at the classroom, school, and district levels. Teams used the framework to analyze Quarter 1 data on freshman course performance, attendance, and behavior, and to explore potential root causes of trends they noticed in the data. In reflecting on his engagement with the framework, a teacher from New Haven said, “This was a new way to look at the job of an educator.” An on-track coordinator from Manchester said, “The SSIF changed my mindset, which makes me excited to share it with my colleagues.”

Students themselves also offered their perspectives and insights in a session called “Grade 9 Through Students’ Eyes.” On a day when adults reflected on their own mindsets when it comes to supporting students, hearing from students at East Hartford and Hartford Public high schools—about what it means to be a 9th grader, the circumstances they navigate to be successful in school, and how they think about the adults in their school lives—helped underscore what is at stake. And as with all RISE gatherings, educator collaboration was a centerpiece. A teacher from Stamford attending her first RISE convening said, “I loved having time to hear what is happening elsewhere to get ideas.”

Educators had time at the end of the day to plan with their school colleagues, making commitments to turn the day’s learning into action for their students and teams. Leaving that session, a social worker from East Hartford said, “I am excited about the action plan that our team from today is bringing back to the larger team, and about the impact what we’re planning will have on the lens we look through when it comes to student success.”