Welcome to the Lower School
The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has provided educators a unique turning point to examine the “why” behind all that we do for our students. In the Lower School, we have declared this the optimal time to carry the most powerful of our teaching and learning initiatives into the future, while carefully leaving behind past practices and approaches not grounded in research. We take seriously our obligation to study and evaluate every part of our program to ensure that we are prepared to meet the needs of Lower School students today and into the future. Despite the many challenges brought on by the pandemic, this time has proven to be one of tremendous growth, innovation, and strength in our Lower School classrooms.
This has also been a time for us to double down on our individual and collective commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ). We believe that our role as a school, in addition to providing the strongest possible academic program, is to welcome and support all members of our community in participating in necessary conversations about these issues. This commitment to DEIJ lives at the very center of our work.
I hope that you enjoy learning about our program and that you will visit us to see our Lower School in action.
–Dr. Frank Patti
Lower School Principal
Tyler Jennings, Lower School Dean of Teaching and Learning
Research is conclusive that the most important factor in children’s learning is the quality of their teachers (Burroughs et al., 2019), and increasingly, substantial bodies of research demonstrate that the most effective professional development is instructional coaching (Garet et al., 2016; Gregory, 2017).
What is instructional coaching? It’s a job-embedded type of professional development in which a trained coach works one-on-one with a teacher over time to plan and teach lessons and assess student learning.
It is not surprising that this type of professional development has been proven to be more effective than others (such as workshops and conferences) (Garet, 2001; TNTP, 2015): It’s the only one that enables the professional developer to deeply know the teacher and students, work with them amidst the action of teaching and learning, and support them consistently.
For the past 20 years, many public school districts have invested intensively in coaching (Galey, 2016). Interestingly, the independent school world has not responded to the research in the same way. It is still fairly rare to find a role focused solely on teacher development in elementary divisions and even more so in secondary ones. Historically, independent schools have created organizational cultures that live up to their name: employees, including teachers, have expected a great deal of independence. But is that what’s best for our students? In Milton’s Lower School, by investing in coaching, we are investing in the power of learning together.