• The Positive Deviance Project
Now in its fourth year, the project is designed to increase the graduation rate at Merced High School. Under a grant from The Hewlett Foundation, a team from Merced volunteered and was accepted for this program. The initial meeting of Merced High School stakeholders was held in February 2009, with Mark T. Munger, who is associated with The Positive Deviance Initiative of Tufts University, serving as the consultant.
Instead of approaching the problem in a traditional way – looking at students who drop out of school -- the program relies on those students who are successfully staying in school and thriving despite such social factors as poverty, family problems, crime and gangs. The MHS program involves regular meetings between teacher mentors, at-risk students and these so-called “positive deviants.” In addition, students participate in a college field trip and present the end-of-the-year student-led “Last Word” Assembly.
The program has a two-pronged approach. The first step is tapping into the knowledge of the community outliers, who somehow come up with the solutions to problems. Second is to share those solutions with the rest of the community and grow as a whole. The IFT believes the potential for the Positive Deviance approach to reduce high school dropouts is vast and largely untapped. Indeed, district data for 2012 indicates the PD program has contributed to a 25% reduction in the dropout rate at MHS. The District Administration and School Board are planning to export the program to all six of the District’s high schools.
• Early Childhood Education Alliance
This project was established with the support of the Packard Foundation to train and inform CTA members, leaders and staff on strength-based models in Early Childhood Education. Beginning in 2005, IFT sponsored a series of statewide forums and we continue to work closely with the CTA Early Childhood Education Committee to explore other opportunities to enhance preschool education. In partnership with iCohere Inc., IFT designed a virtual conference in 2009 to provide support to preschool teachers and other ECE professionals by encouraging them to apply strength-based approaches in their classrooms.
• Marin Institute for Teaching Excellence
The work of establishing the Marin Institute for Teaching Excellence (M.I.T.E.) exemplifies what strengthbased teacher driven change is all about. IFT is supporting this county-wide effort to create a teacher-led organization that provides, teachers, students and parents a single place to find local master teachers, view best practices and connect with teachers for on-going ideas and support.
• California School Garden Network
Recognizing that many CTA members are already supporting school garden projects at their local school sites, the IFT became a California School Garden Network Partner in 2009. IFT applauds the work of the California School Garden Network (CSGN) to create and sustain school gardens throughout the state. The IFT agrees with CSGN’s mission to promote school gardens as a means “to enhance academic achievement, a healthy lifestyle, environmental stewardship, and community and social development.”
Teachers have told us that their gardens offer a wide variety of benefits to their students. They are enthusiastic that the lessons taught in school gardens apply to such a wide range of disciplines. The CSGN’s essential book, Gardens for Learning: Creating & Sustaining Your School Garden is available free as a download from their website csgn.org.
• SMASH Program
IFT has developed a partnership with the San Francisco-based Level Playing Field Institute to support the expansion of their Summer Math & Science Honors Academy. This three-year summer program for highachieving, low-income high school students of color provides a 5-week college residential enrichment program. Courses are taught by local STEM high school teachers at UC Berkeley, Stanford, USC and UCLA.
• IFT Learning & Resource Centers
In 2008, the CTA Institute for Teaching joined Amazon.com’s Associates Program to form Learning & Resource Centers in support of teacher-driven change. Hundreds of classroom materials have been selected and grouped in three Learning & Resource Centers. They can assist our members in developing lesson plans, strategic goals for their classroom, and align their curriculum to state standards.
For more information, visit the IFT website, www.teacherdrivenchange.org, or join the “CTA Institute for Teaching” community on Facebook.