Achievement Teams: Functional Teacher Collaboration Is Solved!

Header - Ventura - Achievement Teams

Steve Ventura, president and lead consultant at Advanced Collaborative Solutions, speaks to the advantage of using achievement teams to move the needle for disciplined collaboration among teachers and leaders.


ave you ever been part of a PLC or teacher team that didn't work? You likely spent countless hours wondering what the purpose was as you listened to colleagues talk about needless tasks that could've been handled via email.

Educators really can't afford to waste precious collaborative time. If they're going to take the time away from instruction and learning, and away from their already busy workloads, they must use it to impact teaching practice and student outcomes.

For collaboration to be successful, the group needs to have common goals, beliefs, and expectations. A critical factor in that success is the belief that what the group is doing can make a difference, that the work they're doing collaboratively is worth the time and effort. This belief is known as collective efficacy. The team's organization, how they work together, and the strategies they choose to achieve academic goals contribute significantly to efficacious behavior.

PLCs and teacher teams are excellent models of collaboration, but they need a system and process within the meeting structure to drive change. That's where achievement teams come in.

What are Achievement Teams?

Achievement Teams are the key part of a collaborative model for implementing data-driven decision-making at the instructional level. They follow a three-part framework of evidence, inference, and impact, that provides a structure for teachers to identify areas of student need and collaboratively decide on the best instructional approach in response to those needs.

Ventura - Achievement Teams Framework (Cropped)

Steve paints a clear picture of what the teams look like at each stage of the framework.

The teams are categorized by grade level (horizontal) or content (vertical) and incorporate a universal and common learning goal. They can also be organized as specialist teams, like elective teachers or other teachers who share common students.

This structure allows schools and school systems to break down the silos of individual practice and create teams of educators who continuously reflect on and improve their practice.

The four-step meeting protocol

The Achievement Teams Framework involves a four-step meeting protocol with a continuous cycle. It's highly structured, providing space for teachers to accurately reflect on teaching between pre- and post-assessments, while simultaneously identifying areas of student need. Teachers then collaboratively decide on the best corrective instructional approach in response to those needs.

In other words, it's not about what the students failed to learn, but instead, what the teaching wasn't able to accomplish. Here are the steps:

  1. Collect and chart data: focusing on evidence from quality short-cycle assessments that center on "unwrapped" priority standards, teams take time to analyze student work to develop inferences and inform meaningful professional conversations.
  2. S.M.A.R.T. goals: creating goals for both students and teachers has tremendous impact on academic outcomes.
  3. Baseline evidence statements: summarizing the collected data helps educators make inferences around mastery levels of students.
  4. Evidence-based instructional strategies: selecting the strategies that will have the most impact on student achievement.

When schools and school systems de-emphasize individual practice and promote collective ability, it's possible to create professional teams of educators who continuously reflect on and improve their practice.

When the four-step protocol is embedded in school practice, teams will have a greater impact on student achievement, incorporate more inclusive methods of instruction, and expand teaching and learning.

Bonus: check out our on-demand webinar recording on Achievement Teams to learn more.

Final note

The philosophy behind using collaboration as a form of improving teaching and leadership is simple: teachers can have a greater influence on student achievement when they combine their collective efforts. This is especially true for busy teachers who work hard and are doing the best they can within their range of knowledge.

Teachers typically work in isolation, and this means they may have limited access to new research, materials, and professional growth opportunities. Providing teachers with time and space to work together creates new opportunities to learn with one another and promoting the sharing of master and vicarious experiences and ensuring continuous improvement.

About our Guest Blogger

Steve Ventura is the president and lead consultant at Advanced Collaborative Solutions. He is a highly motivational and knowledgeable speaker who approaches high-stakes professional development armed with practical, research-based strategies.

Steve is a former elementary and secondary teacher as well as both a school and district-level administrator. Steve has published multiple books and articles, and regularly presents and keynotes at major global education events.

Be sure to connect with Steve on Twitter and Instagram!

Continue reading more great posts!