This week, we interviewed one of the New Mexico based partners of TNTP, Tim Hise.

TNTP is a national education non-profit founded by teachers for teachers. Their mission is to end the injustice of educational inequity by ensuring a great teacher leads every classroom. This is accomplished by working at multiple levels within the system across the areas of talent, academics, and policy. Currently, they operate in more than 70 cities and have two projects in New Mexico underway. 

Why is the work that your organization does important for our schools? 

TNTP’S work is important in three key ways: 

  1. They roll up their sleeves and work with their partners. This could be co-teaching a lesson side-by-side with a new teacher or executing a recruitment/selection strategy with a district’s HR team. This type of support allows schools to move closer to their goals and vision. 
  2. Since they’re a national organization, they have a bird’s eye view of the best practices for schooling and can serve as a connector of good ideas between different schools in different states. 
  3. By working so closely with their partners, it allows  the opportunity to witness similar challenges between schools.

 Once every few years, TNTP publishes a research report based off of a difficult question or challenge that they’ve encountered. This report highlights what they learned and what should be done about it. Their most recent report is The Opportunity Myth.  The report follows 4,000 students in five different school systems to learn about their experiences, but also highlights the inequitable access students have to resources needed to be successful. 

How has the work of your organization changed to better meet the needs of today amid the pandemic?

Like school systems, the pandemic has impacted TNTP greatly. Their ability to work directly in the field with schools is not currently possible. For the past three months, they’ve focused on supporting their partners during their shift to distance learning programs, assisting  system leaders with the design and execution of these programs, and supporting the skill building of teachers. The organization also has tons of publicly available resources to support at-home learning, such as support for multilingual or special education at-home learning resources. Along with supporting schools throughout their transition to distance learning, TNTP has also offered support on the hiring level. They’ve worked with talent teams and HR departments to develop a hiring process in a virtual environment , including how to mitigate bias and ways to uphold an equitable hiring process.

In your work with leaders and educators across the country, which responses from schools have you seen that are working well? Should these responses be replicated? 

Hise is a cheerleader for our educators and students who have made the shift to distance learning because it hasn’t been easy. There are some notable responses from both schools inside and outside of New Mexico, such as Concourse Village in the Bronx. The district pivoted quickly to virtual instruction, and within a week of school closures, they were creating an engaging, rigorous distance education program for students. School districts such as Cuba, Vista Grande, and Santo Domingo in New Mexico have been developing different ways of making school resources accessible for students. Cuba has also been in the process of reviewing their curriculum for summer school. 

With these programs, TNTP has engaged in discussions about how they can enhance what students can learn at home, as well as how to enhance their learning on a cultural, linguistic, and agricultural level.

As for whether or not all schools should replicate these responses, Hise’s response is not necessarily. The districts mentioned previously are important to highlight, but the responses schools should replicate depend on individual schools or districts. There are some “north stars” for schools to look for, such as keeping track of which students are engaged in distance learning, which students are not, and how to get the students not-engaged involved. Schools need a team to determine what would work best for their students. 

Why is it important for schools to prepare for the possibility of distance learning continuing in the fall? How can schools start taking the steps to prepare for this now? 

Hise says that nothing can replace an engaging educator in a classroom, but by preparing now, schools have the opportunity to develop the tools and systems that will allow students to thrive in a distance learning environment. Hise believes that there’s a chance that distance learning will have to continue into the fall, or it will shift between both distance and regular schooling. There’s a range of options for how school can return in August, so schools must plan for each option. 

Hise recommends that schools form a team of individuals to take a plan/do and research/action approach to planning for the fall. Before they discuss how they’ll provide learning, they should ask what kids need to be learning. Distance learning should be approached with the same standards as regular learning, otherwise there is a risk that students could receive a second class education from home. Other topics schools must consider are the logistics of gathering information about the success of their program, how grading will work, communication between parents and schools, and whether content is grade appropriate. TNTP has also developed a step-by-step guide to help schools and school systems plan for re-opening. The guide can be found here. 

Looking into the summer and fall, what concerns do you have about our schools and students

First and foremost, Hise is concerned about the physical and emotional well-being of our educators, students, and  families. One concern Hise has is about the systemic inequities that are caused by the digital divide. When the academic year begins, Hise is worried about the focus of remediation rather than acceleration, which  refers to schools taking the time to teach content from a previous grade rather than the current grade. Schools may use blanket stereotypes to assume all students are behind because of distance learning, which  may not be the case. Another concern Hise has for the fall is overemphasizing diagnostics. If it takes districts weeks to months figuring out where schools are and if there is another closure, schools and educators would have spent those first few weeks trying to see where students were rather than teaching them new content. Lastly, Hise is concerned about school budgets. States are now beginning to look at their school budgets for the next year and these budgets are so uncertain that some contingencies aren’t viable for schools. 

How do you think distance learning will impact education in the future?

To Hise, distance learning has highlighted the importance of personalized learning. Many schools take a “one size fits all” approach to learning, and distance learning provides the opportunity to rethink this system. There are students, particularly amongst middle to high school grades, that find themselves benefitting from the autonomy that distance learning provides. Distance learning provides schools with the opportunity to differentiate educational systems that tend to the needs of all students in the best way possible. 

We would like to thank Mr. Hise for taking the time out of his schedule to talk to us! You can find more information about TNTP on their website.

Chelsea Berg is an intern at NewMexicoKidsCan and has benefited from New Mexico’s private and public school programs. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


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