This fall, as part of our sustained focus on great teaching, educators across the Madison school district began using the "Great Teaching Framework," a tool for effective instruction designed to ensure that all students receive the same high quality of teaching across all classrooms and schools.


We recently sat down with Cynthia Green, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, to learn more about the framework and what it means for students and teachers in their day-to-day work. In this first of a two-part series, she explains how the framework was formed and what teaching practices guide it.


Where did the Great Teaching Framework come from?

It was created locally by teachers and district staff in collaboration with students, and anchored in research. There are many different frameworks out there that describe great teaching. It was important for us to contextualize a framework to our culture in Madison, as well as align it to our overarching district Strategic Framework.


What kind of input did you get from students, and how did you get it?

We held a focus group to ask high school students what was important to them in learning and teaching. Six teaching practices surfaced as being relevant, meaningful and purposeful to them. We centered the framework around them:

  1. Set high and clear expectations for all students
  2. Acknowledge all students
  3. Develop self-efficacy
  4. Connect to students’ lives
  5. Apply academic press (in other words, engage students in complex, high-level learning)
  6. Address racial and cultural identity

To support all students, teachers embed these culturally and linguistically responsive practices throughout their teaching.


What does it mean for a practice to be “culturally and linguistically relevant”?

It means knowing each student intimately, their backgrounds and the assets each of them brings to the class, including cultural differences, linguistic differences and gender differences. It also means holding the same expectations for all kids regardless of their differences.

It’s important for teachers to learn about different cultures in the classroom and be responsive to that in their teaching. It’s also important for all students to understand and recognize the cultural variants that are in their classrooms.

But this isn’t about a subset of students; it doesn’t pertain just to minority cultures. It’s about all kids — being responsive and also teaching the class about it.

This should be happening throughout the entire Great Teaching Framework cycle.


So, the Great Teaching Framework is a cycle?

Yes, the framework works as a cycle: Teachers plan, teach, reflect and adjust. In other words, teachers engage in planning standards-based lessons, they teach using Gradual Release and then they reflect on their practice and adjust lessons accordingly to meet the needs of all students. The cycle represents key teacher actions that advance students learning.


Next time: Cindy will elaborate on the framework as a cycle and explain what “Gradual Release of Responsibility” teaching is.


Read the entire Great Teaching Framework.