Friday, June 21, 2013

New Book from Leaders of Uncommon Schools

Hello, Uncommon Supporters—
I hope the beginning of June finds you well.  I’m writing today to congratulate three Uncommon leaders – Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, Juliana Worrell, and Aja Settles – on their new book, Great Habits, Great Readers: A Practical Guide for K-4 Reading in the Light of Common Corepublished just this week.  For those of you who don’t know Paul, Juliana, and Aja, let me introduce you.  Paul has been the Managing Director of Uncommon Newark since Uncommon first began, and Executive Director of North Star Academy before that, helping grow our Newark region from three schools to nine schools now serving nearly 2,200 students.  His previous books, Driven by Data and Leverage Leadership,have codified and shared with the world some of the amazing work of our teachers and instructional leaders.  Juliana is the Founding Principal of Fairmount Elementary School in Newark, previously serving as a founding teacher at Vailsburg Elementary School.  Aja was the Founding Principal of West Side Park Elementary School in Newark, and was also a founding teacher at Vailsburg Elementary School.

Starting in 2008, Paul, Juliana, and Aja worked with many others across Uncommon – including Nikki Bridges, Principal of Leadership Prep Ocean Hill Elementary Academy in NYC; Emily Hoefling-Crouch, Principal of Leadership Prep Canarsie Elementary Academy in NYC; Julie Jackson, Managing Director of our New York City and Newark Elementary Schools; Erica Woolway, Chief Academic Officer of our Teach Like a Champion team; and Katie Yezzi, Principal of Troy Prep Elementary School – to do what we are doing more and more at Uncommon: spending time watching some of our truly exceptional teachers, across our regions.  Over the four-year period, they identified what these teachers were doing, codified it, watched our teachers again, and tweaked what they had.  Then, they figured out how to make it sticky and how to teach it.  And they shared it, first in our internal K-4 reading taxonomy that is being used across our elementary schools – and now with the world in Great Habits, Great Readers.  As I know the authors would say themselves, what they have written is simply a reflection and compilation of the great work our elementary school leaders and teachers have done, both past and present.
In their work, the authors began to focus on the fact that, like the rest of us, our elementary scholars are what they repeatedly do.  Habits are formed early, and building great readers is about building great reading habits early, including by using moments when a scholar makes a mistake to redirect them to better habits.  Uncommonly great teachers are constantly finding ways to instill great habits in their young scholars and the K-4 reading taxonomy, as well as this book, aim to make more teachers uncommon through that focus.
We are hopeful that the work we have already done for the K-4 reading taxonomy – and the work we have done and will continue to do in 5-8 reading – will help us hit the ground running to address the Common Core, and ensure we are preparing each and every one of our students for college success.  And we are hopeful that Great Habits, Great Readerswill help others outside of Uncommon hit the ground running too.  Thank you Paul, Juliana, and Aja for your work to make us better, and for helping us share what we have learned.  Thank you to every teacher and leader who had some role in the Uncommon-wide working group whose work led to the creation of the K-4 reading taxonomy.  Thank you to the reading teachers across Uncommon who work every day to help our students master the literacy skills they need to continue to learn.  And thank you to all of Uncommon’s other teachers who use their own classes to further instill a love and mastery of reading in our scholars.  The work each is doing will follow our students throughout their lives.   
Lastly, thank you for all that you do to support our scholars, teachers, and leaders. The launch of this book would not have been possible without you.

Brett Peiser
Chief Executive Officer
Uncommon Schools

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