Director of Academic Development
Ascend Learning Charter Schools - Brooklyn, NY

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The director of academic development is responsible for initiatives that improve the Ascend school design and its implementation at all schools. This includes 1) the standardization of certain academic practices, procedures, and tools that currently vary by school, 2) the annual Intervention program, which prepares scholars for state tests, 3) the SABIS relationship and implementation, and 4) select academic and cultural initiatives developed in conjunction with the CEO that aim to move the schools to the next level of academic excellence. The director works closely with 1) the CEO, 2) the school directors and their deans of instruction, 3) the chief curriculum officer, and 4) the manager of data and analytics.


Standardization of practices.
The director works to standardize and systematize certain academic practices, procedures, and tools that currently vary by school.

Qualification. The director determines with the school directors whether a particular practice, procedure, or tool—such as teacher evaluation, guided reading, or departmentalized teaching—would benefit from standardization across the schools, or whether a variety of practices, each with its advocates, offers the network a valuable proving ground.

For a qualified practice, procedure, or tool, the director captures each of school’s practices and identifies the most effective or develops a composite, drawing from the strengths of each.

The director disseminates the standardized practice to the schools and provides technical assistance in its implementation.

Intervention program.

The director coordinates the annual Intervention program of each school to prepare scholars for the New York State test, in grades 3 through 8. This entails:

Mock exam administration and analysis. The director selects the mock exam instrument to be used in each school and works with the school directors to establish a mock testing calendar. The director works with the manager of data and analytics to provide rich analysis of the results, including “points to proficiency” measures and the identification of skills students have been taught but not mastered.

Intervention design. The director works with the school directors and deans of instruction to ensure that each school’s intervention program is well-designed and is certain to result in targeted proficiency levels in every grade and subject. This assessment includes time on task, student grouping by skill deficits, and mastery tracking.

Exit tickets and DAKs. The director devises common parameters for weekly exit tickets used by each school so that data are generated from the start to the finish of the program that accurately trace scholar’s mastery of targeted skills.

Outcome predictions. The director works with the manager of data and analytics to maintain and disseminate predictive models (“frankenDAKs”), based on exit ticket data, of scholar performance on the state test.

Motivation, proctoring, and exam administration. The director works with the school directors to make sure that schools follow best practices for motivating students, exams are properly proctored and testing modifications are provided appropriately, and schools comply with all SED protocols.

SABIS relationship and implementation.

The director manages the implementation of the SABIS education system with special attention to three attributes:

Full implementation. The director plans and aggressively leads initiatives to implement components of the system that have not been fully tapped, such as the proper use of academic prefects, the Student Life Organization, and in conjunction with the director of IT, SABIS information technology, including SSMS, Webschool, RMS, and tablets in classrooms for attendance and infractions/merits.

Fidelity and compliance. The director, as chief evangelist for the SABIS system, highlights the academic results obtained by teachers who implement the program with near perfect fidelity, identifies issues which diminish teacher investment in the system (including low-fidelity implementations) and works to resolve them. The director works with school directors to move their implementations toward greater fidelity and full compliance with the licensing agreement.

SABIS-Ascend Summit actions. The director tracks the disposition of each action decided at the SABIS-Ascend Summit, and ensures that each fix or enhancement has been completed and implemented at the schools.

Academic and cultural initiatives. Each year, in concert with the chief academic officer, the director drives a small number of critically important annual initiatives devised in conjunction with
the CEO to move the schools to next level of academic excellence. In 2013, the annual initiatives might include:

Rigor and critical thinking. To infuse critical thinking and academic rigor throughout the SABIS curriculum, this initiative may 1) look to lessons planners to add a short list of carefully designed critical thinking questions, with likely responses and redirects, to all lesson plans, and 2) train all faculty in their use.

Cultural descaffolding. To prepare students to function successfully and persist in college, this initiative may prepare a roadmap from the skills required at college (autonomous functioning, without scaffolding; grit; independent thinking; intellectual confidence) back to fifth grade, with a year-by-year sequence for increasing scholar autonomy and privileges, and the conditions for earning them, and with provision for abundant practice in the skills.

Academic engagement. To enhance academic engagement and the vibrancy of teaching and learning at Ascend’s schools, this initiative, undertaken in conjunction with the curriculum team, may look to lesson planners to tap the finest of web content (including video, graphics, animation, and photography) to infuse select lessons with short, fascinating components that
excite scholar’s natural curiosity and draw them into academic content.

Positive narration. To foster a socially and emotionally healthful environment for learning and build scholar’s sense of self-worth and intrinsic motivation, this initiative may ensure that all teachers are specifically trained in Lemov’s positive narration using videos of Ascend’s teacher who exemplify the practice, and by tracking each teacher’s ratio of positive to negative scholar interactions.

Qualifications and Skills

The director must:
Have a record of academic success as principal of a No Excuses school

Be wholly aligned with Ascend’s vision and positioning within the No Excuses space, whereby the network’s primary goal is intellectual attainment,
and it is the network’s goal to develop scholars who are intellectually capable, well-read, cultivated, creative, autonomous, and confident young men and women.

Be deeply committed to the Ascend school design, including the SABIS educational system and the Ascend literature and social studies curricula in grades 5 and higher

Be a collaborative player, able to drive consensus and sustain broad ownership in Ascend’s action and preserve a core strength of the network: the collaborative relationship among the schools and with Ascend

Balance with sensitivity the need for school autonomy and discretion with the need for common practices

Think systematically as a minimalist; be able to devise effective systems and procedures that are inexpensive to implement, are readily sustained, and create high value for the

Have good instincts and an inclination toward the simplest possible solutions; be mindful of the burdens placed on school staff by the accretion of requirements, procedures, and rules

Have superb organizational and self-management skills and be able to handle multiple responsibilities effectively; have strong planning and execution skills; be a goal-oriented and
effective problem-solver

Be a self-aware leader who knows how to treat all members of Ascend’s community and its real estate development partners with respect, accurately appraises his or her strengths and
weaknesses, and is perceptive about how he or she is regarded

Staff and Reporting Relationships

The director shall report to the chief academic officer (CAO) of Ascend Learning (and to the CEO until the CAO is hired). The director works closely with the chief curriculum officer and with the school
directors. The director manages the manager of data and analytics.

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