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Critical Friends Review at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School

Written by Vivian on 03-19-2002

My thoughts on a Critical Friends Review

It ws a strange experience to know that life at Landmark continued as I spent my week deeply absorbed at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School. As part of our work through the Goldman Sachs Network, Landmark made a committment to take part in a Critical Friends Review. Our network of schools spent a little over a year organizing intervisitations between schools for teachers, provided funds for teachers to participate in Schools Attuned, and lastly allow us to do a critical friends review of Fannie Lou Hamer.

The review team consisted of 6 teachers/administrators from our Goldman Sachs Network and each of us brought out own experiences, areas of expertise to the process. The work Fannie Lou needed to do to prepare for the review was extensive. In order for a team to do a review a school must go through a series of steps:

1. Decide as a school they want to be reviewed

2. Pose questions they want the team to focus on

3. Gather data regarding the school ranging from statistics to curriculum

4. Involve many staff members in organizing the review

5. Provide opportunities for the team to visit classes, read student work, interview staff, students, and parents.

The work Fannie Lou staff did to prepare for the review was impressive and the review team found lots of evidence to respond to their questions. As a team we spent our first 3 days at Fannie Lou gathering our evidence, last Thursday we wrote our report collectively and on Friday we presented our findings at an entire staff meeting. It is the hope of our team that the questions we posed to the staff regarding their work as a school will benefit them and help them move foward as a school.

For me personally it was a good learning experience and there were many moments during the week that a staff meeting or team meeting was truly a Landmarkian moment. If I closed my eyes I could have been back at Landmark since many of the issues and tensions they face with their students are quite similar to ours ie(student lateness, portfolios, college readiness, extra curricular activities and how to get student buy in etc.).

They do have their own distict school culture and what really impressed me were some of the rich discussions around students, habits of mind, curriculum I saw over my week at the school. As we embark on reorganizing and strengthening Landmark it is important for us to make a fresh committment to our challenging work and begin to work together in teams to improve what we have done over the past 9 years.

Goldman Sachs had made a 2 year committment to fund our network of schools. We will be making a presentation to them in order to request more funds for professional development. Schools that work in isolation will never be as good as schools who work with others. It is my strongest hope that Landmark will continue to reinvigorate itself and while every year some of us move on to other situations those of us who remain will continue to improve our practice and learn from one another.

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