Brad's Blurb

Brad Burgel (shaved head) teaches middle school math in New Orleans. He's 30 years old. Worked in management for Kroger for 5 years before becoming a teacher. He wrote me:

I am happy to report that my classroom is a million times better than it was my first year.

Well that is encouraging. With his permission, I'm sharing the whole note.

Mike,

I wanted to give send you a quick note on my school year so far. Our school started just over a week ago on August 9th. I knew that this would be a breakthrough year for me for several reasons. The first was due to the MATCH coaching that I received during the summer. The training that I received from Katherine and Erica was spot on. It was exactly what I needed. I not only learned a ton, but I was able to share the strategies and tips with my team (which lacks a veteran teacher).

The second was due to the fact that this would be my second year teaching, and I would have a better idea of what to expect and knowing what I wanted from the kids 100% of the time.

This is one reason we set up MATCH Teacher Coaching as a randomized trial. On average, teachers get better by themselves in the early years. To study our coaching, we need to separate out the coaching we provide from the "normal" trial-and-error improvement (for which we can't take credit).

Our control group of teachers -- those who don't get coaching -- are still likely to improve a bit. The question is whether the treated teachers -- those that our team of Max, Katherine and Erica spend their days coaching -- improve more (or not).

Brad continues:

I am happy to report that my classroom is a million times better than it was my first year.

My first two periods of the day are students that are new to me. I can say that the classroom culture is near perfect. Every kid does what I want them to do, 100% of the time, are learning the desired AIM’s daily, and are having fun. It truly is the class that my principal loves and visitors stop in. On my principal's last visit, she left a note with all +’s and no deltas. Needless to say, last year it was totally opposite.

I knew that my second two periods would be challenging. They were students that I had taught the year before and did not hold to high expectations. I am happy to report that while the classes are not perfect, they are dramatically better and I am striving to get 100% of the kids to do what I want 100% of the time.

While I have not achieved my goal yet, I have taken pride in the small victories.

For example, I am getting 100% of kids to do silent independent class work every day. I am also getting over 95% of kids turning in homework. This is much better when compared to last year where I would have a handful of kids refuse to do any work and would never do homework.

Hmm. With Brad's permission, I asked his principal what she saw. Deanna replied:

I am extremely happy to say that Brad has greatly improved. I intentionally visited his room when he was teaching his students from last year. I can say that it was a totally different classroom.

That's good to hear.

I contend that there is a production function for education, and it goes like this:

School Learning = In Class Learning + Out of Class Learning

And

Out of Class Learning = (Hours of effort) * (Quality of that Effort) * ("Legitimacy"/Value of the Academic Task)

A teacher who flips kids from doing no math homework, into doing much math homework, is likely to see a noticeable gain in year-end math knowledge.

Brad continues:

One of the moves that has been helpful was the (coaching) emphasis on calling students/parents. I teach over 100 kids a day and have made it a point to call each student or parent at a minimum of once a week. I also call students that struggled with the work in class to offer assistance with their homework that night.

I have also found it effective for getting students who normally don’t do homework, to do the homework. By doing this, I have started to build relationships with students that hated me last year. It has truly helped to transform my classroom.

Somewhere, Charlie is smiling.

Brad again:

When I signed up the MATCH Teaching Coaching, I was asked which program of development I would want. While I don’t remember the exact wording, I remember that number 4 was about trying to have more personal time or using your time more effectively. I laughed when I received that e-mail because I thought that is impossible.

What I can actually say is that I feel like I have more time because with the classes running so much better, I go home with energy and I am not mentally and physically tired.

I realize that today was only the 7th day of school and that it will get more difficult from here, but I cannot think you enough for helping bring this program to New Orleans to help transform my classroom.

Sincerely, Brad Burgel KIPP McDonogh 15

I asked Brad how he manages the time associated with all those phone calls. He wrote:

I try to budget a majority of my calls to Sunday and Wednesdays. I would say that I can get through about half of my students in 2-2.5 hours. I picked these days for two reasons. When I call the students on Sunday night, they are generally home, their parents are home and they tend to be working on their homework. I am able to check on the weekend homework, talk about their weekend with them, and attempt to set them up for success in my classroom during the week.

Wednesday is a day that is normally a light load for myself, so it works in my schedule. I feel like midweek is a great time to reach out and re-energize and refocus the kids.

On the other days I will call on an as needed base on students that struggled with the daily objective or might have struggled with minor behaviors. I also find that as my outbound calls have increased, my inbound calls have increased as well.

P.S. I think that one thing to also keep in mind is that I am married, have a child, and another child on the way. I am not a single 22 year old that spends every minute of every day working on school work. I really think this can be a sustainable career, with the right balance.