James Monroe Elementary School’s Vertical Articulation and Alignment Through ‘Team Teaching Model’ earned a “Model of Academic Excellence and Innovation” award at the 16th annual Riverside County Education Summit held in Palm Springs on Oct. 16.

Each year, the Riverside County Office of Education reviews applicants for “Models of Academic Excellence”  in order to highlight data-proven, innovative practices that can be replicated countywide to increase student success.

After four years of strong student achievement data using their ‘team teaching’ model, and being named one of two “California Distinguished Schools” in Coachella Valley for 2018, Monroe was invited to present their successful practices at this year’s Education Summit.

Mike Kint, current director of professional development and teacher support for Desert Sands Unified School District, and former Principal of James Monroe Elementary School, presented his story of why he took the risk in choosing this innovative teaching approach. Inspired by his visit to a school in China, he adapted the “team teaching” model to simultaneously address several needs: providing equity and access to first best instruction for all students, streamlining best practices, reaching the rigor of Common Core Standards (CCSS), and creating a unified school culture.

Unlike the traditional self-contained classroom, Monroe’s “Team Teaching Model” rotates its third through fifth-grade students to different classrooms throughout the day.  ALL students benefit from teachers who focus on teaching to their individual strengths and passions. For example, a fourth-grader may begin the day with rotation 1) writing/ social studies, then move next door for rotation 2) math/technology, and end the day down the hall in rotation 3) reading/science.

Monroe Students enjoy the variety and movement of rotating to different teachers, and all students benefit from teachers who focus their expertise in narrow content areas while meeting the rigor of Common Core state standards. Students also benefit from being known and nurtured by a team of teachers, creating a cohesive staff that shares in the belief that “they are ALL our kids…we are in this together.”

When Monroe began this model five years ago, no one predicted the numerous additional benefits of “Team Teaching.” During the presentation at the Education Summit, Monroe’s instructional coach, Kirsten Hill, explained that this model also ensures that instructional time is used efficiently, it protects instructional minutes for subjects that typically receive less emphasis, such as writing, social studies, and science, and it allows teachers three times more wall space to support students with visual learning tools and charts specific to their content.

Most important, this model facilitates “vertical articulation” among the grade levels, wherein Monroe teachers collaborate across grade levels to ensure that teachers share and implement common best practices.

Monroe For example, during the presentation, Monroe’s team of third, fourth, and fifth grade math teachers, Kathy Greenough, Theresa Graham, and Nathan Manderfeld,  provided examples of how this tight-knit team of teachers has created a highly-successful system of common best practices and common strategies that build student achievement through the upper-grades. Their data proves it: 78% of Monroe’s students met or exceeded standards in the 2018 state test scores in mathematics, roughly double the percent of elementary students meeting standards district-wide or state-wide.

This year, other valley schools have begun to replicate this successful model as well.

As Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Judy D. White, recently wrote, “Maintaining an allegiance to ineffective our outdated programs simply due to tradition, or because change is too challenging, is an unacceptable approach to preparing students for succeeding in our globally-competitive marketplace of ideas and industry.”

As a leader inspired by “design thinking,” Principal Kint took the initial risk in implementing this untraditional model, and Monroe’s culture of a tight-knit staff continues to refine it.


Photo Caption above: Fourth-grade math teacher, Terri Graham, uses “number talks,”  a school-wide common best practice for mathematics