Instructional Leadership in Action

Jennifer McDermott

Jennifer McDermott joined CEL full-time in June, 2011. She has been consulting for CEL since 2004. Jennifer's work focuses on supporting teachers in secondary literacy, supporting literacy coaches with their coaching practice and helping schools and districts design professional development. Prior to her work at CEL, Jennifer taught high school English, coached middle school literacy teachers and worked as a secondary literacy coach for Center for School Improvement at the University of Chicago.

Recent Posts

3 Important Ways to Connect Teaching Practice to Student Learning

by Jennifer McDermott Oct 13, 2015

Raise your hand if you think you’re keeping students at the center of your work.

We all do. It’s why many of us went into education and it’s what motivates us to do the best we can every day. In my 23 years as a teacher, instructional coach and educational consultant, I have not met an educator who didn’t want their work to ultimately help students.

Unfortunately, we often lose sight of the student. Caught up in our day-to-day work, we assume that programs, initiatives and curriculum will result in student learning, but that is not always true. Sometimes we get so focused on implementation that we forget to see if the result is helping our students learn.

How does this happen? Let’s look at an example.

[Continue Reading]

Addressing Common Core and Student Learning Begins With Purpose

by Jennifer McDermott Aug 28, 2012

Last fall when I wrote about implementing Common Core State Standards, I touched on a question that many teachers and administrators are asking: “How do we support students who are not meeting the standards?”

In answering that question, I noted that districts and schools that actively use an instructional framework start with an advantage. Especially for the districts across the country using CEL’s 5 Dimensions of Teaching and Learning instructional framework, we see that the foundational work in improving outcomes for students begins with a deep understanding of the transformative role of purpose in learning.

[Continue Reading]

Side by Side: Smart Strategies, Strong Support from Classroom Coaches

by Jennifer McDermott Mar 9, 2012

Learning curves have been steep in Carrie Howell’s classroom – for the students, for the teacher, and for the peers who have come to watch over the years as she worked side-by-side with Center for Educational Leadership coaches, tackling learning problems and trying on new instructional strategies.

“The coaches asked smart questions that pushed my thinking and really helped me to take risks,” says the language arts specialist at The Academy of Citizenship and Empowerment in SeaTac, Washington. “I had always been afraid to try on new things until I had mastered them as a teacher. But here, I had the support of the coaches and of my colleagues in the room and it felt safe to take risks as a teacher.”

[Continue Reading]

In the Field with Common Core State Standards

by Jennifer McDermott Oct 24, 2011

At first glance, some might say that the task of moving from one set of standards to another is a straightforward process. School districts buy new textbooks, and teachers write new lesson plans. Standards, after all, simply describe what is to be taught and learned. But CEL has found that the "how" of teaching to the new Common Core State Standards requires a shift of direction. With these new national standards, teachers and district leaders must reframe the instructional enterprise from one that says, “We teach that,” to one that says, “Our students know that, and can demonstrate their understanding independently.”

CEL has been in the field helping our partner school districts consider how to implement the Common Core State Standards. Across the states where CEL has been working, we’re finding that school leaders and teachers are confronting a common set of questions:

  • How do we manage alignment across grade-level strands?
  • How do we plan for a year of instruction?
  • How do we support students who are not meeting the standards?
[Continue Reading]

Subscribe to CEL's blog