How Schools and Districts Meet Rigorous Standards Through Authentic Intellectual Work: Lessons From the Field


M. Bruce King

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    To the AIW teachers and administrators who strive to engage all their students in meaningful work.

    “I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.”

    —Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)


    For more than 20 years, studies consistently have shown higher and more equitable achievement for diverse learners when they experience higher levels of authentic instruction and assessment. Students are more engaged and learn more when teachers challenge them to think critically, to delve deeply into problems and big ideas, and to make connections between their school work and personal or real-world concerns.

    This volume builds on our recently published Authentic Intellectual Work: Improving Teaching for Rigorous Learning (Newmann, Carmichael, & King, 2016), which summarizes the research and elaborates a professional development project that has helped thousands of teachers deliberately shape their teaching to promote students’ Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW).

    Here educators in diverse roles—teacher, principal, superintendent, regional and state agency leader, instructional coach—share what they have learned from their work in changing school culture to support teaching for rigorous learning through the AIW framework and thereby enhance prospects of success for others.

    Authors address major challenges in bringing the AIW framework to life in schools: utilizing external funding and support, nurturing effective school teams, reaching agreement on goals, coaching within and across teams, bringing coherence to often varied and fragmented school improvement programs, coping with changes in administrative leadership, and evaluating teachers and the influence of AIW professional development on student achievement.

    Together the chapters document how success depends not on top-down mandates or programmed professional development packages but on intense, sustained teacher collaboration in school teams, aimed toward a common intellectual agenda and guided by honest critical inquiry that generates school- and district-level ownership. Though the process can be rough and rocky, it is inspiring to read these educators’ testaments to the profound personal and professional impact of their efforts to promote students’ Authentic Intellectual Work.

    —Fred M. NewmannEmeritus Professor of Curriculum and Instruction University of Wisconsin–Madison
    Newmann, F. M., Carmichael, D. L., & King, M. B. (2016). Authentic Intellectual Work: Improving teaching for rigorous learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.


    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Lydia Adegbola
    • Assistant Principal
    • Legacy School for Integrated Studies
    • Dr. Kathy J. Grover
    • Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction
    • Clever R-V Public Schools
    • Dr. Virginia E. Kelsen
    • Executive Director
    • Chaffey Joint Union High School District
    • Charles Lowery
    • Assistant Professor of Educational Studies (former principal)
    • Ohio University
    • Wanda Mangum
    • District Language Arts Instructional Coach
    • Gwinnett County Public Schools
    • Linda Munger, PhD
    • Education Consultant
    • Munger Education Associates
    • Dr. Susan Stewart
    • Assistant Professor
    • Ashland University
    • Kay Teehan
    • Technology Resource Specialist
    • Polk County Public Schools
    • Rosemarie Young
    • Retired Principal, Field Placement Coordinator
    • Kentucky Association of Elementary School Principals

    About the Editor

    Dr. M. Bruce King is a faculty associate with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His work in ELPA concentrates on teaching courses on instructional leadership and teacher capacity, coordinating the Wisconsin Idea PhD cohort program in K–12 leadership, and building effective partnerships between the department and schools and districts. Bruce has been a researcher with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, where he contributed to two studies focused on Authentic Intellectual Work; the Research Institute on Secondary Education Reform for Youth with Disabilities; and the Center for Organization and Restructuring of Schools. He received his PhD in curriculum and instruction from UW–Madison and taught upper elementary, middle, and high school for 11 years in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Quito, Ecuador. Bruce has been a research fellow at the University of Newcastle, in New South Wales, and has consulted on two research projects in Australian schools that extended the body of research on AIW. He serves as associate editor for the international journal Teaching and Teacher Education and has published in national and international research and practitioner journals. Currently, he provides professional development as an AIW coach in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Georgia. Along with colleagues Fred Newmann and Dana Carmichael, Bruce recently published a companion book to this volume, Authentic Intellectual Work: Improving Teaching for Rigorous Learning (Corwin, 2016). Visit the AIW Institute,, for more on AIW professional learning opportunities.

    About the Contributors

    Amy Adkins is a seventh- and eighth-grade language arts teacher at Benjamin Jepson Magnet School, in New Haven, Connecticut. She has been teaching for the past 10 years. She received a master’s in education from the University of New Haven and a master’s in educational technology from the University of Saint Joseph. And she likes long walks on the beach.

    Shelly Boley has been a Spanish teacher in central Iowa since 1996. She has taught all secondary levels from seventh-grade exploratory Spanish to high school AP Spanish V for dual credit with Des Moines Area Community College. She received her BS in Spanish and MS in education with an emphasis in curriculum and instruction/foreign language education from Iowa State University. Shelly’s thesis focused on the socio-academic identities of Spanish heritage language learners and the instructional implications for high school Spanish teachers. During her instructional years, Shelly has also worked extensively with professional development in her schools, specifically with Authentic Intellectual Work at Waukee High School, in Waukee, Iowa, as a local coach.

    Hope Bossard is currently serving as a co-director for the Iowa AIW Consortium, a nonprofit organization committed to improving teaching and learning through the AIW initiative. Hope has been an educator for more than 35 years. She began her career as a secondary language arts, speech, and psychology teacher. Hope earned a master’s degree in effective teaching and leadership and a specialist degree in curriculum leadership/administration, including 7–12 principal and superintendent licenses, from Drake University. She spent 3 years as the director of the Effective Teaching Master’s Program at Drake before her long tenure as curriculum director for the Gilbert CSD in Gilbert, Iowa.

    Christina Brewer currently works as a Grades 4/5 teacher at Jepson Magnet School, in New Haven, Connecticut. She has been at Jepson for 3 years and teaching for 5 years. She has a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language from Southern Connecticut State University and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a concentration in ESL and reading from Eastern University in Pennsylvania.

    Patricia Briese has worked in education for the past 36 years. Secondary social studies and college writing were her focus areas. Patricia was a member of the Spencer High School AIW pilot team in 2007 and is an AIW local coach. For the past 7 years, she also worked as an instructional coach and teacher. Patricia earned an MS Ed. degree in English from Northwest Missouri State University. Currently, she works as an educational consultant for several schools in northwest Iowa, including the Spencer Community School District, where she provides leadership and professional development in the newly implemented Teacher Leadership Compensation System.

    Jim Bukowski has taught social studies for 21 years in the Manitowoc Public School District, in Wisconsin. He holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Norbert College, a professional development certificate from the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay (UW–GB), and is a National Board Certified Teacher. Jim has been a leader in the AIW work at his school since the late 1990s and has been a Quality Review Board Member and consultant for the Institute for Learning Partnership at UW–GB.

    Kim Carlson currently serves as the Grades 5–12 teacher-librarian in the Monticello, Iowa, Community School district and Grades 9–12 technology instructional coach. She has worked in the Monticello School District for the past 24 years. Kim has a master’s degree in library media specialist from the University of Northern Iowa and is currently pursuing another master’s for instructional technology.

    Dana L. Carmichael began her teaching career in Japan in 1987. After 5 years, she joined Minneapolis Public Schools as a social studies teacher. In 1995, Dana earned a Fulbright-Hayes Teacher Exchange Scholarship to write authentic curriculum in Namibia on how education promotes democracy in new nations. Her international background, which included living in Chile, Spain, and Austria as a child, led her to pursue a PhD in comparative international development in education studies in the Department of Policy and Administration at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, which she completed in 2003. Ultimately her passion for teaching urban students kept her in the Twin Cities. She first learned about Dr. Fred Newmann’s work on AIW in the mid-1990s while serving as the K–12 district social studies curriculum specialist. She and Dr. Patricia Avery (University of Minnesota) collaborated on a number of early AIW projects. Her experiences directing these projects, including a Minnesota Best Practices grant (2000) and a federal Teaching American History grant (2001–2004), combined with additional experiences, including as director of NCLB for Minneapolis Public Schools, staff development director for Bloomington Public Schools, and Learning Forward academy graduate (2007), prepared her to accept Newmann’s invitation to join him and Dr. King on the Iowa-AIW project. Since 2008, she has served as executive director of the Center for Authentic Intellectual Work, based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she lives with her husband and two children.

    Michele Dirkx has been teaching junior-senior English language arts courses for 23 years in the Spencer School District. She was a member of the second AIW pilot team in 2008 and is also an AIW local coach. Michele earned an MS degree in curriculum from Buena Vista University. Currently, she is working in the district as an instructional mentor coach and classroom teacher.

    Sarah Goldsmith has worked in education for 6 years and is currently at the Monticello Community School District, in Monticello, Iowa. Her teaching focus is middle school earth and life science as well as health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Northern Iowa and is currently working toward her master’s in science education. Sarah is also Grades 6–8 science curricular lead and middle school AIW coach in conjunction with the newly implemented Teacher Leadership Compensation System.

    Shannon Guyer is currently the PreK–12 behavior coach for the Monticello Community School District, in Monticello, Iowa. She has a bachelor’s degree in special education with a focus on teaching students with behavioral and moderate to severe learning needs. Shannon graduated from Western Illinois University, in Macomb, Illinois, in 1991 and immediately started her teaching career. During the past 20 years, Shannon has taught in Illinois, Tennessee, and Iowa. She has enjoyed teaching students of all grade levels that receive special education services. Throughout her teaching career, Shannon has dedicated many graduate, continuing education, and professional development hours to learning about how children learn and how to maximize the learning environment. Of specific interest to Shannon are effective educational strategies that lead to improved life outcomes for her students. In addition to teaching, Shannon enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, and travel. She currently resides in Monticello with her husband and two daughters.

    Jessica Hillers has been a high school English teacher since 2006. She currently teaches at Monticello High School, in Monticello, Iowa. Jessica holds a BA in English teaching and an MA in English (TESS) from the University of Northern Iowa. At Monticello, Jessica is part of the high school’s building leadership team and School Improvement Advisory Committee, a district AIW coach, a curricular lead for Grades 7–12. She also teaches composition courses for college credit to high school students through Kirkwood Community College.

    Jean Kehoe is currently the Grades PreK–4 instructional coach at Monticello Community Schools, in Monticello, Iowa. She has undergraduate degrees in marketing and psychology from the University of Iowa and elementary education from Coe College. She received her MA in mathematics for the middle grades from the University of Northern Iowa. Jean was a member of the elementary pilot team for AIW at Monticello in 2011 and is an AIW local coach for her district.

    Gretchen Kriegel is the curriculum and special education director for the Monticello Community School District, in Monticello, Iowa. She has served as an AIW mentor for new local coaches and is an active board member of the Iowa AIW Consortium. Preceding her role at Monticello schools, she was an assistant sector coordinator for the Keystone Area Education Agency, in Dubuque, Iowa. Gretchen has her MA and EdS in educational leadership from Drake University, in Des Moines, Iowa. Prior to becoming a school administrator, Gretchen spent 10 years as a special education teacher, holding positions that ranged from second grade to high school.

    Kathy Lemberger has served in the Manitowoc Public School District for 24 years. Her current role is principal of Washington Junior High School. In 2009, she was selected as the middle level Principal of the Year in Wisconsin. She successfully wrote a Comprehensive School Reform grant in 1998 to begin AIW reform at her school. She has served as an AIW coach in Singapore, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

    Becca Lindahl is currently a professional learning and leadership consultant at Heartland Area Education Agency 11 in central Iowa. She taught French, English, and Spanish at the high school level for 17 years, followed by a high school principalship in central Wisconsin. Upon returning to Iowa, Becca became a K–12 curriculum coordinator for several years and then moved to her position at Heartland. She holds bachelor’s degrees in French and English, a master’s in curriculum and administrative leadership, and a doctorate in research of professional learning communities at the high school level. In her primary role at Heartland, she supports large districts as well as small nonpublic schools in all their school improvement efforts. Over several years she was involved in Authentic Intellectual Work as a lead coach and support for many schools and districts in central Iowa, including Waukee High School.

    Rita Penney Martens provides leadership on the implementation, review, and revision of the Iowa Core standards through her role as administrative consultant in the Bureau of Standards and Curriculum at the Iowa Department of Education. Since 2007 she has collaborated with the founders of the Center for Authentic Intellectual Work to develop and support Iowa-AIW. Through this initiative, teachers in more than 140 schools have transformed instruction and assessment by engaging in the practice of AIW. Because of the similarities between the AIW standards and criteria and the Common Core State Standards, many teachers are using AIW to implement the new standards. Prior to her current position, she served as the secondary literacy consultant and a school accreditation specialist for the state of Iowa. Rita holds a master of science degree in journalism and mass communication and is currently a PhD candidate in educational leadership and policy studies at Iowa State University. She is an AIW lead coach and supports fellow coaches by facilitating the Iowa AIW Coaches Network.

    Allison McGrath is a second-year teacher at Benjamin Jepson Magnet School, in New Haven, Connecticut. She has a BA in elementary education from High Point University, in North Carolina, and an MAT in elementary education with a concentration in literacy from Sacred Heart University, in Connecticut.

    Tammie M. McKenzie is the principal at Carroll High School, in Carroll, Iowa, where she resides. Tammie has been in education for 34 years, teaching K–12 art education for 13 years and involved in educational administration and leadership for the remainder of those years. She holds a master’s degree in educational administration. Tammie is an AIW local coach in Iowa. She conducts and participates in Authentic Intellectual Work at Carroll High School and heads the collecting and analysis of AIW implementation data there.

    Joe Mueting has been an educator for the past 39 years and is currently serving as a school consultant. He has been involved in AIW for the past 9 years in the Spencer Community School District. Joe’s other experiences have been working as a high school teacher, K–12 teacher of gifted education, and administrator for several K–12 schools.

    Jake Nelson , former principal of Ogilvie High School, in Ogilvie, Minnesota, is in his 17th year of education in Minnesota Public Schools (8 years as a high school counselor and 9 years as an elementary, middle, and high school assistant principal and principal). Currently, he is an assistant principal at ROCORI Middle School. Jake has been awarded assistant principal of the year honors from the Minnesota Secondary School Principal Association Central Division and has received a Certificate of Achievement from the National Institute for School Leadership. He has a BA from St. John’s University, in Collegeville, a master’s from St. Cloud State University, and educational leadership certification from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.

    Fred Nolan is executive director of the Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA), in St. Cloud. After 36 years in Minnesota Public Schools (5 years as sixth-grade teacher, 16 years as elementary and middle school principal, 15 years as superintendent), Fred flunked retirement and now leads the MREA. MREA, with 209 member school districts, is the exclusive advocate for Greater Minnesota districts and students. In addition to being an AIW lead coach, Fred is ELEOT certified for AdvanceEd accreditations. Fred earned his BA from Macalester College, in St. Paul, master’s from Minnesota State University Moorhead, and PhD from the University of Minnesota.

    Tammy O’Connor has taught English for 18 years in the Manitowoc Public School District, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in English at St. Norbert College, in De Pere, Wisconsin, and her master of science in teacher leadership from the same institution. Tammy has been working with the AIW framework since the late 1990s.

    Susan E. Peterson is a consultant for TS Educational Leadership Consulting in Iowa. She has taught high school English and social studies followed by principalships in two secondary schools in Iowa. She has also served as adjunct faculty for Iowa Western Community College and Buena Vista University, teaching secondary methods courses, composition, and American literature, and supervising student teaching experiences. Susan is an AIW lead coach and works with AIW districts in Georgia, Minnesota, and Iowa. She has been active in creating AIW extended learning workshops as well as methods for collecting AIW implementation data, and is also a lead in providing training to AIW local coaches.

    Robyn Ponder currently teaches reading and science at Monticello Middle School and is the Grades K–6 science curricular lead in Monticello, Iowa. Robyn previously taught special education for Grades 1–3 and was a Grades K–4 literacy specialist. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from the University of Northern Iowa and her master’s degree in education from St. Ambrose University. Robyn is a National Board Certified Teacher in early and middle childhood literacy. She is a graduate of NASA’s Space Academy for Educators and has been an AIW local coach since 2011.

    Mary B. Segal is currently the magnet resource coach at Jepson Magnet School, in New Haven, Connecticut. She has been in education for 29 years and at Jepson for the past 25 years. She started as a multiage 2/3 teacher. After 15 years she transitioned into Jepson’s literacy coach before her most recent assignment as magnet resource coach. She received her 6th year degree in teacher specialist as well as her master’s and bachelor’s in elementary education, all from Southern Connecticut State University.

    Christina Wahlert is a school improvement consultant with Green Hills Area Education Agency in Iowa and is a consultant for TS Educational Leadership Consulting. Christina has been in education for 30 years and has taught K–12 special education and literacy. She holds master’s degrees in special education and educational administration. Christina is an AIW lead coach and works with AIW districts in Minnesota and Iowa. She has been active in creating AIW extended learning workshops as well as methods for collecting AIW implementation data. She is a lead in providing training to AIW local coaches and coauthor of The Coaching Companion: Transforming Teaching and Learning Through Authentic Intellectual Work.

    Elli Wiemers taught high school mathematics for 23 years at Spencer High School, in Spencer, Iowa, serving also as instructional coach for the last 4 years of teaching before becoming an administrator in 2013. She joined the AIW team at Spencer 8 years ago and has been an AIW local coach for 7 years. Elli holds a Master of School Mathematics degree from Iowa State University and earned National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification in adolescent and young adult mathematics. Currently, Elli is the principal of Spencer High School.

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