Developmental Designs Coaching Endorsements

Sean Storch, Black Hawk Middle School

Principal--Madison, Wisconsin

People learn best through questioning, modeling, practicing, and reflecting on feedback from an expert teacher-coach. It is the same for students, teachers, and administrators. However, in our traditional schooling and professional development model, we spend all of our time delivering content, and leave little or no time for reflective feedback from coaches. The Developmental Designs five-day workshops effectively model best practices, but significant change in teacher practice comes through reflective follow-up coaching. 

At our school, the majority of our staff members have been trained in first and second level of Developmental Designs training (DD1 and DD2). We have noticed improved relationships, engagement, and learning across all classrooms. However, the students most engaged in learning are those in the classrooms of teachers who have been coached to become coaches themselves. The workshops are a good start, but the follow-up coaching is what ensures fidelity of practice. We plan to develop our own coaches to support consistency of practice in all classrooms.


Maryann MacDonald, Cambridge Public Schools

Executive Director for Student Achievement & Accountability

Our students have benefited from the skills that our Developmental Designs-trained teachers have brought to the classrooms because their needs for relationship, autonomy, competence, and fun have been recognized and intentionally met. The workshops have consistently prepared teachers, through a carefully designed conbination of expert input, modeling, and interactivity, to be able to implement DD practices when they returned to classes. Coaching and consulting in classrooms by expert DD practitioners has been extremely hepful in supporting implementing teachers and in training coaches.

Our investment in the Developmental Designs approach has been deep and consistent in an effort to cultivate productive learning environments in all of our middle school classrooms....We embraced the approach to community and social skills development and to increasing motivation and engagement in our middle level stuents and have extended the practices into our high school.


Nell Sears, Paul Cuffee School

former Principal--Providence, RI

Paul Cuffee School is a small, diverse, urban public charter school serving students from Providence, RI. We started the middle school in 2005 with about thirty students who had attended our elementary school and thirty students who came from schools around Providence.  The first two years were extremely difficult. Student behavior was an immense challenge-we were dealing with physical fights in the hallways, persistent disruptions in classes, and extreme disrespect. Teachers were frustrated and tired and overwhelmed. Our elementary school uses the Responsive Classroom approach. We tried to adapt that program for our middle schoolers, but had limited success.

In the summer of 2007, the sixth-grade team and I attended a five-day Developmental Designs training. Though we were open-minded, we were also skeptical; we were not yet convinced that the program could really work for our urban adolescents. At the end of the workshop week, we were sufficiently impressed with what we'd learned to commit to implementing the strategies and philosophy in our 6th grade the following year.

Though our implementation that year was imperfect, to say the least, we began to see progress; incidents of violent and disrespectful behavior dropped. Teachers felt that the class cultures were stronger and more positive. A culture of learning had begun to take root in the sixth grade.  Seventh and eighth grade teachers witnessed the change, and we made a commitment to implement RD (now DD) school-wide. 

Over the next several years, all of our teachers received training, and we benefited from excellent on-site coaching from Origins consultants. The process of adopting the Developmental Designs philosophy and methods is an ongoing one; we are constantly reflecting on and refining our practice. The results we've seen have been undeniable.

Our school is a vastly different place today than it was when we first opened, and I am convinced that the Developmental Designs approach is the primary reason for that. Our school culture is strong and positive. Behavioral problems are few, and students are engaged and learning in classes. Teachers and students have forged respectful, positive relationships. Visitors to our school regularly remark on how well-behaved our students are.

Without a before and after visit to our school, the most concrete evidence I can offer are our NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) scores, the growth of which has far outpaced that of the state in general.* The incredible gains our students have made, as evidenced by these tests as well as the quality of student work in the classroom, would not have been possible without the culture we were able to create through Developmental Designs practices.

*New England Common Assessment Program

% of Paul Cuffee 8th Graders earning scores of proficient or above