Ongoing District Support SEA

By The Indiana Department of Education Office of Early Learning and Intervention / January 25, 2016

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Indiana SIG Team

 

The importance of district support for school turnaround and transformation is well researched and supported.  In practice, the expectations and execution of that support has not reached its full potential.  In order to engage districts at a higher level, Indiana’s process includes additional conditions for districts to ensure full support throughout the application, the review and approval process, and implementation.

 

Application Process

Indiana conditions require that the LEA must provide the principal:

  • control over people, time, program, and dollars;

  • an opportunity to present updates and progress to the local school board at least twice a year in a pre and post manner, AND;

  • have in place the following pieces to demonstrate how they will provide effective oversight and support for implementation of interventions in their school(s):

    • Defined district role in the school SIG planning process

    • Designated central office staff member to be part of the SIG process

    • Written support and commitment from local teacher’s association regarding flexibility for SIG implementation

    • Monthly monitoring of SIG programming and implementation

    • Evaluation System for programming and implementation of SIG

    • Data review plan

    • Special Populations review plan

    • Fiscal monitoring plan

    • Timeline and responsible parties for all above plans

 

Implementation

During the December networking that was discussed in the last blog, IDOE facilitated a panel of district representatives around their roles in SIG and the leadership they provide to their schools. In general, common themes from the districts included:

  • The school board and district must be engaged from the beginning and throughout the process

  • School board and district engagement must be intentional, consistent, and constant

  • Leading a school board meeting at the SIG school can be a way to go beyond a typical school board presentation

  • Regular visits throughout the process to see the activities in action promotes ownership and support

  • District leadership that is relocated to the SIG school provides real-time support and a sense of support

  • Changing the district infrastructure to include a “transformation zone” with multiple schools to streamline support to create a community dedicated to transformation and sustainability

  • Providing autonomy but with support with data dashboards, hiring practices, and financial sustainability to create conditions for the principal to be supported yet have independence

 

Goshen Community Schools

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Chamberlain Elementary

Goshen Community Schools has a refreshing approach to school improvement in its one SIG school.  Chamberlain Elementary has utilized its SIG funding to implement “Expeditionary Learning.” District support was evident throughout the planning phase, during discussions and research of models and funding opportunities. The program at Chamberlain is unique, and the district has supported the differentiated teacher training, hiring of staff, and use of external providers.  The principal has full control of her program and budget and fully leads the improvement of her school.  Direct support is provided by the Director of Grants and Assessment, who communicates with the principal regularly, provides support on the oversight and management of the grant, and participates in IDOE site visits, networking, and technical assistance.

The SIG grant has given us the opportunity to provide outstanding learning experiences for children and high level professional development for staff.  The way that this team values innovation and supports our plan is appreciated and the level of trust and communication has provided great benefit to our students, staff, and families.  The most amazing benefit of this process is that this financial investment over a relatively short period of time will benefit students long into the future through the innovative and new teaching methods and processes that have been implemented, and will continue to provide outstanding learning opportunities for our students.  Thank you for this unique opportunity.  It has truly been a great learning journey for all of us.

Mary Kay Longacre
Director of Grants and Assessments
Goshen Community Schools
~ Chamberlain Elementary SIG Cohort 5

Lake Ridge New Tech Schools

Lake Ridge has two active SIG schools, including one in the new planning cohort.  This district has proven they are committed to change in their schools.  A clear vision exists for the district, which is to integrate technology in a learning based model to engage students and improve student learning:

New Tech students will be provided unique opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills to survive and succeed in the 21st century global economy. New Tech students work in project based learning environments where classroom teachers act as leaders, interacting with students for academic exploration, while ultimately helping students become directors of their own learning.

Both schools have utilized SIG as an opportunity to gain training and support for the New Tech model.  District support to schools is differentiated – the new cohort 6 school receives more guidance from the district because it is in an earlier phase of implementation. The Title I District Director, who has several years of Title I experience and background that helps support the oversight and management of the grants, provides regular, onsite support to schools and acts as liaison between the schools and IDOE, allowing the schools to focus on program.

 

Marion Community Schools

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McCulloch Middle School

Marion Community Schools continues to meet expectations regarding the implementation of the SIG Indiana Conditions with their two awarded SIG schools.  This particular LEA had new district administration staff hired the same time they were awarded their first SIG grant.  Since the beginning of their SIG award, LEA staff have invariably been active, consistent, and supportive hands-on team members to their SIG schools.  Allen Elementary School created a unique behavior program –New Beginnings which was supported by the LEA and has been replicated in other Marion schools due to its success.  LEA staff attends both SEA school onsite visits and professional developments to aid their schools and offer their LEA perspective.  The designated central staff members; Director of Elementary Education, Instructional Services Executive Assistant/ Grant Manager and Instructional Coordinator remain constant partners in the SIG schools to guide them through the process of turnaround.  Marion’s constant support was clearly evident when the Director of Elementary Education took up the challenge of being a short-term principal for a semester at McCulloch Middle School.

 

Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation

This particular district has a specific network in place to help with school turnaround.  “The EVSC currently has five schools that are part of the newly-created Transformation Zone (TZ) wherein they will receive targeted academic and operational support to increase student achievement. Just as teachers differentiate instruction for their students so that each student can be reached the way they learn best, EVSC is committed to differentiating support for schools,”—EVSC. More information on EVSC’s TZ can be found on their Transformation Zone website.  They have intentionally placed central office staff to be in residence in the schools to provide onsite support. They’ve created specific systems and protocols that are followed from the school board level to the district level to the school level to ensure success.

 

Sustainability

Our investment in our SIG application process has helped to ensure that schools will sustain success after the grant.  By spending a lot of effort and energy in creating our SIG application we were able to provide structured conditions and expectations for LEAs to provide supports to their schools.  Through the implementation phase we are seeing the fruits of our work through innovative processes and systems that LEAs have put into action.   

Comments

Brett Lane

January 28, 2016 - 10:05 am

Excellent information on how SEAs can play an active role in supporting district-level strategies and approaches to turnaround, rather than focusing solely on school interventions or supports. I like the intentional mention of the school board and the district as being important, rather than focus solely on the district (or the superintendent). I was wondering whether the "conditions" - specifically that the LEA provides the school principal with control over people, time, resouces.... comes from SIG regulations and/or is reinforced by state policies or laws. I've found that states without state law re: turnaround (or that lack state board leadership to support turnaround) tend to exhibit rather limited implementation of SIG (in that they fund schools, but in reality don't use the funds to leverage districts to change the way they behave). Just wondering about the relationship between state law and the SEAs ability to fully implement SIG.

In Massachusetts, we found that schools' ability to use turnaround practices was dependent on the extent to which the district fully used available authorities and autonomies.

Thanks

Brett

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