The school district has been engaged in a systemic reform plan for several years. Changing demographics (an influx of English Language Learners and families experiencing greater economic challenges), and increasing rigor from the federal level on down has called for the establishment of four core student achievement improvement strategies. These strategies were developed collaboratively with input from all of the school district’s stakeholders, including parents, teachers, and educational leaders.
First, all curricula has been overhauled to be highly rigorous. Alignment to the Common Core State Standards is complete and all texts have been adopted to support instruction that has students acquiring the skills and understanding the content inherent in the standards.
Second, regular student performance analysis sessions have been incorporated into the school year. Professional learning communities made up of grade level and content-area teams meet regularly to review standardized test results. A comprehensive benchmarking program was introduced in 2013-2014 and has teachers assessing student progress in the core content areas. Benchmark results are discussed throughout the year including the seven half-days set aside for professional development.
Third, educational leaders’ expectations for teacher performance have been elevated thanks to a “home-grown” evaluation instrument (one of 13 statewide) that requires faculty to uniformly apply research-proven instruction, assessment, and classroom management practices. Informal walkthroughs supplement the formal evaluation process and serve to target specific professional needs identified by the educational leadership team.
Finally, a co-teaching model for delivering instruction to special education students was introduced in 2012-2013 at the elementary school and continues to be gradually implemented in the upper grades. Ongoing professional development sustains the model and provides co-teaching teams both workshop-related and clinical support throughout the year. This model ensures special education students will be exposed and support to the same rigorous content and skills as their general education peers.