Transform or Redesign an Existing School

Transformation and Whole-School Reform

To achieve the goal of graduating all students ready to succeed in college and careers, educators must teach and students must learn those habits of mind and habits of work necessary to produce that success. Indicators of college readiness include not only achievement on state exit exams, but proficiency in analytic writing in the content areas, reading and comprehension of complex text, procedural and intellectual knowledge, higher order thinking, time management skills, perseverance, the capacity to take initiative (sense of agency, ability to seek out someone to get help in college) and the development of social capital and self-confidence.

ISA’s Approach to School Improvement

ISA uses a capacity-building approach to whole school reform that includes individual and team job-embedded coaching, summer and winter institutes, workshops, and other professional development strategies to help schools to: (1) improve student academic achievement and attainment; (2) build school leadership skills for facilitating and implementing the organizational and instructional changes necessary for whole school transformation; (3) implement a college ready, CCSS aligned instructional program in mathematics, ELA, science, and social studies as well as embed literacy and scaffolding strategies across content areas; (4) enact a student advocacy system that personalizes students’ experience and provides them with close caring relationships with teachers and the social and emotional supports necessary for school success; and (5) foster family and community engagement to develop a sense of agency and confidence among the diverse education stakeholders.  ISA’s work is guided by a model; there is no set way that the model must be implemented.  It’s a partnership, not a prescription.

ISA’s School Redesign Process

ISA School Redesign Processs

ISA’s high school turnaround process is planned and executed in collaboration with the district and each high school’s leadership, so that the school principal is seen as and is, in fact, the leader of the turnaround and so that the school and wider community has strong commitment to and ownership of the process and outcomes. Throughout the process, the school principal works closely with an ISA leadership-school turnaround coach, who has experience in high school turnaround and as a secondary school leader.

ISA’s consulting services for high school turnaround has four components to address the particular values, goals, student performance outcomes, and context of each school. Detailed descriptions each phase and its associated components and activities are as follows.

Component 1. Establishing Stakeholder Investment, Collaboration, and Support

The first phase of ISA turnaround consulting services aims to ensure that stakeholder voice and priorities inform the turnaround of each school and support continued buy-in and commitment. Phase 1 activities are the following:

  1. Introducing the ISA Turnaround Process. ISA meets with FCS and school leadership to provide an introduction to the ISA model and turnaround process; provide an overview, goals, timeline, and expected outcomes of the turnaround process; and describe the role of ISA in this process. The outcome of this meeting is a common understanding of the expectations and the parameters of the turnaround process.  FCS and school leaders will have a common understanding of the turnaround non-negotiables: purposes, expectations, structure, and process and the role of the ISA partnership.
  2. Assignment of an ISA Leadership-School Turnaround Coach. Through a matching process, each school principal is assigned an ISA leadership-school turnaround coach who collaborates with the principal and leadership team on the planning and implementing the turnaround process and plan.
  3. Formation of a School Turnaround Advisory Committee. ISA supports the school to create a Turnaround Advisory Committee of 10-12 diverse stakeholders, including the principal as the chair. The Advisory Committee develops draft of turnaround vision, priorities, goals and outcomes. The Committee convenes 4-6 per school year and is responsible for providing feedback on turnaround design features and decisions to ensure that the turnaround maps onto the common priorities agreed to by the stakeholder groups, school goals and outcomes.

Component 2. Needs Assessment: The ISA College Readiness School Assessment

The second phase of ISA turnaround consulting services is the implementation of the ISA College Readiness School Assessment, which supports the district and schools to conduct a gap analysis against more than 50 college-readiness indicators drawn both from current research as well as from state standards. The assessment gap analysis identifies the areas and issues that need to be addressed as well as the priorities and outcomes to drive the turnaround, and also informs the development of a strategic multiple-year turnaround roll-out plan. Components of the ISA College Readiness School Assessment are the following:

  • Student Survey. ISA administers an online survey to all students in the school. The student survey questions aim to assess students’: a) connection to and engagement in school; b) sense of self-efficacy and agency; c) perceptions of the opportunities to succeed in school; d) perceptions of their school as a college-going culture; and (e) post-secondary aspirations and ambitions.
  • Staff Survey. ISA administers an online staff survey to collect information on staff’s: a) perceptions of their school as a college-going culture; b) perceptions about student behavior; c) perceptions of student-faculty relationships; d) professional development support; and e) perceptions of opportunities for collaboration.
  • Parent and Community Focus Groups. ISA, in collaboration with FCS and school staff, conducts focus groups with parents (current and feeder school parents) and community members for the purpose of identifying a common set of turnaround priorities from diverse stakeholders.
  • The School Self-study is a process wherein the school collects evidence on the current state of implementation of the turnaround goals and outcomes identified by the school’s Turnaround Advisory Committee. A representative team of school leaders, teachers, and counselors — which the school designates — participates in the study under the guidance of the ISA Leadership-School Turnaround Coach. Using a set of ISA tools, this team collaboratively gathers and analyzes data from multiple sources. The team reviews statistical data (e.g., attendance, course pass, suspension, graduation, and college admission, etc. rates and performance on state and college-entrance exams). The team reviews representative teacher and student work artifacts (e.g., teacher assignments and corresponding student work samples).  The team conducts observations of representative classrooms for evidence of college ready teaching and learning (e.g., problem solving, analysis, writing, argumentation, discussion, etc.). The team reviews organizational structures, mechanism, and practices targeted to supporting the achievement of turnaround goals and outcomes for their effectiveness. The team then produces a report on the findings from the Self Study
  • The External Team Visit An external team comprised of two ISA coaches and educators from ISA schools external to the school spends one or two days at the school to gather and analyze evidence using the same multiple data sources and tools used in the school’s self-study. At the culmination of the visit, the external team provides the school’s leadership team with a brief oral report on its findings, which they elaborate upon in a written report.
  • College Readiness Assessment Report. ISA provides the district and the schools with a written report, which contains an analysis and synthesis of findings from the student and faculty surveys, the parent-community focus group, the school self-study, and the external team visit. The report identifies the areas of strength and gaps in the school’s preparation of students for college as well as the school’s creation of a college-going culture.

Component 3. School Turnaround Strategic Planning and Implementation Planning

There are two stages to ISA’s consulting services to support turnaround strategic planning and implementation planning. The first phase occurs after the completion of the ISA College Readiness School Assessment. The ISA school turnaround-leadership coach meets with the school leadership to review the findings from the College Readiness Assessment Report. Based on the gaps identified in the report and on district outcomes, ISA and the school leadership identify desired outcomes and priorities for turnaround, which form the framework for the ISA turnaround services plan that will address those outcomes and the changes needed to achieve them.

The second stage occurs with the ISA turnaround-leadership coach and the school leadership. Together they review the outcomes developed during the first phase; identify implementation strategies, structures, and resources to achieve those outcomes; develop an implementation timeline, intermediary benchmarks, and indicators for achievement of the outcomes; and identify both individuals responsible for implementation and individuals responsible for monitoring implementation. Based on the strategic plan, ISA matches content coaches to the school. In consultation with the school leadership, all ISA coaches develop coaching plans that incorporate the strategic plan outcomes and identify coaching strategies and teacher practices targeted to achieving those outcomes.

Component 4. Monitoring Progress and Evaluating Effectiveness of School Turnaround Initiatives

ISA employs a multi-method, comprehensive, and integrated system for the ongoing monitoring and assessment of the school’ turnaround implementation. ISA’s progress monitoring system helps schools to build their capacity for continuous improvement and develop a sense of agency and collective responsibility whereby they see the solutions to their challenges as being with themselves. ISA’s turnaround monitoring and evaluation system includes the following:

  1. Monthly ISA Coaching Logs and Coach Visit E-mail Follow-up. Each month, ISA sends a copy of the coaches’ monthly logs to the principal so that for each coach’s visit, the principal knows each teacher with whom the coach worked, the coaching activities each teacher participated in, and the practices each teacher is expected to implement as a result of the coaching session. Immediately after each coaching visit, each coach sends a brief e-mail to the principal (or other supervisor) stating the names of the teachers the coach worked with and the topic they worked on. In this way, the principal has current information on what teachers are learning and can use that information to support and monitor implementation.
  1. Regular Leadership Meetings. The ISA school turnaround coach and school leadership meet monthly to assess evidence/data on progress on the outcomes; identify what is working and where there are challenges; and problem-solve on changes that need to be made. The ISA project manager and FCS leadership meet monthly to assess implementation progress.
  1. District-Level Consultations. Throughout the turnaround process, ISA’s leaders consult with and advise FCS leaders on existing district level policies and practices to confirm that they support turnaround high schools and flag those policies and practices that unintentionally create obstructions. ISA customizes its Implementation Inventory process with FCS so that the district, schools, and ISA will have timely data on the schools’ turnaround implementation and its impact. They will then be able to make any necessary modifications to the turnaround strategy.
  1. ISA Leadership and Summer Institutes. Annual ISA Leadership and Summer Institutes provide opportunities for school teams to work with their ISA turnaround-leadership coach to assess their progress and gaps on their outcomes, as well as the implementation of their strategic plan, and to use their findings to make decisions for moving forward.
  1. The ISA Annual Implementation Inventory is a process whereby the school leadership (and others, such as the principal designates) and ISA leadership-turnaround coach reflect on the priority goals and outcomes for the prior school year and use evidence to take stock of the turnaround implementation successes, progress, and challenges which the school experienced in implementing the action plan’s resolution strategies. The process provides evidence of progress and gaps, which faculty use to identify issues that need further improvement and to develop resolution strategies for next steps in the school’s development.