Lessons Learned K 8


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Lessons Learned K 8

  1. 1. Lessons learned: How the high school system design effort is different from previous PPS changes Student achievement and equity come first The first step of the design led to clear priorities: increasing graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, engaging and inspiring all students, ensuring that all schools were in high demand, and ensuring that students graduate ready to succeed at the next level. Those goals have led to a deep conversation about how to challenge and support all students, and how to offer an equitable community program throughout the district. Equity and achievement are driving the structural decisions. In the past, PPS has let budget needs, facilities consolidations and other non- educational demands drive decisions without adequate exploration of equity and achievement consequences. Long-term engagement on issues Over the last 18 months, the high school system design work has engaged more than 5,000 individuals, through teacher and principal work groups, meetings with community organizations, large-scale public meetings, survey and student input. Different voices have been heard, and have shaped every stage of decision- making, with more to come. In some past efforts, plans have been developed and recommendations made to the School Board before significant community input. Looking at systems, not piecemeal reforms PPS is spending time up front to define the system model with a focus on equity system-wide. We are defining the core program for community schools before any change is made: defining the costs of that program, the level of variability allowed among community schools, and offering principals guidance and direction on how to schedule and make program choices. A broader look, central support and stronger guidance should create a stronger system as a whole. In the K-8 reconfiguration, for example, the school district failed to define the middle years offering before the implementation, and left too much of the burden of decision making on principals, with little central guidance. Other high school reforms have been campus-based, adding to inequities. Deeper analysis of all facets of decisions Research, review of national best practices and thorough analysis of PPS data – whether on student achievement, demographics or financial impact – has been part of the effort for the last 18 months and continues. Educators are designing
  2. 2. the programs, taking the time to identify what all facilities need to have up front, based on the educational model, and planning for it. The community high school program is designed to be budget-neutral, based on current resources (after initial transition costs). PPS is investing in deep demographic and GIS analysis to support any boundary or configuration change. While no amount of analysis can protect against all unintended consequences, this stronger and longer analysis should allow the school district to avoid potential pitfalls. On-going priority of the effort PPS has dedicated staff to full-time project management, the entire executive team has been deeply involved and clearly structured work teams with identified leads have time assigned to plan and then implement the high school system design. In past efforts, implementation and follow-through has too often fallen short of promises made as decisions were made. Transition planning for students and families PPS knows that implementing the change means a significant transition for families and for employees at our schools. With at least a year between the decisions about schools and the implementation of the major changes (in the fall of 2011), time is built in to help ensure thoughtful transition planning for students. In addition, significant up front planning on both leadership and teacher staffing level will identify how staff will move and what training opportunities need to be built into this process. In the past, many principals were not equipped – and didn’t have the central support -- to lead changes, whether in supporting their students or their staff. Schools were left alone to communicate with parents and students. Teachers found themselves placed in assignments with no previous experience with content or the age group, or in small schools when they had experience only with larger comprehensive high schools.