2013 Pathways to the Prize - District Winners - Page 10

Pathways to the Prize Lessons from the 2011 SCORE Prize District Winner Pathways to the Prize Lessons from the 2011 SCORE Prize District Winner measureable annual benchmarks and strategies for reaching them in a revised strategic plan. be able to do at the end of the lesson. In schools serving older students, teachers post objectives in studentfriendly language directly aligned with each standard. “Maryville City Schools Strategic Communications Plan” District leaders stated that the plan transformed the system from one in which individual schools tnscore.org/scoreprize/ created school improvement plans to one in which Maryville-Strategic-Communications_Plan.pdf the district as a whole focuses on creating and measuring initiatives—aligned with the learning criteria created by the International Center for Leadership in Education—that improve student achievement. “Our Strategic Plan will continue to guide our decision making, but more importantly, it will help guide the creation of opportunities to deliver exceptional education for the development of ‘whole’ individuals,” the plan notes. Anglim said the district learned two important lessons through their strategic planning process: engage as many stakeholders as possible and keep them informed on how their input is being used, and involve principals from the beginning. “They need to buy into what you are planning and articulate the right messages since they are the leaders,” she said. “They will be the ones to align school and classroom practices with the priorities in the plan, so they have to have a deep and clear understanding and believe in what you are doing.” Reports on progress. The goals of the strategic plan are measured annually and reported to the school board. For example, Goal 2 (Engage and challenge every student by providing an array of academic and co-curricular programs) involves two objectives: increase the percent of graduates who complete one or more college credit-bearing courses and increase student engagement and participation in extracurricular activities. Maryville measures the first objective by tracking a series of indicators, including the percentage of graduates leaving high school with at least three hours of college credit, the percentage of graduates with at least 12 hours of college credit, the percentage of graduates completing at least one dual enrollment course, the percentage of graduates completing one or more AP courses, and the number of AP exams administered. The second objecVideo: “Expanding AP and Dual tive is measured by ensuring that all students in grades Enrollment Opportunities” 7-12 have a personal education and career plan. The http://youtu.be/sFqcNIPzdtk district also uses the National Student Clearinghouse Data and senior surveys to track the percentage of students graduating with a regular high school diploma, the percentage of students enrolling in postsecondary education after high school, those who return to postsecondary work if they leave, and when and if degrees are earned. The district also tracks the percentage of students who say they are engaged with their school and the number of students participating in job shadowing, internships, and apprenticeships. Students with disabilities receive extra attention at their exit meetings to help them and their families plan for life after high school. Teachers discuss the standards during workshops and in professional learning community meetings to ensure that they understand the knowledge and skills that students are being asked to master. They track mastery through the use of frequent formative assessments, some of which are commonly developed by teacher groups. In the district’s elementary schools, teachers report progress using standards-based report cards to make the connection between standards and lessons even clearer. Maryville is forward-thinking with regard to academic standards. When it became clear that the requirements for science were going to change through the Tennessee Diploma Project or that the Common Core State Standards were going to be adopted and implemented, the district quickly initiated professional learning opportunities for teachers to help them understand and plan for the change. “We don’t wait when something new is coming,” said Tracy Poulsen, an assistant principal at Maryville High School. “We instituted the new science requirements nearly two years before the state mandated them. We are working on the Common Core now. We tune into what is coming down the pike, anticipate what is needed, get the resources, and get it done.” All stakeholder groups grasp the importance of being proactive in pushing toward ever-increasing advanced skills and high standards. Administrators and teachers know that the community demands strong performance. They know that they need to exceed expectations in their lessons by supplementing them with activities that extend thinking and prepare students for success in college and later in life. “Teachers are empowered and encouraged to expect a lot from students,” said Greg Roach, the principal at Maryville High School. “We know they will set high expectations and help each other and the students to achieve them. We work together here, and we always work to benefit the students. It’s who we are.” Cultivating strong leaders Leadership at the Central Office. The Director of Schools, Stephanie Thompson, spent eight years in the district as the Assistant Director of Schools, exemplifying the district’s preference to cultivate leadership within the district. She assumed the directorship in 2008 after having worked in the district since 1983. Standards in action. High standards are reflected in the strategic plan and articulated in school and class- room practices. In each school, teachers keep track of stud V