2013 Pathways to the Prize - District Winners - Page 12

Pathways to the Prize Lessons from the 2011 SCORE Prize District Winner for many years and know the community well. Each works collaboratively with the schools, and serves with the principals, as a member of the district decision-making team. Several take on special assignments. For example, Dr. Mike Winstead, the assistant director, helps all of the schools analyze data for instructional improvement. Sharon Anglim, head of communications and special projects, has great strategic abilities and was asked to develop a district-wide communications plan. The community views the director of schools as a skilled communicator who empowers her leadership team with the information needed to make good decisions. Her communications with the staff are frequent and thorough, and colleagues are expected to become familiar with data and research so they can make decisions that best fit the needs of the district. Thompson initiated the strategic planning process to ensure the district provides the best possible education for its students. She frequently works with outside experts to provide critical feedback on district initiatives. For example, she worked with national expert Dr. William Daggett to guarantee the strategic plan was an effective planning tool. Thompson has earned the reputation as a strong advocate for best practices and keeping the district at the leading edge of effectiveness. Stakeholder Advisory Groups. In addition to ongoing conversations with the school board and leader- ship team, the director has instituted two other groups to help her identify and address education-related concerns that arise. One group, the Director’s Education Roundtable, is comprised of community representatives. The Roundtable is convened four times a year to discuss matters of concern to district leadership. Topics considered by the group have included uniforms, student morale, and instructional issues. Another advisory group is the Critical Friends Group. This group is comprised of internal staff, including teachers, support staff, and administrators. Participation is voluntary and takes place outside of school hours. The group addresses concerns of students and members of the group. For example, the group once addressed a school librarian’s concern that students were strictly relying on online research tools and not using library resources. In response, the group asked the librarian to work with a small group of new and senior teachers to consider new ideas and guidelines for students on expectations related to the use of research tools. Maryville City Schools also keeps in touch with its community, administering surveys to a sample of community members three times per year. These surveys help the district to ensure that they are aware of community needs and on track with their strategic plan. School leadership. Thompson delegates many decisions to principals, who she considers to be key instructional leaders in the district. Like Thompson, most principals know their communities well. Most remain with their schools for many years, moving to another opportunity only when a new school opens and requires experienced leadership. Principals enjoy wide latitude to reach goals, but are held strictly accountable for progress. Principals, in turn, convey high expectations to teachers, hold them accountable for success, and, as needed, provide them with mentoring and other supports so that they can maximize their effectiveness. Principals are not afraid to ask for additional resources. For example, when Maryville High School decided to tackle freshman readiness, school leaders requested additional counselors and tutors to support the new freshman program. “You have to catch them early and provide them with all of the supports they need,” said Maelea Galyon, an assistant principal at Maryville High School. The high school builds in supports to help 12 2011 SCORE Prize District Winner: Maryville City Schools Pathways to the Prize Lessons from the 2011 SCORE Prize District Winner ninth graders develop time management and study skills, academic vocabulary, and comprehension skills needed to thrive in AP and honors courses. The school also altered its curriculum so that students could enroll in year-long English, math, and science courses. (The school is on a block schedule.) Teachers and administrators also assess students to determine interventions they will provide. “No one escaped our notice,” Galyon said. “If we were worried about any student who was not adjusting well to high school life or not doing well in his or her classes, we went after them. If it was an attendance problem, they had to check in with their counselor every day during morning breakfast. If it was a course issue, they attended mandatory tutoring either with a peer or a teacher. We wanted every student to get through that freshman year with the skills they need to succeed.” The roles of the district and the schools have been clearly delineated. The district provides basic curriculum, summative assessments, and professional learning opportunities and allocates staff members and finances. Principals make decisions over other aspects of school functions, such as how to use resources, hiring and placement, teacher evaluation, formative assessments, school-based professional learning, student discipline, and building management. “Site-based management works for us,” said high school principal Greg Roach. “We can control almost everything except budget. That way we are able to meet the specific needs of our schools and students. In a small community like this, it’s crucial.” Ensuring excellent teaching Maryville’s expectations for outstanding performance extend to teachers as well as students, and the district gives teachers the support they need to excel. The district’s expectations are met both by providing substantial teacher and student supports and by giving teachers the opportunity to collaborate with each other. Professional learning. Maryville leaders recognize that to be effective, teachers need to receive multiple forms of professional learning. The district put into place several types of opportunities at the district, school, and individual levels. For example, the district hosted a series of workshops from 2007 to 2011 focused primarily on literacy (writing and reading), mathematics, science, assessment, and data analysis to address priority student performance targets. Other professional learning opportunities have included: Writing: All teachers attended “Write to Learn” workshops. The sessions used results from the district writing assessments to identify areas of student need and provide targeted help to teachers in those areas. Teachers learned about the Six Traits writing process and received Traits Crates as resources. Two national consultants provided training on writing across content areas and vocabulary development. A teacher-led elementary school task force developed a new writing curriculum with benchmarks and a rubric. Teachers in grades 6-8 attended additional professional learning sessions on the Six Plus One Writing Traits process. As a result of the training, Maryville implemented a system-wide K-8 portfolio process. Teachers scored student writing samples at least four times a year in addition to scoring the Writer’s Workshop samples at the lower grades. Reading: All teachers attended sessions on reading instruction across content areas, and all schools implemented Response to Intervention and differentiated instruction in reading. In addition, the middle and high schools learned about and implemented the national Lexile Reading system to determine student reading levels more precisely and identify interventions that addressed needs and led to growth in fluency and comprehension for students in grades 7 through 10. At Maryville 2011 SCORE Prize District Winner: Maryville City Schools 13