2013 Pathways to the Prize - District Winners - Page 8

Pathways to the Prize Lessons from the 2011 SCORE Prize District Winner Beginning with a solid grounding in the expectations of its constituents—from parents to city officials, business leaders, educators, and students—Maryville City Schools (MCS), located in Blount County, has a uniquely global outlook on its academic program. This perspective, which is focused on preparing Maryville students to succeed anywhere in the world, translates into a commitment to continuous improvement. The first goal in the district’s strategic plan is to “prepare all students for success in an ever-changing world.” The district tracks student progress after graduation, and this information informs changes the district makes to its academic strategies to ensure all students are truly prepared. The seven MCS schools and their nearly 5,000 students have produced outstanding achievements in their progress toward a lifetime of learning and responsible citizenship. In 2010, the district’s three-year ACT average was 23.8, considerably higher than Tennessee’s statewide average of 19.5. Similarly, TVAAS data for that year indicated that Maryville students improved at a rate 14 times faster on ma th than the state average. Change is constant in Maryville. In fact, when the district won the SCORE Prize, it was undergoing a major organizational reconfiguration brought about by overcrowding at its high school. Maryville City Schools previously consisted of a high school, middle school, intermediate school, and four elementary schools, but has now added a junior high school and closed one elementary school. The district also operates two pre-kindergarten programs, one special education pre-kindergarten program, and two alternative school programs. The district has a very lean central office staff, with just 10 administrative employees, led by a director of schools. This level of staffing is consistent with the district’s philosophy of decentralization, driving decisions down to the school level and even the classroom level whenever possible. Pathways to the Prize Lessons from the 2011 SCORE Prize District Winner The district’s high standards are reinforced by the expectations for excellence held by the community. Community members are not shy about holding tnscore.org/scoreprize/Maryville-Promising-Practice.pdf the district to high standards. Most students are college bound, so the community expects them to be well prepared. The district has responded by improving its student performance levels each Video: “Education as a Workforce year. In return, the community is extremely Development Strategy” supportive of the school district. Business http://youtu.be/nl02l8RnUt8 partners in the community, alumni, parent organizations, and the Maryville City Schools Foundation provide the district with resources—including financial support and volunteered time—it needs to carry out work within its strategic plan. Teachers in the district receive high salaries compared to other districts in the state to ensure that the district is drawing and retaining the most effective teachers possible. (The starting salary for teachers with a bachelor’s degree is higher than the starting salary in seven out of the eight neighboring districts.) Internal and external stakeholders alike believe that education is essential to ensuring all citizens are successful in life, and all stakeholders provide support to achieve that goal. “Maryville Promising Practice” District strategic plan. The district spent nearly 18 months developing and refining its Five school board members and the director of schools govern the district and have been instrumental in promoting and supporting incremental positive change. The district has 28 administrators, with a principal and at least one assistant principal in each school, 384 teachers, and 319 non-instructional staff members. Embracing high standards Maryville’s purpose is to inspire, engage, and invest. The district is built on five core beliefs, each of which is translated into a particular goal in the district’s strategic plan: 1. Academic excellence – Prepare all students for success in an ever-changing world by delivering a rich and challenging instructional program 2. Personal engagement – Engage and challenge every student by providing an array of academic and co-curricular programs 3. Exemplary educators – Build a team of highly-qualified teachers and support staff who embrace the community’s high expectations and serve as positive role models and mentors 4. Purposeful involvement and support - Develop meaningful alliances in support of education and educational opportunities 5. A first-class learning environment - Enhance student learning by constructing and maintaining efficient facilities with state-of-the-art equipment and technology; and provide a safe and nurturing environment that fosters civility, respect, and healthy lifestyles 8 2011 SCORE Prize District Winner: Maryville City Schools strategic plan. The plan codifies the values and beliefs of the district and the community it serves. “The development process was as important as its outcome,” Sharon Anglim, Director of Communications and Special Projects, said. “We are a tight community, and we needed to hear about our strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that all of our stakeholders perceive. That way, our plan could be responsive to our community and we could work together toward meeting goals.” District leaders held town halls and open meetings, invited comments on the district website, participated in parent organizations and other meetings, and solicited information using a structured protocol for asking questions and collecting data. The strategic plan leadership group categorized all of the comments, narrowed the topics for focus, and prioritized strategies based on what the community—educators, students, parents, business owners, nonprofits, city leaders, and many others—believed were most important for the schools. The process itself led to the development of very high standards for the district. For example, leaders heard the community assert that it wanted more advanced coursework for students. In response, strategies were developed to ensure that students had opportunities to enroll in multiple Advanced Placement (AP), dual enrollment, and honors courses. The district formed partnerships with local colleges and universities to extend the opportunities further. The initial strategic plan reflected school board and community priorities, exemplars from other districts, and an analysis of research, both published and experiential, around what works. The Strategic Planning Steering Committee addressed what was urgent and what was important to its stakeholders. By all accounts, the first draft of the plan was well-conceived and served to catalyze change. Over the next year, though, the district discovered that it needed more information and sought out details to better define 2011 SCORE Prize District Winner: Maryville City Schools 9