Academic team improves collaborative focus
Departments align planning, training & execution
CASTLE ROCK – As a new school year begins, you can feel a real sense of coordination as the Strategic Plan is implemented across the Douglas County School District.
This summer the District’s academic team realigned its efforts, ensuring the work of each academic department is coordinated and integrated. The goal is ensuring unified implementation of the Strategic Plan in benefit of all of the District’s students. This work has really brought the District’s work into focus.
“How does the Strategic Plan impact every one of our 67,000 students? That was the beginning conversation,” explained Dr. Steve Cook, the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education.
Since the unveiling of the original Strategic Plan in 2011 and the stay-the-course Strategic Plan last year, the PK-12, Assessment and System Performance, World Class Education, Personalized Learning and Professional Development departments have all working towards implementing their goals in the areas of Safety, Choice, World Class Education and System Performance. With a commitment to continous improvement, this summer, the departments worked to increase alignment, creating six goals that encompass the academic expectations within the Strategic Plan:
The Six Goals
Guaranteed & Viable Curriculum (GVC)
Goal: Schools will fully implement the Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum
Desired State: All teachers consistently and purposefully plan all units with alignment between World Class Outcomes, the 4Cs, 21st Century Skills (where applicable) and Content.
Balanced Assessment System (BAS)
Goal: Schools will create and implement a high quality Balanced Assessment System
Desired State: All teachers consistently and purposefully assess all components of the GVC.
Goal: Schools will fully implement sustainable learning strategies.
Desired State: All teachers consistently and purposefully facilitate learning opportunities for students to master the GVC.
Goal: Schools will have a comprehensive Multi-Tiered System of Supports in place to meet the unique needs of all learners.
Desired State: All schools create and implement a high quality, whole-school, data-driven, prevention-based framework for improving learning outcomes.
High Quality Professional Development
Goal: Schools will implement a high quality professional development plan.
Desired State: Principal and Building Leadership Team creates and implements a comprehensive professional development system.
Evaluation System (CITE/LEAD)
Goal: Schools will implement a high quality evaluation system with fidelity.
Desired State: Schools implement our evaluation system to ensure a fair and accurate evaluation for all individuals.
“It has really helped us to come together as an academic team and to start supporting each other’s projects. We constantly use that as a filter, to say, ‘is this in line with the goals?’ and ‘does this really move us forward?’”
Additionally, the goals were welcomed by school leaders who used them to focus their efforts at the Leadership Summit in July. The event was an opportunity for each school’s instructional leaders to spend a couple days planning for the school year, including professional development for their staff.
“It definitely helps because usually when you are planning for the beginning of the year, you are planning more of what is going to happen. You are planning for those actual days. This forced us to back up and take the time to say ‘Wait a minute. Let’s think about where we are, where we want to be,’ and spend a couple days doing that before we really get into what exactly is going to happen each one of those days,” explained Roxborough Primary Principal Rick Kendall.
“We had some really focused conversations over the summer about where we are,” added Pioneer Elementary Principal Kelli Bainbridge. “It was not only about how are we feeling, but where are we and what does the data show about where we are?”
It is important to note that while the high-level goals are the same for everyone, each school is provided with the ability to reach them in whichever way they feel is best for their students and school community.
“While everyone is held accountable to the same set of expectations, they can get there through their very own differentiated way at each building,” said Cook.
He says it would be far easier for the District to mandate the same exact program at each school, but DCSD believes in empowering our school leaders and providing school communities with choice.
“Everyone will be pulling in the same direction. By doing this well, it is coordinated effort at rowing in the same direction, but we’re not telling each school how they have to row,” Cook explained.
“Everyone is giving incredible effort, but if everyone isn’t giving incredible effort in the same direction then everyone’s efforts aren’t producing the best possible forward direction for our students,” added Kendall.
Pioneer Elementary School’s team decided to focus on two areas: implementing the World Class Outcomes from the Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum and Restorative Practices.
“We were looking at some really hard questions like how are we doing with teachers feeling that it is a safe place to take risks. How does that relate to how our children feel about this being a safe place to take risks,” explained Bainbridge.
After goals were set, each school leadership team worked on a plan for reaching them.
“According to author Jim Collins, you must first confront the brutal facts regarding where you are, where you want to go and how do you get there,” Cook said.
“When we first started, we quickly put some ideas down on our desired state and wrote down our current state. When we spent some time really doing a gap analysis, we realized that we needed to better define our desired state,” Kendall explained. “In the middle of the day we actually reset, going back and clearing up the definition of what our desired state and current state really were.”
Bainbridge says she and her fellow leaders know that taking the time for solid planning now, will yield results in the future.
“We don’t want to be haphazard. The key to really good, strong instruction is really good, strong planning,” Bainbridge said.
Meanwhile, Bainbridge says her team feels a sense of urgency, because they want students to benefit from their efforts, immediately.
“[The teachers] were doing a ton of important work so that when the kids arrive, we are going to hit the ground running,” Bainbridge said. “There is too much to do and too little time.”