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School System Redesign: Making it Happen

ERS Recap: 2015

Happy new year! As ERS enters our second decade of change-making, we continue to pursue the transformation of how urban school systems organize resources—people, time, technology, and money—so that every school succeeds for every student.

In 2015, we partnered with many school districts and states including Charlotte, Cleveland, Denver, New Haven, Oakland, Indianapolis, Palm Beach, Tulsa, Boston, and New York State. In all of these partnerships, we had the privilege of working with incredible leaders who helped us learn from their challenges and their successes and served as front-line users of the tools, keeping our work grounded in the reality of running a school system. These partnerships serve as the foundation for our growing collection of tools and professional development opportunities designed to support more district leaders in making change. Here are some examples that I want to be sure you know about

  • In Strategic School Design, we work to create proof points of high-performing schools and then to help school leaders use those proof points to inform their own school designs and help school systems make the changes needed to enable these designs. One member of our new School Design Advisory Council said, "ERS coaching is so critical because it helps me determine how [things happen], and how I can do this in my specific school." As part of this work, we are creating new School Design "Best Practices Templates." Our first one includes a vignette, video, and detailed resource template on data-driven instruction at Queens Metropolitan High School. Stay tuned for our comprehensive planning tool, School Designer, which will be released later this year. School Designer leads users through the school redesign planning process, leveraging and building on the tools, frameworks, and processes we've developed in our trainings.
  • In our new School System 20/20 Diagnostic work, we conduct a powerful assessment process over a one- or two-month period (in contrast to our in-depth Strategic Resource Map, which typically takes close to a year). The Diagnostic provides a rapid assessment of critical issues that could lead to near-term action, while also laying the groundwork for deeper dives in the highest-priority and highest-potential areas for impact. We now have more than 10 districts undertaking the Diagnostic, and we also used it to better understand the inspiring reforms in two case study districts, explored in "Back from the Brink: A case study of Lawrence Public Schools" and "The Rewards of Perseverance: Aldine, Texas" (scheduled for release in February 2016). Education Week used our Lawrence report as a touchstone for a multipart, multimedia feature in May, which was followed by an editorial in the New York Times titled "Massachusetts Takes on a Failing School District." In addition, we released the Data Decisions brief series, which highlights common opportunities for school systems to yield big results for students by adjusting their current resource use.
  • In Human Capital Management, we are beta-testing our new, comprehensive Talent Decision Planner in Hartford and Tulsa. Responding to the pervasive challenge of using data effectively to inform decision-making, this tool helps leaders move away from having binders of data sitting on shelves to making use of data in a strategic way. The tool supports school and district leaders by helping to define human capital decisions, clearly assign them, and then supply relevant data in an understandable format for optimal decision-making. Learn more about the Talent Decision Planner.

As a reminder, you can register for a free ERS account. It will allow you to create a group to use our Resource Check and School Check assessments as well as save and share your work.

I will end with the gratitude we feel for our philanthropic supporters. 2015 brought unprecedented support including a legacy grant from the Noyce Foundation and a new, multiyear grant as part of a selected cohort of organizations supported by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. In addition, we are ever grateful to Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation for their continued championing of our work.

In the spirit of effective change-making and continuous improvement, we wish you all a happy, healthy, and productive 2016.

My best regards,

Karen Hawley Miles

School System Redesign: Making it Happen
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