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School Design Packet from the 2017 School Design Summit

Every district has some great schools. But how can school systems ensure that every school succeeds because of the system not in spite of it? 

In July, 50 school and district leaders from six large, urban school systems gathered in Boston for the 2017 ERS Summer School Design Summit. Over three days, these cross-functional teams identified and began to work toward a set of key actions necessary in their district to scale strategic school design to ensure that every school succeeds for every student. They heard from practitioners, tested new tools and resources, met peers from around the country, and spent many hours visioning, planning, debating, and listening to each other. Our blog 6 District Leaders Share Key Lessons from the 2017 Summer Summit outlines big learnings and experiences from the summit. 

During the summit, participants answered four essential questions (click to jump down):

Question 1: What big shifts are you trying to scale in your school designs?
Question 2: What core strategies define how you will work toward scaling these changes?
Question 3: How can you evolve the school planning process to support principals in making and implementing decisions aligned with your big shifts?
Question 4: What enabling conditions must be in place to support the scaling of big shifts?


Question 1: What big shifts are you trying to scale in your school designs?

  • Designing Schools That Work: Strategic designs don’t happen by accident. They happen because school leaders and their teams develop a deliberate strategy for organizing resources. We believe this paper—which has detailed stories of districts putting the strategies into action—is a great place to start for anyone looking to transform their school.

Question 2: What core strategies define how you will work toward scaling these changes?

Question 3: How can you evolve the school planning process to support principals in making and implementing decisions aligned with your big shifts?

  • Sample Planning Process Calendar View: This sample calendar outlines core steps and a strategic sequence that results in an aligned planning process that incorporates all of the major milestones and the associated principal actions that form a complete and coherent school planning process. For instance, this district was implementing student-based budgeting and created a timeline that best aligned to budget roll-out to ensure principals can implement different school designs in a timely fashion. Calendars should be tailored to each district's specific context. 
  • Strategic school planning processes follow a series of steps which can be found in our toolkit, School Designer: A one-stop shop for school design that integrates districts’ planning and budgeting processes so that key resource decisions, including those related to a school’s schedule, staffing plan, and budget, are tightly aligned with its needs and improvement strategy. With an ERS account, you can access the free version of the tool. Don't have a free account yet? Get one here
  • Summary of School Planning Process 

Step 1: Assess Needs and Resources

School Check: This reflection tool allows school teams to compare their current resource use decisions to best practice and subsequently identify prioritized resource use changes. It is organized by ERS’ six design essentials: Growth-oriented Adult Culture; Empowering Curricula, Instruction, and Assessment; Personalized Time and Attention; Expert-led Collaboration and Professional Learning; Talent Management and Teacher Leadership; and Responsive Learning Community.

School Level Resource Use (SLRU) Reports (Sample): School teams can most effectively take School Check with the right quantitative data on hand. SLRU Reports are one way we’ve seen districts share data to principals on how resources in their schools are currently organized.

Step 2: Clarify and Communicate Priorities

Student Shadowing Video and Experience Summary: Student shadowing is a great tool to help teams more deeply and authentically experience what big strategic shifts in the student and/or teacher experience might be required. This document includes a protocol, questions, and tips to support your team as they learn more about what he or she experiences in a typical day. Also included is a powerful video about what one school leader learned after shadowing a student.

Step 3: Design the Strategy

Building Block Profiles: Strategies or options that effective schools use to organize resources to meet different types of student need.

Design Essential 

Building Block

Personalized Time and Attention
Expert-led Collaboration and Professional Learning
Responsive Learning Community
Talent Management and Teacher Leadership

Step 4: Reorganize to Make it Work

End State Descriptions: A planning tool that helps school teams outline a very detailed description of exactly what a successful implementation of their building block will look like.

- Student and Experience: When your building block is up and running, what will students and teachers experience? What do you want the experience to feel like for them?

- Key Actors: Who will be involved during implementation? What specific actions will they be responsible for and when?

- Resource Implications Chart: Planning conversations will uncover how staffing plans, schedules will need to change to support implementation. This tool tracks each of these changes.

School Design Prototypes: What would ideal school designs look like in your district? Prototypes can jump-start the design thinking of school teams and show how schools can organize time, people, and money in ways that are consistent with key priorities given your district’s context. They include key design artifacts like schedules, staffing plans, and budgets.

School Scheduling Tools: A school’s master schedule defines which teachers meet with which students, for how long, and about what topics. The priorities it represents, whether explicit or implicit, are a critical aspect of shaping how learning takes place in the school. We recommend school teams to take these three steps with accompanying tools to make the most of their time and build a strategic schedule. To learn more about the school scheduling process, read Three Steps to a Strategic Schedule.

Question 4: What other enabling conditions must be in place to support the scaling of big shifts?

District enabling conditions are the broader processes, systems and areas of resource use in the district that will support scaling strategic school designs. It is possible for individual schools to develop strategic designs without all of these conditions in place, but the district should work toward prioritized improvements to ensure all schools may eventually operate in a decision-making environment that deliberately shape the path for strategic designs to take hold.

 

Building this environment typically requires a school system to first assess to what extent these conditions are in place and deliberately prioritize and sequence improvements over time, based on district context.

 

 

 

 

  • Jensen Case Study: From the case study, What enabling conditions already in place in the district will help this school achieve its priorities? What other enabling conditions remain a challenge that you think this district should work on to support Susan and other schools with similar needs and priorities?
  • 15 Enabling Conditions one-pager: Summary of the enabling conditions ERS has seen in the district that will support scaling strategic school designs.
  • Enabling Conditions for Scaling School Design Self-Assessment: Tool for school systems to assess to what extent these conditions are in place and deliberately prioritize and sequence improvements over time, based on district context. 
School Design Packet from the 2017 School Design Summit
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