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?
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.
|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.
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.