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District Case Story - Falcon 49

Falcon 49 school district enrolls 14,708 students throughout 21 schools.

District Contacts:

  • Amber Whetstine: School Improvement Coordinator and Professional Development

Why is it important to do UIP?

The UIP planning process is a very valuable process. It changed the way we develop school improvement plans. It helped us focus on quality vs. quantity.

How do we find the time for UIP? What was our timeline for engaging in UIP?

Planning was simultaneous, district and schools, because of the timeline.

How did we build staff capacity to engage in UP?

UIP training included district and school-level leadership (Principals, Assistant Principals and Instructional Coaches + central office)

How did we implement UIP at the district level? At the school level?

We started UIP planning in August of last year with training which included working with CTLT to provide some of the training + additional district facilitated workshops re: the UIP template and process. District plan development began after all of the training was completed. We developed a district improvement committee including staff from: Curriculum and Instruction, Special Education, English Language Development, directors of Charter Schools, parents, Data and Assessment, and the Asst. Supt.

The district staff reviewed the data first, organizing it so that it was ready for the district and school groups to use in the UIP planning process. The analysis of subgroup data was divided among staff representing the various subgroup departments. Each group shared trends for their department’s data sets. They also identified priority needs/challenges. They brainstormed the root causes for each priority challenge.

What was interesting was that we found that several priority challenges had the same root causes. For example, grade level expectations were not clear for Special Education subgroups. They clustered/grouped priority challenges and root causes. The district committee narrowed root causes to just a few that were contributing to most of our priority challenges district-wide. This was really cool and gave us a district focus which was then verified by all principals.

Challenges: We had a hard time determining who should be leading/driving the district planning process. The Superintendent? The challenges came about particularly when the role and responsibility of the planners didn’t include the people whose role was the focus of the major strategy; i.e., some operations issues/challenges/strategies were identified without an operations person at the table to help resolve the issue.

The district staff reviewed all of the school UIP plans and provided feedback before they were finalized as another support strategy for schools. We used the CDE quality criteria checklist for this review. While feedback from the state indicated that we completed our UIP plans well, the review process took 2-3 hours per plan and it was difficult to align the plans with the flow of the criteria.

The quality criteria were hard to apply to the plans. It would be better in rubric or checklist format – with models/examples. The district staff went through the criteria and gave written, specific feedback to each school on their plan. This was a very time and labor intensive process and staff cuts will preclude us from doing it this year.

How do find meaning in student performance data?

We use Alpine Achievement as our data system. We don’t have the formative data measures in place to help with benchmarking and interim target monitoring. Elementary has some reading assessments. This will take time and funding for us to resolve this. We used the SPF, CSAP, Scantron formative assessment and DIBELS data at the school level. We did do some training on the use of other data before the UIP template was completely rolled out, but the state really holds us accountable for CSAP.

How do we address root cause analysis?

The more support and opportunities for discussion and idea sharing we can give our staff, the better. We really didn’t have problems with choosing root causes out of their control. We really enjoyed the process.

How do we monitor the progress of the implementation of our UIP?

We did what we call achievement conferences which are 2 meetings a year for each school in a PLC session format including the Principal and School Leadership Team members. The purpose is to share ideas and hold informal conversations re: the school data, staff plans and solutions. District-staff-led Classroom Walk -throughs provided staff with feedback related to specific areas of classroom practice and some data for progress monitoring of interim benchmarks in the UIP Plan. The plan was presented to staff during the fall achievement conference and then in the spring; the achievement conference functioned as a review of progress, results, etc., again, with feedback from the district staff as a support strategy for the schools.

We need to improve the ongoing monitoring process. They did continue to develop the plan throughout the year but didn’t do a terrific job with the ongoing implementation monitoring process. This will be difficult until we get better interim measures in place.

How did we work with our local school board? District accountability committee? School accountability committees?

We had representatives from DAC involved in the process, which became a challenge because the process is so complicated. The UIP template and planning processes such as data analysis and root cause identification were difficult to share with parents. We shared bullets with the DAC re: key parts of the plan rather than a line by line review as we have done in the past. We also had a Q and A session opportunity so that we could respond to their questions.

Our School Board likes to have the DAC approve each school plan so the DAC reviews and approves each school plan. To do this we used a gallery walk process. We set aside an evening during which each school prepared the highlights of their school plan to be presented by the school committee in a table talk or science fair type presentation. DAC members walked around reviewing the plans with each group, asking questions, making suggestions, etc. The gallery walk process worked really well. We had a lot of good feedback about it vs. the way we used to do it with DAC members reading each plan individually.

The School Board then approved the UIP plans based on the DAC recommendations from their gallery walk.

How do we make the school and district plans fit together?

We didn’t have a process for integrating school and district plans. However, once each plan was developed, common threads became apparent. The plans were developed independently rather than as a coordinated, collaborative effort in part due to the timeline when things are due to the state. UIP planning is a time consuming process if it is to be done well and we would really like to use the school plans to drive the district plan, but due dates don’t allow us the time to plan in this way. The timeline contributed to a lack of alignment.

The district plan was shared with the school leadership. Common threads were verified by the schools as similar to those that they were identifying during the school-level UIP planning.

What advice would we give to other districts?

The one thing I would say is that I tried to get people to change their perspective about their plans by viewing them as a dynamic document rather than one that is static, and to understand that it can be changed throughout the year vs. the traditional once a year process of the past. These are ongoing plans to be updated that may be revised on an as needed basis based on the data. I think planning from this perspective is going to make it so much easier this year. Strategies can span more than one year to accomplish them.

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