Jefferson County R-1 school district enrolls 85,938 students throughout 159 schools.
The Jeffco mission statement, To provide a quality education that prepares all children for a successful future, focuses on making a difference for all students in all schools. To this end, Jeffco has used a data-driven decision-making process and School Improvement Plan for several years. The emergence of the Jeffco Response to Intervention (RtI) model occurred during this same time period. The district capitalized on the Assessment/Monitoring and Problem-Solving RtI components in developing a plan for implementing the UIP. It was helpful to find that the work Jeffco had done in this arena for years was embedded in the UIP process. That process is aligned with an equally strong belief in and use of problem-solving at all levels within the district from the classroom teacher and grade level/department teams to central office and district-level teams.
In a district as large as Jeffco, it is a constant challenge to communicate new initiatives in a way that provides content knowledge, sense-making and transfer to individual schools all at the same time. Staff from departments within the Division of Instruction and the Community Superintendent’s Office worked together to provide videotaped examples of school teams problem solving, analyzing and interpreting data, identifying positive and negatively trending results. District staff also captured video clips of school teams working through agreed upon student performance priorities and root cause analysis. These video clips portrayed real work, the challenges and successes at the elementary and secondary level as we acknowledged from the beginning that this was everyone’s work.
In anticipation of the state’s UIP requirements, Jefferson County Schools required all schools in the district to complete the UIP during the 2010-11 school year. To that end, the district provided a series of trainings/workshops for all School Leadership Teams (Principal, Assistant Principal(s), Instructional Coach, and a team of teachers) in the fall of 2010. The district paid for full team training in August and an additional training in September; in remaining months, schools paid for teacher substitutes for additional team training sessions. These trainings were designed to break the writing of the UIP into manageable scaffolded steps to make the process less daunting and build capacity for continuation of the work in subsequent years.
August: Overview training on each element of the Unified Improvement Plan
- District leadership team (area superintendent, central administrators in curriculum, assessment, diverse learners, title, and school improvement) provided an overview of the entire UIP process using a gradual release model (“I do,” “You do,” “We do”).
- Trainers modeled each process and teams then worked through the process in facilitated table groups.
- Videotaped examples of elementary, middle, and high school leadership teams going through the process were presented for training purposes.
- Materials provided included graphic organizers and other handouts, school-level data, and district online data tools through online data reporting systems.
- School leadership began to identify school strengths and challenges, root causes, and priority improvement areas.
- Following the training, school teams worked with the entire school staff to develop plan components including strengths and challenges, root cause analyses, and priority needs.
- District leadership team including the superintendent completed the same process at the district level.
September: Focus on goal-setting; additional support for data analysis and identification of trends, root causes, and major improvement strategies
- Break-out sessions focusing on identification of root causes, major improvement strategies, and goal setting.
- Teams returned to schools and went through the next stage of the process with staff. (In general, only one root cause and major improvement strategy were identified during the workshop. Additional root causes and major improvement strategies were identified at the school based on a Body of Evidence to include absenteeism/truancy, discipline, demographics, and student attitudinal surveys.)
- Monthly principal meeting with area superintendent (smaller group) focused on writing the data narrative. (Because the district was going through the same process, central office staff modeled the process and understood challenges and concerns of school staff.)
- Peer review process was established so that principals received feedback on draft plan components. UIP Quality Criteria were used as the “look-for’s.”
October/November: Development of action plans for each major improvement strategy
- Importance of involving instructional staff, including special education and ELL staff, was emphasized.
- Monthly principal meetings focused on writing and reviewing UIP components.
- Each component of the plan was reviewed at the district level and school teams received constructive feedback throughout the semester as they drafted their plans.
In October 2010 leadership training focused on the analysis and interpretation of reading measures used in Jeffco to form a Body of Evidence. In this manner, there was a modeled process for the reports to use, the tools and resources to support school-level work and expected next steps with deadlines attached. All principals knew that the end of October articulation meetings would focus on data analysis. They brought drafts of UIP Section III to that meeting for discussion and review with peers. By the end of November we had completed a similar walk through of Section IV: Action Planning. For all trainings district staff provided district-level examples and samples that modeled the process of using our tools at the school level.
Jeffco’s first steps in UIP planning began with a cross divisional leadership team, including the Superintendent, attending June 2010 CDE training on the School Performance Framework (SPF) and UIP. This team worked during the summer to design an August 2010 leadership institute for school based teams consisting of the principal, instructional coach, representative teachers and support staff.
In Jeffco, the cross divisional work completed during the summer of 2010 led the school team work that began in August 2010. The district-level plan was initiated at the same time as school-level plans and was used as a model for schools in continued professional learning throughout the fall of 2010. Central leadership came together before the 2010-11 school year began and committed to a common professional learning structure for the first semester of 2010-11 to support schools in the development of the UIP. That structure was:
- August Leadership Institute
- Monthly elementary and secondary level meetings with time set aside for building content knowledge
- Training and support for Title I schools in specific components of their plans
- Bi-monthly leadership institutes emphasizing and developing the Data Analysis and Action Planning sections of the UIP
- Monthly articulation area meetings with a common learning agenda focused on the UIP
- Peer dialogue and review of process and product components of the UIP October through December 2010
The common roll-out and structure for learning and development of the UIPs provided the focus needed in our large school district.
In an effort to provide efficiencies in UIP development the Assessment and Research Office created an online tool to collect and preserve the UIP plan for every school. This online tool allowed district leadership to review plans electronically, thereby accelerating the feedback loop to schools. In addition, the system archived the 2010-11 school plans so that 2011-12 plans can be adjusted and enhanced online.
Jeffco has had a strong data infrastructure with online reporting for many years. Principals can access school-level and individual student reports and all teachers can access individual student data. Knowing which reports to use for what purpose was and is a challenge in the district. The data is available but discerning what to use when and for what purpose is easier for some than others. In all of the trainings, Jeffco staff used documents from CDE (provided by CTLT) for training, customizing the information to meet local needs. For example, the district found it was essential to provide Colorado Growth Model training beyond what we had provided in 2008. Understanding student growth percentiles and adequate growth both at the student level and school level required an updated training in fall 2010. This work helped staff to understand and use all the reports needed for all the performance indicators in the UIP.
Challenges: One of the most common questions raised by principals was who should be doing what part of this work. While there is a great deal of variety in the district, in many cases the whole staff was involved in understanding school-level data. Grade level and department teams were often responsible for analyzing and interpreting data and prioritizing performance challenges. From there, the school leadership team came together for root cause analysis. In some cases the data narrative was completed by an identified person and then reviewed by the leadership team. A similar large group/small group delineation of responsibilities was the most common format for completing the action planning section.
Specific challenges related to components of the UIP:
Data analysis -
- Process and analysis of all available data takes time.
- Moving from planning to action was challenging. The plan forced school leadership to look at data in a way that led to outcomes – something not always done to the degree required by the UIP.
Root causes was a new process for many school-level teams -
- Teams needed facilitation to keep asking “why” so real root causes were reached.
There were times during the year when it felt like the district was building the plane and flying it at the same time. There were new tools and processes for schools to learn and use. Just understanding the SPF and the vocabulary of the UIP was a learning curve. At the same time, there was common agreement that the UIP process was the right work for continuous school improvement.
In Jeffco, all schools use the Acuity Benchmark assessment for Language Arts and Math three times a year. District leadership modeled the use of this data in fall 2010 as an interim measure. There are additional measures available in Jeffco for interim measures. Early trainings focused on the importance of a Body of Evidence including our student perceptual data, employee survey data and local school assessment data. A table of available data in Jeffco was provided to schools as a resource. Throughout the year district level Acuity data was used to drive some district needs. When concerns regarding district-wide reading results were identified, staff presented a district model for adjusting instruction. All schools were asked to use common district developed probes in January/February to address instructional needs. Not everyone was happy, but the results were an increased understanding about the need to progress monitor throughout the year and better than predicted CSAP results at some grade levels.
Jeffco staff used work samples and video clips to make the root cause analysis process come alive for the learners. They provided as many resources as possible so schools did not have to create their own, based on the CDE website and resources designed by CTLT.
Jeffco used a t-chart process for capturing trends in the data. Once a priority need was identified, staff brainstormed all the possible explanations for the results, categorized and labeled those explanations leading to a few critical explanations for root cause analysis. They had great success with a YouTube video on the Jefferson Memorial depicting the essence of root cause analysis. In reality, as district staff modeled the process and practiced it in district leadership meetings and school-level meetings, everyone realized the time and complexity involved and the value of the challenging work at the same time. The real message here is that staff did not give up. Use of root cause analysis was a process new to many school teams in Jeffco, but by the end of November 2010 every school had attempted the process, wrestled with the frustrations, and developed the statements needed in their school UIP. Root cause analysis became the talk of many problem-solving meetings.
How did we work with our local school board? District accountability committee? School accountability committees?
District staff provided a presentation to the school board regarding our data analysis, trend, and root cause work. Then the Strategic Planning & Advisory Council (SPAC) reviewed the major improvement strategies and action plans (Jeffco Board Members attend SPAC). The Executive Director of Instructional Data Services facilitated the meetings to develop the district UIP, pulled the data together for review, and summarized the meeting outcomes into the UIP draft that was again reviewed by many district leadership groups.
Principals have always shared the School Improvement Plan for the school with School Accountability Committees (SACs). Decisions regarding the degree of involvement are a site-based decision. Gathering more information about the communication and involvement of SACs is a next step to be considered in 2011-12.
Jeffco focused energy on the development of improvement strategies and action steps. It is essential for district staff to monitor plans and implementation benchmarks to help schools stay on track. District leaders set the expectation that the UIP was a multi-year plan so schools would know that each year they would be responsible for adjusting and updating the plan.
For 2011-12, training started in early September 2011 for year two of the UIP work. District staff offered refresh sessions for principals and UIP 101 sessions for our new principals. Leaders appreciate the refresh and desire differentiated learning on some components of the UIP process. The district is using a calendar of suggested due dates to help pace the work from September to mid-December. District staff have provided both recorded webinars and interactive webinars to support the work of leadership and school-based teams. The district also has online resource banks of all the tools and resources used in 2010-11 and are adding to that this year. District staff have asked for feedback throughout the district-wide process from school leaders to continually monitor and adjust the planning process and resources.
Next steps include spending more time on specific components of the plan as requested by school leadership. Examples include:
- Determining meaningful benchmarks of adult actions that provide data/information on whether or not the improvement strategy is making the desired difference
- Gathering more information about the communication and involvement with SACs