Case Study

Achieving rapid progress and hitting improvement targets in high-need areas – an inspirational story of school turnaround

 

How one school leveraged their instructional program to develop a whole new team of effective leaders in education resulting in an increase in SBAC student proficiency from just 2% to 20% in English Language Arts, and 6% to 12% in mathematics.

Children of Promise School Preparatory Academy (COPPA) in California had done the ground-work to develop its instructional program but had a shortfall in leaders with the necessary skills to deliver the new plan. Faced with the need to achieve rapid progress and deliver impact, the Principal engaged with Class Measures to develop the emerging leaders, and set the school on course to hit improvement targets in the high-need areas identified the previous year. By guiding how the school invested in its emerging leadersproviding the specialist coaching to enhance their skillsets, and putting into place individualized support for leaders, Class Measures helped COPPA build capacity, self-awareness and confidence in its new leaders, with demonstrable results - 71% of PGP goals met over the course of the 2017-18 school yearSBAC student proficiency data increased by(?) 74%; and proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA) increased from just 2% to 20%, and mathematics proficiency from 6% to 12%

COPPA’s school leader and instructional expert Jackie Jefferson, knew that to make the rapid progress and lasting impact she’d set out to do she would have to build the capacity of her best teachers. She also knew it was risky because she was asking them to serve as leaders beyond the classroom and serve as models - not just as teachers with strong instructional practices, but professionals who are committed to honest reflection and courageous communication. Jackie had worked tirelessly the previous year to build a solid instructional program and, through this work, built trust with Jo Cheadle (Class Measures school improvement lead) and Amber Leage (Class Measures instructional consultant).  

Jo and Amber had worked closely with Jackie and her teaching team the year before to establish a curriculum mapping process, co-observations with cyclical feedback, and a PLC structure - then used these as sources of evidence to adjust PD and action plans. One action item the team had been carefully whittling away at was developing emerging leaders. 

Bold decisions to tackle areas of greatest need 

Jackie knew how essential it was to have clear roles and responsibilities within a school and started by making data-based decisions about where the school’s greatest areas of need were - these were areas she had identified a year past but, after a year of progress monitoring, still weren’t meeting improvement targets.

  • Early Literacy initiatives 
  • English language learner (EL) supports 
  • Enrichment for gifted and talented students  
  • Teacher Accountability  

Based on these four areas, she worked with Jo and Amber to develop roles that would effectively address the data gaps. Then the team worked to create structures to support the development of these new leaders and the structures that would guide them. She created a Literacy Coordinator, EL Coordinator, Enrichment Coordinator, and two part-time assistant principal roles (elementary and middle school). Finally, Jackie posted the new roles and took applications - the response was overwhelming. The work that Jackie had lead over the past year had inspired others to take on leadership and to be a part of the transformation that was taking place at their school. 

Investing in new leaders  

Jackie, Jo and Amber worked to develop a message and strategy to share with these emerging leaders - they knew a lot about the vision and about the challenges to it - their struggle was how to communicate that to a team of new leaders so it was inspiring and honest. They created a plan, a clear message and assembled the new team. Jackie started appreciation for their bravery - they would need it she assured them. Their first commitment was to attend a week-long leadership institute - a week of their summer vacation dedicated to developing their leadership skills and applying that new learning to plan for the following school year.  

The theme of the institute was “Beginning with the end in mind” - if they were to take their school where it needed to go, they were going to have to be willing to have a lot of difficult conversations along the way. Business as usual was not going to get them where they needed to go - this team of new leaders knew that; what they didn’t know was how to get there - but Jackie did. Modeling this core leadership skill, she cut right to the heart of the matter - she had a vision for improvement and she would share it with them and the larger community, but executing that vision was going to take hard work and accountability. Jackie told her team she knew they were hard workers and responded to accountability - that’s why she chose them; now they needed to learn to hold others accountable.  

Authentic Experience  

The new ILT was tasked with planning the back to school PD - all the teachers would be back in a month for a week-long PD session and with the guidance of Jackie, Jo, and Amber they would be creating the schedule, presentations, and tasks that would lead the staff through a new school vision and a curriculum, along with  a set of policies to match. The task was great but so were the supports - in the final days of the leadership institute the team came together to create new learning experiences both for themselves and for the teachers they would be serving, and made strategic choices about what to communicate, how to communicate it, and how to create accountability for their whole school within the ambitious mission they had set. They had begun the year with the end in mind. In discussion of the summer institute and goal setting Jackie reflected, 

“Jo and Amber helped us build a bridge so that leaders could develop a deeper understanding of time management, how to prioritize work and how to set realistic and timely deadlines.” 

Individualized supports for leaders 

Each of the new leaders also spent time before the beginning of the year to create Professional Growth Goals (PGPs) around their leadership. Because members of the ILT were also part-time teachers, they set at least one goal for leadership and one for teaching - the interplay between the two goals continued to stun us all - the same challenges they faced in the classroom were being faced in their leadership - How can I communicate it in way that inspires people to action? How can I create accountability without harming the relationship? How can we progress toward our end of year goals given this particular challenge

Again and again, the Class Measures team used strengths-based coaching to help new leaders see they already had many of the skills they needed, but were being asked to apply them in a new context. As an example, in a leadership coaching conversation the literacy coordinator was up against a deadline to have all the Fountas and Pinnell data uploaded and there were four teachers that were struggling to finish testing - one had technology needs, one had never been trained on how to administer the test, one was out on sick leave and one was refusing to use the assessment. During that coaching session the literacy coordinator noted, “Adults need differentiation too; maybe we need more of it.” She was referring to the differentiated supports she would need to give the other teachers in the building. She was also describing her own growth as a leader and was reflecting on her need for one-on-one coaching to solve issues that were new to her within the context of a leader.  

“The one-on-one mentorship with Class Measures provided a non-evaluative and transparent space for goal setting and tracking key performance indicators.”-Jackie Jefferson

One-on-one coaching was one of the primary tools Jackie had asked Class Measures to employ at COPPA - she also knew that differentiation was key with adult learners. Jackie and Jo had a strong working relationship and due to Jackie’s experience she didn’t need a coach as much as a thought partner. In her first year as school leader Jo filled that role - in her second year, as she sought to develop her own ILT, she knew those members of staff would need coaching and invited Amber to lead that work. All coordinators had a monthly one-on-one coaching session and Assistant Principals had a weekly coaching session - their primary goal was to track their PGPs and get the support needed to deliver on them. Both APs were tasked with facilitating weekly Professional Learning Communities (PLC) meetings, a structure that Class Measures had helped put in place the year before. The APs had worked together to create goals that aligned to their roles and responsibilities, and both had a vision for the work that would come out of PLCs. Professional Learning Communities served as an appropriate weekly structure for the APs to build their leadership and facilitate two groups working toward a common goal. Monitoring those goals was hard work but weekly coaching sessions resulted in creative problem solving and an understanding of the daily work required to make an ambitious vision a reality. Jackie would use the data from these coaching meetings to update and adjust the year-long plan; she noted the impact of coaching stating, 

"Through weekly collaborative meetings with the team I was able to garner insight about overall leadership needs knowing that ILT members were being coached on individual leadership skills. That allowed me to plan development opportunities while relying on the Class Measures coaching support to build capacity, self-awareness and confidence in the new leaders.”   

Evidencing impact  

The team looked hard at the data every month and at the end of the year was rewarded with SBAC data that spoke to the potential they saw for their school and students.  

  • New ILT developed two part-time assistant principal roles, a Literacy Coordinator, EL Coordinator, and Gifted a Talented Coordinator 
  • 100% of teachers and leaders submitted and monitored Professional Growth Goals 
  • 71% of PGP goals teachers set were met over the course of the 2017-18 school year 
  • SBAC student proficiency data increased from just 2% to 20% in in English Language Arts, and 6% to 12% in mathematics 
  • The school closed the gap between their previous NWEA scores and those in their school improvement plan by 65%.  

    Examples of improved student performance include: 
  • Cohort improvement from grade 3 (2017) to grade 5 (2019) in mathematics MAP testing, reducing the percentage of students in the lowest 20 percentile from 46% to 30%, and increasing the proportion of students achieving expected levels of proficiency from 0% to 6%. 
  • Cohort improvement from grade 3 (2017) to grade 5 (2019) in reading MAP testing, reducing the percentage of students in the lowest 20 percentile from 63% to 18%, and increasing the proportion of students meeting or exceeding levels of proficiency from 4% to 15%. 
  • SBAC results for the same cohort of students have seen a reduction from 62% of students not meeting expected levels in ELA in 2017 to 23% not meeting expected levels in 2019, and an increase from 11% of students meeting expected standards in 2017 to 34% in 2019.  In 2019, 14% of students exceed expected standards.  
  • In SBAC mathematics tests, the proportion of students not meeting expected standards over the same time-frame dropped from 46% to 39% and by 2019, 14% of students reached levels that exceeded expectations.  
  • In the renewal process the school received a 3-year charter renewal with recommendations that aligned to the goals and action steps the school was already implementing.

Jackie and her team met in June 2018 to measure their growth. Reporting on the results of that self-evaluation Jackie noted, “By the end of the year there was true measurable growth for me as an administrator and for the specialists in their own roles - it’s important not only that I could measure their growth but that they could self-assess. The ILT structure and action plan developed with Class Measures set us up perfectly for them to drive the goals for the following year. It also allowed for celebration of achievement and completion.”