Community Schools: Supporting Students in Baltimore

Baltimore, Md., is a community on the rise. According to the latest Maryland State Department of Education Report Card, between 2010 and 2013, Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) raised its four-year graduation rate from 61.5 to 68.5 percent. In the same period, its four-year cohort dropout rates were cut nearly in half, down to 12.1 percent in 2013. While many factors, individuals, and efforts have led to these upward trends, one in particular that stands out is the Baltimore City Community Schools Initiative (BCCSI), led with BCPS partner the Family League of Baltimore. Last month, a group of more than 30 staff from congressional offices and the federal departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice traveled to Baltimore to learn about their work firsthand.

Read More

Opportunity to Succeed: A Jesuit Approach to Education

When the Washington Jesuit Academy (WJA) was founded in 2002, its leaders sought to answer an important question: “What more can we do for our students, our families, and our community to change the face of urban education?” During a recent visit, staff from the Office of Non-Public Education sought to identify lessons that could be shared with other educational leaders who are trying to answer this same question. WJA, a Catholic middle school for boys from low-income neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., has established a model that seeks to defy the city’s opportunity gap and prepare its students for long-term success. The school provides tuition assistance as well as social, nutritional, and health services to nearly 100 students, an enrollment intentionally kept low to ensure students receive focused, individualized attention.

Read More

Tools for State and District Leaders: Personalized Learning Case Studies

Miami RTT-D 4

Middle school students work at their own pace in iPrep Math classrooms in Miami-Dade County. (Photo courtesy of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools)

More than 100 exemplary school superintendents will convene at the White House today, November 19th, for the ConnectED to the Future Summit. As part of the President’s ConnectED Initiative, these leaders have committed to advancing technology-enabled instruction in their districts. The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) supports several of these districts’ efforts to use technology to personalize and enhance student learning. OII is pleased to release a report that highlights some of these districts’ initial experiences, which is intended to serve as a resource for school leaders pursuing a path to personalizing student learning.

Personalized Learning in Progress: Case Studies of Four Race to the Top-District Grantees’ Early Implementation shares the experiences of four diverse school districts as they adopt personalized learning approaches that will prepare their students to succeed in the 21st century global economy. The four districts — Iredell-Statesville Schools (N.C.), Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Fla.), New Haven Unified School District (Calif.), and Metropolitan School District of Warren Township (Ind.) — are highlighted in part because of their diversity, including the range in geographies, size of student populations, differing academic content areas, and their varied approaches to personalized learning.

Read More

U.S. Department of Education Awards $39.7 Million in Grants to Expand High Quality Charter Schools

(Oct. 8, 2014) The U.S. Department of Education announced 27 new grants today totaling $39.7 million under the Charter Schools Program (CSP) to expand high quality charter schools, and open new charter schools across the nation. These grants will support charter schools’ efforts to increase high-need students’ success, especially in underserved areas, in 12 states.

“These charter school grants will help open new charter schools and expand or replicate those with a record of success to help ensure that every student has access to high-quality educational opportunities that prepare them for college, careers and life,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

These grants are awarded by two CSP programs: one program is focused on helping high-performing charter management organizations open new charter schools, and the other program supports new charter schools located in states that do not have a state-level CSP subgrant program. This year’s competitions included a focus on charter schools that serve geographies designated under President Obama’s Promise Zones initiative, as well as promoting diversity and supporting military families.

Read More

U.S. Department of Education Awards $13.4 Million in Grants to 34 Organizations to Enhance Teaching and Learning Through Arts Education

(Oct. 8, 2014) The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $13.4 million to 34 organizations to help arts educators grow and improve arts instruction, and share effective models of arts in education that support student achievement in the arts and other areas.

“The arts are an essential part of a well-rounded educational experience, and all students deserve access to high-quality arts instruction,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Great arts educators can help students grow and succeed inside and outside of the classroom.”

These grantees are supported by two distinct programs, Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD), and Professional Development for Arts Educators (PDAE). AEMDD grants support school districts and non-profit organizations with arts expertise to create materials that can be integrated into arts disciplines across elementary and middle schools. The Professional Development for Arts Educators program supports professional development for arts educators that use innovative approaches to improve and expand arts education programs.

Read More

Arts in Education Week: A Time to Validate the Importance of Hope

What’s hope got to do with it? When the “it” is the persistent achievement gaps for African American and Hispanic students, the answer is a lot.

I don’t know if Bill Strickland, a 1996 MacArthur Fellow and visionary arts education entrepreneur, and Richard Carranza, superintendent of the San Francisco public schools, have met (my guess is they have not), but they must be channeling one another.

The two have a lot in common, and at the top of the list is an absolute conviction to the role of the arts in creating the needed learning environment for minority students in high-poverty schools to achieve academically, thrive in and outside of school, and graduate career and college-ready. Coincidentally, Strickland and Carranza keynoted national forums on arts education — for the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH), respectively, within the past month. The forums provided a propitious run-up to National Arts in Education Week, Sept. 14-20, so designated by the U.S. Congress in House Resolution 275. Click here for the full agenda of the AEP forum and a link to the video of Bill Strickland’s keynote address.

Read More

Iredell-Statesville Schools Find a Boost from “Investing In Innovation”

N.B. Mills Elementary School's intervention time, a COMPASS component, gives students the ability to grow and learn from each other while another group works with a teacher. (Left to right) 5th-grade students Ashley, Sitaly, Jose, Jasiah, and Bobbie work together during their science intervention time as they discover the meaning of "force.” (Photo courtesy of Jada Jonas and the Iredell-Statesville Schools)

N.B. Mills Elementary School’s intervention time, a COMPASS component, gives students the ability to grow and learn from each other while another group works with a teacher. (Left to right) 5th-grade students Ashley, Sitaly, Jose, Jasiah, and Bobbie work together during their science intervention time to discover the meaning of “force.” (Photo courtesy of Jada Jonas and the Iredell-Statesville Schools)

Serving more than 21,000 students, Iredell-Statesville Schools (I-SS) in North Carolina ranks among the 20 largest school districts in the Tar Heel State. The district serves 36 schools in Iredell County — a diverse blend of urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods — 40 miles north of Charlotte. Four years ago, the district faced a dilemma: While it ranked in the top 10 percent of North Carolina districts in academic performance, it needed to increase teacher effectiveness and boost the academic achievement of its high-needs students, English learners, and students with disabilities. And while district leaders had a plan to achieve this ambitious goal, the annual I-SS budget resided in the basement of the state’s 212 districts, in the bottom five percent.

The plan to achieve their North Star goal of equity in student achievement was aptly called COMPASS — Collaborative Organizational Model to Promote Aligned Support Structures — with the route to success predicated on targeted professional development that focuses on use of data, curricular improvements, and instructional approaches to identify where students are struggling and address their individual academic needs. I-SS teachers would be equipped with the tools to ensure that all of their students are on track to achieve their learning goals. Integral to this approach is the alignment of the school’s support structures for teachers and deepening existing professional learning communities where educators collaborate, analyze student performance data, and share best practices.

In 2010, I-SS entered their COMPASS plan in OII’s Investing in Innovation (i3) competition and received a $4.99 million Development grant, setting them on a multi-year journey that would begin with bolstered professional development, followed by piloting the new approach in several schools, and eventually result in district-wide implementation.

Read More

Leadership Grantees Featured During National Charter Schools Week

President Obama has proclaimed May 4-10 as National Charter Schools Week. “As independent public schools, charter schools have the ability to try innovative approaches to teaching and learning in the classroom,” the proclamation notes. “They can show what is possible – schools that give every student the chance to prepare for college and career and to develop a love of learning that lasts a lifetime.”

In honor of this week, OII begins a series of articles highlighting the work of the Charter Schools Program’s National Leadership Activities grantees. The series begins with the Creating Quality Charter Schools through Performance Management, Replication, and Closure (PMRC) project of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, designed to leverage the effective policies and practices of authorizers successful in these core areas of charter school operations. Click here to read about the PMRC project’s results and resources available to charter authorizers nationwide.

Read More

CSP Leadership Grantee Offers the Tools to Build a Stronger Charter Sector

In November 2012, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) launched the One Million Lives Campaign with the goal of creating better school options for at least a million children in the nation’s charter schools. The campaign focuses on closing the poorest-performing schools, those charters that are failing our children, while opening even more great schools — schools that will succeed in living up to the promise of the charter school sector.

One_Million_Lives_Logo_WebAt the heart of this campaign is a set of activities funded by an OII Charter Schools Program (CSP) National Leadership Activities grant to NACSA. In the fall of 2010, NACSA initiated the Creating Quality Charter Schools through Performance Management, Replication, and Closure (PMRC) project to better address the unacceptable number of poor-performing schools that are charter schools. While the charter school sector has often led the way on accountability for performance, the systems for defining, measuring, and acting upon school quality, as well as for replicating good schools and for closing failing schools, are often lacking. The PMRC project was designed to leverage the current effective practices of authorizers successful in these areas and develop core policies and practices that can be disseminated and implemented across the nation.

Read More

Time-Tested Routines at Heart of Common Core Transition

As states, districts, and schools implement the Common Core State Standards, a new resource to help them with the change process is available from The Achievement Network (ANet), an OII Investing in Innovation (i3) grantee. Focusing on the How: Guidance for School and District Leaders on Supporting Teachers Through the Transition to the Common Core addresses the uncertainty that educators may have about the transition to the Common Core.

Educators’ traditional sources of stability and direction are undergoing change as they implement the content changes associated with Common Core. It is “time-tested routines,” according to ANet, that can provide an infrastructure for implementing the new standards. These include “consistent, collaborative routines for planning from standards, evaluating student progress, and adapting instruction based on student needs.”

Read More