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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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