EVSC approves new vision for the future - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

EVSC approves new vision for the future

The Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation has a new strategic plan.   

Superintendent David Smith and a team of educators spent the past couple of months creating the new vision and the board of Trustees approved it on Monday night.  

The EVSC says the Strategic Plan/Continuous Improvement Process is centered on three main priority areas of focus– student learning, effective teachers and leaders; and infrastructure to support student success. 

Smith said that in Spring 2013, their Executive Leadership Team, along with partner Mass Insight Education, began the visioning process that it would take to create a Strategic Plan and Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) for the district.  

"The CIP empowers us to allocate resources and align them in pursuit of our vision. It also will focus our work to reach our ultimate goals," Smith said. "There are three questions we asked throughout this visioning process: ‘What are our priorities?' ‘What are our strategies?' and ‘How do we ensure we are committed to the process of continuous improvement?'"

Smith said that the plan centers around what the EVSC believes will help students flourish.

"We are driven by the belief that each one of our students has the ability to be excellent, and every day, this belief spurs our teachers and school staff to commit to finding the most effective ways to help our students grow and succeed," he said.

The EVSC is guided by the ultimate goal that every student at every grade level will be on track to graduate ready for college or career.  Through the use of the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) Coherence Framework from Harvard Business School and Harvard Graduate School of Education – the leadership team learned how to filter multiple factors to remain focused upon what matters most: the instructional core.  

They defined the core values, mission and vision of the EVSC, to further guide the work of the corporation; and from there developed priorities and supporting strategies to accomplish the ultimate goal.

Smith said the leadership team also believes that in order to do great things, there must be continuous reflection and improvement in all that everyone does on behalf of students in the EVSC.  "This presentation explains how we will operationalize the vision and mission in the Continuous Improvement Process. It will allow us as a school corporation, to reach our goals of providing the best education possible for our students, maintaining a laser-sharp focus on the most important priorities facing EVSC today, and strategizing proactively to turn challenges into opportunities," he added.

There are a variety of challenges the EVSC faces today. Among those are legislative mandates around collective bargaining, compensation, evaluation and increasing healthcare costs – all while revenue costs are declining or staying the same. "In 2006, the EVSC spent about $838 on central office functions and staff, per each student in the EVSC.  In 2012, that amount has decreased to $442.  Those savings, and many other efficiencies, have contributed to funding for the classroom, where no cuts or layoffs have been seen despite $60 million in revenue cuts over the past three years."

The EVSC has aligned itself and invested in best practices in education including such strategies, frameworks, and tools as:  full-service community schools and close family partnerships, collaborative relationships with employee groups, commitment to providing early childhood education, Response to Intervention and Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports frameworks, Data Warehouse for informed decision making, Equity Model and Transformation Zone schools, Operational Excellence degrees, Technology Priorities, Differentiated Instruction, and Performance Management Sessions.

These best practices support the Instructional Core of the EVSC. 

"In order to achieve success, all our efforts at every level of the organization must connect to the work of teachers and students in the classroom," Smith said. In the Instructional Core – we believe there are three principles that must be remembered:

  • Increases in student learning occur only as a consequence of improvements in the level of content, teachers' knowledge and skill, and student engagement.
  • When we change one element of the instructional core, we must make corresponding changes to the others.
  • Only initiatives that impact the instructional core will be undertaken.

The priorities of the corporation, announced at the School Board meeting and the strategies that will be used to achieve these priorities include:  

  • Priority 1 -- Student Learning

Ensure that student learning is the focus of highly effective teacher and school leaders who guarantee the delivery of a rigorous common curriculum, through engaging, differentiated instruction while monitoring learning and adjusting instruction based on ongoing data cycles.

Strategies 1 and 2: The first and second strategies to effect a positive change in student learning are the robust implementation of the three tiers of Response to Intervention (RtI). There are many different kinds of learners in the EVSC – ranging from those performing below grade level to those performing highly. Response to Intervention is a framework in which extra help is given to students to raise them to grade level or in the case of high ability students, challenge them further.  It moves beyond simple remediation for students who have deficiencies in content knowledge to the systematic application of research-based supports that address the skill deficits underlying the student's struggle. It also provides the opportunity for teachers to expand their teaching repertoire and focus on differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all students, and challenge those already performing above grade level.  Supports in RtI extend beyond academics to social-emotional growth through research-based strategies in place in every school, called Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports framework (PBIS).  "We believe that data should drive our decision making and frequent progress monitoring in RtI will give us an early understanding of when a child is having difficulty or needs to be challenged," Smith said.

Strategy 3: Development of District Curriculum Maps for all content areas focused on literacy

Significant progress has already been made toward this goal.  Over the past year, a team of teachers, principals, and district staff have created clearly-defined standards-based curricula and content 

  • Priority 2 -- Effective Teachers and Leaders
    Implement a human capital strategy focused upon the development and retention of effective teachers and leaders.Strategy 1: Strengthen delivery and execution of district-wide professional development programs

Strategy 2: Implement job-embedded professional development directly aligned to teacher needs

Just as the expectation for teachers and leaders in the EVSC is to differentiate their instruction for students, so too must the EVSC differentiate its support for each teacher and leader, based on their needs.  Instead of offering centralized professional development, most PD will now take place in schools, and tailored to meet individual needs.

Strategy 3: Develop, pilot, and implement a new teacher evaluation system

Strategy 4: Develop, pilot, and implement a new school leader evaluation system

A robust evaluation system serves two purposes: to assess who is most effective in advancing student learning; and it determines specific areas in which teacher and school leaders must grow professionally in order to have the greatest impact on kids.

  • Priority 3 -- Developing Infrastructure to Support Student Success

Strategy 1: Develop a predictive model that assesses student growth and progress toward graduation for each school year.  Beginning with a comprehensive review of academic research and an analysis of student data EVSC has available, a system of checkpoints along the K-12 path with corresponding interventions at every point in time in a student's education, are being developed.  "We refuse to wait for standardized test results to assess student progress," Smith said. "Instead, through a system of early and frequent progress monitoring, we will know where each and every student is on their path to graduation."

Strategy 2: Redesign and strategically staff Central Office, with a driving focus on dramatically improving instruction and learning in schools: The EVSC will revisit how the Central Office and functional areas are organized to ensure that the instructional core will be supported, as well as the  diverse needs of each school.

Strategy 3: Execute the Transformation Zone aligned to national best practices and standards:  In Fall 2009, the EVSC and the Evansville Teachers Association, along with the National Education Association ratified the Equity School Model in three schools. This model with more autonomous control -- ability for school leaders to change the school day, the school calendar, and have additional development days for staff -- led to significant improvement in schools and set the stage for the EVSC Transformation Zone. Some EVSC schools need more intensive support from central office. This year the EVSC began the Office of Transformational Support that is working with five schools to pilot innovative, research-based systems and structures for differentiated and intensified support. Through this work – successful practices will be identified and possibly scaled throughout the district to help not only students in the TZ, but all students.

Strategy 4: Create effective systems for two-way communication: Central Office and school-based staff will undertake a reflective process to identify gaps in current communication systems; investigate innovative practices for two-way communication; establish protocols for prioritizing the delivery of information; and create strategies, resources, and tools that enable meaningful dialogue and connection between employees and central office about how to most effectively serve students and also how to connect with all stakeholders in the school community.

"We believe outstanding organizations commit to a process of continuous improvement and focus their efforts on their goals," Smith said.  "This Continuous Improvement Process will focus us to become the model for high performing school districts in Indiana and serve as the roadmap to continually strive for excellence in student achievement."

Smith explained that through implementation planning, progress monitoring and modifications in response to data, the Continuous Improvement Process will never be complete, but push the EVSC to constantly progress.  

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