We are now beginning the sixth year of our systemic reform efforts in the Lawrence Public Schools.
In July 2000, I arrived at the Lawrence Public Schools to find that each school was in the process of researching and selecting one of the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration models (CSRD) approved by the Department of Education.
It wasnt long before I realized that my leadership should be focused on bringing together the K-8 grades throughout the school system and build them around one model with which we could align all of our resources, both financial and human.
We had one school in the district that was already into its second year of implementing the elementary literacy component of Success for All (SFA) from John Hopkins University and it was beginning to see results.
As the new superintendent, I Immediately decided that, as a district, we would spend one school year fully researching this educational model, sending teams of teachers in to observe classes inside and outside the school district.
We brought presenters from the SFA Foundation in Baltimore to Lawrence in order to conduct day-long awareness sessions for principals, teachers and senior staff. I personally went building by building, meeting with individuals and groups of teachers, working to gain the required 80%percent buy-in that the Foundation requires before beginning work in a school.
At the end of that year, each school had come on board. (One school that was in its second year of implementing a different school reform model was allowed to continue with its model.)
Adopting SFA on a district basis would not, in and of itself, have born the fruits of full and sustained reform had we not built a supportive infrastructure around it.
We developed and provided extensive, in-house strengthen embedded focused professional development at all levels. We redeployed the principal of the school that had already adopted SFA before my arrival to Central Office to be the Lead Principal for SFA and Literacy. She still holds that position today.
We staffed all of our schools in Lawrence with SFA facilitators. These were teachers whom we had identified as master or expert teachers in the district. We established clear expectations for what we expected to see in classrooms and required principals and assistant principals to conduct walkthroughs in classrooms every day to make sure that these expectations were met. As the instructional leader of the system, I developed walkthrough protocols and conducted walkthroughs in all schools and provided ongoing feedback to the principals.
We became entirely focused on data. We collected both implementation and achievement data regularly. We shared data among all schools throughout the system. We were constantly asking ourselves how we were doing, and adjusted our daily instructional practices, interventions, and efforts accordingly.
are the practices that constitute our institutionalized
culture. We have grown more and more sophisticated in how
we do our work, but we have remained faithful to what
that work is.
The essential elements that guide our work are: Leadership, Core Curriculum, Universal Practices, Ongoing Assessment, Pro-fessional Development, Student Support Services, and Parent and Community Involvement. Combined, they drive the development of the districts Comprehensive Educational Plan (CEP) and its measurable outcomes.
We use data to assess whether the measurable outcomes have been met and to further refine the plan. Each school develops its own School Comprehensive Educational Plan (S-CEP) which must be in alignment with the system-wide plan.
Most importantly, the Lawrence Public Schools have developed a culture where data-based decision making is the norm, and we expect everyone to know how to do it.
Analyzing data is not something reserved for the Superintendent of Schools and a few chosen members of the administrative staff. Principals and teachers must also be capable of using data every day to make sound decisions about our childrens future.
Much of our professional development training has been devoted to teaching everyone how to access, analyze and use data to set improvement targets and develop the strategies to ensure that targets are met.
But, data goes beyond test scores. Good data tells a story and allows for retrospection, reflection, and good planning. Staff and student attendance, discipline referrals, new teacher retention rates - these are just a few examples of the various types of data we collect regularly and ask school personnel to examine. Our Principal Performance Peer Review (PPPR) is an evaluative process conducted by the Superintendent as well as their peers. It is based entirely on a discussion of the schools multiple sources of data.
We have also worked to create a culture where collaboration is essential.Our Professional Development is based on the principles of adult learning, where staff comes together to dialogue in a collegial manner to examine and construct new knowledge.
The leadership and teachers in each of our schools have read the work of Dufour and Eaker and are committing to the practices of a professional learning community. It is expected that school teams engage in daily collaborative planning.
Leadership is the most essential of all the essential elements. It is the Superintendents role to establish the vision of a school system and to continuously communicate and reinforce that vision. The Superintendent must simultaneously develop principal leadership and help principals learn how to develop teacher leadership.
Over the past five years we have built the leadership capacity throughout the schools to ensure that the reforms will be successful and sustained. And I am proud of the bright and dedicated educators in the Lawrence Public Schools who have worked so hard and achieved so much in such a short period of time.
Wilfredo Laboy is the Superintendent of the Lawrence Public Schools. You can email superintendent Wilfredo Laboy at email@example.com
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