Introduction and Overview
1. Background and Overview Daniel A. Nerad, Superintendent of Schools
Prior to the fall of 2008, MMSD high schools functioned as four separate autonomous high schools, with minimal focus on working collaboratively across the district to address student educational needs.
In 2008 MMSD received a Federal Smaller Learning Communities for $5.3 million dollars over a five year period. The purpose of that grant is to support the large changes necessary to:
- Increase student achievement for all students.
- Increase and improve student to student relationships and student to adult relationships.
- Improve post-secondary outcomes for all students.
District administration, along with school leadership and school staff, have examined the research that shows that fundamental change in education can only be accomplished by creating the opportunity for teachers to talk with one another regarding their instructional practice. The central theme and approach for REaL has been to improve and enhance instructional practice through collaboration in order to increase stndent achievement. Special attention has been paid to ensure the work is done in a cross – district, interdepartmental and collaborative manner. Central to the work, are district and school based discussions focused on what skills and knowledge students need to know and be able to do, in order to be prepared for post-secondary education and work. Systemized discussions regarding curriculum aligll1nent, course offerings, assessment systems, behavioral expectations and 21 st century skills are occurring across all four high schools and at the district level.
Collaborative professional development has been established to ensure that the work capitalizes on the expertise of current staff, furthers best practices that are already occurring within the MMSD high school classrooms, and enhances the skills of individuals at all levels from administration to classroom teachers needed. Our work to date has laid the foundation for further and more in-depth work to occur.
While we are at the formative stages of our work, evidence shows that success is occurring at the school level. Feedback from principals indicates that district meetings, school buildings and classrooms are feeling more collaborative and positive, there is increased participation by teachers in school based decisions, and school climate has improved as evidenced by a significant reduction in behavior referrals.
This report provides a summary of the REaL Grant since fall of2008 and includes:
1. Work completed across all four high schools.
2. School specific work completed.
3. District work completed.
4. REaL evaluation
5. Future implications
In addition the following attachments are included:
1. Individual REaL School Action Plans for 09-10
2. REaL District Action for 09-10
3. ACT EP AS Overview and Implementation Plan
4. AVID Overview
5. Templates used for curriculum and course alignment
6. Individual Learning Plan summary and implementation plan
7. National Student Clearninghouse StudentTracker System
8. Student Action Research example questions
- Pam Nash, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools
- Darwin Hernandez, East High School AVID Student
- Jaquise Gardner, La Follette High School AVID Student
- Mary Kelley, East High School
- Joe Gothard, La Follette High School
- Bruce Dahmen, Memorial High School
- Ed Holmes, West High School
- Melody Marpohl, West High School ESL Teacher
3. Action requested of the BOE
The report is an update, providing information on progress of MMSD High Schools and district initiatives in meeting grant goals and outlines future directions for MMSD High schools and district initiatives based on work completed to date.
MMSD has contracted with an outside evaluator, Bruce King, UW-Madison. Below are the initial observations submitted by Mr. King:
The REaL evaluation will ultimately report on the extent of progress toward the three main grant goals. Yearly work focuses on major REaL activities at or across the high schools through both qualitative and quantitative methods and provides schools and the district with formative evaluation and feedback. During the first two years ofthe project, the evaluation is also collecting baseline data to inform summative reports in later years of the grant. We can make several observations about implementation ofthe grant goals across the district.
Observation 1: Professional development experiences have been goal oriented and focused. On a recent survey of the staff at the four high schools, 80% of responding teachers reported that their professional development experiences in 2009-10 were closely connected to the schools’ improvement plans. In addition, the focus of these efforts is similar to the kinds of experiences that have led to changes in student achievement at other highly successful schools (e.g., Universal Design, instructional leadership, and literacy across the curriculum).
Observation 2: Teacher collaboration is a focal point for REaL grant professional development. However, teachers don’t have enough time to meet together, and Professional Collaboration Time (PCT) will be an important structure to help sustain professional development over time.
Observation 3: School and district facilitators have increased their capacity to lead collaborative, site-based professional development. In order for teachers to collaborate better, skills in facilitation and group processes should continue to be enhanced.
Observation 4: Implementing EP AS is a positive step for increasing post-secondary access and creating a common assessment program for all students.
Observation 5: There has been improved attention to and focus on key initiatives. Over two- thirds ofteachers completing the survey believed that the focus of their current initiatives addresses the needs of students in their classroom. At the same time, a persisting dilemma is prioritizing and doing a few things well rather than implementing too many initiatives at once.
Observation 6: One of the important focus areas is building capacity for instructional leadership, work carried out in conjunction with the Wallace project’s UW Educational Leadership faculty. Progress on this front has varied across the four schools.
Observation 7: District offices are working together more collaboratively than in the past, both with each other and the high schools, in support of the grant goals.
Is it likely that the four high schools will be significantly different in four more years?
Given the focus on cultivating teacher leadership that has guided the grant from the outset, the likelihood is strong that staff will embrace the work energetically as their capacity increases. At the same time, the ultimate success ofthe grant will depend on whether teachers, administrators, anddistrict personnel continue to focus on improving instruction and assessment practices to deliver a rigorous core curriculum for all and on nurturing truly smaller environments where students are known well.
- Bruce King’s 2005 evaluation of the Small Learning Communities project at Madison West High School.
- 2007 Madison School District Small Learning Community Grant Application
- Jeff Henriques: Examining the Data from Earlier Small Learning Community Grants, Part 2 Part 3
- Notes and links on the 2008 Small Learning Community Grant Award