Posts tagged United Schools Network
Launching Improvement Work

We’ve spent the last year learning how to use improvement science to increase the high school readiness rates of our 8th graders. Currently, we're gearing up to spread this improvement work from one middle school improvement team to a second middle school team at United Schools Network. During our upcoming launch day, we'll spend time creating team norms, studying improvement science, and digging into each school's on-track indicator system data. Thoughtful planning and a strong start to this work makes it much more likely that we’ll achieve our ambitious goals this school year.  

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Lessons in Improvement

Earlier this year, I kicked off our Learning to Improve blog series by discussing seven early lessons from our improvement science work at United Schools Network. The good thing is that I think that all of those lessons were on point. But, we’ve also learned a great deal about using improvement science methodology through our 8th Grade On-Track project this school year. In this post, I will expand on those early lessons and present some of our new learning.

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Learning to Improve at United Schools Network

James’ reading grade dropped from a B in 7th grade to a D during the first trimester of his 8th grade year. The rest of his grades were a C or higher, his attendance rate was above 96%, and he had never been in serious trouble. Most people would look at James’ academic, attendance, and behavior stats and not see a student that is in need of intervention. We disagree. At the very moment that his reading grade dropped, James was in need of extra support.

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A Formula for Improvement

In my last post, I provided an analysis for the educational funding strategy shift at the Gates Foundation.

The gist of the shift is that Gates is funding organizations that are marrying on-track indicator systems with improvement science in order to improve important student outcomes. I know this because I went after a Gates Grant last year and didn’t get it. But, I’m glad I did it because of the learning that came out of the process. In fact, it led to the current 8th Grade On-Track project I’m running at Columbus Collegiate Academy this school year.

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Why the Gates Foundation Shifted Its Education Funding Strategy

The marrying of on-track indicator systems with improvement science has caught the attention of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the next five years, Gates plans to direct 60 percent of its $1.7 billion in education funding towards networks of schools working together to identify solutions to local problems and using data to drive improvement.

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Don’t Use Accountability Goals in School Improvement Work

Goals for accountability and goals for improvement are two very different things.

I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed or if most of the folks reading this are right there with me. Either way, this was an important revelation as I’ve worked to bring improvement science methodology to my work as a school leader at United Schools Network. Far too often, these two types of goals get conflated during school improvement projects and this can have unintended consequences.

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The good news is this may very well be the much sought after silver bullet we’ve long searched for in educational improvement circles.  The bad news is that this elusive magic elixir is very hard to come by.  Simply put, know-how is the detailed practical knowledge necessary to get good ideas to actually work in classrooms, schools, and districts.

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What are the Essential Ingredients for School Improvement?

The good news is that there are just five ingredients necessary for school improvement.  And, even better, the five ingredients are not rocket science. The bad news is that these ingredients aren’t easy to put in place, and are even harder to sustain.  This is especially true in high-poverty schools.

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